Warren Adler

Selling Books to the Movies

Ask the Author

Warren Adler credits his career longevity to the movies, since 10 of his books have been optioned for film stories. Of those, only two, The War of the Roses and Random Hearts, have become feature films and one, The Sunset Gang, a PBS trilogy. And even then, a decade or more can pass between publishing a book and seeing the movie in production! In this forum, Mr. Adler will answer your questions about optioning books for the movies.
Ask a question now!

 

T. Anthony of Birmingham, UK asked:

I have recently been offered a publishing contract. My only concern is that the publisher is stating that I would no longer own the rights of the book if it is adapted for film/tv. There is, however, a clause that it can only be sold to a company/project which I approve.

Is this right? It feels like I’d be losing control of my intellectual property?

Warren Adler answered:

If you give away your film rights you are short changing yourself financially and the chances of your gaining any control over your property is nil. On the other hand the publisher may be a great promoter with the connections to get your book into a film adaptation, especially if you have no agent. Either way you will have trouble exercising any real control even if you have a hide bound contract. Having approval is a plus, but that doesn’t mean you will have a film since getting a book to film is at best a long shot.

-W.A.

J.M. Barnes of Dallas, TX asked:

I have inherited the film rights to a world famous, best selling (on Amazon) science fiction novel. While I realize the worth of the property is only what a studio is willing to pay, I’m wondering what is a good starting point in the negotiations? I’m not interested in back-end royalties, ancillary merchandising, or alternate distribution modes, but rather a 1 price, get it over with deal. Is $5 million totally absurd? $3 million? Are there other avenues to explore outside the Hollywood morass?

Warren Adler answered:

I would suggest you find a Hollywood agent who is willing to negotiate a deal. Before you start counting numbers you had better see if the interest matches your expectation.

-W.A.

James Repshire of Edgerton, Kansas asked:

First, is there an expiration on copyrights, and if so, who owns the rights to the book at that point?

Warren Adler answered:

The new copyright laws I believe let an author and his heirs own the copyright for 70 years after his death. Then it becomes public domain available for use by anyone. I think this required some renewal on the part of the author. It is quite easy to check that with the copyright office. If the author is dead his heirs might be willing to sell you the rights for a modest sum.

James Repshire of Edgerton, Kansas asked:

Completely by accident, I recently stumbled on to an obscure book that was published more than 40 years ago. I have never heard of the book. Before I get to the question I would bequest of you; please don’t insult my intelligence by stating the obvious. My question is, because the book is obscure and the research I have done on it so far suggests it is “unknown and unheralded,” is it possible to buy movie rights that can then be re-sold to a Hollywood agent or producer?”

I realize the obvious answer is that if the book is obscure there is likely a reason for it and it will probably remain obscure. That’s not my question. The question is: Can I, as an individual, buy the rights to a published book and then resell them?”

Thank you.

Warren Adler answered:

Absolutely you can purchase these rights from the author or his heirs and resell them.The problem is finding out who owns the book and if it is still in copyright. It is done all the time. It has nothing to do with age or obscurity, only with legal rights. Many obscure or unheralded books have been sold to the movies or made into very successful movies.

Carolyn DeLoach of Savannah,GA asked:

I wrote a book ten years ago based on a real event–a horrific mass murder that occurred in GA in the 1800s. It sold extremely well but is now out of print. (It is considered a rare book on Amazon). Recently a screenwriter tracked me down and says he wants to convert my book to a script for movie. After the book went out of print I did not renew my agent’s contract. I have no idea who this screenwriter is and how to negotiate. I have no intentions of signing over the rights to just anyone. Any advice?

Warren Adler answered:

Carolyn: Get a lawyer who deals with intellectual properties. Never give rights away. It may be the screenwriter is willing to pay,( even a modest amount might do it)with a big bonus at the back end if he sells the script for a production. Put a time limit on it. Say a one year option, renewable for another year. If he wants the rights for nothing, walk. It doesn’t matter if the book is out of print or not, its still your property. As for the agent, he could make a claim depending on the old contract. A lawyer will know. Try to set a price with the lawyer in advance. It could be worth it, since the book’s subject matter, which caught the screenwriter’s eye may have a lot more value than you think. I would also check your copyright, which is easy.

Leslie of Williamsville, NY asked:

Is it a good idea to submit your manuscript online to a company that will only pay you royalties on the book and not an advance payment? (This is offered to first time publishers only). May I submit my manuscript to as many publishers that I chose?

Warren Adler answered:

There are no rules in the manuscript submission business. You can submit to as many publishers as you please. Whether they will open up your submission is another story. In todays publishing environment getting published is only step one. The book has to be publicized, marketed and distributed and that takes money. If you get interest from a publisher who does not give you an advance find out what he will spend to market and distribution. If it is not adequately promoted and marketed and no one buys or reads it you will have a tough time getting another book published.

Warren Adler

Cheryl of Southside, AL asked:

I have become a big fan of your ebooks and comment on occasion and have asked your opinion before concerning how to get a book into movie form. I have followed your advice and am seeking an agent.

Now to get to the basics, how can a person help their book to become a best seller without a lot of money?

Booksignings, book talks, etc. are just inching along. Advice from you would mean a lot.

Warren Adler answered:

Cheryl,

If I knew the answer to your question I would amass a fortune. No one knows how to make a best seller. But one thing is certain, the book has to be distributed everywhere books are sold. This means that it must be well promoted and books must move off the shelves. There is no way to engineer a best seller that I know of. The most powerful tool to get books sold is word of mouth which means that the content of the book must catch the imagination and proceed from there from person to person like a virus. As for becoming a movie, without an agent with contacts in Hollywood it is pretty near impossible. I wish I could give you sure fire advice. Alas, its impossible.

Evelyn of Kelowna, British Columbia asked:

My friend published a POD children’s book. The publisher said she owns the rights to the characters in the book but not the book rights themselves. After seeing her book, an acquaintance suggested that she send a copy to his good friend that happens to own an animation studio (they’ve done many large studio productions and credits are on IMDB). We sent the book. We just heard back from the friend — not the animation exec himself — that the company is VERY interested in animating her book along with marketing it (toys, books), but he asked for “sole rights” which we obviously cannot give on the book itself, but we can on the characters(?) Once we have something ON PAPER from this exec – what do we do next? I have managed and assisted her through finding a publisher and getting her book published, but I have no experience in the LA entertainment industry and she wants me to work with her still. Do we still need an Agent? Or just an Entertainment Lawyer to review her publishing contracts and terms the animation exec offers? Is there anything we have to watch out for?

Warren Adler answered:

Your friend is desperately in need of an entertainment lawyer. Frankly, I don’t understand how the author did not retain the rights to her book. Something is very wrong here that, in my opinion, only a lawyer can untangle. You are also apparently working through a third party and not the people who really make the decisions on adapting the book to animation. Very interested means nothing unless a firm offer is tendered. I think its time to dispense with naivete and get professional help. I can assure you that the animation company that has done big time animation is very well versed in all the ramifications of acquisition. Your author friend should immediately seek the kind of help that will protect her creative rights before she makes any further moves

Cheryl Loftice Gillman of Southside, Alabama asked:

I have written a series of books and the first one has been published. The publisher wrote me that my stories are ‘movie stuff’. How do I go about marketing these books as a miniseries or movies?

Warren Adler answered:

Find yourself an agent in Hollywood. Unless you have personal contacts in the film or television industry, the process is difficult. You might try writing a one page summary of your work and send it off to Hollywood agents, producers, actors, directors etc. There are also numerous scouts out there looking for material. I don’t mean to be discouraging, but unless you are approached the chances of your work getting noticed can be a labor intensive chore. Of course, you could get lucky and find in your networking or readership base someone who might get you to a producer.

Raymond of Jamaica,NY asked:

If I wanted to sell my book rights to Movie producers, How would I go about doing that?

Warren Adler answered:

You would have to get yourself a Hollywood agent who believes that
your book has a shot at a movie deal. Unless you are plugged into that
world, have an agent or a book that has attracted some interest, your
chances are pretty slim. Unfortunately there is no direct path to the
movie world unless you happen to know actors, producers, directors and
those deeply involved who can get a movie made.

The Ferret of Marietta,Georgia asked:

Hey Warren, I’ve read over a lot of the people’s questions and i haven’t yet found the answer i’m looking for. I’m a young writter but isn’t sure if this is the path to choice. I mean, in the long run i’ll be well off, assuming that anybody likes my work…my first question is, how did YOU know that writting was right for you. I mean, anybody can tell a story, right? Second of all, how long is the process of getting a manuscript turned into a book. I mean, please break it down for me step by step and please tell about the common scams out there…(I think my agent is scamming me also, i found him online and he preferrs to do everything through emails and he keeps on asking for money for all of these steps but promising me that i’ll get to the top…) anyways, if you could answer thoughs question for me…oh one more question, is it really a big deal if your book is a Newyork Bestseller? i mean, i’ve read James Patterson all the time and all his are bestsellers, bu!
t i’ve also read some really go thrillers that wern’t…so i’m like…what’s the difference, you know? I’m sorry for blabbing but to recap my three questios they are 1. How do you know if writting is the right path. 2. what are all the steps of turning your manuscript to a book and how long does it take. 3. whats the deal about Newyork times bestsellers, does it make a diff?

Warren Adler answered:

You pose some interesting questions. I’ll try to answer them. How do you know writing is the right path? My own theory is that to be a true writer of fiction is a calling. It is something you must do even if it leads to rejection after rejection and failure. You can, of course, choose to be a professional writer and follow the usual genre formulas and hope to get a publisher interested. Indeed, you can sustain a profitable career writing formula genre stories like Patterson and others, but the question you asked about the “right path” is deeply personal and I’ve given you my own perspective on the answer. As for turning your manuscript into a book, that is quite easily answered since the process is mechanical and can be found elsewhere. If you are lucky enough to find a publisher, that entity will do the job for you. You will provide a clean manuscript. A publisher will design, edit, typeset, market and advertise. There are numerous self-publishing aids to be found on the internet. It can take as long as a year or more depending on the prep work, catalogue insertions, sales calls etc. As for the Times best seller list, it has its place. If your book has little notoriety and few readers it can fade into oblivion. The more exposure the better and the Times publishes a respected list. Is it important? You bet.

Warren Adler

Bill Ciarno of Idaho asked:

my daughters play is being made into a short movie.She is being asked for the movie rights and a contract.Percentage/dollar value??? We have no idea how this works.Can you help??

Warren Adler answered:

It all depends on who the buyer is and what he or she intends to do with the play. In my experience there is no big market for this kind of material. Take whatever is offered.

Kimberly Raiser of St. Augustine, FL asked:

Recently my novel “The Family Bones” came out in print. Today, I received two separate letters, one from a major film company, and another from a major agency in Los Angeles inquiring about movie rights for my book. I am astounded. I referred them both to my agent, but what would you suggest is the going rate. These are both legitimate contacts.

Warren Adler answered:

There is no going rate. If its a producer with a studio deal the chances are it will be more than an independent would pay. They’ll probably ask for a one year option with renewal terms. Get as much as you can and be sure your agent knows how to negotiate with them. They will option thousands of books and very few will get made. It is indeed a leg up, but you are dealing with seasoned hustlers and you must protect yourself.

Julie of Houston,TX asked:

What is the War of the Roses movie about and how does it have to do with family law?

Warren Adler answered:

It is about a nasty divorce in Washington D.C. where the contesting couple live independently under the same roof while getting a divorce. Why not read the book or see the movie for further information? Warren Adler

Gianni of Italy asked:

I have recently completed a screenplay loosely based on real events–six years ago a member of the Italian armed forces won an audition for a US dance company and went to Hollywood. All the events at the time were covered in the press and were public knowledge. The person the screenplay is based on was initially interested only in having a part in film but now wants to employed in pre production for several months, to get 3% of the gross revenues and to have an important role in the film. We are a low budget production and his requests seem eccessive. The script has gone through so many changes that it only vaguely resembles his life. What is a reasonable offer for me to make? Is there something you could advise me to read on acquiring life story rights?

Warren Adler answered:

I’m sure there is a time honored legal formula for acquiring rights to true stories. This matter should have been taken care of before you began the project. His demands are very excessive especially his demand for gross points. Nor have you any obligation to employ him. I would make him a reasonable flat fee offer and refuse employment and profit points. You might have to consult a lawyer. I wish I could be more helpful. Warren Adler

Anthony D. of North Carolina asked:

What if Hollywood comes knocking for my new novel with minimal sales? How much should I expect from them as an author, and likewise, if the book is a bestseller?

Warren Adler answered:

It would be best not to counting your chickens at this point. Ask me when you have real interest.

Warren Adler

Gary of Lincoln, Nebraska asked:

I’ve had a successful screenwriter voice interest in developing a screenplay based on my traditionally published novel. He has been the screenwriter for a number of very successful motion pictures (all within my novel’s genre). That said, he contends that his support of my novel is relatively inconsequential in Hollywood. He suggests that he is better off to
help me find an A-list actor’s production company and pitch them. In your opinion, is this correct? I would think a successful screenwriter’s opinion to be valued in the decision to option a novel. Thanks for your input.

