They Really, Really Want To Direct

July 17th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

After several weeks of non-stop action (with, alas, several more to go), we are pleased to find something that tickles our snark-o-meter to the point that we actually chuckled. Before our first cup of coffee. Publishers want to get them some of that movie business swag, because while the devil wears Prada, Random House isn’t even getting decent hand-me-downs.

The core reason, of course, is that motion picture rights are sold separately from publishing rights. Publishers don’t own books, authors do, and the more rights you sign over to someone else, the less you get to keep for yourself. If you’re an author, is it necessarily in your best interest to sign over what could be potentially lucrative rights? We don’t wish to sound cynical, but the money received by authors when their books are optioned (not produced) is generally far more generous than advances paid by publishers.

What are the chances that publishers are going to build a better author compensation package into their agreements? Will they be paying the considerable option costs that authors enjoy today? Will they, gulp!, be willing to eat 50% of that amount (likely plus interest) when it comes to to revenue and cost split being contemplated by Random House and Focus Features? Are publishers ready to see $20 million production budgets doubled by print and marketing costs (50% of it all off the top before the publishers get paid)?

When we read the word “profits” being tossed around, we laughed again. If you’re lucky, you recoup production costs during the initial theatrical run… Luck, we will all recall, is a fickle thing.

(By the way, if anyone wants our advice, go television.)

Don’t get us wrong — we think the publishing industry should be cutting deals in Hollywood with wild abandon — we simply worry that the game might prove terrifyingly rich for the players. The content-is-king mantra is certainly more true than ever before. We will note, of course, that the options-to-number-of-books-published ratio is very low. Having your publisher working closely with motion picture producers will increase the likelihood of your work coming to the attention of those poor souls who desperately seek projects to develop.

We now return to our regularly scheduled insanely busy life.

[tags]movies, books, publishing, random house, focus features[/tags]

File Under: The Business of Publishing

3 responses so far ↓

  • Joan Kelly // Jul 17, 2006 at 9:09 am

    I’m in the middle – or maybe now it’s the bitter end – of what started out as negotiations for the rights to a cable TV series based on my book. Without going into my own boring/aggravating details, I must stress that, unless your literary lawyer does all the leg work and contracts with a TV/movie rights agent to split the 15% commission if your option sells, you should find yourself a good entertainment lawyer to look at and advise you on ANY option contract/purchase agreement before signing it. And an option with little or no money attached should only be for six months or less (as opposed to tying you up with the non-payer who then holds your rights, for up to a year or more).

    Over and out.

  • Booksquare // Jul 17, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Joan, you know that words like “literary lawyer” and math-related items make me all tingly.

    And yeah — get thee a really good lawyer. Even if you know this crap inside and out. Unless, of course, you want to end up in a really lousy position while everyone else gets rich off your work.

    Fingers crossed that “Joan Kelly: The Series” comes to fruition.

  • Joan Kelly // Jul 17, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    See, and I actually meant to write “literary agent,” but I have lawyers on the brain so much I mistyped. And I have a total crush on my entertainment lawyer’s brain, she is fantastic.

    I will try to remember to throw in a little arithmetic every so often to keep the spark alive between us, and thank you for the well-wishing.

    [Insert keyboard characters here that can be typed in such a pattern as to look like a rose, as if I were a talented and sappy computer geek who knew how to do such things.] [Now delete it.]