Sunday, 26 January 2014

A QUESTION OF BOOKS AND FILMS

Good Morning and Good Monday (if there is such a thing) my lovely readers.

I am sorry for the premature announcement of Exciting Tidings last week. I was told that everything was going to happen then, but obviously something went wrong. I mean, no one told me, so I was sat there hoping and waiting like the rest of you guys, but... nope. *Sigh* I'm hoping it'll all come together this week. I would cross my fingers, but currently my hands are hurting, so... I'll just cross them in my heart. At least I can absolutely promise that when the Exciting Stuff is officially released, it will be worth the wait (yes, it really is that good).

I am ill again. I feel as if I have just been ill constantly since my dad died. My immune system is not exactly robust, which comes along with the chronic health conditions I have (especially the IBS and asthma) but I've never been this ill this much before. Not since I was a kid, anyway. First there was the horrible cold/bug that wiped me out for a week after WFC in Brighton, then I had a deadly stomach bug, then my Repetitive Strain Injury in my hand kicked off, then I did something really weird to my hip that just ow ow ow why, and now I have bronchitis.

There is a perfectly good explanation for at least some of this. I remember seeing a documentary years ago in which a doctor - who had recently lost his own father, and been very ill afterwards - proved that your lymph nodes actually shrink when you are miserable. It sounds fantastical, but when you're really sad all the time your body is just swimming in certain 'sad' chemicals and the lymph nodes don't like those at all. They shrink and curl in on themselves in an effort to get away from the sad chemicals, which inhibits their ability to produce white blood cells, the warrior cells that fight off infection. And for me, whenever I get an infection, that seems to affect my joints, hence the hand and hip problems.

It still very much feels like the world - possibly even the universe - is conspiring to stop me from writing this book, the final book in The Name of the Blade trilogy. But I will not be stopped. I'm at 65k words as of this morning and hope to have added another 2k to that by the end of the day. That means I have probably another ten or twelve thousand words to go (if the story doesn't mutate in some strange way close to the end, which is always possible). I'm motivating myself by remembering how much my father loved and believed in this story and how proud he would be of me for finishing a proper trilogy, like many of the science fiction and fantasy authors that he loved.

Last week I had a lovely email from a group of readers - Daisy, Maia, Charlotte and Heike - which cheered me up and filled me with that nearly irresistable old-lady desire to pinch people's cheeks for being so darn adorable. The email posed a question that I thought might be interesting for other readers to get the answer to as well, so I'm doing it here.

Hello Zoë, we love all of your books, especially Frostfire and that's what we wanted to talk to you about. We think this book has full potential to become a film and we think you need to contact some producers/film makers and ask them about making a deal. We are not just doing this for us we are doing for you and all of you fans (we are some of them). We will not contact the producers without you permission.
I totally agree with you, my honeybunches! I also think that FrostFire would make a splendid film. And if you actually happen to know any film producers, you have my permission to direct their attention to the book, and let them know that the rights (owned by my publisher, Walker Books) are available.

You see, it's not up to the writer whether a film is made from one of their books or not. The world of novel writers like me and the world of the film industry are miles apart. In order to make a film of any kind you need a film studio and a production company involved, lots of connections to people in the movie business (like the heads of distribution companies and casting directors and screenwriters) and millions of pounds or dollars to spend on adapting, casting, filming and selling that movie. This is why if you do sometimes hear of authors who are producing films from their books, those authors are ones like Stephenie Meyer who are millionaires and can set up their own production companies.

For an ordinary writer, what has to happen is that someone connected to the film industry - like a scout, or a producer or a successful screenwriter - comes across the book somehow, either because the publisher or agent who holds the rights sends it to them, or because they've heard of it some other way. They have to read it, and love it, and as a professional, they have to think that it would adapt well into the medium of a film, and that the film could be popular enough in the current market to make a profit.

Even this sounds a lot easier than it is. Hundreds of thousands of new books for children, young adults and adults are published every year, and there are already millions of books out there too. And most films that are made don't even *come* from books. Usually the books that get made into films are the ones which are already hugely successful mega-bestsellers, because those books already have a massive built-in audience. A largely unknown book by a largely unknown author like me doesn't have that great a chance of getting the attention of anyone with the money and connections to make a film of it, even though the subsidiary rights departments of our publishers and our agents will send the books out to those sorts of people, just in case.

