Authors Answer 148 – Selling Your Book’s Film Rights

Popular books are most likely to be filmed. Lord of the Rings became arguably some of the best film adaptations. The Hobbit is another matter. Jurassic Park became a fun action and special effects movie, but lost the intelligence of the book. When authors sell the film rights to their books, they have to consider who’s going to make the movie and how closely they’ll adhere to the original story of the book. Do it for money, or do it for the integrity of the story? This week’s question was asked by C E Aylett.

Question 148 – Given the opportunity, would you sell film rights to your book without question or risk waiting for the right production team to come along later down the line, even if there were no other offers on the table?

H. Anthe Davis

I would certainly want to wait for the right production team. A big part of my series, its themes and its world is the multi-racial and especially the mixed-racial aspect, to the point that I’d want most of the cast to be of mixed heritage. Considering Hollywood’s long-standing whitewashing issues, I would need to trust the casting department of whatever production team I sold it to, or else the whole point of the story would be adulterated.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It’s entirely possible that my answer would change down the road, based on my present situation, but right now, at this exact moment in time, if someone wanted to buy the film rights to one of my books I’d probably have the contract signed before they could finish forming the sentence. For one thing, I assume the money for selling film rights would be a fairly nice little paycheck, which I could definitely use at this junction in my life. For another thing, I jut think it would be amazing to have someone make a movie of one of my stories. Perhaps they’d butcher it beyond belief, but I guess just the idea that someone would even consider one of my stories worth adapting to film sounds incredible to me.

Jean Davis

That would be like accepting a publisher’s offer without question just so you can be published. No thanks. As awesome as an offer on film rights would be, I have questions and I need answers before signing anything.

Eric Wood

If it were my first book turned movie I would probably sell the rights to the first comer. I would just be so excited to see my work on the big screen that I wouldn’t want to wait for another team to come along. If later books were to become movies I would hold out for the right production team. After the novelty of the silver screen wore off after the first movie, I would want to see my next one done bigger and better and as professionally as possible with an A list cast.

Gregory S. Close

I’m not sure that I’d sell the film rights “without question” but I would probably make some sacrifice in creative control/oversight if the payout meant that I could choose to write full-time. I would rather wait for the right team/studio to make the most faithful adaptation possible for the chosen medium, but I’m too old and have too many bills and obligations to be too picky. I’m in more of a Han Solo frame of mind than Luke Skywalker on this point, I guess!

Cyrus Keith

I have a huge personal stake on my reputation as a person as well as a writer. Opening Hollywood to do the same to my work as what they did to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and so many other novels makes my skin crawl. I couldn’t bring myself to sign off carte-blanche creative control to someone who would make my work mean something totally different from what I wrote.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Tough question. I might sell an option without question, but not the rights altogether. I suppose the answer is no, unless they offered me some ridiculous sum of money, in which case they are probably right for the production anyway.

D. T. Nova

I’d definitely have some standards.

I particularly don’t like the thought of having to turn down a later offer because the rights are tied up with something that might not even be made and won’t be good even if it is.

C E Aylett

Ha-ha! My own question and I have no idea. I think maybe it would depend on which book. Some would probably have a higher emotion investment than others (on my part). Also, it might depend on how popular the book was. I mean, let’s say it turned into a cult classic or huge like 50 Shades, then maybe you could afford to wait it out. George R.R Martin says that by the time film options came to him he’d made so much money from the book series he could afford to say no to Hollywood, and did. And aren’t we all grateful for that!

Jay Dee Archer

Without question? No. I don’t think authors are likely to do that. There will be questions. Who wouldn’t ask questions? I’d want to make sure that they aren’t going to completely change the story. If it turns out totally different than the book, I probably wouldn’t want it connected to my book, especially if it flops. Ideally, I’d like to have some creative control with the script of the movie. I’d want to work with the scriptwriters. No, I’d probably want to wait, unless that first offer is actually pretty good.

How about you?

If you’re an author, would you sell the movie rights to your books to the first studio that gives you an offer without question, or would you wait for the right offer? Let us know in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Authors Answer 148 – Selling Your Book’s Film Rights”

  1. I’ve seen too many novels butchered on the big or small screen.
    If someone offered me a lot of money, I’d still require that they not ADD anything to the original story. They can delete whatever they need to (there’s no way to fit a novel into a two-hour movie without cutting some minor scenes), but they can’t make up some nonsense to replace it with.

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