Warren Adler answered:

He is correct. Getting a film made is based on assembling elements, an actor and director being the principle elements. If you can find a top valued actor who loves the book, you have somewhat of a chance to get it made. Your screenwriter friend is absolutely right. Warren Adler

Charlie of New York, NY asked:

I have published a book titled Charlie Stupit, and I want to sell the movie rights. What do you suggest? I believe that my book will make a great
movie. All of my friends thinks so. Please help me!

Warren Adler answered:

The only way that makes sense is to find yourself a Hollywood agent. They are listed on the Internet. My suggestion would be to offer a one page summary of your story and send it out to all of them. Without someone in LA flacking your book, your chances are next to nil. Warren Adler

James of Omaha, Nebraska asked:

I have recently published a book and want to sell the movie rights. What is my best approach?

Warren Adler answered:

The gateway to a movie sell is finding yourself a Hollywood agent. Without this kind of help your odds are heavily weighted against you. Worse, getting a Hollywood agent is tough. My suggestion would be to write a one page synopsis of your book and send it to all Hollywood agents, most of whom you can find on the Internet. I know this sounds simplistic, but barring a miracle, meaning someone who has read your book and who has clout in Hollywood, your selling your book to the movies or television is a tough row to hoe. Beware of Internet promoters who promise, for a fee, to get your book into consideration for a movie. Warren Adler

Felice of Southfield, Michigan asked:

How do I make a proposal to an author to do a stage play based off of his autobiography? The author approached me and stated he wanted me to take his autobiography and adapt a stage play. We have met several times and discussed
various topics and even set deadlines, but I have yet to see anything in writing, which has bothered me a lot. I don’t want to go forward without written permission to adapt the book into a stage play… also I am not sure
what or how the % for ticket sales should be distributed. Please help!

Warren Adler answered:

Be wary. There is boiler plate from the Dramatists Guild in how these percentages are worked out from the playwright’s point of view. You can check that out easily by contacting the Dramatists Guild in New York. But the more serious problem is what kind of a contract you make with the author and how much money the author and/or the producer will put up for you to adapt the story. Do not go forward on spec without carefully worked out details in writing, including who owns the rights to the finished play. If it’s not spelled out, you are taking a big gamble. Warren Adler

Harlan of Stockton, California asked:

I want to write a screenplay based on a book whose foreign author died a few years ago. So far I have been unable to identify his literary
executor or the person who controls his literary estate. Nor his heirs. I have a few leads. My question: is there a standard form for a contract between an author’s estate and the person who wishes to acquire movie rights to a book(me)? I should think the standard form at least would be a good starting point for negotiations. I’ve not been able to locate a standard form, if one
exists. I’m assuming that if I were to secure an agreement from the executor or heirs, I could find an agent rather easily. Many thanks for your
assistance.

Warren Adler answered:

As far as I know, there is no standard form, especially since the rights owner might want to have payment in exchange for the rights. I would suggest that you consult an intellectual property lawyer who will show you the correct path. There are also copyright issues to be explored. The copyright might no longer be effective depending on how old the book is. But I do not believe you can do this without understanding the legal ramifications. No producer will touch a project without a clear legal right for the underlying material. Warren Adler

Dave of London asked:

I have an opportunity to sell my autobiography book rights for film – how much should I expect to get?
cheers
Dave

Warren Adler answered:

Dave: The price depends on how much the buyer thinks your book will make a great movie and how much money the producer has to spend on the material. There is no set amount. If it’s a fly by night producer, don’t think it will garner what you think it’s worth. Be sure you get a piece of the back end and have any contract checked with a good entertainment lawyer.

Nia of Memphis, Tennesse asked:

How do I go about finding the owners of book rights?

Warren Adler answered:

There is no data base that I know about that lists book rights. But if you want to find out who owns a particular book, there is only one way that I know of to find out. Contact the author or his family.

Harry Adler of El Monte, CA asked:

I have just written a children’s book that is weeks away from being printed. How would I go about getting it considered to be made into a movie?

Warren Adler answered:

Your best bet is to contact a Hollywood agent. In today’s marketplace it is almost impossible to make a movie sale without an agent in Hollywood.

CJ SANG of Wayne, NJ asked:

I would like to option a book for a movie. The author is European and no longer alive. How do I start? I heard it’s a bad idea to go through the publisher.

Warren Adler answered:

You must determine the owner, which is probably the family. You can’t option what you don’t own. You must search for and contact the author’s heirs.

Monalisa of Chicago, IL asked:

hi, my question is,i am the author of a children storybook: Dan and Derrick’s Prayer to the Troops. www.outskirtspress.com/monalisa
You are the expert, do you know of any producer that would be interested to make this story come alive, like lion king. I believe it would be a great way to honor our troops and put some excitement and peace in our children’s minds. The story logline is: Two children invent a unique method of sending messages to God on behalf of the troops in Iraq.

Warren Adler answered:

I’m can’t judge the commercial aspects of your material for a movie. Considering that all the movies about the war have done badly, I would think that the appetite for this subject might not be there. I do understand the heartfelt need for your message, but I my sense is that you would have a tough road to hoe to get this going as a movie. Warren Adler

Mike of Beaverton, OR asked:

I have written a short story loosely based on a book that was turned into a movie. The movie is considered one of the top 100. My story is in effect a sequel to the original. Naturally, it is just what Hollywood is looking for. Which we both know represents a triumph of blind faith over dismal reality. The book was published in the early 1950s.
My question is very specific. I would have to option the rights to the original story. If the book had not been used in a movie, I would find the author’s agent. But, in this case should I be contacting the publisher of the movie? Perhaps I am not asking the right question. However, I am sure you can read between the lines.

Warren Adler answered:

Boy this is one tough question to answer. You have to find out what the original contract for the movie stipulates. Is there a sequel clause? There usually is. You have a lot of legal searching to do, since the chances are that the author, his agent and the executives who negotiated the deal are all retired or dead. I don’t think there is a cheap way to get this going and I strongly advise you check with a lawyer. On the other hand, can you make the claim that this is not a sequel or change the manuscript in a way that suggests it is an original idea and not connected with the original movie. Warren Adler

Thomas of Toronto, Ontario asked:

I’m amazed by your thoughtful and direct replies Warren.. full credit to you for ‘giving back’ to people who’d like to emulate your excellent successes.

My question is in regard to writing about Historical Events. I’m developing a film story based on actual events.. a shipwreck in 1828, and embedding those events within a modern context. The Shipping News used this style in some ways though I’m not certain if the historical events were true.

I know I can’t copyright or prevent others from adapting relative to actual historical events but I wonder where the line gets drawn (re copyright) relative to how I’ve built my modern context and scenarios. I also wonder how descendants of the people involved might have (fair) claim.. or ‘fair say’ in depictions I may create. I’m creating fictitious descendants that will not have the original names (marriage does that!) but the inference is clear. An opera was created based on the actual events and from my understanding, one particular family was not impressed with the fictional adaption!

All the best Warren.. and keep writing!

Tom

Warren Adler answered:

While I’m not an expert on the legal issues, my gut reaction is that you will be in the clear on all the issues you raised. Frankly considering that this is a historical event that happened nearly two centuries ago, I would not worry about it and do the best job you can do. Think of John Adams, now a series. I doubt if any of the Adam’s heirs would dare raise issues of copyright. Your biggest problem will be to find interest in an industry that is pointed toward people who have no sense of history. Good luck. Warren Adler

Ashley of Atlanta, GA asked:

Me and my partner are interested in purchasing the movie rights to a book. The rights were originally supposed to be purchased by Will Smith but the deal fell through. Where should I begin when researching this opportunity? How will I know the price of the movie rights?

Warren Adler answered:

Why not call Smith’s production office and confirm that the deal fell through. If the author is alive, call him or his agent and see if these rights are available. If they are, make a low ball offer and see if it flies. Warren Adler

Elaine of Norfolk, VA asked:

After recently self-publishing a shocking non-fiction book about a group of teenagers confined within a psychiatric unit, I have come to realize its potential as either a television movie or feature film. With the number of young people committing serious crimes these days, as well as the public’s perception that in many cases mental health treatment would “help”, I believe that an insider’s (i.e., psychiatric nurse’s) look into the shocking stories would be a real eye-opener.
Any thoughts on contacting the appropriate rep for a possible sale as a TV or film property?

Warren Adler answered:

If you have not got an agent with Hollywood connections about the only advice I can offer is send a one page summary to all Hollywood agents from a list you will find in a book titled Literary Market Place by Bowker which you can find in the library. There is no other easy way to get the attention of the marketplace that I know of. Good luck Warren Adler

Joyce of Middlefield, MA asked:

Hello, I read a book many years ago, I am 61. It would make a great plot for a movie. It is out of print. It would be a movie Joss Whedon or Spielberg would do. The author has died. I know it would not be worth much money for me..but maybe something..to bring this book to their attention…any ideas

Warren Adler answered:

Getting an old book to someone’s attention in Hollywood is a challenge. Without a Hollywood agent it is almost impossible to get attention. You might get the names of Hollywood agents and send them a one page idea. You might get a bite but it is a long shot. Sorry to be so discouraging but that is the reality. Warren Adler

Willy of Denver, CO asked:

I have a producer who is interested in buying the option for movie, play and TV rights for my nonfiction novel. What is an option worth and for how long should I sell the option for?

Warren Adler answered:

An option is a promise to pay at some agreed point in the future. Options can go for any amount from zero to infinity. Everything depends on what the producer is willing to risk while he puts the elements together to make his movie. There is no average figure that I am aware of. Usually options go for one year with a renewal for another year with all sort of variables. Beware of a free option. Also the option agreement should spell out most issues between the writer and the producer in advance e.g. profit split, ancillary material split, tv rights, live performance rights etc. If you haven’t got an agent get yourself a good entertainment lawyer since you can easily get screwed. Also, the ratio of options to pickup is astronomical. Thousands get optioned. A tiny percentage get made. Warren Adler

Beverly of Manning, Alberta Canada asked:

Dear Warren who do you contact and how do you get addresses for producers to read a book, one that is published to be looked at for movie making. What are the steps that one would have to make and do. I need help thanks Beverly

Warren Adler answered:

Beverly: You can find a list of Hollywood agents on the net. However, your best bet is to canvas all the agents in Hollywood. Names of these are also on the internet. A query letter might be appropriate. Getting their attention is a real challenge especially while the writers strike persists. Access to producers is another challenge and most get their submission via agents. Warren Adler

Nancy of Fort Lauderdale, FL asked:

I’ve heard that War of the Roses is based on a TRUE story of a couple whose last name was ROSE in Miami, FL. The husband ROSE was/is also an attorney. Is this true?

Warren Adler answered:

No, it is not based on a true story and it is not biographical. Nor is it based on a couple named Rose. It is, like most fiction, solely a work of the imagination. Warren Adler

Grant of Cincinnati, OH asked:

I self published Scandal in the Courtroom. I want an agent to sell my screen rights. It is the story of my life in Copake, New York. I grew up in the house on of my ancestors built in 1687 and owned a 380 acre dairy farm my son was planing to take over. It never happened. The community had a serial arsonist. I was a leader in the community. I was chairman of the church board, the local co-op and president of the Farm Bureau. I organized a Dairy Day and had the U.S. Sectary of Agriculture and the Governor as speakers. I also served on a committee of the state Farm Bureau. the arsonist burned my first barn in 1980, then a second in 1985 and finally my third, the Bull Spring Fire in 1987. I was understandably mad at this point and the Sheriff was not doing anything to stop the fires. Our Sheriff was our former fire chief and like my family, related to many of the local people. When I put pressure on the Sheriff to do something. The New York Times sent a reporter to interview me and they published a story on the arsons. Then the Sheriff acted. He arrested my 19-year-old son for burning our own barn. That is where what I call Club Justice took over and how the lawyers did more damage than the arsonist that burned my three barns. The charges against my son were dropped before trial when the D. A. discovered a man was seen leaving the Bull Spring fire that was burned so badly a witness could smell the burned flesh. A prior investigation by the Sheriff’s Dep. established that was the arsonist. A cover-up takes place and a suite to recover damages fails and seems to convict my son of arson when a Federal Judge rules the “arrest was proper.” My son was forced from the community and I was denied loans needed to rebuild and diversify the farm. The farm is lost on the courthouse steps and when I arrived in Ohio 10 years ago I have a broken marriage and only $200 in my pocket. I spoke to a young screen writer about my script but I don’t know what the story is worth and need an agent to represent me.

Warren Adler answered:

Without a Hollywood agent, the chances of your selling your book to the movies are very much against you. I would suggest you find a list of these agents on the net and send your outline to them just as you wrote it here, but do not include your hard luck story. In Hollywood, the story is everything not the personal ramifications. Sorry to be so brutal but you might as well face the reality of selling to Hollywood. Warren Adler

Susana of Mooresville, NC asked:

I wrote “Through the Eyes of a Child” It is being released to the public as of today. I wrote this book for my terminally ill son who lives one day at a time. How do I get the word around that his book is being released. I would like people to buy it because we do not know how long his short life is going to be. Publish America is my publisher. I also retained the movie rights. Thank you.

