Subrights Part 3: Film Rights
Posted by Amanda Brice May 23 2012, 12:01 am
Welcome to Part 3 of the Subsidiary Rights series, or as I affectionately call it “Money For Nothing.” You’ve already done the heavy lifting in writing, revising, and editing. Now it’s time to leverage your rights into other areas.
As you may recall, in February we talked about foreign rights. In March we discussed book clubs and large print. In July we’ll be focused on audiobooks.
But today’s all about film and TV rights.
Do you like watching a movie adaptation of a book you enjoyed? How about a TV show? I don’t know about you, but it’s long been my dream to see my work dramatized.
In general, film/TV deals are structured as an “option.” A production company will pay an author a lump sum for the right to consider producing a film or TV series based on the underlying book. The initial payment is for a set period of time. If they have not produced it by the time the option is up, they can renew the option and the author will receive another sum of money (generally a little more than the initial signing advance) for another period of time. Books can be optioned and re-optioned over and over again, sometimes indefinitely. Simply having your book optioned does not guarantee that the film or series will be made, although it does guarantee money during the option period regardless of what happens.
If the film or pilot is made, then the author will receive a production fee. If it gets picked up by a network or by a studio for distribution, then the author will receive another fee. In the context of television, depending on the terms of the contract, the author will also receive a certain amount for every episode that is made, possibly a consulting fee, as well as a fee when each episode airs.
If the book being optioned is a series, then the production contract will need to re-contract for each book in the series (if they want to continue).
So how do you get such a deal?
The Rubies’ own Darynda Jones‘ FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT was optioned by CBS. Her literary agent acquired a film agent from ICM, one of the top three talent agencies in the world. Her film agent specializes in packaging deals, and felt that the books would work best as a TV series as opposed to a film, something along the lines of say, True Blood. So the film agent contracted a writer to go around Hollywood and pitch FIRST GRAVE as a TV series.
CBS heard about a grim reaper series that was being shopped around and was interested, but they already had their own writer who had pitched a grim reaper series that they’d rejected, but they wanted that writer paired with her series. And they wanted it for the CW. So CBS’ writer went to the CW to pitch Darynda’s series. The CW was itnerested, so CBS optioned it. According to her contract, if the series goes into production and the pilot gets made, either CBS or the CW can pick it up. Fingers crossed they do, and we all get to watch FIRST GRAVE on TV!
One thing that floored Darynda was that her film agent had to negotiate to get her name into the credits. It’s her book, but that’s part of the negotiation process.
That’s the traditional route. But does that mean only big books that hit the big lists with tons of press from Big Six houses can get optioned?
Absolutely not. A writer friend of mine from the IndieRomanceInk loop recently announced her own TV deal, and her journey is rather unconventional. So let’s hear from Maree Anderson in her own words:
“I had a YA that had done well on the contest circuit (but hadn’t interested agents or editors) languishing on my hard-drive. So in September last year, I self-published FREAKS OF GREENFIELD HIGH on Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc.
To help get my name out there, and to build a fan-base, I decided to put FREAKS on Wattpad. My initial intention was to put up a chapter a week until the entire book was up, leave it there for a month or so, then delete it and leave a three chapter excerpt only.
Wattpad staff discovered FREAKS five chapters in, thought it was great, but not getting enough exposure. They wanted to feature it. This meant posting the whole book on Wattpad and leaving it there for an extended period, plus doing a few guest blogs and a podcast for Wattpad fans. FREAKS was featured on Wattpad in December and to date has had over 1.2 million reads.
It’s important to note that “reads” doesn’t translate to “sales” when it comes to Wattpad. “Free” rules on Wattpad, and the vast majority won’t rush out and buy the published version of your book. But there’s a bunch of fans eagerly awaiting the sequel I’m currently writing, and another bunch demanding I put out a print book. Plus the fan-mail is awesome!
In February, I was approached by a Canadian production company executive who’d read FREAKS on Wattpad, loved it, and thought it’d make a great TV series!
Obviously I did some research on the production company when I received the initial offer. Cream Productions is well known for its documentaries (and has won awards for them), but the backgrounds of the key drama department staff I dealt with reassured me that they were legit and well-respected in the industry. I found the IMDb website invaluable for researching individuals involved in the entertainment industry.
Next step was begging my indie-pub loop for advice. And the best advice I got was to go with an entertainment lawyer for this sort of negotiation. A literary agent — unless they also have a background in entertainment law — was not going to be the best person to negotiate this kind of complicated contract. One of the loop members had a friend who’d just sold a script to Disney, and he referred me to his lawyer. She charges a percentage of my earnings from this deal, just like a literary agent does, except the percentage is much lower. And she’s been invaluable.
After much to-ing and fro-ing to nail down the terms of the option if it progessed to being made into a TV series, a couple of weeks ago I signed off on the contract. So…
My young adult novel, FREAKS OF GREENFIELD HIGH (about a teenage cyborg hiding out at a small town high school and struggling to cope with human emotions) had been optioned for TV by Cream Drama, Inc. The next step is for Cream to pitch the project to broadcasters and if they obtain funding, we move forward from there.”
Sounds great, huh? Just like with Darynda, I really hope to see Maree’s series on air someday, too!
So Ruby readers, what books would you like to see made into a movie or TV series?
The second book in Amanda Brice’s YA mystery series, POINTE OF NO RETURN, was released last week exclusively for the Nook. It will be available in all other formats — including print — on June 13. For more information, visit her website: www.amandabrice.net