Thursday, July 8, 2021

Dear O'Abby: How do I get my book made into a movie?

 Dear O'Abby,

I've just completed a novel and without fail, all the people who have read it have commented on the fact they feel like it would make a great movie or limited series.  I agree with them, but have no clue how to even start getting a book, which at this stage is not even published, made into a movie.

Do you know anything about this process?

All the best,


Dear Starry-Eyed,

I actually do know a bit about this, but I think you may be putting the cart a little in front of the proverbial horse if your book isn't even published.  Yes, there are authors whose books have been optioned pre-publication, but they are usually established and have agents with connections in Hollywood or their own filmmaking connections.

What usually happens is that a filmmaker - a writer, director or producer - reads a published novel and sees its potential to be a film or series.  They will then reach out to the publisher of said book to find out if it is available for option.  An option is a legal term for acquiring the rights to a book for a period of time - usually a year - but does not mean that a film of the book will actually ever be made.  At the option stage, while a legal contract will be entered into, there is often no payment, especially if the book is not a best-seller or the author is unknown.  If more than one person is interested in optioning the same book, the amount of money becomes competitive.

But this doesn't mean your book will be made into a film.  Most options lapse before the film gets made, even when they are extended beyond the initial option period.  Making a film is expensive, and most producers don't have the money to make a film on their own.  They will need to attach financing partners to the project to meet the anticipated production budget.

Film financing comes from a variety places.  Private investment, government funding, crowd-funding and tax offsets can all make up parts of a film's budget.  Another important component is often market money which comes from sales agents and/or distributors based on their perception of how well the film will perform in the market.  A well known book with a recognisable title will obviously have greater market value than a self-published one that may have only generated a handful of sales.

While the producer is out there raising the money to make the film, a screenwriter will likely be toiling away in the background adapting the novel into something that will be compelling on screen.  For the most part it is unlikely that the book's author will be contracted to write the screenplay.  It does happen, but unless the writer has screenwriting experience, especially in adaptations, it is more likely that a screenwriter will be employed. 

If the producers are successful in raising the financing and the film is greenlit, the author will receive a contract outlining what payment they can expect.  This will be in the form of a percentage of the budget, so a bigger-budget film will generate a larger payday for the author.  It is also possible that an author can negotiate to get a percentage of overall profits from the film, but it's worth remembering that the majority of films never actually make it into profit and a percentage of profits can be at the expense of the upfront payment.

And that's a very brief and simplified overview of how it works. I suggest that at this stage, unless you have close contacts in the film world you can get your book in front of, the best thing you can do is to try and get it published and make it as successful as possible so people notice it.

Best of luck with everything.

X O'Abby 

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