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February 25, 2010


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Ian Thal

organizations like Bay Area Playwrights or The O'Neill [...] have submission fees, and its hard to fault them for it.

The problem with the O'Neill, Isaac, that you are missing is not that it charges a submission fee, or even that it has one of the highest submission fees around, but that questions have been raised as to the honesty of the submission process.

And yes, you can fault them for that.


I'm definitely with you on the torn aspect. All of the things that people say about submission fees is true: even $35 is a lot if you don't have $35, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, organizations are taking money and giving even the winning writers the short end of the stick. It's a sucky thing to do, period. But...especially in the case of something like the O'Neill, it's not quite as cut-and-dried as it seems.

What I don't think a lot of writers realize is what a massive undertaking it is to manage a selection process, particularly one on the scale of the O'Neill's. You need several rounds of readers, you have to organize getting them scripts, there are copies to made, postage or server time to be considered, lists to organize and manage. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it really adds up. And if you're trying to get it done in three months? It's a non-trivial amount of work, on top of whatever else your organization is doing. And it's the kind of work that it's hard to find funding for. Funders love to give money to the art, but not so much to the administration.

Still: I don't submit, in general, to organizations that ask for them. At least partly out of philosophy.



I actually linked to those "questions" awhile ago and, having looked into it, ended up retracting the post. The "questions" are, on closer examination, largely bullshit.

a good examination (Which is quite critical of yours truly) can be found here: http://ratconference.com/blog/?p=173 .


Meh. I'm pretty ambivalent to submission fees. That said, I've never submitted to any or the organizations who charge a fee.

Josh James

Just say no.

Duncan Pflaster

I've decided this year to not apply to anything that has a submission fee over $10.

Prince Gomolvilas

I've always been fine with submission fees. It's an investment in your career.

But, Isaac, I like your idea of offering fee waivers to those who are truly in dire straits.


I don't mind paying a submission fee here and there for some of the larger opportunities (disclaimer: I've been a reader for many of these companies and appreciate the reader's fee), but it seems noteworthy that some great organizations manage the submission process w/o charging a fee (SPF comes to mind). The one thing that really gets my goat, however, are the occasions when I've put together a large portfolio, paid a fee and NEVER received an acknowledgment for receipt of my materials, nor even the courtesy of a rejection letter. That drives me crazy (Francesca Primus Prize--I'm talking to you!)


It’s all in that word, no? Submission.

In that one word, the whole “failed system” of Outrageous Fortune.

Where’s the play that leaps from the wrighter’s head as Athena leapt from Zeus's head, fully grown and armed — detonating in the broad sky her clarion cry of war?”

The self-producing manifesto conceived without any notion of submission to any higher author(ity) or judgment.


I think Josh James' blog entry from waaaaaay back on entrance fees changed my position to a hardline, "Never Pay a Submission Fee" (though, bear in mind I had just paid a $20 reader's fee the day before finding the Daily Dojo entry; say it with me: D'OH!).

But yeah. I think submission fees are basically a way of financing a theatre company that may or may not even give you the time of day. Since not only a guarantee that you'll get accepted, but also no guarantee your script will even be read, I think it may not be a bad idea if playwrights en masse decide to stop agreeing to submission fees. It may be one thing that could actually force a failed system to change.

Josh James

Thanks for the shout out, James ... the blog entry was called "NEVER DO THIS" and the link is here: http://writerjoshuajames.com/dailydojo/?p=87


Ah! There it is! I hunted around for it and couldn't find it. Thanks!


O/T: A great post summarizing a conversation about how marketers in theatres can support (and prepare audiences for) new work:


Ian Thal

Considering some of the best theatre I've seen recently is by small, independent companies who routinely offer "pay what you can" nights and don't charge reading fees for new play submissions, I'm a bit incredulous that a well-heeled theatre like the O'Neill needs to charge $35 to stay afloat.

And even if they do, I think that $35 should at least buy one some transparency.

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