Playwright blasphemy?

In February, this website — sampost.com — will be ten years old.

I never took the time to learn HTML or spent the money on commercial website software — so it’s always looked like shit.

I’ve used WordPress for a few years, for other websites.  It’s so much easier.  But I was afraid to convert this one.  I feared that I would lose Google standing for the term “ten minute plays.”  For years, if you typed that, this website would be in the top three — often first.

Being a top search for “ten minute plays” has given me productions and interesting correspondence — mostly with theatre arts students in a panic to quickly find a play for class.

But the site was static and took me forever to make changes.

I talked to an Ken Ansbro, an SEO specialist and asked if I would lose standing by making the switch.  He told me to do it, and I did.

Now, according to my Google search, when I type ten minute plays, sampost.com has been demoted to near invisibility — page three.  But that’s primarily a function of the growth of the internet — and the increased popularity of ten minute plays.

Converting to a WordPress blog has been a blessing.  Today, there were more visitors to more of my little plays than visited the previous website in a month.

I used to publish excerpts and occasionally got emails asking for the entire script.  Now, I’m publishing a lot more of my writing online, including the entire scripts.

People in the industry have warned me against this.  Playwright blasphemy.  What if somebody steals the property?

What if somebody steals the property?  Good!  I hope somebody does!  At least somebody would be reading it.  Nobody sees it when it’s on my hard drive.  I’m pretty sure nobody sees it when I mail it to a publisher or agent.

What’s the worst that could happen?  Somebody could produce it?  Please, no!

I’m guessing that if I were having drinks with serious playwrights now, red wine would be hitting me in the face.  Plays should not be given out like this.  Royalties should be paid!

I’ve had a two plays published by three different real publishers — and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.  Two of those publishers no longer exist.  One does.  Next month, three of the plays will be published by the North Carolina Literary Review, and I’m monumentally grateful to Margaret Bauer, the editor, for this kind and generous gesture.  Ink on paper equals serious pleasure for every writer.

But even when the plays are in print, not many theatre companies buy script copies or produce them.  If they had been published by the bigger publishers, maybe more would have been sold and produced.  Probably not.  Not many people buy plays, period. Compared to other forms of entertainment, not many people go to plays.  In any case, the bigger publishers didn’t want to publish them.

I live in a small town in the South, so it’s unlikely I’ll be networking in the major urban theatre districts, with the kind of people who can help with this.  And — if anybody wants to produce one of these plays and pay a royalty, I’m still happy to receive it.

But we’re talking about my stuff, anyway — not Pulitzer material.

So, if one puts the entire script online, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  Somebody could produce one and not pay me?  Not even tell me?  That could happen.  I’ve emailed several scripts to India, and I think it has happened.   But it’s not that bad.  If I were Neil Simon, it would be bad.  But I’m not.

The point is, the internet changes the rules for minor writers — completely.

It’s taking some time, but I look forward to putting more of my old stuff on this site — even the really bad full-length plays and those really awful novels I wrote.

If nobody reads them, fine.  It’s fun for me.  If somebody does read them, that’s really nice.

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