View Full Version : Selling movie rights of a book

07-21-2004, 03:51 AM
If a production co. is interested in buying or optioning
the movie rights to a book, does the author have to
present it to them as a screenplay or as the book itself??

Does the author have to sell the rights to a scriptwriter in
order to have it script-ready and if so who benefits more
from selling the rights, the author or scriptwriter??
That is, if I understand the process correctly.

Also, do possible future sales from dvd's, video games, etc. based on the book and consequently, the film, need to
be figured into the movie rights deal or are those not a part
of movie rights??

I'm an author of a recently-released book which is already
getting more attention from readers and interest from people in the movie business as one worthy of making into either a feature film or cable channel movie.

matt black biker man
07-21-2004, 05:24 AM
anyone can buy the rights to your book be they a screenwriter or a production company. It just depends on who wants it and how many offers you have. Better for you that they are a company of course because you know they'll have money. However, that is all they are buying, the rights to make a movie based on your book, they don't have to employ you as screenwriter but of course it is advantageous to you that they do.

If you have an agent, let them do the deal (obviously) but make sure you get points on everything including DVD rentals and merchandising.

I would also ensure that you get the final fee for the rights tied in with the eventual budget rather than accepting a flat fee. Between 1% and 6% depending on who wants it with a suitable base line of course.

07-21-2004, 10:44 AM
I don't mean this flippantly, but if it's a regular big house book, these things would be handles between your people (agent/mang/attny), your publisher (sometimes, depending on your contract), and the representatives of the potential buyer. You would basically only say "Yes" to your rep twice, answering 1. if you wanted to option it, and 2. if the price/terms were acceptable.

07-21-2004, 02:44 PM
Usually a production company just buys the film rights and hires there own writer(s) to adapt the book. I've been hired to do a couple of adaptations, and I never even met the novelists.

Basically, your novel agent or publisher will make these deals.

The film rights include DVD & broadcast & cable, but video games are another thing (different rights). Talk to your agent or lawyer - they know all of this stuff.

- Bill

Evil Elf the One and Only
07-21-2004, 03:01 PM
It's not uncommon for the seller (you) or their agent to negotiate that they get first shot at the script. This guarantees you a bit more money but you're almost guaranteed that they'll give the rewrite to someone else after that. Most scripts are heavily rewritten, generally by people brought onboard long after the original is bought. That doesn't mean that yours won't rock, or that they'll automatically dump it and give Tarantino 300k for a couple of lines of dialogue, just that you should be emotionally prepared in case they do. It's kinda like sending little Suzie off to Paris to become a model...don't be too surprised when she comes back very different and can't remember your name.

Okay, So I'm Not Writing Pages, Sue Me! (http://terminalcity.diary-x.com)

matt black biker man
07-21-2004, 04:37 PM
Just a quick point but any writer should always retain every single dramtic right (film, tv, stage, radio) so publishers shouldn't get involved in deals of this nature.

Evil Elf the One and Only
07-21-2004, 04:56 PM
They should, including reprint rights, but they usually don't. Standard contracts nowadays are usually written by the publishing house, and they always want more rights rather than fewer. An author's best protection is a good agent or lawyer starting from Day One, but usually they don't have one until the sophomore tome, alas. The only solution is to insist, but all too often that will at least APPEAR to be a deal-killer, since so many idjuts are eager to see themselves in print, no matter what the effect of "all rights" contracts on every single other person in the business. Then later, they kick themselves.

Bitter? Who, me? (http://terminalcity.diary-x.com)

07-30-2004, 01:23 AM
Thanks to all of you for answering my questions.

I understand that having a well written, concise, and well described script adaptation, which is true to the story and entertaining for a movie audience, is key. Obviously doing it myself is a whole lot better than having to sell the rights to it only to have someone else write it initially.

One more question.

What is the besy way to approach writing an adapted script based on a non-fiction biography that I've written,
have it ready by the time more studio executives are interested,
or wait for more interest and have an expressed desire to make a movie adaptation, and then ask them to allow me to do the adaptation.??

I suppose it's better to have it done before hand, so that I already
have something to show.
I realize I'm kinda answering my own question,
but what do you think??

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
07-30-2004, 07:16 AM
"A non-fiction biography".

Surely the subject of the book will want to have some say in this. Or his lawyer will, anyway.

07-30-2004, 10:45 PM
Actually the subject of the book already knows about it.
He's my uncle. we had talked about it well before the book was published.

I suppose it's a good idea to have as much done as possible of an adapted script, rather than having someone else buy the rights from me and then write it themselves.

Are there any benefits at all in waiting for a studio to ask me to write the screen adaptation??

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
07-31-2004, 06:38 AM
"Are there any benefits at all in waiting for a studio to ask me to write the screen adaptation??"

You may be waiting a long, long time. Unless your uncle was an amazing character or was involved in an astonishing situation, you may never get an option. And as for a studio asking you to do the screenplay, well, that depends on your track record.

I'd been writing scripts for years, had even been commissioned to adapt my first novel for a prodco in the UK, but when my third was optioned, the producer hired a writer to do it.