Warren Adler answered:

I wish I could be helpful in finding a movie deal. One suggestion I have is to send the book to a number of Hollywood agents with a very short synopsis. You can obtain this list from the internet. Beyond that there is no magic wand. Warren Adler

Phyllis of Pouce Coupe, BC Canada asked:

I’ve just published a science fiction novel titled ‘Been Blued.’ Several people who have read it mention that it ‘reads like a movie,’ and that’s what I was aiming for when I wrote it. You mentioned that contacting the right people to buy the movie rights was an imperfect process. Is there some kind of resource for finding producers who might be interested in a specific genre?
You also mentioned that you’re looking for good books to read: Been Blued is about people who left Earth so long ago they consider themselves aliens, but a virus in space wiped out their women so they returned with high hopes and ran into problems. If you like Star Trek and Dr. Who, you’ll enjoy Been Blued. Thank you for your time and attention.

Warren Adler answered:

Without a Hollywood agent you have a tough row to hoe. There are numerous lists on the net of agents, producers, actors and others in the movie business. You can query them all with a brief outline of your book and hope for the best. But there is no substitute for a Hollywood agent who has all the contacts and can get your material around. Warren Adler

Russ of Arlington, TX asked:

We recently experienced a real life event with the Feds, that did receive press attention just prior to the Va Tech shootings. Then that story trumped everything for a while. Ours was also a college related event. The crux of the story is that 18 boys were arrested and our son is the only one walking free. They were all entrapped but fear the “system” intimidated all the others to take pleas. Everyone is captivated by the story–although I know you say do not go by these responses. Our trial was of the Tom Cruise “you can’t handle the truth” type. Truly a high energy story. My question is regarding turning this into a book. Is it a disadvantage to have a publisher assist in the writing of a book in the big picture? We can do the writing ourselves; I am just wondering if it is worth the help in the end. I also would hope it makes it to the movies on the “luck” train. Thank you for your time Sir.

Warren Adler answered:

If you have a publisher who is genuinely interested in your story and is willing to pay you for it, either negotiate with them as to who will write it or arrange a co-writer. If you have not got a publisher, then my advice is to outline your story, make it short, hit the highlights and send it around to various agents. Lists of agents abound on the internet. An agent has the contacts and know how on making these deals and will advise you on how to proceed. Remember, regardless of the merits of the story and your interest in it, it is a story that becomes a commodity in the market place. Good luck. Warren Adler

Ken of Winnipeg Manitoba asked:

I have a book published by Publish America Inc. In Frederick Maryland.It’s title is “Tag…You’re Dead” a murder/mystery/romance novella. It is my first book. My question then is…
Being published by a P.O.D.(Publish On Demand) publisher,do you think that this is a hinderance to my ever seeing some Movie company buy my options? Thank You

Warren Adler answered:

The only way a movie producer, agent, actor, director, will respond to an on demand book would be if you sent it to him or her and hope for the best. It is a very imperfect system. I would query every agent, producer etc with a letter and a brief one page synopsis before you send them a book. Even then, it might be difficult to get their attention. but its worth a try. Good luck Warren Adler

Lola of Dell City, TX asked:

What is your opinion between vanity book publishers and the standard publishers? It is so tempting to go the self publishing route mainly for speed, but I really don’t have the money. I am only a couple of weeks away from having my book finished and would appreciate your feedback.

An agency in NY replied with what I feel is a positive answer regarding the movie script I sent to them, telling me that they now have several agents reading my script. They also handle books. I suppose I will know something one way or the other, in the not too distant future if I have enough patience. My biggest problem is trust.

I have written a few (published) articles in the past and hundreds of instructions (with my hand drawn illustrations) for sewing patterns which I designed and illustrated from 1960 to 2005 and advertised in magazines. I set up my web site in 1997 and maintained it until May of 2005. I sold the business to a lady who is young and energetic. You can see my illustrations on her site which is under my original business name, “Lola Gentry Originals” and the URL I setup in 1997 at: www.westernpatterns.com

I thought about adding my maiden name to ‘Gentry’ to separate my books and articles from being a designer and former pattern business. The lady who bought it wants to put a link on her site to my (pending) writer’s site. My question is: Do you think it wise to add my maiden name ‘Mayfield’ as shown below to my writings or should I continue using just Lola Gentry? There’s a jillion other Lola Gentry’s out there, but it’s a fairly well known name as a pattern maker and designer.

Warren Adler answered:

I doubt any name change would make the slightest bit of difference. As for self-publishing, it will only work if you’re willing to put lots of money and time into the selling effort. Who will distribute your books to the stores? Who will send out advance copies for reviews? How will potential readers find out about it? Who will handle the bookkeeping, the storage etc.? Sure it will be fast, but then what? You might sell a few books to friends and relatives, but how will you project yourself to wider audience. If you have not figured out a marketing strategy for your self-published book, I would pause and give your idea a lot more thought. Warren Adler

Louise of www, Internet asked:

Hello: I would like to know, when writing an essay that is like a memoir about the town where I grew up, is it legally acceptable to name actual people, such as storekeepers that I remember? Can you publish this type of work using actual names? Thank you. Louise

Warren Adler answered:

Sure you can mention their names. That’s what a memoir is all about as long as you don’t liable the person. Warren Adler

Peggy of Greenbelt, MD asked:

I have a published novel titled In Search of the Songbird. I would like the book adapted for a TV movie. I have written to Hallmark and Lifetime. They suggested I get an agent. What type of agent has an interest in adapting a book for TV and how do I research this information?

Warren Adler answered:

You will not get to first base without an agent. There are any number of lists of Hollywood agents. Send them a query letter with an outline of your novel. It will be nearly impossible to sell this yourself. Warren Adler

Harita of Athens, Greece asked:

I am an author of four non-fiction books. My area of expertise is classical Greece. A British channel has expressed an interest in turning one of my books into a historical documentary; their representative refered me to a Greek producer, since this is going to be a co-production. The producer asked me what I want in order to sell the rights to the book, since I am the copyright holder. What would an appropriate amount be? Also, what are my rights as an author in the production of the documentary? I have already asked to be interviewed as a an expert on the subject, and the producer has agreed. As a newcomer in the film industry, what else do I need to know? Are there are any books or articles concerning deals with producers which you would recommend?
Thank you for your time. I realize that you may not be able to answer all my questions, but any information will be appreciated.

Warren Adler answered:

My advice is to find an agent or an intellectual property lawyer to negotiate this deal. Never mind the books or articles. If these people are really serious and they are a reliable company it will be well worth your while to get someone else to negotiate for you. It will be well worth any fee or commission they charge. Do not try and negotiate this yourself. Warren Adler

Monika of Colorado Springs, CO asked:

I would like to option a book taken from a woman’s journal. The woman is dead, no survivors. The editor is dead, not children. And the book has been out of print for years. The publishing company has been engulfed by another. How can I do this and how much will it cost??

Warren Adler answered:

First find out if the book is still in print and who owns it. The writer may have relatives. If you’re going to option a book you have to have a source. Warren Adler

Peggy of Greenbelt, MD asked:

I have recently submitted a published book to be adapted for a TV movie. The agency that responded is The Screenplay Agency – Books to Film. They have sent me a contract to sign. The agency is the usual 10% commission. But I have never heard of the company. Can you tell me anything about this firm?

Warren Adler answered:

I never heard of them. Check them out at Google before signing anything. Warren Adler

Steve of USA asked:

Last year a friend’s son was thrown into a Mexican prison in Ensenada on totally trumped up charges. The truck he and “his boss” drove over the border had a stash of counterfeit money, LOTS. Apparently the boss is connected to the Tiajuana Cartel. And his construction biz is a front. Before ‘taking the trip’ the kid was receiving major football offers from every college in the US. During his confinement he was beaten regularly, electrucuted, OTHER. He has lost a testicle. They let him out a couple of months ago with the help of a Senator. His boss was arrested. I have secured the rights to the story. Now what?

Warren Adler answered:

Your next step is to get yourself a Hollywood agent who can sell this story to the movies or TV. It sounds like TV. It would be easier if he had a book in the works. Producers in Hollywood act on notoriety. If there are clippings about his plight it would be helpful in selling his story. Good luck. Warren Adler

Sam of Youngstown, OH asked:

I have enjoyed your books, espeically the duet on the Roses. My novel is SWAP, maybe when you’re on a beach somewhere and need something to read. www.samsstories.comfor more on me.

Warren Adler answered:

Thanks for the tip. Always looking for good books to read. Regards, Warren Adler

Kristina of Wyoming, MI asked:

I bought a book at the public library a while ago, and when I read it, I thought it would be an amazing movie. I contacted the author and told her she should really think about trying to get this book made into a movie. There are movies being made that take place during Pearl Harbor and World War II, and that’s what this book is about. I think it would be a big hit. The author says that her agent and a publising company have been trying to sell the movie rights for this book. I want to help out.

Who would I go to, to try and get someone to buy the movie rights?

Warren Adler answered:

Unless you have firm and long standing contacts in the movie business, you will face a long uphill battle. Many fine books never make it to the movies. And books about World War II don’t fall in the right demographic market which is for young men under 25. But anything is worth a try. Steel yourself for rejection. Warren Adler

Peggy of Milford, ME asked:

I have asked you some questions and I thank you for the answers. But I do have one other that comes to mind right now. In the light of what you said “studios produce big budget movies ala Lion King.” The person that came up with that made alot of money. With just a wild guess, on a good book what kind of price do you think an author could get? for a child’s book? I know it won’t be an accurate price. (maybe prices are like other movie offers) Thanks so much for your input.

Warren Adler answered:

If the studios really want it and the price is negotiated by an expert, an option can range into six figures, although these days it is rare. Independents might pay anything from nothing to five figures. Without an agent as an advocate and without really heavy interest expect little. Many desperate people with books or screenplays accept nothing and hope that the movie will be made and they will be paid at the back end. There are so many variables. Was the book a best seller? Is there a big fan base? Just to get a buyer to read the material is a chore in itself. Which doesn’t mean that sometimes miracles don’t happen. Unfortunately there is no pay scale and no science. The marketplace rules. Warren Adler

Michelle of Johnstown, PA asked:

What author has had their books made into the most movies?

Warren Adler answered:

That’s a tough one. I’ll make a try. Georges Simenon, who wrote more than 300 novels. Or Arthur Conan Doyle inventor of Sherlock Holmes. Warren Adler

Peggy of Milford, ME asked:

I have published my first book with Infinity Publishing. A Christian romance and I am in the process of making a children’s book for ages 3-8 (around those ages). I think it would be a good movie for children because it is something I have never seen anything like. Do you think a children’s book has a chance of becoming a cartoon for children? And when a movie gets made do they have the rights to change what your characters look like when they’re done etc. on the cartoon? Thanks alot for your advise. I am new to book writing and trying to find out any info I can get my hands on.

Warren Adler answered:

I’m sorry Peggyann, I don’t know very much about the children’s market only that the studios produce big budget movies ala Lion King etc. They might buy a book for its characters and story line. It is highly doubtful that the book author would be granted any control over characters or plot. As for Christian Romance I’m not conversant with the market on this type of book. A Hollywood agent should know, but getting to them is yet another high mountain to climb. Warren Adler

Ida of asked:

How long did it take for you to have your first book published? I am still working on finding a way for my first book to be published.

Warren Adler answered:

Although I had published short stories and poems in my early twenties, I didn’t get my first novel published until I was 45 years old. It was pure luck. I ran an advertising agency in Washington D.C. at the time. A man came to my office and asked if we promoted books. I said we promote everything. What is the fee for this promotion, he asked. This was the eureka moment that changed my life. My fee, I said, was that your publisher, a tiny publisher in Philadelphia publish my first novel. He said fine, send me the book and I will give it to my publisher. He did. It was published and that was my fee. It completely changed my life and became the realization of my life’s ambition…to become a novelist. Since then I have published twenty seven novels. I guess you might conclude that talent by itself is not enough. You need luck. I am grateful to this many who became my friend and has now passed on. Warren Adler

Pat of Indiana asked:

There is a good chance that a book I am about to sign a contract with a publisher for will be made into a movie. Who decides the what and wherefores of all this procedure? The author or the publisher? Or both?

Warren Adler answered:

It all depends on how your contract with the publisher reads. If the publisher has been granted the movie rights, the publisher makes the decisions. If the author retains the rights it is the author who makes the decisions. Either way, restrain your optimism. The odds against a book becoming a movie are astonishingly high. Warren Adler

Reshonia of New York, NY asked:

My deceased father was portrayed in the movie Paid in Full. My mom sent a letter to the producers asking for a scholarship for college. They said I was never included and my dad never knew me. Now I’m a student at Hofstra and really can’t afford it. Is it legal to profit from a crime without compensating the victim? The person who killed my dad is being portrayed killing my dad in the movie.

