How to Optimize a profile on New Play Exchange - Part Two
Since my last NPX related post on the when and why and how of uploading scripts, I have seen a new question that I didn’t address there. The question of: does uploading your work count as publication for the purposes of opportunities that say a work must be unpublished in order to submit. So briefly before moving on, the answer is to that is: No. Putting an unpublished script on NPX is not the same as publishing a play. It is still an unpublished script that is being made available within the NPX database.
Before we begin, I want to quickly remind anyone reading this, that I am not affiliated with the New Play Exchange beyond being a playwright who has scripts on the database, and this series is designed to be a response to other playwrights who often have questions about how the usefulness of NPX and how to use certain features.
With that quickly addressed, I will turn to my attention to what I want to discuss in this blog post: Metadata!
What is Metadata and how do we optimize it for use on New Play Exchange? Metadata refers to data refering to other data. In the case of NPX, this is all of the information that you include with each of your play entries.
Before I begin the “how to” part of optimizing the metadata, I want to briefly mention the why. If you have the basic writer subscription, you may not know that other subscription levels (including the Wrtier-Pro and various Reader levels) allow you to search the database using filters. Therefore, being as clear about genre, keywords, length, etc can greatly improve the chances of someone finding the script through a simple search. Having all of these things correctly filled in also makes it easier for potential readers of the script to know at a glance if this script is something that they might want to read.
While filling in each and every category is pretty straightforward, there are some aspects of filling in the information that become more intuitive the more time you spend on NPX. So I’m going to go over each informational category, and hopefully I am providing insights that go beyond the sense of “fill this section out.”
Starting with the basics, NPX asks you for the title of the play. I have seen a lot of people put “a ten-minute play” or “a full-length play” in the title section after the title itself. If you are filling out the rest of the metadata, this is a bit redundant. However, since the basic writers account doesn’t include the advanced search, I do understand that some people searching could type “ten-minute play” into the search by title section and find results that way. So, I guess it depends on whether you think it is worth it to try to catch those extra few searches. The one place I include this is on stand alone monologues, I list the title then “a monologue” in the title section. I do this because I want to differentiate at a glance between what is a play and what is a stand alone monologue.
Then we have synopsis. Again, this is a very straight forward section, and yet again, I have thoughts specific to how you may want to use the synopsis section to maximize its effectiveness on NPX. When doing a search or if someone comes to your NPX profile browsing through the plays, the Title and Synopsis are the first things that person is going to see. They may also see a few of the genre markers and some of the keywords, but in order to see all of the metadata for a script, someone must click the play entry itself. So while it is redundant, I do include certain things in my own synopses that save potential readers a step. In the Synopsis box before I include the actual synopsis, I will put the length and primary genre of the play on its own line. Then on the next line, I will include one may award if necessary such as “O’Neill Semifinalist 2019.” I don’t want my synopsis area bogged down with a lot of details but if there is something I am very proud of and want to draw peoples attention to it, I will list it there. It is after those two things that I finally include the synopsis. It is also important to note that while I haven’t been able to find an upper limit on the amount of text you can include in this section, on your NPX profile only a portion of the synopsis will be displayed. So make sure that the synopsis grabs people right away and makes them want to click to read more. Finally, in this area I list if I have updated a new draft of the script recently, and if it is a work in progress, the very last thing I will include in this section is a line that says “seeking development.”
After Title and Synopsis, there is a section for keywords: NPX only allows 10 keywords, but that is generally enough to hit the highlights. When filling in the Keyword section, try to think about the types of things producers and directors might search for. For instance, I have plays with stage combat, and those fight scenes include woman as combatants. So I include the keyword/phrase, “stage combat for women,” which, if searched, yields a single page of plays. If a theatre company, or an actor, is looking to show featuring women doing stage combat, they can quickly see what their options are on NPX. Each word or phrase should be separated by a comma and then becomes a searchable term in the filters.
