How to Optimize a profile on New Play Exchange - Part One
Part of my New Year’s housekeeping is to go through all of the plays that I have posted on the New Play Exchange and make sure that I have filled each one out correctly and fully. This is because I am sometimes in a hurry to post a play, and only filling out the parts I absolutely need to for the entry to go live, and then I forget to go back and fill everything else in. So since I am going through this process, I thought I might share some optimization tips with others in the hope that we will all see a rise in rights inquiries.
But before I go any further I feel the need to point out that I am just a playwright. I have no affiliation with NPX beyond having an a subscription and uploading a number of my plays to the website. I am writing on this topic because I feel it is a useful resource and I often see other playwrights struggling to use it effectively. Finally, everything stated here is my own opinion, and the folks at NPX may have different advice. These are just the observations I have made over the last few years using this website. Use what you find helpful, and ignore the rest.
While the part of the process that I am doing for myself right now is updating the metadata on each play (and I’ll go into what that is later), for the sake of clarity I want to back up a little bit and start with the big picture, before moving to the more granular parts of this process. In the time I have been thinking about writing on this topic, I have realized that there is so much that I want to cover that this will need to be series. I am going to start in this post by talking about uploading new work, then in a part two I will dive into discussing the need for metadata and how to make sure it is fully filled out, and most likely I will probably have a third part about reading and recommending. We will see where this goes from there.
So, let’s dive into to uploading scripts to NPX:
Do you upload full scripts onto NPX? For me, this is a solid yes. I know there are others who feel that this is a risk. However, I am of the opinion that they do me more good on NPX than sitting on my hard drive waiting to be sent out. NPX is a subscription based database, so the work is not out roaming free on the internet. The works are behind a (very reasonably priced) paywall, minimizing inappropriate use of the script. This is very effective and on the rare occasions that people have taken plays from NPX and uploaded them elsewhere, both NPX and the Dramatists Guild have been quick to address the situation on behalf of playwrights. But ultimately this is up to you. I know those who create entries for scripts, and then invite those interested to contact them for the full script. The downside to this is many people perusing scripts do not want to have to ask for a reading copy, and will simply move on to the next thing on their list. My recommendation is to upload the full script and if you feel strongly about making sure your work isn’t being used without your permission, include a watermark or footer that indicates that this is an NPX reading copy only, and not for use outside of that context.
When do you upload a script to NPX? Each person has their own feelings about when a script should be uploaded. I am of the opinion that when you are ready to share a script with the world, it is time to put it up on NPX. For some people, that might not be until after the first production. For others, that might be significantly earlier. For me, that is usually around the time that I start submitting a script to theatres. When making the decision about whether a script is ready for NPX, I encourage everyone to consider: if someone who finds the script will only read it once and form their opinion about the script based on that, is this the version of that script you want them to read?
In what instances should you not upload a script to NPX? If a script is published, you may not be able to put that script on NPX. Check the agreement with the publisher. But, if the script is published and cannot be uploaded to NPX, you can still make an entry for it, and NPX provides a space where you can include a link to the published script. This way people searching on NPX are aware of the plays existence and may choose to get it from the publisher. In most (if not all) instances, you can still upload a sample of the script, and NPX has a section for uploading a 10-20 pages sample. So those who find the entry on NPX can get a feel for whether they might want to follow that link to purchase the published script.
What else should I be doing? NPX also provides as space for musical scores, anonymous copies of scripts, and audio and video material.
I don’t work on musicals so I can offer limited insight into uses of uploading the musical score. But it is there for you to make use of if you are working on a musical.
Do make sure to have an anonymous copy uploaded for all of your scripts. My understanding is that these can only be accessed by organizations that have posted opportunities through NPX who want to have an anonymous submission process. If you don’t have an anonymous copy uploaded, you may be missing out on those opportunities.
If you have audio and video materials, go ahead and link those, too. If the piece is a musical, you might link to samples of songs; or if the piece has been performed digitally and is available online, you might want to link to that. This just gives people who find the script more ways to explore your work.
The final thing I want to address here is script order. NPX does not assign a specific order. So, you can arrange them however you see fit, and you can change that order using the reorder plays button at the top right hand side of your profile. One option is to put the plays in alphabetical order. This allows someone who is looking for a specific play to scroll directly to it. Searching for a specific title can otherwise become tricky, especially as the number of plays you have on your profile grows. Another option is to order them by length. This is how my page is currently set up. I list my full length plays first, then one acts, then 10-minute plays and so forth down to monologues. Another thing I have seen people do is post their newest works or plays they want to highlight at the top and then put the rest in some order down below. All of these approaches work. The important thing to keep in mind is the legibility of your page to someone who is visiting it for the first time. Try to make it clear to an outside observer what you want them to take away from looking at your profile.
I figure this post is most beneficial to someone who is new to NPX. So thank you for taking the time to read through it, and I hope that there was something of value in thinking about these fundamental parts of using the New Play Exchange. In my next blog post, I will delve more into the nitty-gritty of optimizing each entry to make it as visible as possible to those who might be searching for it.