Warren Adler answered:

I wish I could help. But it would be well worth it to get a lawyer who will work on a contingency fee that will not cost you anything unless he collects from the movie company. I do not know any lawyers who do this but there must be many. Warren Adler

John of Clearwater, FL asked:

I have contracted with a major New York literary agent. I am quite positive that my novel on terrorism/military will be published in the coming months. The story would make a great summer or holiday blockbuster film. In pitching a novel, (I’m sure you know this)a query letter has to catch the agent’s attention. Is there a way to do the same thing with producers? Where can I find a free list of producers to submit my query to? Thanks…..the title of the book is “Second Wave” in case you see it in stores in the near future. Thank you so much for your time. John

Warren Adler answered:

There is probably a list of producers on the internet. If your book is published the studios have scouts out looking for material. Make sure your pitch to producers is no more than one page. They rarely read material. It is usually filtered through a low paid employee who makes the judgement on what to show the producer. My advice would be to wait until the book is published before making your pitch. Warren Adler

Donald Urso of Westerly, RI asked:

I am a produced playwright. I have stories that are too big for the stage. How do I find someone to help me co-write what I have written–to share writing credits with? I have very little training in screenwriting. The two genres are different. I have the stories fleshed out, but I need someone who knows the technical side of screenwriting–camera angles, etc.

Warren Adler answered:

There are many books on screenwriting. Buy yourself the software for writing a screenplay, e.g. Final Draft. Then put them both together. A screenplay does not require any of the technical know-how like camera angles, cuts etc. That’s for the director to worry about. There must be many screenwriters on the internet. Tell them your story and see if anyone bites. Warren Adler

Leslie of Ellersile, GA asked:

I have an autobiography that is powerful. I am debating if I should self publish or look for agents. Any suggestions? My long term goal is to have a movie from my story…It will be motivating and positive…as powerful as “Pursuit of Happyness.”

Warren Adler answered:

Ask yourself why anyone would be interested in your autobiography. What have you accomplished that is so unique and unusual that people will want to read about it, no less than see it evolve in a movie? Before you self-publish send it around to agents. If they don’t bite, only then self-publish, then ask yourself again the question I posed at the beginning. The plot of “Pursuit of Happiness” is as old as the hills and the only reason it ever got made is because Will Smith thought the concept commercial. Of course, in the final analysis, plow ahead and see if and how others react to your story. Warren Adler

Jim of Toronto asked:

I have published three novels, and writing has always been fairly effortless for me. However, the past two 1/2 years I feel as it’s an effort to get a page written. This block followed a stint into rehab. So I’ve got my life settled away, and now I can’t write? Do you have any advice? It’s as if someone stole my muse.
Thanks, Jim.

Warren Adler answered:

Hi Lefty: There is no such thing as writer’s block. If you don’t surrender to that notion it will all go away. I know this sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that you’re telling yourself that you are bereft of ideas. Why don’t you go on a reading orgy for a week or so, then get back to work. Other people’s words can effect a great cure. Get rid of your air of desperation. Warren Adler

Jerred of Skyland Drive asked:

A small film production company wants to do a film version of a non-fiction book of mine published in 2005, The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand. The company wants me to have an agent represent me in negotiations. My guess is that there is not a lot of money involved, the company being small. Additionally, my wife, who is well-known in the world of theatre, and I have adapted the book for the stage. The film company asked to see the play. I am quite certain that the dialogue would adapt to film.

Who might be interested in representing me and how would I find that company or person? I know you advise finding an agent, but I am not sure how to find one.

Warren Adler answered:

There is a book called Literary Market Place. Most libraries have a copy. I would send a short query to every agent in the book. Begin the query this way. “I have film interest in my book (title) and am seeking an agent for this book and others I will write. Are you interested?” You probably should be more specific, e.g. a one paragraph synopsis. Short and sweet. This will achieve everything in one shot rather than go through the misery of rejection. You might even try it using e-mail. Good luck. Warren Adler

Susan of Los Angeles, CA asked:

Can you tell me if there is some sort of database to find out if a book has already been optioned for a movie?
I have several books I would like to investigate but I need to know if they’ve already been optioned by other filmmakers/producers or studios. Thanks.

Warren Adler answered:

I know of no data base. But if you find a book to option, a call to the publisher might help. If the author has not given the rights to the publisher for sale to the movies, then you should request the name of the author’s agent from the publisher. If the author has no agent, you should contact him or her directly. It would not be a formidable process and is done every day. Good luck. Warren Adler

Jeff of Dayton, OH asked:

I have written a fiction book that I believe would be an excellent movie. The book is called THE BURGLAR (ISBN No. 1-4137-1601-6). It is about a cat and a dog that witness a burglary and most of the story is told from the pets’ point of view. It reads like a Disney movie. How would I go about submitting it for a movie? Thanks.

Warren Adler answered:

Jeff. It sounds like a great idea, but without getting it published first and finding a Hollywood agent to sell your book you have a tough row to hoe. I would suggest you come up with a one page summary and send it to every publisher and Hollywood agent you can find. It is a suggestion that has worked in the past. Warren Adler

Andy of Overland Park, KS asked:

Our research indicates $15k to be the low end with around $25 to $50k as standard for non NY Times bestseller types to ghostwrite. (This includes giving my partner, who’d be the GW, credit as co-author.) He’s got around 80 pages complete.

The story line is great conspiracy theory stuff. He does seem to have a legitimate pipeline to a few Hollywood types, so I think there is a shot that this could fly.

Without getting all starstruck, we’d be willing to cut our up front for a percentage and writing credits.

Do you have any thoughts on how to negotiate on something like this (royalties on the book, future film profits, that kind of thing?)

Thanks for any help.

A.

Warren Adler answered:

The key to your question is “who is the someone pitching this.” If that someone is really close to the people who make the decisions then I would suggest you get an agent to make this deal. I would also check out the someone. Has he made any deals before? Also, I don’t understand what you mean by ghostwrite. Ghostwrite what? You are dealing with an industry that deals in experience and precedent. I would suggest also that you contact the Writers Guild in LA to find out the going rates for rights and scripts for TV in general. In any event. Good luck. Warren Adler

V.A.P. of Illinois asked:

Mr. Adler,
I wrote a fantasy novel and had it copyrighted in June 2005. Then I self published it in August while I attempted to find publishers/agents to take on my work. Low and behold, in January 2006 a novel written by another author hits the market, becomes a best seller, and recently had movie rights sold. This author wrote my story (complete with same titles, names, events, and occurrences), but changed it from a fantasy to a horror. I’m appalled, but after speaking with numerous law firms and channels, it appears that I am SOL. Do you have any suggestions that can help make my hard work successful for me? (It appears to have made another person very wealthy.)

Warren Adler answered:

I wish I could give you advice, but if you’ve already vetted it by lawyers they have spoken. But it does seem to me that you might have a case. Maybe you should try another lawyer. Warren Adler

Jeane of Broken Arrow, OK asked:

How does the movie industry, when they make a movie from a book, get the suggestion for that? I can’t see producers sitting around in bed at night reading the latest top ten and saying to themselves, “Gee, I should make that into a movie.” I am an avid reader and am always telling my husband, “that would make a great movie”. Is it possible that there is a job out there in that area? Meaning that I just see someone somewhere saying, “Hey, Stephen, this book and this book would make great movies, what do you think?” And then collecting his/her paycheck for that.(Altho I’m sure there is more to it). I have been all over the net searching for info in regard to this and can find nothing other than book reviewer jobs. Is this a pipe dream? And if not, any suggestions? I mean, besides calling up Stephen Spielberg and suggesting my latest favorite…

Warren Adler answered:

The movie industry has its scouts out looking for material, especially books. They also have people, mostly recent college grads reading stuff and filling out forms which is called coverage. Rarely do any of these books ever make it to the silver screen. Usually it’s some agent with a client who knows who likes what who brings it to a producer’s attention. Frankly, it’s catch as catch can. The industry tends to option a minimum of a thousand books a year. With luck they may make 35 feature films, most of them hardly worth the time. Sorry to be so negative. Have you seen any really good movies lately? I haven’t. Warren Adler

Steve of Dade City, FL asked:

Dear Warren, In the 1980′s I was a work-for-hire writer on what became a #1 animated tv show and that success enabled me to create and write a comic book for Marvel’s creator owned line, to which I retain all rights (with the artist). A nostalgic resurgence of both these properties has occured recently, and the TV show (a one time only script payment with no other rights) has served to boost my creator owned property to the point where a contract has been inked for a reprinting of the comic in graphic novel form by a premiere publisher. The artist and I are well represented and have been advised to NOT OPTION the property but rather hold out for a rights offer. Do you think this a wise strategy?

Warren Adler answered:

I’m a bit confused by your story. You say a reprint is being planned. Have you constructed a deal with the publisher of the reprint that reserves all other rights, such as movie or TV deals, foreign rights etc.? If you own the property outright with the artist, then you are free to make whatever deal you wish. If you are well represented then your representative should opt for the deal that gives you the most money. An option is okay if it has a short term and a big payout. But the secret is to limit the option and reserve foreign rights, TV rights, movie rights etc. unless you’re willing to licence world rights for a big fat number….depending on the viability of your property. I hope this makes some sense to you. …but everything depends on how badly the bidder wants your property. Warren Adler

Jerry of Columbus, IN asked:

I have written a book entitled, “Gauntlet Golf”. It is a 220-page fiction novel that I think will make a great movie. How do I get a movie director to look at it?

Warren Adler answered:

Get yourself an agent in Hollywood…a tough assignment. Or if you have any personal contacts, try using them. This is one tough business. It requires more luck than talent and lots of sweat and aggressive action. Warren Adler

Robert of Montreal, QC asked:

Dear Mr. Adler, thank you for this site and your Q&A area. My question is not related to movies, but rather pertains to the fact of depicting real people (dead or a live) in fiction. Is it necessary for the author to obtain permission to do so? Or is it “safe” so long as nothing contentious or uncharacteristic is written. Thank you for your time. Robert.

Warren Adler answered:

It is never safe. Anybody can sue anybody. If the people in your story are recognizable and know it, you could have problems…unless they are cleverly hidden. Warren Adler

Charles of Chicago, IL asked:

Mr. Adler – I think it is wonderful of you to have a site like this. Here is my question: Have you given thought to the Sondheim / Perkins screenplay ‘The Last of Sheila’ being presented as a play? It flopped as a movie in ’73 because no one could follow it, and America was diverted by other things: mideast war, gas lines, etc. Thanks for your candid answer. PS I am affiliated with the Colemnan Entrepreneurship Center of Depaul University here in Chicago, and I think that the script can be lifted in toto to the stage. Really! It has tremendous potential: forgotten work by world renowned authors, etc. I am very serious about this project. I am employed as a CPA, have an MBA and MST from Depaul and frequently write business plans. This one is a winner. Regards, Charles J. Dinger

Warren Adler answered:

I can’t remember much about the movie, but I just don’t do adaptations of other material. I wish you luck on your project. Warren Adler

Ralph of Atascadero, CA asked:

Dear Warren,
I find that Americans actually know very little about the war (WWII) in the Pacific, other than Pearl Harbor and the atom bomb.
As a Dutch citizen I was in Indonesia during the war and spent 3 1/2 years as a child in various Japanese prison camps. At 10 I was taken from my Mother and placed in a starvation camp for young kids for a year. If ‘the bomb’ had been dropped a week later I would not have been here.
By and large the Japs were brutal. After Aug. 15, 1945, we should have been liberated, but there was no authority to maintain law and order, and society there turned into total anarchy. Many more were killed just as they thought they were on the threshold of ‘freedom.’
Interestingly, few people talked about their experiences. Even my brother who worked as a slave on the Burma railroad didn’t talk much about it.
Only now, some 60 years after Pearl Harbor, stories are being told in Holland by the repatriated former internees.
My wife and I wrote a book about our experiences as kids. (She was under Nazi occupation in Holland as a child.) We were able to capture a lot of information about other members of our family, such as the fact that my sister was tortured by a Japanese camp commender (I have documentation of his Court Martial after the war as a war criminal for that specific act).
We also write about our emigration to the US (I had $45 in my pocket). Yet we made a success out of it; I became director of manufacturing with McGraw-Hill Book Co. After having to quit for health reasons as a result of malnutrition as a child, I became an investor/developer.
Our book has been well received by many who have read it in ms form. It covers not just gruesome facts. There is a ‘love story’ included (my wife and I have been married for 49 years), as well as motivating information how an immigrant starting with nothing actually ‘made it’ in the US. I am ready to submit the book to a printer for ‘on demand printing.’
A Jewish friend who is well aware of the German concentration camps said hardly anybody knows about these experiences by civilians in the Pacific theater. He urged me to try to sell it to a person like Steven Spielberg. How do I go about that? Do you act as an agent for possible movie or documentary contracts?
Thanks for your help.

