I don't know the best place to post this on the board, but this will do. I thought you folks might be interested in the e-mail I sent to Baker's Plays recently. Here's what I said:
Dear Mr. Dingledine:
I just received a letter today requesting changes to my play, "14 Lines." I have no problem with either of these proposed changes and hope the high school will have good luck with the play.
I was chagrined to see the date on the letter, however: July 21, 2006. Why am I getting this so late? As I see it, by this point the high school could well have decided against the show because they haven't heard back, or they've gone ahead with their changes and not bothered to get permission.
Unfortunately, I must admit that I see this latest issue as just another in a long, negative trend at Baker's Plays. I was thrilled when "Making Nice" was published years ago. At that time, I found Baker's a welcoming, responsive, dynamic company. In the years since that first publication, though, Baker's has not maintained such high esteem for me. Some of my fellow directors here in Vermont have reported that Baker's is hard to work with and seems disorganized; my royalty payments have often been late; the amount Baker's pays me per book and production is the lowest of any company I have encountered; and I feel a general sense of disconnection from and disinterest by the company. As a result, though I have written many plays over the past several years, I no longer send any of them to Baker's for consideration.
By contrast, when I signed on with Playscripts almost five years ago, they were a fledgling company and I had only mild hopes that my play would be well represented there. Since then, I have placed 39 more shows with them, have seen my productions and my earnings grow past my greatest hopes, and have seen Playscripts become a leader in the industry.
I understand that Baker's has recently changed editorial staff again. While this may be a hopeful change, I have seen two such transitions in the past (since Jack Welch's departure) and have seen no improvement. I believe that the plays I have placed at Baker's--"Making Nice," "The Chronicles of Jane, Book Seven," "14 Lines," and "Sinking El Diablo" are all pieces that have worked well for high and middle schools, but they all have had less exposure than they deserve. I suspect that, had I placed these with Playscripts, they would all have seen many more productions and I would have earned a great deal more from them. In short, unless I have concrete proof of positive changes in the near future--a willingness to renegotiate higher royalty payments, a greater responsiveness to customers (particularly educational customers), and a more active interest in my work, I will not only continue to disregard Baker's as a publishing option, but will take steps to pull the above-mentioned plays from Baker's and place them with more aggressive companies...Playscripts being my first choice.
I hate to be harsh or seem demanding. I want Baker's to succeed, and I have tried to be patient. I have run out of patience, though. I sincerely hope you can somehow assure me, in tangible ways, that Baker's continued representation of my work will benefit my career as a playwright.
What a great letter. Yes, you have the product and they are but middle-men. I like the way you have taken the driver's seat without once being rude or inappropriately aggressive. Really is there such a name as Dingledine? Sounds straight out of Dickens.
i feel sorry for mr. d. he's a decent man (with s. french) who inherited a bad situation. however, i think those at french should have known that baker's was in chaos much, much sooner. possibly, very little money was/is given to baker's to read and format scripts; hence, not enough staff. i'm sure their high-school writing contest took a big bite out of the reading staff.
i'm with you, alan. not sending anything to baker's till they straighten out. but do you have a legal -- out?
To be honest, it doesn't look like they'd put up a fight. With the staff shuffle, it's likely the issue wouldn't be a top priority. Which is ironic, considering playwrights are what keep them in business. I like to think (or at least hope) that my other publishers would be scrambling to keep me, rather than take a long time responding to very serious concerns of their writers.
alan, have you received your royalties? haven't got anything here. maybe i haven't sold enough plays yet. two plays were published about four months ago. is there a minimum under which they don't cut you a check? leon
I did finally get my royalties. I also got a nice reply to my e-mail, but I'm still not convinced I shouldn't try to jump ship. I'm not sure what the cut-off is for issuing royalties, but for most it's a minimum of $20.00. Sales for my shows were definitely mediocre, as they have been over the last few years since management started getting shaky. We'll see, we'll see. Good luck!
I just got $500 from Brooklyn, which was a pleasant surprise. They really seem to have bounced back from their slump. And $200 from Baker's, which I'm also pleased with considering I still haven't made their print catalogue after well over a year. So it looks like a good year for pocket change so far :-)