How do books become movies? Today on This Crazy Business, our guests are Senior Editor with Mira Books Erika Imranyi and Literary Agent Beth Miller with Writers House.
Recently, I caught a glimmer of just how many movies are based on novels. Off the top of their heads, most moviegoers of course know that blockbusters like The Godfather and Harry Potter came from print. But after I started paying attention to credits more, I saw that tons of films—even bizarre jobbers with plots that didn’t necessarily smack of a standard publication—were adapted from books. I was dumbfounded. I’d guess that at least 70% of the major productions are books turned into movies.
So, it has piqued my curiosity.
Do publishing companies have anything to do with movie deals? Specifically, can they spark a negotiation into motion?
Does the publishing company get compensation of some kind if they do?
How does merchandising play into all of it?
Erica Imranyi: Most times, in my experience, the agent retains film rights and either sells them him/herself or hires a film agent. Publishers usually have tie-in rights, so we can publish an edition of the book with art from the film on the cover. This way, we can capitalize on the success of the film. But, as far as I know, we’re not usually involved in film negotiations, and we don’t get compensation other than from the sales of the tie-in edition.
Beth Miller: This may vary from one agency to the next, but we at Writers House have a number of film co-agents we work with. So we submit our projects to the ones we think would respond positively to them, and then if they like the project, they pitch it to producers, studios, etc. Sometimes film people will hear about a project and come to us, and sometimes film people come to the office to meet with agents to discuss potential projects. The agent and co-agent generally split commissions if a project is optioned or purchased. As for the publishing company, I think their earnings would come from the increased book sales that generally surround the release of a film. Often, a film option will ask for merchandising rights so the movie studio can get involved with those.
Interview conducted by “Gusto” Dave Jackson, YA western steampunk and urban fantasy author represented by the Belcastro Agency