Wasn't your book supposed to be a movie?

What happens when your book gets optioned.

In May of 2020, I made a post that my novel, She Died Famous, was headed to Hollywood. My book was optioned to be a movie. It was every writer’s dream. I imagined my characters showing up on the big screen. The premier. The new cover art. An epic soundtrack. IT’S ALL HAPENNIGGGGGGGG

*INSERT REALITY check**

17 months, 3 contracts, and 4 screenplay drafts later, my book has yet to land at a studio. It’s safe to say that getting your book turned into a movie isn’t as easy as signing a contract. For anyone curious about the process, I’ll break it down.

July 2020 - My book was optioned

The buyer “leased” the FILM rights to my novel, She Died Famous. They had eight months to develop and pitch the book to studios. The ultimate goal was financial backing and a green-lit movie.

FYI - Before the buyers did any work on development, they negotiated my fee, which was a pretty standard 2.5% of the total film budget and 1% of the net revenue on the movie. There was also a monetary floor and ceiling to this (That’s where negotiation is key). Unfortunately, because I didn’t have a team, I had to hire entertainment lawyers by the hour to negotiate on my behalf. That was expensive. Being the first time dealing with Hollywood, it was also a little intimidating. The buyer had agents, managers, and lawyers, while I was a one-man shop.

January 2021 - Option Expired

After eight months, my book was turned into a screenplay. As we entered the last days of my contract, I was anxious to send it out to studios. Let’s take a crack at this! But there was one little problem… The buyers weren’t confident that the script was ready. In their opinion, my book was layered and complex, and a straight adaption wasn’t going to work. They wanted to think outside the box. They were considering hiring an outside writer.

And that’s when I volunteered my services. I wanted to adapt my own book!

With nothing to lose, they agreed. A new (less formal) contract was written up. For the next two months, I was obsessed. I spent every waking second revisiting my novel. With so much time away from the book, I saw my characters in a whole new light. Somehow, I knew them better, more intimately. I made the love story stronger. I trimmed unnecessary fat. Killed characters. Combined characters. And two months later, I had a new draft. The screenplay is much different than the novel, but in my opinion, it still has the same tone and mystery that readers liked about the book.

From there, I sent it over to the buyer’s team.

After a few nail-biting days, they got back to me. Minus a few character issues, they liked the changes. We had a workable first draft. Now we just had to whip it into shape. Over the next few months, we had several creative meetings, and I did three more rewrites, until finally…

July 2021 - 2nd Option Expired

The second contract expired, and this time, our momentum stalled. The buyer had signed on to another project, and the team still didn’t think the script was ready to send out. As I write this, She Died Famous is no longer under option. I wish I had better news like it’s almost there, or we have an interested party. But truthfully, I have NO IDEA what happens from here. But I know that I poured my heart and soul into the screenplay, and in my opinion, there’s something really good in there. Hopefully we can get back on track with the original buyer or another interested party can come in down the road. I have no doubt She Died Famous will make it to the big screen one day.

The takeaway for authors

Film and television are the holy grail of our craft. And with so many distributors searching for good content, books can be incredible IP to develop. The problem is that a lot of books getting optioned, but not everything is getting made. Worst of all, there are so many things outside the author’s control. In my opinion, momentum and timing play a big part in all this. Some book adaptions take decades to get off the ground while some projects line up like three cherries on a slot machine.

So what can authors do?

I think it’s important for authors to build demand for their property. With demand comes interest and attention. In my case, no one was begging for She Died Famous to be made into a movie. Everything relied on having an amazing script, and not the book in itself. My goal now is to focus on building the IP and demand. That is something I can control.


LAUNCH UPDATES

Without further adieu… The working title of the new book is…

THE INFLUENCER.

Here’s the one-sentence logline. A podcast-style thriller about a social media competition turned deadly. Still no decision on the release date or how I’m going to release it, but the wheels are turning.

I’ve also made another decision.

To market the new novel, I’m going to release a podcast-style prequel. This will be my first experiment with serial fiction, where readers receive one chapter each week via email. If this experiment works, I might release the new book this way as well. The truth is, quite a few writers are making a living off serial fiction. Using websites like Patreon and Substack, authors charge a small subscription cost to their readers. And these fees add up! Substack author, Elle Griffin, documents it well in this article.

EXPERIMENT UPDATE

WattPad

She Died Famous has been on Wattpad for two weeks. The results… Not staggering. Thus far, I’ve gotten 644 reads and a few stars. I’m ranked #171 in true crime.

Takeaway: No matter what platform you put your book on, curation is key. Right now, the book is buried beneath of sea of other titles. To counter this, I’ve submitted the book to the fine people at Wattpad for consideration. We shall see if it goes anywhere.

TikTok

So I’ve made a total of (5) Tik Tok’s about She Died Famous, (2) about writing. The highest view count was 627, the lowest was 174. Here’s the link if you want to watch me stumble my way through TikTok.

Takeaway

Like any platform, making good content takes practice. There’s a serious learning curve. You also have to commit! Throwing up content, or reusing old content, isn’t going to get you results. For me, I’m using the app primarily for research. The prequel I’m writing is about TikTok, and I needed to take a deep dive to fully flesh out the character. TikTok is fun and addicting, but I’m not sure it’s my best use of time. For your own research, here are a few authors who are doing TikTok justice.

Victoria Aveyard - @victoriaaveyard

Jeneva Rose - @jenevarosebooks

Alex Aster - @alex.aster

NFT’s

It’s all happening, guys. Last month, both Marvel and DC Comics entered the NFT space, releasing digital comics and collectibles to their fans. Marvel has signed a deal with Veve as their NFT distributor. The company has also signed a deal with MGM to release a James Bond NFT project for the upcoming movie.

Here’s a description of the project on Vevo’s medium' account:

A collection of limited-edition posters with evocative imagery from the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. Exclusively available as digital NFTs, these posters were commissioned by EON Productions Ltd and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

PS- I just found out this morning that TikTok is releasing a line of NFT’s as well. They will release milestone moments on the app starting with a stop motion Lil’Nas X-inspired TikTok that went viral on October 6th.

Takeaway

With this new technology, it seems that comic books are leading the publishing industry into WEB 3.0. Considering that Comic books are all about collectibles, it makes sense. My hope is that book publishing doesn’t wait until critical mass. There’s no reason why publishers shouldn’t launch limited-edition collectibles of their properties. Imagine Alice & Wonderland collectibles, digital book illustrations, and new cover reimaginings. Or The Great Gatsby. In my opinion, embracing this technology could change the fate of the publishing industry, which seems to always be late to the banquet. I predict that IP like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games will lead the way, only because Warner Brothers and Lionsgate are pushing it forward.

Substack

In parallel with NFT’s, Substack (which is the newsletter platform you are reading this on) is also making a play for digital content. They are enlisting A-list writers to serialize their novels, including Chuck Palahniuk and a host of other Marvel and DC comic book writers. Ultimately, this is why I decided to start this newsletter on Substack.

If you’re a writer, do some research on Substack, and the thriving community of artists who are building platforms away from social media. If we learned anything from yesterday’s IG/FB blackout, it’s not good to put all your eggs in one #basket. Call it old school, but an email will show up in an inbox regardless of any algorithm. This is one of the few mediums that have survived the test of time.

This week’s experiments:

I’m going to be putting together an “outside-the-box” marketing strategy for my first serial novel. This involves reaching out to influencers and trying to find someone in the TikTok community to collaborate with. The plan is to release it in November.

Thanks for reading this week! If you think another writer would find value in this, please share!

Have a great week!