Book adaptations into a movie have become one of the fastest growing, most reliably profitable and attractive markets for producers in Hollywood, e.g. Harry Potter or the Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Which Avenues Can an Author Go to Have Their Book Manuscript Turned into a Movie? When it comes to film adaptations, some books are more ideally suited for a movie of the week or TV series than for feature films. There are several directions one can follow – or all of them at the same time:
1. Literary Agents or Publishers
2. Film Agents
3. Film Producers
However, the first – and a very important – step is certainly to gain lots of dedicated followers on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc. with between 2,000 and 10,000 followers on each of these sites. Start reading IndieWire.com and FilmmakerMagazine.com for a feel of the industry. Attend film festivals to see independent films come to life. See if your state has a film office. Through all these new resources you may come across a screenwriter to work with.
Publishers and Literary Agents
There are very few publishers and literary agents who have intensive and productive connections to the film industry. Hopefully, you haven’t sold your movie rights as part of the publishing contract… And if you really want to sell your movie rights to a publisher, first carefully check their track record in adapting books into movies and their proven connection to the film industry. How many of their published books have made it into a movie? You don’t necessarily need a literary agent to make it in Hollywood.
Author-publishers, on the contrary, are free to whomever they want to sell their book manuscripts.
Literary agents are focused on the projects that will provide an easy transaction with a guaranteed profit. A great opportunity for established writers with a huge audience and profitable material, but not so great for an author who isn’t quite as established (yet).
“The process of getting an agent is a bit different for each vocation. But no matter what you wish to be, the trick to getting an agent, however, is that you usually need to make most of the effort, says Phil Breman.
“Once you’ve decided what type of writing you wish to specialize in, now you can start the process of getting an agent. You can’t just blindly submit them to agencies and then hope that they’ll read your script – and it should look like a script! Plain, white, three-hole paper bound with brass script brands. Don’t bind it, put a fancy cover on it, and never put any other information on it other than the title, author, and your contact information. Anything else and people reading it will know you’re an amateur.”
“Keep in mind that getting an agent is not the impossible task it can often seem to be. You need to have extreme patience during this process, but that doesn’t mean that you sit around waiting for an agent to suddenly discover you and your talents. Get out there and show off what you do and let the agents come and find you.”
Bypass the Literary and Film Agents and go Straight to the Producer!
Writer/director Ryan Koo: “Finding a producer is like dating: you need to spend some time getting to know the other person, and you’re not going to like everyone you meet. Nor is everyone going to like you back.”
Do your homework! Pitches that have nothing to do with theproducer’s work or their market won’t be successful!
Film producers are extremely busy people. They literally have stacks and stacks of scripts and books to go over. Present them with easy-to-read materials that speak their language. Producers are very visual people and would much rather read short, compelling content, rather than a dense book or screenplay.
Help them to visualize how a project will look in a movie – using a book trailer.
Another way to be helpful is by being open to feedback (accept what they have to say!) and being respectful of their time. Offer them concise, compelling content that has high market value. Great tips how to find a producer can be found in Scott Macaulay’s article.
Literary Teacher Jane Friedman Advices:
– Theoretically, an author could try approaching a Hollywood agency such as the Gotham Group directly, without a literary agent. You would need to become a pro at pitching in writing, over the phone, and/or in person at a pitchfest.
– You could write a script based on your book and submit it cold to studios and agents. But for authors not interested in a career in scriptwriting, this doesn’t make much sense. Even if the script is good, there’s a miniscule chance it will get produced, and writing a great script mostly puts you in a position to get hired as a scriptwriter. (In Jeanne Bowerman’s case, this was in fact one of her top goals, which she accomplished.)
– Get your book to take off at Amazon and rank in the top 1 percent. This happened to Colleen Houck, the author of Tiger’s Curse. When her self-published young-adult novel blew up on Amazon, she started getting calls from movie producers.
As an author you are dreaming of a movie deal. You might think getting a book deal with a publisher – don’t think getting a movie deals is easier! Movie rights are part of sub rights or subsidiary rights – even so these rights are hard to sell. And if you get a foot in the door: Almost all production companies and film producers offer first an option for a film.
Be Very Patient. Making a movie can take up to 5-10 years or more. If you’re not willing or able to invest that kind of time, why would a producer want to help you out? BE PERSISTENT! Don’t stop to send out queries. Know that it is not easy to get a movie deal.
More Tips on How to Sell your book to a Film Agent or Movie Producer:
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