Warren Adler answered:

Ralph: Your story is quite compelling. Getting a movie made of these amazing experiences requires a full court press meaning getting yourself a Hollywood agent (a tough sell) to find you a producer who is willing to back the project and put up either his own money or get studios interested in putting up development money. It is a bizarre process, but it has a regular path and requires ingenuity, creativity and pluck, but without an agent it is an uphill battle. Another path would be to put up the money yourself and get a script written or write it yourself. Speilberg must get hundreds of requests to consider stories and going that route would only work if you knew someone close to him to get the story in front of him. It is all a question of access to the film making community. Another path might be a documentary. For this you will need to find photos or newsreel images and, of course, a documentarian. I wish I could be more helpful. It sounds like your story might make a great movie. Warren Adler

Bonnie of Chester, VT asked:

I am just about to publish my 3rd book through AuthorHouse.com They do not promote authors books but the author retains all rights and control of their books. My books are historical novels: Plimoth a Life Changing Odyssey, Plimoth Revisited, and Plimoth A Remembrance. I really believe my tale would make a good movie but am clueless on how to get it considered.Any advice? Thank you, Bonnie Darlene (White)

Warren Adler answered:

Bonnie: You can’t possibly get any attention for your work without finding an agent in Hollywood who believes that your material will make good movies. But remember what you consider good movies is not what they consider good movies. To them good movies have to attract ticket buyers. That is their only criterion. ~ Warren Adler

Scott Keister of Los Angeles asked:

I’m interested in doing a musical stage adpatation of a book that was also made into a movie. Can I get rights to only the movie version, or do all rights revert to the author of the book? How do rights get established between these two different versions?

Warren Adler answered:

Scott: Everything depends on the original contract between the author and the movie company. If the rights to a live theatrical version has been reserved by the author you will have to contact the author. If the original contract calls for the movie company to own all rights, you will have to contact the movie company. It is doubtful that the movie company neglected the rights issue in terms of live theatrical versions. You have lots of research to do. ~ Warren Adler

Sue of Syosset, NY asked:

I saw the movie “Random Hearts” on TV tonight. I wonder where you get your ideas for a book. Do you remember how you thought of this story? Thanks for any info. S.

Warren Adler answered:

Sue: There are three questions that are always asked of an author. Always. When do you write? (meaning time of day). How do you write? (meaning the mechanical means, typewriter, computer etc.) And where do you get your ideas? Unfortunately there can be no answer to that last question. I get my ideas from listening, observing, questioning, paying attention to everything around me, some of it consciously, some of it subconsciously. Everybody has a story. Everybody is a story. A real writer tunes in to these narratives and fashions them into his own story. I know it’s hard to understand, but that’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. ~ Warren Adler

Ana of Ashland, Oregon asked:

How does one get permission to use the contents of a novel or biography on which to base a screenplay?

Warren Adler answered:

You find the author or agent and make a proposal to option the material for a period of time. There is no set price for such an option, but if you do the screenplay and manage to get the picture on its way to fruition you will have to pay the author the price you negotiated. An option is merely a permission grant by the author. The price you will pay will be dependent on whether or not the picture moves ahead. I hope you understand this. Warren Adler

Thomas of Copenhagen, Denmark asked:

Hi Warren,
A friend is a co-writer of a fairly successful book which is now to be made a film. Do you have a sample contract that we can draw inspiration from, including a clause that could secure my friend a royalty share of all income including soundtrack, merchandize etc?
Thanks (Great website btw) :-)

Warren Adler answered:

There is no real sample contract. Every deal is different. Your best bet is to get an entertainment lawyer to negotiate a contract. There are a hundred ways to screw the writer out of his fair share of the proceeds, provided there are any proceeds. It may cost you some money up front, but if the movie succeeds you will quickly discover how any profits are frittered away before it gets down to the writer. Also, be sure you get paid up front for the screenplay. Good luck. Warren Adler

Geri of Stonington, CT asked:

My question is not about movies….but about reading….I work with dyslexic students and would love your input on e/audio books…and how they could be made to alleviate reading difficulties and open up a new world to many people. I read an article a few months ago in the Times (NY) about your philosophy on e-books…. I too, think publishers (as are educators) behind the times. I think you might be interested in my ideas for making books not only available for poor readers…but how e-audio books could actually improve reading skills….
Hope to hear from you…
Geri Wright

Warren Adler answered:

Geri: I don’t know how e-books would help people with reading difficulties, but I’m always willing to listen. Warren Adler

Melissa of Los Angeles,CA asked:

Thanks! One more – once I have the option, with someone like me with few credits, negotiate for an executive producer credit? In your experience what credit does the person who owns the option typically get when they are bringing the material to established producers?

Warren Adler answered:

Since you have optioned the property you are in a perfect position to negotiate your credit. If you find someone that really wants it you have a perfect position to demand a credit or you just don’t let the producer have it. Warren

Melissa of Los Angeles, CA asked:

I am working on becoming a producer. I’ve produced one documentary and two shorts. All did fairly well in the festival market but have not been distributed. I now have a book that I want to pitch as a series or MOW. What recommendations do you have to keep myself attached? Should I partner with an fairly established producer with no current projects? If so, is it out of the question to ask for 50/50 with that producer? Or should I just take it on the market directly to the big names or would the big names just pay me a fee for the material, dismiss me completely. In short, I’m not sure how to protect myself, I have a nice relationship with the author but want to work on the project and get a producer credit for myself.
Thank you.

Warren Adler answered:

Melissa: Having a nice relationship with the author is not the answer. You should have a business relationship, meaning you should option his book which means that you will be pitching something in which you have the right to negotiate something for yourself. Do not depend on the good will of the Hollywood sharks. Warren Adler

Meagan of Ellicott City, MD asked:

I am interested in writing a screenplay based on a novel originally written in the 1950s. The novel is a romanticized account of actual historical events. How do I go about this? I am just starting as a screenwriter & don’t have anything to offer up front, but would have much to offer if the script is picked up & produced. Any suggestions would be tremendously appreciated!

Warren Adler answered:

Meagan: The first thing you must do is acquire the rights to the book. This means you have to option it, probably for money. Only then can you legitimately attempt to adapt it to a screenplay. Even then, the obstacles are enormous. You have to find a Hollywood agent who believes your material is saleable. It is a tough arduous process. The marketing of a speculative screenplay without an agent is really hard. That does not mean it can’t be done. Warren Adler

Debra of Los Angeles, CA asked:

Dear Mr. Adler, Please forgive me, but my question is not directly related to the topic at hand. My Grandfather was Harold Applebaum, a former classmate of yours, as I have just learned from your E newsletter dated March 15 2005. =He died when I was only five. Last week, for the first time, my Grandmother mentioned that she has all of his writings. I have begun the large task of sifting through them all, and that has inspired me to find out what I can about who he was. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind helping me out by telling me anything that you can remember about him? I realize that it is a long way back, and that there might not be much. I know so little of him. Anything might help.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you in a future not as distant as the past I am asking you to revisit.

Regards,

Debra Millison

Warren Adler answered:

Debra: Harold Applebaum was one of the best writers I have ever encountered. I remember him like it was yesterday. He was also a wonderful poet and his poems appeared frequently in the New York Times. He was always generous when it came to other writers, like myself who he seemed to single out and nurture. He was the one who invited me to come to the kitchen readings of our group. We would meet each week to read our works in other people’s homes. Such writers as Mario Puzo, and others who I will have to research were also part of that group. You should be thrilled to be his grandchild and I would give me eye teeth to have a grandchild like you who is willing to make the effort to gather up your grandfather’s writing and preserve his legacy. He was the best of the best and if you have just a modicum of his genes you will be very lucky indeed. As I write this, it brings tears to my eyes. I lost sight of him years ago, but given time I might remember more. Tell me when he died and how old he was. The people of that group are either long gone or passing fast. Mario died years ago. I am still in action, writing as I have done for the past sixty years. Please keep in touch.

Chris of Dallas, TX asked:

Great response. I am writing again because I want to answer your questions.

Just to clarify, when I say “option price”, I mean the amount of money the author is paid if we exercise the option (price of the rights). Again, their counter offer is a floor of 150K.

The agent’s counter offer for the yearly option fee (paid each year to the author, giving us the exclusive rights to the authors novel) is $1000 the 1st year, $1000 the second year, and $5000 the 3rd year.

The book did better in its foreign sales. It did particularly well in Sweden.

I don’t know if he has received option offers for this book before. Should I out-right ask him?

The author is not well known.

Thanks, C.T. Jones

Warren Adler answered:

Chris: Now I get it. The agent is giving you an option for one year, renewable each year for three years. A total of $7000. If you have a deal, meaning you have written the script, get it produced, meaning you or someone who is a producer, has assembled all the elements and is starting photography, that means he will have to pay the author 150k. If it is made into a small independent feature say something costing 1 to 4 mil, the 150K will loom large. If it is a big studio picture the 150k will seem small. I have a suggestion….call or write to the Writers Guild in LA. I believe you will find someone on their staff that could advise you. You don’t have to be a member, but you should join after your first assignment. Or get yourself an entertainment lawyer who will take you through the steps. The author’s agent is figuring that if you get a big Hollywood deal, his author and he will make a buck and so will you for writing the script. I’ve tried to give you my best shot. Good luck. Warren

Chris of Dallas, TX asked:

I appreciate your responses. I have one last comment/question, and then I promise I’ll leave you alone.

My writing partner and I are going into this project as screenwriters and producers. The book we are optioning was written in 1984, was very unsuccessful in the U.S. and has been out of print since the late eighties.

My partner and I have made an offer to the writer’s agent, and he has countered with a 150K option price as the floor. Both my partner and I feel this is way too high considering the history of the book.

Going back to my original question, what factors/points should we come back to the agent with to show that this book is not worth their offer?

Warren Adler answered:

Although I am usually on the side of the writer, in this case the 150k option price seems ridiculous in the light of the fact that the book did not do well and you are not connected with a major studio, producer or director or actor. Did it get any foreign sales? Even if this is a well-known writer, has he received any option offers since the book came out? That is a good standard of its worth. If so, find out why it wasn’t made. The law of supply and demand kicks in. If he wants 150k what would be the pick up price? Over a million? It sounds like the agent doesn’t really want to make this deal and is blowing you off with a big number or he is representing a very popular writer used to getting big publishing advances. Or…he thinks you guys are rich enough and hungry enough or dumb enough to pay the price. If I were on the other side I would try to get as much as I could. Better look to the long term prospects for this project and remember that if you are gunning for a studio picture tastes change on a dime. The movie business is in crisis and the studio execs are all biting their nails not knowing what will be tomorrows hits. Warren

Chris of Dallas, TX asked:

Would you mind answering the same question again knowing that I am the buyer?

Warren Adler answered:

Aha a new wrinkle. If you are the working principal, meaning that it is your intention to participate in the making of the film, as director, writer, or producer (including raising money) then the deal has a whole new slant. In that case, the way to handle it is to buy cheap and make a good back end deal. This will depend on the experience of the writer and his agent. Say 5k with a rich back end deal, say 100k with points based on the films performance or an immediate payout at first photography. All this will be based on the cost of the film which will make all the difference. Some writers will take a free option and gamble on the film, but to be fair a good back end deal would be an enticement, for the actors as well. It’s hard to put a price on it. If you’re being a non-participating producer, the deal changes. Ask yourself. Can the film based on the book get a distributor? If not, you’re already upping the odds of ever making money on the film. Can it attract a good director or known actors? How much will the traffic bear becomes the operative cliché in the option deal. But then, if you love the property, then it’s your call. Here again the landscape is littered with wannabe producers dying to get into the game. Making movies with a payoff is one tough job. That said, it doesn’t seem to hold anyone back. Best of luck. Warren Adler

Chris of Dallas, TX asked:

What are the factors that should help determine the purchase price of a literary work in an option agreement?

Warren Adler answered:

Chris: There is no standard. But the price would probably be based on the popularity of the book, its history and the interest it might garner among stars, directors, or producers, the various elements that make a go project. If it has no history, then its catch as catch can and would depend on how strongly the purchaser of the option believes in the commercial viability of the material. My advice, as always, is never sell yourself too cheap. If the buyer wants it, he wants it. You’ll have to decide what he or she can afford and his track record in making a successful film. Always put a time limit on an option. Maybe a year and a renewal for another year at additional compensation with a pickup price that makes sense. Watch out for your own hunger to have the film made. The movie business is littered with wannabees who sold out for peanuts. Warren Adler

George of Akron, OH asked:

I have been involved in a real life business situation with a well known high profile personality (which provides merely the seed for the plot). The overall event which took place over the course of a year involved a dozen very unique personalities, business greed, the courts and little guy triumphing over the tycoon. While I think all the elements of a good business oriented book/movie, etc are there I’m just not sure of the effort necessary and whether to do something about it. I really don’t mind putting in the effort, I’m just not sure of the best direction where someone who has been involved in a real life situation and although they don’t know the other side of the whole story they can just as easily conjure the other 50% to imagination and create a good tale for public consumption. I feel strongly about its potential and I’m finding myself probably in a situation like many who have asked before– what do you advise?? (Write a book, Hire a ghost writer to write a book, what about other people involved in the real life event, Sell the idea, Ditch the whole idea as too involved). Thanks for your advice in advance.

Warren Adler answered:

Here are your options: Write a book, non-fiction or fiction. If it’s really high profile you might write an outline of the real events and contact a publisher, agent or a writer to work up an outline. If not, just write it yourself. If you think it has movie possibilities write a treatment and try to get it to a movie agent. Frankly, though, unless it is a high profile well publicized event your chances of having anything happen are difficult. Ideas are a dime a dozen, however interesting to you. It has to be packaged to make it commercially viable. Warren Adler

Tobian of San Jose, CA asked:

I have written my first novel. It has only 100 pages. I would like to know if you would be willing to read part of my manuscript and then let me know what you think. I have gotten rave reviews from the guy that reviewed Oprah’s book.

