In the last week, I received galley proofs from two different publishers for a couple of my plays that are about to “go public.” Galleys are the camera-ready pages of the script. For playwrights, proofreading the galleys is the final step before the play goes to press.
Regardless of what the various how-to books say about script formatting, each publisher expects a play submission to be “clean copy.” No typos, misspellings, consistent use of capitalization, bold and italics, and style. Then, once they contract for the script, they change all the formatting to match their particular playbook style anyway. Every publisher I work with has a different way of including stage directions, light and sound cues, even how the characters are listed.
So no matter how clean your copy was, minor errors can find their way into the script. That’s why galley proofs are so important.
Often publishers make slight editorial changes. Occasionally an ambitious and misguided editor will try to re-write a portion (almost never improving it, in my opinion). If substantial changes are going to be made by the editor, the playwright should know about it BEFORE we get to the galley stage. Publishers owe it to the author to have first crack at anything larger than a very minor rewrite, cut, addition or change.
When the galleys arrive for final proofing, it’s all there, exactly as it will appear in the printed playbook. And the playwright gets to have one last look before saying goodbye. It feels a little like watching your child go off to her first day at school.
This is NOT a time for rewrites, revisions, or changes. That should all have taken place before the script was submitted. This is an opportunity to give the copy a final proofreading, and to note any changes the publisher/editor has made.
Back in the days of typesetting, making changes to a camera-ready galley was a real headache. But even today when everything is digital, altering a script at this point in the pipeline is annoying and troublesome. Publishers want a perfect script as much as a playwright. But suggesting changes beyond legitimate typographical corrections can have unfortunate consequences.
No playwright can afford to act like a “diva” and make demands. We don’t have the right to change our minds or offer new ideas. Not at this stage of the game. And if a playwright delays the galley process (I guarantee a 24-hour turnaround), you create a bottleneck in the publishing pipeline. And guess which project will get pulled out to make way for the others?
Publishers have deadlines. They have catalogs to ship and marketing calendars. The sooner your script gets past the galley proof stage and into print, the sooner you will start making money.
Don’t keep publishers waiting. In almost every case, they are busier than you. Don’t try and rewrite your play after you’ve signed the contract. Be grateful to have a chance for one last look at the script before it goes out into the world.
Then look forward to receiving your “reading copies” in the mail!
After that, your script is reduced to a line item on a royalty statement.
Unless you create your own marketing plan.