Let's say that FrostFire did end up on the desk of someone in the movie business, and that they did read it, and did want to make it into a film. What would happen next is that they would approach my publisher or my agent and offer to buy an 'option' on the book. That means that they pay for an option to develop the book into a film. But it doesn't mean they have to develop the book into a film. Once they have the option, all it really means is that no one else can develop the book into a film for the term of that option. The vast majority of options like this expire without any development actually being done at all. Other books have their option renewed multiple times but never make it any further than that.

In some cases things do progress further. Maybe the person who bought the option works for a film studio. They get someone to write a script and then take that script to a meeting with the bosses. The bosses may say: 'Yes, we like this - go ahead and start developing' but equally, they may say: 'No, we don't like it/it's too similar to another film that already came out/it won't appeal to a broad enough audience.' Or maybe the person who owns the option doesn't work for a studio - maybe they're a producer or a writer. They now need to convince a studio and a distribution firm to invest in making the film, and the same process as above applies.

Even out of the hundreds of bestselling, hugely popular books that get optioned by movie people every year, only a tiny amount actually get far enough to have a script written, let alone make it into cinemas.

And, did you notice? Apart from saying 'yes' when a movie person approaches them and asks to buy the option on the book, the original writer has NOTHING to do with any of this! They have no say and no influence at all. This holds true even if the book does eventually get the greenlight from a studio and is made into a film, too. Very successful writers, who've been promised that they will be consulted about any changes to their story, still often find that their book has been ripped to shreds and made into something entirely different for the screen, and there's nothing they can do about it.

So what all this comes down to is that if your favourite book hasn't been made into a film, it's not because the writer doesn't want it to be, or that he or she hasn't made the effort to contact producers and offer the book to them. It's because the book was sent out to all the usual movie scouts and studios by the publisher or the agent, and none of the movie people have so far read it, or wanted to buy it - or, if they did, and they bought an option, the film hasn't gone into development yet.

For the record, none of my books have sold film rights. I'm sad about that, but there's nothing that I can do to change it, so I just try to be hopeful that some day it will change. In the meantime, if anyone reading this DOES know an influential producer, studio boss or screenwriter (or is one)... give me a call! We'll do lunch (you'll have to pay though, because I'm broke).

10 comments:

Isabel said...

I so agree that FrostFire would make such a good film! I think what you said about books being ripped to shreds for movies is very true, though. I was super disappointed in the City of Bones movie (as were about 90% of Cassie's fans) and tbh I think that the author was too. So much of it was unrecognizable from the book itself, which makes no sense since they had so much to work with!

I hope you feel better soon! keep writing!

Zoë Marriott said...

Isabel: That was what I was thinking about. You can tell from Cassie's blog how hard she had to work to get them to keep the important things like Alec and Magnus' love story and Magnus' ethnicity in there, but even though she gave the filmmakers so much help and they were working from such great material, they still messed it up :( Bah humbug.

Pam Bustin said...

Hey Zoe - great post.
I remember hearing somewhere that Stephen King was taking about selling film rights and he said something like...
"Well, if they make a good movie, i can say 'I wrote the book.' And they make a bad movie, I can say, 'I wrote the BOOK.'

Made me smile.

Now... If only someone would option Mostly Happy. Sigh.

Have a good week. ~p

Charlotte Wheeler said...

We will get on it right away!!!
we are so excited !!!
from charlotte,Heike Maia and daisy
p.s hope you will get better soon xxx

Zoë Marriott said...

Pam: Well, he woukd be blase about it after the amount of film adaptions he's seen. Although I agree that a bad film can't really harm the book. At the very least, even if it tanks, it will probably lead to a massive spike in book sales. But as the author, if they twist your story and characters into something they weren't, you can end up feeling responsible, I think. It's a trade-off.

Zoë Marriott said...

Charlotte, Heike, Maia and Daisy: Good luck! And thank you :)

Jessica said...

I jumped to a serious conclusion when I saw a post title about films and an opening paragraph talking about exciting news.

I was actually disappointed reading on because I was hoping you were about to announce one of your books being turned into a film.

Ah well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Zoë Marriott said...

Jessica: Oops, sorry! But if one of my books was being made into a film, you wouldn't have to be in doubt. There'd be no restrained post like this. It'd be called something like **WHOOOOHOOOO! FILM NEWS!** I am not really the subtle type.

Rachel Balcombe said...

Hope you get better soon. Pretty much all of your books are on my 'needs to be a film right now' list, but unfortunately I am merely an undergrad student in english. :( I wish you all the best with finishing The Name of the Blade - you can do it!

Zoë Marriott said...

Thanks, Rachel :)

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