On this episode of “The Road to Publishing,” we’re going to talk about the important things to know when it comes down to handing your rights over to make your book into a movie, a TV show, or even a Broadway show.
For film and television deals, it’s important to know your agent. There are a lot of literary agents who are very experienced and connected in the Hollywood scene. Even if your agent doesn’t have a ton of these connections, as long as they have a working knowledge of the film industry and the contracts/agreements that go along with it, then you will be in good hands when a deal comes your way (fingers crossed!). If yours doesn’t seem to have many connections, or the appropriate knowledge, then seeking out a film agent might be your best bet. You can query film agents like you would literary agents, they typically want to know (and are looking for) the same things. You could also take a bold step and query right to a producer. This way will certainly get you a bigger buck for yourself, but unless you have your own connections, it’s also very likely that your query will never make it in front of their eyes.
No matter who your agent is, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make sure you are getting the best care possible. First, you should never sell your film or television rights to an inexperienced producer or script writer. Your book should land in the hands of someone who has made a film or television show before (or has been an actor/actress with the appropriate connections). The less experience the licensee has, the less likely your movie or television show will come to fruition.
Another point to consider is where the producer is coming from. Are they a producer coming from a studio in Hollywood? Or are they a small-time producer from a reputable indie production company? This is crucial to know because it can determine the fate of your work, as well as your involvement in the project. When a major studio is involved, although very exciting, your chances of being involved in the process often become minimal. It’s also just as likely that you will never see your book on the big screen. Hollywood has a lot of money to throw around in order to find their perfect next block-buster, so producers can go out and buy 300 ideas (including yours) and scrap it in a month or two because they narrowed it down to two or three projects they hope to move onto production. If the producer is coming from an independent place, scope out their other work and ask to be involved in the production process. That way you can get the product the way you envisioned and can also be involved in finding a studio for it.
It’s also important to consider what you are looking for negotiation wise. Negotiating your movie and television rights deals is just like any other. If you have already been involved in print, e-book, audio, or translation deals then you already have a pretty good feel for what’s ahead. You will come across all sorts of deals/offers out there. Some of those deals are going to have a lower price tag than normal, especially if you go with a less experienced producer or a smaller production company. You need to decide what your target revenue stream is and at what point it just doesn’t make sense to relinquish those rights, no matter how enticing the idea of a movie is. A stipend is also usually given to the author while production is underway. It’s important to make sure you are being compensated for your hard work the way you should be.
Second to last, utilize your confidence. Remember when you first queried literary agent about your novel and how much you believed in the book and in yourself? During the film/television submission process channel that same energy once again. Make sure not to come off as desperate. This will turn anyone away from even picking your query letter up again because if you don’t believe in yourself, why should they? An experienced producer or agent will be able to tell the difference right away, so be sure the look things over (perhaps with multiple people) before you reach out.
FINALLY: Be patient! These sorts of deals don’t happen overnight! Agents/producers need to be found, deals need to be negotiated, and you need a moment to breathe as well.