Hollywood Calling! Part One

September was a great month for my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. We had the pleasure of listening to Maggie Marr who has one of those bios I love because it’s funny and sharp. And she’s a Hollywood Insider. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. She probably knows Brad and Johnny and Leo and George. Sigh.

But that’s not what she came to talk to us about. She came to declare that Producers would rather buy a book than a pitched idea. The best entertainment comes from books. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones sat unchosen for 15 years until HBO decided they could go with it. But not as a movie, as it originally presented. A television series. It takes 7 to 9 months of work to create a dragon on the screen.

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Maybe you don’t write fantasy epics and you think they aren’t looking for Romance. Well, you are wrong. PassionFlix is making original movies out of your favorite novels. Their first movie, Hollywood Dirt, went up on September 20th for subscribers to watch on their SmartPhones, laptops, tablets, and Smart TVs. The trailer looks hot!

Hallmark is the first movie maker to show romantic movies and series, currently running on their very own channel. PassionFlix is the first competition they have had. Takes guts to go up against a giant with a lot of history and fans, but how else can change occur?

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Hollywood does want your good material. Sending it in, however, can be scary. If it’s no, you hear right away. If it’s maybe or yes, you will not know for a while. Because lots and lots of people will be conferring and debating. Who’s looking for books? Film Agents, book scouts, producers, film and TV executives, directors, certain actors, and screenplay writers. Book scouts actually get paid by movie producers to keep them informed on which books are sold.

Producers, obviously, make the movie, like a show runner for TV. A limited list of actors can pick a book to be produced. Screenplay writers are on an even shorter list. Where are they looking for these books? The Bestseller lists, Amazon, Websites, Editors, and literary agents. They ask their kids and their kids’ friends. They will talk to all the people mentioned above. They will look ANYWHERE.

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Don’t spread this around because it’s a huge entertainment industry secret: No One Reads. They pay people to read scripts and books for them. Maggie was an anomaly who actually did read, and quickly.

To sell your book, or at least get it to the notice of one of the people mentioned above, create a one-sheet extended blurb. If your book is picked, jump up and down! It’s okay, we understand.

Then: Are they offering a Shopping Agreement, an Option Agreement, or a Purchase Agreement? It’s okay to talk to them, but don’t agree to anything. They are pitching to you now. Ask for an email so you can paper that deal.

A Shopping Agreement means you let them take the book for free right now and let the person shop it around to the various studios and producers. Be careful, make sure the person has the ability to sell the book they are shopping for you. Know what you want and need.

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An Option Agreement states the length of time the person or persons will work on selling the book. They might buy the book and give you a few dollars to keep anyone else from buying it. Also the money amount can vary widely. You may be offered two option periods. The first period can be applicable, dollar wide, to the final purchase. The second period should not be. It’s all legal stuff, so be sure to consult a literary lawyer.

A Purchase Option comes after either of the above. It may get coverage, which means someone reads it and writes a synopsis for the producer. The producer will say, I read the book, translation, she read the synopsis of 3 to 5 pages. She may like it, but have one like it already on the slate to make. So the book synopsis will go to another producer who might not have anything like it. Yay! Finally it gets read and bought and set up.

Always read your contracts, then find someone smarter than you in this area to read the contracts. No question is off limits or stupid. How much money will you make? Depends. Who are the producers, distributors, how much credit will you get? What’s the market for this type of story, how will other revenue streams be impacted?

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Nora Roberts has had several of her novels turned into films. Someone bemoaned the fact that Hollywood ruined her book. Nora insisted, “My book is fine. They made a shitty movie.”

I’m going to wrap up there and finish this next time, because there’s more and I want to give it space instead of rushing through it. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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