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Old 02-03-2013, 09:33 PM   #1
msd
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Book into movies?

When a book turns into a movie, does the author of the book benefit financially?
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Old 02-03-2013, 11:13 PM   #2
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When a book turns into a movie, does the author of the book benefit financially?
Of course - generally first someone options the work, then may buy it outright to use for a screenplay.
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Old 02-04-2013, 12:31 AM   #3
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When you sell a book, there are several kinds of "rights" you can sell, and one of those is "media" rights. Your agent, if you've gone the agent route, will negotiate the best possible deal for you in regards to each right sold, and yes you should absolutely get something out of the deal.
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:00 AM   #4
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A lot of authors make a bit of money from selling the movie rights without the movie ever being made. (Lots of things can go wrong and the movie never happens but they've sold the rights.)
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:43 AM   #5
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It's far more common for an option to be sold, though, than the rights. And options can be sold for as little as a dollar, so it's not always a useful bit of money.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:48 PM   #6
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A lot of authors make a bit of money from selling the movie rights without the movie ever being made. (Lots of things can go wrong and the movie never happens but they've sold the rights.)
I know of one author who's had the same book continually optioned for over 25 years and it's never come any closer to being made.

It should be noted too that, no matter what the movie rights sell for, there's usually an increase in book sales that come with a movie release.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:20 PM   #7
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To explain further. Most often a production company will OPTION the rights to your book first. This means that they have the right to see if they can make it into a TV show/Movie etc. Often they will option the book for a certain number of years, where they have to pay to renew once a year. After that option (of say three years, for example) expires, the production company has to renegotiate the option contract. An option though isn't them PURCHASING the rights to your work. If and when they decide, yup we are so making this thing, THEN they will BUY the rights.

An OPTION can be very little. I know of a producer who pays literally a dollar for options. Usually it can be a couple thousand bucks. Sometimes if the book is a huge deal and the company wants to make sure no one else will outbid them, then you get into the big money.

However the greater money is earned usually through selling the rights. That is usually six figures. Or greater. Then there is also a percentage on the backend etc, but that isn't always going to result in profit. The film needs to first of all earn a profit. And the company has to be honest. There are ways for certain companies to manipulate the figures so that even though the movie earned a profit, it can seem on paper that it didn't. Fun times.

Also if it sells for TV, there is usually a per episode sum paid as well.

All contracts vary, but this is why it is SO important to have an agent to negotiate this stuff for you. Everything I learned about film rights I learned from my agent. Interesting stuff.
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Old 02-05-2013, 05:01 AM   #8
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Which is why you hear the phrase "Development Hell" bandied about regarding scripts that have taken years to be filmed. Many properties sit and languish for various reasons, from waiting for the perfect script to the perfect cast to the perfect market conditions, before the option lapses and is either picked up by another company or studio, or just simply fades into the background. Lather, rinse, repeat.
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:09 AM   #9
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Or certain companies will option a book or outright buy the rights, and do so with the intention of never making it just so that they can make sure no one else will either.

As I said before, fun times.
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:38 AM   #10
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Considering that only a tiny TINY percentage of books ever get turned into movies--and those will be bestsellers with a huge built-in audience--it's best to focus on writing a bestseller and let your agent field option offers.

All the rest of the movies made seem to be original screenplays written for the starring actor or based on comic books.

One of my friends got an option on her bestseller and scored a $25K deal. However, she wrote into the contract that SHE got to write the screenplay, then spent the next 10 years not finishing multiple versions of the script. The movie could have been made by now with her getting a small royalty income from DVD sales/rental. But that didn't happen. Why they allowed her to do that, I do not know, but she had clout then. Not now, though.


In my case, the options were 100.00 (split with my publisher), so I got 50 bucks. Another time, my collaborator (with contacts in the film industry) optioned it for a dollar.

I know a movie based on one's book is the dream deal for all writers, but don't expect it.

Get to the library and find books on screenplay writing, as they'll give a more clear view of things.

One thing I DO know-- make sure you get a percentage of the gross, not the profit, when you sign a contract. The movie, Forrest Gump, is infamous for how the bean counters made it look like it never had a profit.
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Old 02-07-2013, 09:38 PM   #11
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I know a guy who wrote a rather mediocre book in the 1970's. As he put it, the book went "straight from the presses to the remainder table."

That book was optioned multiple times, scripts rewritten multiple times as they tried to get actors, producers and directors interested and it's still under option somewhere even though the author passed away.

The options paid back his advance and a little income, otherwise he'd have had a total flop.

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Old 02-11-2013, 03:48 PM   #12
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Or certain companies will option a book or outright buy the rights, and do so with the intention of never making it just so that they can make sure no one else will either.

Another thing I've seen - most recently with the fantastic four - is that a version of the movie will be made, or started, in order to be able to hold onto the rights. In terms of the fantastic four, the movie was optioned but it never got made due to budgetary restraints. Then, when the option period was about to end, and extension was asked for and denied. Facing the prospect of losing the option an incredibly low budget film was made and never released. This meant that the production folks kept their option and were able to make another, better movie with a bigger budget 10 years later.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:31 AM   #13
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Coincidence, I was just reading Robopocalypse author Daniel Wilson's rant/essay on this very topic:

http://io9.com/5983039/the-two-stage...-soul+crushing

He comes off a little spoiled brat-ish, but he makes some interesting points and provides some insight into the process. Like most things though, the good stuff is in the comments.
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