Friday, June 11, 2010

The book stays in the picture

by Lauren

There was some great debate in the comments when I tackled foreign rights, so let's move on to another sub right.  It seems like this is the perfect week to talk about film, since Variety just did a piece on the current state of book-to-film, complete with quotes from Jane!  (I always enjoy the Variety lingo--only in LA would we be referred to as a "Gotham-based" agency.  Clearly Batman was rights director before me. )

So we've already talked about foreign, which takes up the most time and generates the most deals, but film and television is the big one on a per deal basis in terms of money. On the one hand, a big film means big money for the author (though as Jane points out, not as big as it used to be).  That said, the percentage of books that ever reach the screen is tiny. Of those that don't, a slightly larger percentage will have the rights bought but will never be made. Another slightly larger bunch will be optioned--meaning a studio or production company has the right to try to get the funding to outright buy the rights to the material. Options, however, usually lapse before any significant progress is made.

I've heard it said that the ideal situation for the author is for the option producer to get enough traction to keep optioning and eventually buy the rights, but never make the movie.  Though I don't know how many authors would really want to lose the upside—significantly inflated booksales—to get rid of the downside—a corrupted version of the story they wrote making it into the world.


  1. "Though I don't know how many authors would really want to lose the upside—significantly inflated booksales—to get rid of the downside—a corrupted version of the story they wrote making it into the world."

    Oddly enough, I'm one of those writers--not a fan of (most of) today's film-making, and not interested in having a studio turn my work into something I'd be thoroughly ashamed of. I've got a roof over my head and groceries: the extra cash isn't worth it.

  2. 'They ruined my book by filling it with big shot Hollywood stars and all they gave me was a million dollars'

    I think I could bear that pain.

  3. i'm not really into movies but i'd love someone to make a movie out of my book. if people liked it they'd buy the book. i'd make lots of money and it'd be easier to get published next time around. sure the movie might (probably) be dire but who cares? i didn't make it so it wouldn't bother me.

  4. Is an "attachment agreement" an option? I signed one of these with some very exciting people and it has a time expiration, but they (a producer and a production company) will not let me call the agreement an "option." Oh, and they paid me some money to sign. I'm thrilled by this becuase my book is still more than a year out from pub. This must be a "type" of option instead of an option?

  5. An attachment agreement and an option are two different things, GhostFolk. Hollywood is a strange beast and, relative to publishing, one in which the players don't trust each other much, so there are all sorts of levels of commitment possible when people start exploring book-to-film adaptation. Each agreement has its own terms, but essentially, the purpose of an attachment agreement is to commit the parties to work together if a deal is made, and the purpose of an option is to give the optioning party the exclusive right to pursue a deal. Unlike an option, the attachment gives the party attaching themselves (production company, in your case) no rights to the underlying material. They can sometimes have similar effect, but they're not technically the same thing.