Thanks,

Tobian

Warren Adler answered:

Sorry. I don’t read manuscripts. 100 pages is hardly a novel, perhaps a novella. Warren Adler

Gayle of West Jordan, Utah asked:

I have a friend that has done an independent film, put a flyer up in the local university seeking people, specifically students to help compose music specific to his film. He asked 3 composers to help him and only one of them will not sign over the copyright to him. One composer is intending on selling the music and gaining profit from something that was supposed to be for a specific film. What can he do? Does he just dump the composer?

Warren Adler answered:

Gayle: You are asking me a legal question, which I am not competent to answer. I can only say that when I write a book or a play, I retain the copyright and license it to the user. It may work the same way for the creator of music for a film. Only a copyright lawyer can answer that question. Sorry. Warren Adler

Sam of Bloomington, IL asked:

I’m the author of Hamburger Hill and Westmoreland. For what it’s worth HH has appeared in seven different editions and was the Featured Selection of the Military Book Club twice. I just finished a book about John F. Kennedy and the PT 109 Incident. I’ve uncovered some incredible material about the incident, and would like to see it be the basis for a kind of definitive documentary about Kennedy’s naval career and the incident. One documentary has already been made about the incident, but it is totally bogus. Do you know of any agents who are experienced at dealing with documentary film producers? Please note that I had no connection to the film Hamburger Hill. It is not based on my book.

Warren Adler answered:

Sam: Your books sound interesting as hell and, if you hit the right person, would be great grist for a documentary or even a bio pic. With all the recycling going on Kennedy’s PT experiences might be worth another go. Unfortunately with the exception of Hollywood agents, I don’t know of anyone who specializes in documentaries per se. There are, of course, the usual lists of Hollywood agents you can get on the net. A one page solicitation e-mail or letter might be worth a try. From my own meager experience documentaries are initiated by people with a passion for a subject who gather up the money from friends and relatives or have a conduit to a network like PBS, although they go out and fund raise when they have chosen a subject from their favorite documentarians. I have a feeling though, that military material, might be gaining some traction and might be worth a campaign on your part to get a project going. I wish I could be more helpful. Warren Adler

Manda of Rocklin, CA asked:

I started writing only a year ago and have seen my share of successes. However, I am really wanting to branch out and sell my stories to producers as I have written them in a highly visual sense. I have found that most agents are like lawyers and would rather NOT deal with them at all. Who would you suggest I contact that would make this part of my career a reality instead of merely a dream?

Warren Adler answered:

Manda: You’re laboring under a misapprehension. Agents, meaning agents who deal with Hollywood, are essential for making a sale to the movies or television. They deal almost exclusively with producers, studios, actors etc. The chances of your selling an adaptation of your work to the movies and television are almost nil if you have not got an agent in Hollywood thumping the drum for your work. I wish I could tell you the easiest way to find a Hollywood agent who is willing to go out there and attempt to sell your work. Unfortunately there is no easy way but constant canvassing. I hope his helps. Warren Adler

Stephan of Paradise Valley, Arizona asked:

I wrote and self published a 310 page hardcover book called DODGE CITY 2004. An action adventure book about the World Wide War on Terror mixed with tales of the Wild West. I have been able to get the book in the hands of President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Tom Delay, Condelezza Rice, Jerry Jones Owner Dallas Cowboys and some other important people. I would like to know how I can get the book made in to a movie. If you would like to see my web site: www.dodgecity2004.com.

Warren Adler answered:

Stephan: What you need is a Hollywood agent, which is difficult to get, but there are lists on the internet and you should solicit them. There is no magic bullet for this and, I must say, they will not be impressed on who you sent the books to regardless of how important. If one of the recipients would read it and make some comment that gets national publicity you will at least have a platform, but that too is difficult. But without an agent in Hollywood it would be tough for an adaptation of your novel. Warren Adler

L. F. of NY, NY asked:

My husband’s first book has hit the stores and has gotten very positive reviews. (Booklist, Publishers Weekly, etc.)It is a non-fiction book and has been in the bookstores for 2 months and we never even thought about it becoming a movie. But yesterday a woman who said she looks for projects for a certain film company/Production company (Lawrence Gordon Productions) and is interested to know if the rights were available.
We emailed her back yes they were available. When it comes time to do the contract, what should we focus on negotiating on? And what should our price be?

Warren Adler answered:

This is a very lucky break for your husband. Do not, repeat, do not negotiate this yourself. Get yourself a good entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. There are many. Pay the fees and make sure he or she negotiates a good deal. There are many ramifications in a movie deal. The chances of it being adapted for a movie are slim. They option many and make few. But it is very easy to be boondoggled. Warren Adler

Mark of San Clemente, CA asked:

Thanks for your insightful comments. You make it sound really hard to get a book made into a movie. The one thing you did not mention was something all writer’s employ in every story which is imagination. Everything you said was dead on true about the business. That you did not say was how after all the ground work is done the doors start opening. Doors are always opening in your life. Correct? They are a product of your imagination and the stories you write so well. This same inborn quality cannot be taken away from the successful writer and his audience. We are all characters in our own story. When we are given the perspective to step back for a moment this is when we can see our success. This happens in the same fashion that we determine the success of our characters in the scenes that we write. Once the writer makes the connection between his inner world and its outer reflection then he will choose success if he is a smart one. If not he will fail time and again not due to his writing but due to the way he feels about his writing. You are here as a successful author-screenwriter. Your success I realize was all about hard work, however, something else is always going on. It is the unseen. The luck factor if you will or the power of our own attention to the details of our success.

Again thanks for your continued presence. This day would not have been complete without my passing through the realms of your reflection.

All my best

Mark

Warren Adler answered:

Mark: Speak to any writer who has attained some semblance of success and he or she will tell you. Luck trumps talent always. Without luck all the talent in the world is useless. Warren Adler

Jayne of Daytona Beach, Florida asked:

I am a published author, and have written two books. The second one will be on the market soon. I was wondering if I have to have an agent to contact someone about making a movie out of one or both of my books, or is this something I can do on my own?

Warren Adler answered:

The chances of your making a movie of your own unless you have both the technical know how and the money are a stretch. And the chances of getting a book optioned for a movie are almost nil unless you have an agent who knows his way around Hollywood. There are exceptions of course, but they are extremely rare. Look up Hollywood agents on the internet and query them with a short outline of your book and hope someone will read it. Warren Adler

Jesse of Dubuque, Iowa asked:

I read your Q&A here and it seems that everyone’s been asking the same thing so I’ll try and stray as best I can. I’ve written a script and I’ve grown attached to the two main characters.

I’m wondering if I can license them or do I have to sell them outright? I would hate to have something I worked on so hard make more money for the Fat Cats then it does me. I speak in reference of course to the unfortunate mess the THREE STOOGES got themselves into when Columbia Pictures cashed in on them at the time of CURLY’S death and now at the expense of the rest of them.

Would the independent route be more advisable? I figure at least I can keep my characters and should the time come I wish to start of professional career I have some leeway behind me.

Another question I would like to ask is if all the writers left would Hollywood collapse? It seems that writers have this false sense of empowerment once anything is considered. Besides the money… what makes everyone else other then writers and the other lowers on the Hollywood food chain so special?

Warren Adler answered:

Jesse: Sure you love your characters. We all love our created characters. The question is: Who else loves your characters? How do you know your characters are marketable in Hollywood? Have you a Hollywood agent? Has your manuscript been submitted anywhere? It is one thing to rail against the system, but the system is the system. Writers for television and the movies earn their living writing this stuff. They are the lowest rung of the system, often treated terribly and dismissed as expendable but very well paid. Do you seriously believe they would be willing to give up their livelihood on principle? Most are workers for hire, many full of animosity and disappointment, but they are in the Hollywood trenches slugging it out. We can all vent our rage, but it does little good. Warren Adler

Lisa of Portland, OR asked:

I have two novels published and another coming out next year, all from a major publisher. My literary agent is great but she doesn’t seem to care if I ever get a film agent. (We kept the rights.) Can I approach film agents on my own? If I do manage to find film representation, will my literary agent still get a cut, even though she didn’t do anything to facilitate the sale?

Warren Adler answered:

Lisa: Obviously your agent does not have any contacts with movie agents or, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to want to bother, hoping that some Hollywood scout will find your book. I would find your own agent if you can. Usually the deal between agents is to split the commission. This is the protocol, but some agents in Hollywood might not like to work harder for only half the commission. It is best to tell your agent that you are looking for an agent in Hollywood to avoid getting noses out of joint. Warren Adler

Tracey of Inkster, MI asked:

Looking for the book that the movie Paid in Full was based on….Starring Mekhi Phifer, Cam’ron, and actor Woods.

Warren Adler answered:

Sorry. Can’t help on that. I’m sure some web research will give you that answer. Warren Adler

Eileen of Boons Camp, KY asked:

Dear Mr. Adler;
I read with great interest your remarks about my first book entitled “Briarwood.” My second book, “Man on the Right” should be out shortly.

I would like to see both these books made into movies. My question? Do you ever act as an agent to sell a manuscript to the movies? Of course Publish America would get half, but surely you and I could split the other half.

I am currently working on “The Cousins and the Cave of Fire,” a Kentucky Harry Potter type of book but more realistic and based on the exploits of real children in a real cave they discover. After that, have a couple of more things in the works, and have to hurry, as I will be 76 in January of this year.
Eileen Parrigin Young

Warren Adler answered:

Eileen: I am an author not an agent. You need an agent preferably in Hollywood to send your material to producers. There is no magic bullet and only a tiny percentage of books that are optioned ever reach the screen. Find an agent who loves your material and see if he can sell it to a film maker. I am also into “hurry” phase. Just keep going until you run out of gas. Regards Warren Adler

Allison of Corpus Christi, TX asked:

I love to read all types of books. I want to turn books into screenplays. What should I do first? Should I get permission or write the script and then get permission? Then find a lawyer and agent?

Warren Adler answered:

Before you try to write a screenplay adaptation of a book, you had better secure the rights for the book from the author, otherwise your screenplay will not be viable. You must contact the author, his agent, or his publisher or whoever owns the rights to the material. A payment would most likely be required. Only then should an attempt be made to adapt the material to the screen. Warren Adler

Brittany of Phoenix, AZ asked:

I have a wonderful series that I have been reading and I believe that it would do very well if made into a movie. So my question would be how would I recommend this series?? P.S. If you are interested in this series it is called Midnight For Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo.

Warren Adler answered:

Getting the books to the attention of movie people requires a pathway. This pathway is largely controlled by Hollywood agents. Just to recommend a book is one thing, but someone has to own the copyrights in order to sell the book for an adaptation. Of course, your recommendations are always welcome, but only the author or his representatives control the material. Warren Adler

Robert of New Orleans, LA asked:

A friend has written his seventh novel recently. None of his novels have been made into films. How much should he expect to have his novel optioned for if a producer showed interest? He thought $300,000. I thought that was high, since he has no track record in film. Thank you.

Warren Adler answered:

Your friend is having a pipe dream. Unless his novel is a best seller blockbuster, he won’t get any where near that figure. If he gets 10k for an option, he should celebrate. If the option is picked up he might break into the low six figures depending on whether it’s a movie or TV. He better not leave his day job. Warren Adler.

Jeremy of New York, NY asked:

I have a production company that is interested in optioning a book, do we option the novel from the writer or the publishing house and when dealing with a major publishing house who is the best person or department to deal with, when it comes to optioning a the novel?

Warren Adler answered:

This depends on the contract. Many authors do not give movie rights in their publishing contracts. In that case you must deal with the author’s agent or with the author directly. If the publisher holds the movie rights, you must deal with the publisher. In that case you will deal with the person at the publishing company who handles rights. Good luck. Warren Adler

Ana of Corona del Mar, CA asked:

I am seeking an agent for representing me as a mediator between movie material buyers and myself. Currently publishing my book, available on the various website’s is perfect subject for a fantastic movie. I do feel confident that with the proper channels it could create recognition and financial success for all of us. Thank you for your prompt attention and consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Warren Adler answered:

Getting an agent to sell your material is essential. I would try to discuss this with Hollywood agents. Their names are available on-line and should be pursued. There is no magic bullet except hard work and elbow grease. But without an agent your chances are tough. Warren Adler

Max of Hollywood, CA asked:

Warren,
I am new to the film business from Australia. I moved here in October last year. I am optioning a book with a writer to create a film. I am looking for common figures for option agreements, meaning, I want to find the ‘normal’ figures for the front end and back end for the writer. I would like to know the % owed to the writer on first day of principal photography, the back end figures for profit earning and how much people usually pay the writer for the option to make the story [book/novel] into a screenplay/film.

I have written to a few of my lawyer contacts in Beverly Hills and Century City, but they all want a retainer. Sorry I don’t have an extra $8g right now, so can you please help me? Do you have a sample option agreement document with everything filled in? Maybe one of your old ones/early agreements that you can show me and the internet community?

