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July 18, 2017

Movie sign!

To quote Mystery Science Theater 3000, this is one of many dreams a writer gets along the way when they write and publish a book. That ole’ get the movie rights and bring their book to the big screen dream. It’s hard not to feel the urge, though there are some of us that never get it on our radar. Or, it just never occurs to us until much later in our passion, if at all.


Unless you’re self-published, the time will come when buried in all that legal jargon will be the line about the different publishing rights. One of them will be movie rights. Huh? Yup, amongst audio, foreign and large print is movie rights.

If your book gets out there and is popular enough, or just by dumb luck or happenstance, someone from Hollywood or an independent studio runs across your tome and gets inspired, they may offer to purchase the movie or TV rights to your book.

They’re separate from publishing rights. Different media for one thing. Second, the story will have to be re-written as a screenplay, which brings up adaptation.


Let’s for a moment forget about the purchasing of the rights, the possibilities of it never going anywhere, the multiple purchasing of those rights, the languishing in the vaults, and such and just concentrate on what actually happens if said manuscript actually gets to the point of making it to the screen.

There are two possibilities.

One, you could be tasked with doing the initial screenplay.

Two, a professional screenplay adapter could be hired to adapt your novel into a workable story.

In either case, this is what’s going to happen. Say, you write the initial screenplay. It’s going to go to the studio, where it will be given over to script doctors who are going to at the least, tweak it, where it’ll go to the director who’ll probably ask for changes. Then it’ll go through more changes.

If it goes to a screenplay adapter right from the get go, well…

What this boils down to is that what you pictured, what your original novel started out to be, is likely just the starting off point for what will probably be something entirely different. It may be, at best, the basic story with the same names and title as your original novel, the same plot, but as for the details, not much of what you wrote. None of the cast that you pictured at all.

In other words, unless you just hit complete gold, don’t expect your novel to be too much like what you wrote. It may be similar, but unless you have a huge fan base that will be extremely pissed off if the movie veers way off course, just be glad to take in a paycheck and keep working on the next one. You’ll get a “based on the novel…” and just be happy about it.

Speaking of paycheck.


Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. When a studio buys the movie rights, take the money and run. It may languish for the max time limit in limbo, but that’s good money you can spend on a mortgage or whatever. When the time limit is up, whatever is written in your contract, the studio may pay for it again, or you can shop it around to another studio. If it gets made, hey, more publicity for you. If it’s a box office bomb, oh well. If it sells, better for you.

The fact is, once you sell it to a studio, you have no control over it at all. It’s a gamble, but it’s also a paycheck. It’s a blurb on your resume. If nothing else, it’s a blurb on your resume and a check!

Happy writing!

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