Next we have genre. The genre section is multiple choice. Select all that apply but don’t over select to the point of confusion. If there are a dozen genres listed, the play will appear in a search for each of those, but if a reader looks at the entry and is generally confused by the genre they may pass over the script before opening it. On the other hand, a reader may look at the mix and matched genres listed and open the play to see what a play professing to be all of those things looks like. So I guess, use your best judgment, but most importantly do your best to represent your script fully.
There are sections for length and age appropriateness. These are also important search filters for those searching the database. So, select all that apply. If a script straddles two of the length categories, go ahead and select both. For example: if it is a 60 minute play, you want to select both the 30-60 and 60-90 categories because searcher might not look in both categories. If someone looking for a max 60 min fringe show, they might only be searching the 30-60 minute category. If they are looking for a long one act, they may be looking in the 60-90 minute category. If you have only selected one or the other, your play may be missed by the other search. For age appropriateness, I believe the form defaults to “All Ages” but if it may only be suitable for certain age groups, adjust accordingly.
The narrative attributes section was added in the last few years. So if you have been on NPX for a while, you may have older entries that need to have this section updated. This was added because someone might be search for plays that fill their specific casting needs, which can be done when you fill out the character section (which I will get into below). Say someone is searching for a play that has a part for a black man in his 40s, all of the plays that have characters that this actor could play will appear in that list, including scripts that list a character as being able to be played by Any Gender, Any Race/Ethnicity, Any Age, and including scripts that have a character of that specific demographic that only appears for one line. So that ends up being a lot to sift through. If the person making that search is perhaps the actor themselves looking for a script where they can play the lead or which is specifically written for them rather than an open ended character that can be played by anyone, clicking the narrative attributes button for “Centers Characters of Color” will narrow their search. Thus, the plays listed are more likely to have a substantive role for a black man in his 40s. And that is just one example. There are lots of ways people can use this section in their search, but the important thing is that is a specific tool different from cast listing.
As mentioned above, there is a section for casting requirements. The simple part of this is total cast size, for which there is a place to list a minimum number of actors and a maximum. For instance, I have a play with 20 characters, and while doubling is encouraged, the script can’t be done with fewer than 10 actors without people talking to themselves on stage, which I definitely do not want to happen with this script. So I list the cast as 10-20. Under the cast size section there is a box for including notes, breakdowns, and anything else you want to say about casting. You can list characters here, but I do not recommend it. There is another section I will mention that allows you to list characters individually, and that is where you should list the characters. In this section, I include general notes about casting. In the example above of the 20 character cast, I list in this section a suggested doubling chart. Those sorts of notes go in this section.
After you have created the entry for the script, the above cast size and casting notes will appear under the heading “character information.” There is also a small button to add characters there. This allows you to add each character individually, which as I mentioned above can be searched in the advanced search options. So create an entry for each character. Within this form you can add name, age, race/ethnic identity, gender, and a character description. This section can be as specific as your script requires. There are no drop downs or multiple choice, just small boxes for you to fill out the information they way you want it presented. Then there is a second section, which at first may seem like a redundancy but offers an important distinction: the above were the attributes of the character, while this section is about the actors who can/should portray that character. The actor information section is multiple choice and you can and should select all that apply. So, while a character may be 37, you may feel that this could be portrayed by someone in their 30s or 40s. If so, you should select both. The actor information section is the part that is searchable. So list the characters the way you see them, and then fill out the actor information as completely as possible so that people find the play when looking for specific casting breakdowns.
Finally, there are places in each script entry to include development, production, and award history as well as quotes and links to reviews. These sections are not searchable. They serve a slightly different function of providing supporting materials to those who have already clicked on the script to find out more. So while they don’t help get the script discovered in a search, they help provide more context and support for the script to those who have found the play.
If all of this information isn’t filled out that doesn’t mean you script can’t be found on NPX. It is always possible that someone will search by title and happen to come across yours in the mix. But completely and accurately filling out all of this information makes it easier for anyone using the advanced search options to match your script with their specific needs. So, if you have are new to NPX, go ahead and try to fill out the metadata completely when you upload scripts because it will save you having to go back and fill in that information later. If you have been on NPX a while, I encourage you to go back and check to see how complete the metadata is for your scripts, and update them accordingly.