Many thanks in anticipation of your assistance.

Peace,
MAX

Warren Adler answered:

Max: There is no standard for optioning a book. Some writers are willing to accept nothing to have their work even considered for a movie. Some will only do it for multi-thousands. There are so many combinations involved in such a deal e.g. net points, gross points, ancillaries, etc. that you had better get sound advice before entering into a contract. I would suggest that you call the Writers Guild in LA (or in Australia) and speak to someone that might provide you with various parameters. They are all willing to be helpful at, I believe, no charge. Warren Adler

Nilofer of Rawalpindi, Pakistan asked:

I want to contact someone to base the movies on my novels. These are real good, believe me. Please guide and help.

Warren Adler answered:

The best and perhaps only way to get your novels made into movies would be to find yourself a Hollywood agent. In many ways, they are the gatekeepers. I would suggest you query them. You can find their names on the internet. A one page synopsis of your novel will help. What you think of the quality of your work is never the issue. It’s what they thing. It’s a long hard road, but without an agent in Hollywood, your chances are very slim. Good luck to you. Warren Adler

Vena of Sydney, Australia asked:

Hi there, I’m an Aussie author with my first book being released in the USA on 18 May 2005. I’m a long way away from the action sigh* with a battle getting interest in my project in my own country. I believe my book would make a great TV series or soap opera as do most of my readers. Now how do I go about getting someone interested in it? My publisher owns the publishing rights and yet seems I have to do all the work. So in order to reap 50% of rights I’d like to start doing a bit of inroading into the chance of a movie or series. Can you help me? Oh, the book is “Secrets, Lies & Chat,” my story about 3 years of addiction to internet chat and a bit of exposure to online dating. Not a love story, far from it. Painfully raw and truthful as it happened to me. Classified as romance/fiction by the publisher. Looking forward to banging heads with a master :) , Vena

Warren Adler answered:

Vena: Lots of Aussies have made it in Hollywood. For a novelist, you had better get yourself an agent in Hollywood. They are the gatekeepers. I would suggest that you send them a one page synopsis of your story (not the book) and see if it excites their interest. Bear in mind they get hundreds of these requests. Study the kind of movies and TV shows that are being made. Do they fit your category? Cite some comparative examples. They love comparisons to other movies and television shows. It makes it easier to market. Romance fiction is generally not high on their agenda, but there are exceptions. It is a long hard slog. Distance doesn’t matter. The names of all Hollywood agents are on the Internet. I wish I could give you a magic bullet. It’s a lot more about luck than talent. Next time you publish, try to keep the movie and e-book rights. Regards and good luck. Warren Adler

Ida of St. Louis, MO asked:

I have written a novel and am looking for a publisher. I was told that contests are a way to get a new author noticed. I ran into a contest that I am considering but wanted some input as to its validity. “Mount Arrowsmith Novel Writing contest” is the one in question. Can you provide feedback on this contest – whether or not it is legitamate.

Warren Adler answered:

Sorry. But I don’t know much about the contest in question, nor can I give you any advice on whether entering such contests can help you get published. Of course, like chicken soup it might not hurt to enter such a contest. My own view is rather jaundiced and I have little confidence in their outcomes, but that is my own opinion and could be wrong. Warren Adler

Sean of New Jersey asked:

I would like to option a non-fiction book for screen adaptation. Is it indeed the “performance rights” that I seek? And what rights do I need to obtain from the actual people portrayed in the book? Thank you in advance.

Warren Adler answered:

Sean: What you seek from the author is licensing rights to adapt the book into a theatrical movie or a television movie. But the option is not only about money. There are other considerations like length of option, extension of option, when the pickup price must be paid. I would strongly advise getting a lawyer to give you advice, especially in the area of characters who are mentioned in the book. I’m not certain who could be at risk in this case, the author or the adapter. This is a very tricky business, especially if the option results in a film. I know this can’t satisfy all your concerns, but it should give you something to think about. Warren Adler

Gracie of Boons Camp, KY asked:

Recently my mother (at 75) published her first book. She has long been and avid reader and has written several items such as; a local article for the town newspaper, songs etc. I believe in my mother and truely feel that she has a god given talent to weave a story and make something from it. Her first book is published by Publish America named “Briarwood”, by Eileen Parrigin Young. This is a wonderful tale and in my opionion a must read for everyones list. Now understand, my mother is a Kentuckian whose life has taken her to many parts of this great wide and vast US, to live in such places as Maine, Ohio, Flordia to name a few. My mother was educated and holds two degrees. She is a very intelligent woman and could at anytime at the snap of a finger quote you most any verse from the Bible when involved in a conversation. My feeling is that her book is among one of those which could and should be turned into a movie. What or How could this come about. If you wish to contact her rather than myself, please feel free to do so, she would enjoy it. Eileen Parrigin Young eyoung@netburner.net

Warren Adler answered:

Getting a book to the movies, whatever its merit, is a long haul. It requires either a Hollywood agent, or barring that, attempting to get in touch with studios, actors, producers, who are involved in buying books for adaptation to film. …a massive effort. I’m sure you mother is a wonderful and talented person, but in the cuthroat world of Hollywood, getting the book to the attention of those folks who do these things is a massive undertaking. Warren Adler

Orchid of San Francisco, CA asked:

How do I know if a contract is legit? Where do I go to find someone to look it over? Who should look it over? Do I have to pay them?

Warren Adler answered:

To check on the legality of a contract, your best bet is a lawyer. A lawyer sells his time and you will have to pay him for it to check the legitimacy of your contract. Beware of trying to decipher any movie contract without a good entertainment lawyer to vet it. Warren Adler

Chris of Easley asked:

How can I recommend a book to become a movie?

Warren Adler answered:

Without a Hollywood agent, your chances are slim, but it won’t hurt to make an inquiry to Hollywood agents, most of whom are listed on the Internet. They get these requests by the thousands, but you might strike oil. Or if you know any actors, directors, or producers that might lend an ear to your idea, by all means use them. Unfortunately there is no established track. Warren Adler

Alex of Tucson, AZ asked:

An independent producer would like to make a straight-to-video feature of my non-fiction book. I would like to retain rights for a possible sale of my work as a major motion picture. Are their contracts, guidelines, and pricing I can refer to?

Warren Adler answered:

Alex: No problem for you, just give the producer the right to make the non-fiction documentary and keep all rights to fiction or “based on” movies. There are numerous ways to protect yourself, but I would advise a good entertainment lawyer. Be careful. I can’t give you any advice on prices since they are all over the lot. There are no norms. People anxious to see their name in lights often give away their rights for nothing, My advice. Don’t. Warren Adler

Al of Fort Mohave, AZ asked:

How do I go about finding an agent to submit my book to for review to see if it is good enough to be made into a movie? Also what are the “standard”, (ballpark estimate), fees for an agent or will they work on a contingency basis?

Warren Adler answered:

Getting a Hollywood agent is a chore. You can find them listed in numerous books and through Google or other search engines. They do not review. If it is an unpublished manuscript, don’t hold your breath. If you’re lucky enough to get someone to read it, it will probably be some wannabe in the mail room who will read one or two pages. If you have personal contacts that might be useful depending how well you know them and how far up they are in the feeding chain, prevail upon them to help. To my knowledge, there is no formal reviewing process, although there is a process called “coverage” in which young wannabes read the book and give their view of whether or not this would make a good movie, but their opinion doesn’t really matter. The trick is to find a Hollywood agent who loves your material and would expend the energy to get it around. Beyond that, I’m afraid the process is rough and tumble. Warren Adler

Michael of Windsor, CA asked:

You are very kind to give time to inquirers like me! I am able to contact Redford and Costner directly. Should I? Or find/work with an agent instead? Send them a book w/ cover letter?
Thank you.

Warren Adler answered:

It’s who you know in Hollywood, although both Redford and Costner are past their prime as bankable actors. If you really know them and they see you seriously as a writer, by all means contact them. Depending on how they view you, they will read it themselves if they see you as a credible writer or, more likely, they’ll give it to some nameless staff person who will read it and report to them. Remember they receive loads of material, books, screenplays, manuscripts and, believe it or not, many of these stars or producers do no reading at all until a project goes through layers of other people. It is always better to find a Hollywood agent who knows how to walk through these minefields.
Warren Adler

Parker of Tulsa, OK asked:

I am in the process of writing an adaptation of a classic American novel but I am using a critical essay as the primary influence in my adaptation. Would I have to pay royalties to both the writer of the essay and whoever owns rights to the novel as well? This book has also been adapted for screen previously; if the author chose to take the money and run, when do the rights expire for the studio?

Warren Adler answered:

Your questions seem to point to a tangle of rights questions that only a lawyer with copyright experience can interpret. Here are some questions to ponder: Is the novel in the public domain or still under the author’s copyright? Is the use of the critical essay so visible that it could result in a copyright challenge by the author of the piece? Does the studio still own the rights to adapt the novel to the screen? Before you embark on a project infested with legal ramifications you had better check this out. Warren Adler

Darwin of Rogers, Arkansas asked:

How do you take a book which is great and submit it somewhere to have a movie made from the book?

Warren Adler answered:

To get a book into Hollywood mode requires access to those who read these books and send them on their way to the process. An agent in Hollywood is your best bet. Without an agent getting the book around it is a hard slog. Numerous books, perhaps thousands are optioned or bought, many for next to nothing…or nothing. The movie people say they are always on the lookout for material. Getting it before their eyes is another matter entirely. But without an agent banging the drums for your material, the chances are slim. It has been done, but there is no well trod path. Warren Adler

Sharon of Bronx, NY asked:

Is the book True to the Game going to be made into a movie?

Warren Adler answered:

I have no idea. Read the trade journals The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for an update of what is up for production. Warren Adler

a.l. of Brooklyn, New York asked:

Is there a site to go to where you can see if a book has already been optioned and by whom? Thanks.

Warren Adler answered:

There is no site that I know of. Warren Adler

Declan of Dublin, Ireland asked:

I am a small short film producer and I’ve recently been given verbal permission to adapt a short story into a short film. I want to draw up an adaptation contract between myself and the writer but I am having no luck in obtaining a template of such a contract in order to successfully draft my own. Do you have a template of such a contract? If you do, could you mail one to me so I can study it as a guide? I use Microsoft office for the MAC so a word document or PDF would be fine. Thanks again, Declan.

Warren Adler answered:

Declan: I do not have a template for such an adaptation. The contracts that I have entered into for adaptation of my material with various studios are long, complex and highly detailed, carefully written by lawyers after much negotiation. May I suggest you direct your question to an entertainment lawyer. I wish I could be of help but I know of no specific template that would be helpful. Warren Adler

Charlie of New York, New York asked:

I have written a great book, at least to my knowledge. How can I sell the movie rights to my work?

Warren Adler answered:

Charlie: In selling a book to the movies, the author’s belief in its viability as a film, has little to do with a sale. The movie business is a world unto itself and requires a Hollywood agent to take the material through the movie thickets. If the books is unpublished and the author barely known to the industry the odds against it are enormous. Try interesting a Hollywood agent or a publisher and see how it goes. Warren Adler

Jeff of Novato, California asked:

I am helping a 5-times NY Bestseller author bring her books to an indie devpro company. I would like to know: 1) Is there is a “standard” or “template” contract for book adaptations specifically focused on the indie market; and 2) What financial remuneration, points, etc. are customarily offered to the author? Many thanks Warren!

Warren Adler answered:

Jeff: There is no standard for the indie market. It all depends on how the producers are financed and how anxious they are for the material. Many who want their books to become films are so anxious to get on the silver screen they will give away the store. My advice is always not to give a free option. As for points, depending on how much they are willing to pay up front, try to get gross points. Net points rarely pay off. Also, try to get the producers locked in on the title. That is a hard one, but if the flick gets made and its a success then the author needs the book title to help his career. Bestsellers are best sold when the lists are current. Yesterdays bestseller if often forgotten. Hope I’ve been of help. Warren

Sam of Miami, FL asked:

Hello again. The agent who is holding the film rights is a Hollywood agent at one of the top agencies in the country. Does that mean I should start with a high offer for the option? And is there any type of listing on the web or in the public records of what others have paid for options and rights of other works?

Warren Adler answered:

Publishers weekly has a column which talks about rights and what people have paid. They have a web site and should have an archive. It is not uncommon for people to option a book for a very small amount of money, which is what you are offering. If the author is hungry or desperate enough or thinks you can put it together he might go for it. There are no averages. It is highly unlikely that an agent would go for such an offer that you propose. Warren Adler

Sam of Miami, FL asked:

Hello Mr. Adler,
I am trying to option a book that I know has the film rights available. I contacted the publisher and they gave me the phone number of the agent. Should I call the agent and bluntly ask for the option, or should I have an entertainment lawyer make the first call, or…? And the novel has just came out and is not a best-seller yet, but it has the potential to be. Will this potential affect the price of my offer or should I still start at about $500?

