Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ah Hollywood

STATUS: Because it’s like zero degrees in Denver, we are listening to Escape to Margaritaville on XM radio. Does anyone have some sunscreen?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now: VOLCANO by Jimmy Buffett

I guess yesterday’s post rubbed some of the glittery shine off the idea of a big Hollywood film deal. The reality of how much of a share an author can expect is often a bit eye-opening. Sorry to be the one to deliver the bad news.

In order for a Studio to have the right to base a film on a book, they have to option the rights to the book. Sometimes these options can be good money—like high five figures or six figures. Most tend to be more modest though.

In fact, sometimes the best scenario is to have the producers or Studio continually renew the option but never produce the actual movie. It’s like free money every 18 months….

As I’ve never had stars in my eyes regarding Hollywood, I always advise authors to carefully consider whether they really want to sell the dramatic rights for their books.

1. Can they live with a bad script and/or a bad movie?
2. Do they understand that they may have very little say in the screenplay or the plot elements of the movie?
3. Do they understand that sometimes a movie made does not translate into a ton of book sales?
4. Do they realize that Hollywood can often be condescending to the authors whose books they’ve bought to translate to the screen?
5. Do they understand that the film co-agent could put together the absolutely best package of producer, screenwriter, studio, and acting talent and there is still the possibility that a bad movie will be made?

If an author is okay with all of the above, then we can shop the film rights. If not, better to wait until the author is in a more powerful position and has leverage to be able to dictate better terms.

And, I also tell them that a movie could be the best 2 hour commercial your books will have and that can translate into lots of book sales.

Which is also why I’m hyper vigilante about “publishing rights clauses” in any film contract and why I will have the author walk away from any contract that might encumber or infringe on their publication rights. In fact, I’ve threatened to walk away any number of times because Hollywood tried to grab some of those rights.

After all, publication is an author’s main venue for earning money. That must be protected at all costs.