This got me excited too.
I mean, I was published with a very small house, so I knew the odds of anyone in the movie industry even knowing my books existed were beyond slim.
And I had an inside man.
Check out his IMDB page. He’s done some sweet guest starring roles and starred in some Broadway shows too.
So Jade and I had a series of phone calls. I showed him my contract for By Darkness Hid, in which I’d signed the movie option over to Marcher Lord Press. In order to do this Jade’s way, I needed those rights. Jeff was all for it, so we did an addendum to the contract to see where this might lead. Jade hired a lawyer to make sure he did everything right. It was a neat learning experience.
There was a ton I didn't understand and still don’t, but basically, I signed over all the rights to my trilogy, storyworld, characters, and even merchandising to Jade. Why? Since I’m not a famous, Suzanne Collins-like author, we needed to make the option a sweet deal. And to Hollywood, than means no strings attached.
Including me not writing my own screenplay.
Hollywood doesn't like sticky projects. If they see that an author has demanded a lot of input on the project or wants to be the screenwriter (and has no screenwriting experience) it’s a red flag. It will be a headache to the people trying to make movies.
Jade and I wanted to create a non-headache movie option. It was our best bet for success. Yes, there was the chance that someone could purchase the option and make Achan a buffoon with a talking pet monkey, but since Jade was going to be responsible for selling the project, it was a chance I decided to take. I trusted that Jade would pitch the movie only to family friendly projection companies.
Jill's Character Breakdown for By Darkness Hid.
When all was said and done, I had a 30-page option agreement! Cool. The option had clauses for: exactly when and how much I'd be paid for the first, second, and third picture (a little more for each); what I'd make for each movie in every movie type (should the movie be a theatrical motion picture, a DVD-only film, or a made for TV movie); sequel rights; merchandising rights (Achan dolls, anyone?); how involved I got to be in the process (I got to give my feedback on the first draft of the screenplay and that was it. And no one had to make use of my feedback.); my screen credit; details for adaptations, translations, and theatrical versions; agreements on DVD and TV rights; the rights to my characters (I signed away the trilogy rights but kept the right to create more stories using them.); music, stage, and radio rights; and the right to sell my books with special movie covers.
That’s a whole lot of rights to consider, most of which made my head spin.
And here’s the most important thing to note: just because you sell the option to your story, doesn't mean it will ever get made into a movie. My contract gave Jade five years after the release of book three to sell it to a producer. After that the rights will revert back to me. And once I have the rights again, I can try to sell them to someone else, if I want to.
Some things to remember:
-Movie option contracts have nothing to do with book publishing contracts.
-Some agents try and sell movie options. Some don’t. It’s something to ask your agent.
-The “bigger” the author, the more control you can negotiate. The “smaller” the author, the less control you’ll have. It’s a numbers thing.
-Some production companies will purchase rights and continue to renew them forever, keeping anyone else from making the movie.
-There are production companies out there who watch the Publisher’s Marketplace (a place where agents announce deals). They're on the lookout for deals. If an employee sees something that might interest the producer he works for, he contacts the literary agent, inquires about the movie option rights, and often requests a copy of the book to investigate further. My agent received a couple of these types of inquiries about my upcoming project Captives. My guess? If these employees can grab a movie option early, before a book becomes as popular as The Hunger Games, it could save the producer millions of dollars.
Save the Cat. This is a book that talks about how to write screenplays, but you can apply the same principals to fiction. And if you do, your book will be easily adaptable for a screenplay, which makes screenwriters happy.
In this book, Snyder tells the story of how he sold an option for one of his screenplays to Stephen Spielberg for a million dollars in a bidding war, and the movie still hasn't been made. Isn't that interesting? Though it's very rare, you could make a million dollars and still have no movie. It's just the way the industry works.
Thoughts on all this? I’m far from an expert, but I’ll try to answer your questions.
JILL'S WEBSITE CONTEST BONUSES:
1. October is International giveaway month on my author website. If you live outside the USA, this is your chance to win a free copy of one of my books. Details here.
2. There are only a few more days to enter the Go Undercover Scavenger Hunt. It's silly fun. The winner gets $100 Barnes and Noble gift card. Details here.