If you’re a YA writer having trouble breaking in, you might be better off getting started with writing YA plays first. I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for ages but then this question came in from the mailbag which gave me the perfect opportunity to discuss it.
I came across your website because I am just getting into playwriting, in addition to plugging along in writing YA fiction. Right now, I do have a finished one-act play. I have no idea what to do with it other than workshop it with the theatre group I’m in and seek out a public reading of it. But after that, would you recommend self-publishing? I saw that you did that.
You’re absolutely right on the first step. Workshop it, get it on its feet, make sure it works, revise accordingly until it does. Once it’s stage tested, you can start submitting it to theatres and contests which can yield payment and productions. (There are a bunch of sites like NYC Playwrights or PlaySubmissionsHelper.com that list opps you can submit to.) Once you’ve gotten a few productions under your belt, then you can approach publishers with it, no agent needed. YA friendly plays are some of the easiest to get published so long as you’ve got a good history of productions to prove it works, you should be able to find someone interested. Just make sure you research which publishers are good and reputable because a bad publisher is worse than none at all.
Or you can self-publish. As for which is better for you, the answer is honestly how much work you want to do. Self-publishing is a lot of work, period, and then managing productions and scripts and everything else is more work on top of that every time someone wants to perform the play. And, hey, I did it for years and it was very nice having 100% of that money with no publisher to take a cut… but it’s also really nice to hand the play off to a publisher and never have to think about it again and the checks come to your door like magic.
Even if the checks are smaller.
There’s always a catch.
The really great thing about writing YA plays as opposed to YA fiction is that, while the YA fiction market is incredibly competitive, there’s not as many people as you’d think writing directly for the YA stage so there’s less competition and a lot of demand for good plays that really speak to today’s teens in the way the classics and canon staples don’t. So if you have a YA story you want to tell, you’ve got a better chance of getting it heard on the stage than by getting a book deal. And if the stage play does well, you can always adapt it as a novel again later!
I like the idea of devoting more of my time to YA playwriting. Why not? I’ve got access to 20 to 30 eager kids in drama club who would probably love to workshop plays and who will give me honest feedback throughout the process.
That’s how most of the prolific playwrights (like Don Zolidis who has like 9 zillion plays) got started. They were theatre teachers who wrote a play a year for their students, workshopped it in the classroom, later published it. No better way to test the material with the target demographic!
The worst that happens is you learn the economy of script writing and take those lessons back to you the next time you write a novel.