Warren Adler answered:

Sam: You should contact the agent. Why pay a lawyer at this juncture? And don’t be too quick to quote a price or talk about your feelings about the books potential. It is very rare that a book becomes a best seller that is not heavily marketed well in advance. Bear in mind that an agent gets 15% of the author’s share. That means he would get $75 if you offer $500. It would hardly be worth his time. I think you will have to up your option offer. Also bear in mind that you will have to contract for a pick-up price at a set time, meaning that you will have to pay the pick up price at some point or lose the option. I hope you understand this procedure. Good luck. Warren Adler

Edwin M Weisbrodt of Schaefferstown, Pa. asked:

After writing my first book(manuscript) would you suggest first protecting it by getting a copyright through the Library of Congress before contacting any agent, and what steps would you take if in my place.This book is a non fiction action packed story and has been read by two individuals who had nothing but compliments.Any advice would be greatful.
Thank you for a prompt response.

Warren Adler answered:

Sir: I wouldn’t worry too much about the copyright at this point, although it is a simple process to copyright. My advice would be to start getting it in front of agents or publishers and not depend too much on compliments that you received from friends or relatives. The only real criticism that matters is from editors, agents or publishers and the only valid critique is whether or not they will submit or publish. I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh. It is reality. Warren Adler

Ida of St. Louis asked:

I have written a novel based on actual events. I would like to submit it to a director to turn it into a movie? What material should I send to him as I understand most do not accept unsolicited material.

Warren Adler answered:

I have been asked this question many times and have wracked my brain on how to answer it correctly. Look at my previous answer to a similar question. I wish I had a magic bullet on how wonderful ideas and books make it to the Silver Screen or TV. When you think of the many thousands of people, many with agents and strong relationships close to decision makers, competing to have their material produced, you will realize what a steep ladder must be ascended. I have merely outlined one strategy that has occassionally worked. Warren

Andrea Rouda of washington dc asked:

Mr. Adler:
I have just self-published a very funny, very original book, Shrink Rapt, which is really a movie…at least that’s what all the agents said when I sent it around. (It’s based on real shrinks in Washington, several high-profile.) Now I need an agent who can shop it to Hollywood. How do I find one? Who was yours?

Thanks,
Andrea Rouda

Warren Adler answered:

Hi: Getting a Hollywood agent, indeed, getting any agent is a tough chore. My advice has always been to get a copy of Literary Market Place (you can get it at any library), write a one page letter, beginning with “Are you interested in a finished manuscript (or book)” then spell out the theme and idea. Then send it to every agent listed and see what comes back.
Unfortunately, unless you are in the relationship loop, you’ll have to be creative to get just the idea out there and see if anyone bites. I get hundreds of such requests every year. I wish I had the magic bullet. Warren Adler

Carmen A. Queral of Sherman Oaks, CA asked:

What does it mean to “option a book”? Thanks for the answer.

Warren Adler answered:

To option a book means to put down a lesser initial sum of money for a period of time, usually one year in the movie business, to have the right to develop the book in the hopes that it will be made into a movie. The option agreement usually spells out the terms of the transaction. Here’s an example. “For the rights to make a motion picture out of your book, I’ll give you $1,000 and you give us one year to develop it. If the book is developed into a screen play and then cast and a director hired and the cameras are set to roll, I will give you $10,000. (usually agreed to when the option agreement is written.) This is simplistic but states the case and identifies the meaning. Warren Adler

Oris Berg of Sun City, AZ asked:

My novel is published and I have a contract with PublishAmerica, I think they are good people and I will do nothing to violate my contract,— however recent words from them indicates their prime interest lay with publishing, only. If this proves to be true? I then tell you there is potential for a movie contract. My novel has a strong Terrorist thread and I think overwhelms many movies of this type. (examples, Odessa File or Day of the Jackel. I authorize no moves toward sale of movie rights without written consent from PublishAmerica. Suggest you read OPERATION SPORE, ISBN-1-4137-1600-0. SIX DIGIT advance to author, period. This is serious business. Signed, Oris Berg

Warren Adler answered:

Oris: I’m not sure you’re asking a question. But if you’ve given away your movie rights to PublishAmerica, only they have the right to accept a deal. If they do not have movie rights you are free to exploit them yourself. Or you can exploit them with the realization that you will have to share any proceeds with them. Perhaps I’ve answered a question you haven’t asked, but the important thing for you is to familiarize yourself again with your contract and see what rights are reserved for you. Warren Adler

Ray O’Brien of Long Island, NY asked:

I just finished writing a story for preteen girls. It is 43 pages which would make it a small book. The childrens’ librarians that have read it, love it. They think it would be a great movie. Should I try getting it published as book first, or try getting it optioned as a movie? There is also the possibility for toy merchandising. At what point can the characters be trademarked? Are their agents and lawyers in NYC or is it necessary to contact ones in LA? Other than copyrighting is there any other way to protect my manuscript. I’ve read enough horror stories about rejected movie scripts being ripped off!

Warren Adler answered:

Ray: Don’t try to do this without help from a lawyer or an agent. Also, don’t base your determination on going forward on the strength of whether or not the children’s librarians or your friends or aquaintainces think your material would make a great movie. They are not the final arbiters in this tricky business. If you believe in your heart that your material will warrant a multimillion dollar investment in a movie, then go right ahead and make the attempt. But understand the pitfalls. What you think is a monumental original piece of work may have already found its way into the vast archives of material floating around Hollywood and the publishing vaults. You might try to get an agent specializing in chilren’s material to evaluate how your work will play in the marketplace. If you are concerned about protecting your material the Writers Guild in New York and Los Angeles has a process of registration for your protection. You might inquire. Hope this is helpful.

christine garland of dekalb, illinois asked:

spec script/book option for screenplay on a “zero” budget:
thanks so much for an honest reply… i had a chance to talk to a lawyer and we are asking for 24 months to market my screenplay since i have offered to do it no charge. and yes, a spec script is up hill, but the author is a newberry award winner and i have the time for hill crawling right now, so we shall see. i will report back so the other readers can save a few steps that i have taken. sharing is good!

Warren Adler answered:

But if you get the 24 months, be sure the author is tied up with you having the rights to write the screenplay. You might get interest in the screenplay but if you haven’t got a rights deal with the author, the screenplay is worthless. Just a tip for your lawyer to consider. Good luck.

christine garland of dekalb, illinois asked:

with no budget available, i am in the middle of optioning book rights for screen adaptation. i love the book and offered to write for free. the author and i met and agreed. all i am asking for is 6 months to write the screenplay and 12 months to try and sell it. and yes, i can’t afford a lawyer. the author and i are going through her agent who will not answer any of my questions, like, what should i ask for. and i do understand she is not obligated to… do you think what i’m asking for is okay? thanks for your time.

Warren Adler answered:

Christine: Don’t be carried away by emotion. Are you putting out any money for your option? Its your time. If you want to spec a script and there is no cost involved and you have the time, why not? Under no circumstances would I advise your doing anything unless you have a firm deal with the author in writing. You might check with the writers guild in Los Angelos for the kind of deal that might be made at this stage. I wouldn’t want to dash your hopes but you have chosen an uphill path. Warren Adler

R. Landis of Ridgewood, NJ asked:

My collaborator and I are interested in optioning a book (non-fiction) that was published in the sixties, and the author is now deceased. I believe the book is out of print–when I look it up on used book sites it shows a couple of different publishers. Perhaps it was reprinted several times.
To get an option agreement, would we have to approach an heir? Does the WGA list agents for books, or for authors, or for authors’ executors? Thanks for any info you may have.

Warren Adler answered:

On the road flacking my latest book. The chances are the copyright is owned by the heirs, since the copyright lasts 70 years beyond the lifetime of the author. Usually the author does not grant movie rights to the publisher, but this author may have inadvertently given away the rights. Check first with the heirs. If they are too difficult to find, go to the publshers. Good Luck. Warren Adler

Jane Smith of Los Angeles asked:

A 3-time New York Times’ best-selling author who has had 2 of his first three books options for six-figures, has asked me to shop the book that has yet to be shopped. His literary agent (who shopped the others), says there would be no demand- stating the book has already been done (an award-winning film was produced on a similar subject). That said, the story is fresh, and from a female perspective (the film was a man’s war movie), hasn’t been made. Question: The author wants me to shop it as a producer, yet, if a deal is in the making, allow his agent to negotiate the book option. How would I position myself in the deal? How can I make money?

Warren Adler answered:

Yours is a tricky question. My suggestion would be to make a deal with the author before you start “shopping it around.” If you do the shopping, then hand the book to the agent to negotiate, the chances are that you will be “overlooked”. If the book has been shopped extensively the computer will leave an electronic trail and you will be limited in your resurrection plan. If it hasn’t been shopped, that’s another story. Why not? Is his agent asleep at the switch or has he tried and failed. He wants you to be an agent. Fine. But make sure you get your cut in front or you will be whistling dixie if you hit a producer willing to buy. Warren Adler

Drew of New York, NY asked:

We did what you advised Trina from Chicago – negotiated the theatrical adaptation rights for a book. It was all relatively informal for a defined, limited run. The show went extremely well, and now we want to take it to a higher level. The literary agent holding the rights has never done a theatrical adaptation contract before, and has asked us to draft one. Where can we find a model contract for exclusive rights for a development period of 18-24 months, with an option for a commercial run?

Warren Adler answered:

You should probably hire your own entertainment lawyer to write a contract that makes sure you are protected.

But if you don’t want to spend that money — there are two good books available by entertainment lawyer Donald Farber. I believe there are sample option agreements in the books.

Sam McCutchen of Long branch asked:

what does it take for a story to be considered for a major motion picture?

Warren Adler answered:

That’s a very broad question. Do you mean content wise, or in the business sense?

As a story to be considered, it needs to have a good plot, interesting characters, etc.

To be submitted to movie studios, you must first find an agent to represent your material, and then he can send it around to various people for consideration.

Warren

Charlie Tibedo of Durham, NH asked:

I fell deeply into a story (trilogy) I read about two years ago. The author won the Carnegie Medal for it. I am wondering about what my choices are for ‘optioning’ the book so I can write a screenplay. The detail of the situation is that I am a starting name without contacts or money to invest, beyond the $1000 range. How do I go for an option to write a screenplay for the book, on the grounds that it is not guaranteed for it to be bought/produced…i.e. I would be writing a ‘spec’…or specualtive screenplay. I love the story, and have the confidence and ability to do this…but how do I approach this. Do I write the publishers, or search for a potential interested film producer, or do I need to request permission/rights directly from the author.
Sincerely, Charlie

Warren Adler answered:

You must first approach the author’s agent (assuming he has one, but he probably does). Call the Writer’s Guild of America to find out this information. Write a nice, concise letter asking if the film rights are available and telling a little bit about yourself. Be honest. You love the book, you don’t have a lot of money (basically what you said to me). If you don’t hear from them, follow up a week or so later with a call.

If the rights are available (and they may not be), maybe they will negotiate with you. But this is the way to do it.

Good luck.

Derek A Benner of Citrus Heights, CA asked:

I’ve got a friend who’s had 29 books published. He’s got several books that would fit well into the current genre of science fiction. They are different in that they center on interaction between this Earth and an alternate reality. There’s plenty of action because the story is also a murder mystery.

What we don’t know, and I am acting as agent on this matter, is who to pitch it to and how to contact the right people. I’ve gone to the iFilmPro site and I’ve seen that they have directories available, but I’m not sure if that’s where I should go for my information. Is there a cheaper way to find out contact information?

Warren Adler answered:

It soundslike you are acting more as a “producer” and trying to scare up projects based on your friends books, ie. film, television. That’s fine. But you should probably first get the author a real literary agent, maybe even one who specializes in science fiction. They are the ones who will know who to send the material to and how to submit it. There are many places on the web that list book agents and several books that are published.

Reggie Cook of Los Angeles, California asked:

I recently wrote a novel that producers are already clamoring for. They want to option the work, but I have no idea how much I should charge. I’d also like to see my characters stay consistent on film with what I’ve written in my novel. How can this be assured, or can it?

Warren Adler answered:

Get as much as you can, but that will depend on your past success. If you are a first-timer, chances are you won’t get all that much. However, if you really have producers who wan’t your book, call an agent and get him to represent you. That’s the best way to begin protecting your interests.

Warren

Diane morgan of detroit, MI asked:

When doing books for a movie which person should you write the book in first or third or some other format?

Warren Adler answered:

There is a generally accepted screenplay format, within which there is some variation as to style, tone, language, etc…

They are not usually told in the first person. You should think about writing it as if you were describing to another person (the audience) what they will see and hear.

Buy a few books on screenwriting and try to read a few screenplays. You’ll pick it up pretty quick. Then it’s up to you to tell a good story.

Warren

Trina of Chicago asked:

Along with a partner, I would like to option a book for a play only. How much should I offer, should I start at $500? Also, when you option a book are you actually paying this price after the contract has been finalized and then do you have to pay for the rights to the book for a “play only”? A little information for you: the book was written by an African American author and was #1 on the Blackboard bestseller’s list. Thanks! This site is extremely informative.

Warren Adler answered:

Hi, Trina –

You want to option the “theatrical rights” only for the book. However, you might want to also have a clause that at some later point (if the play is successful) you can negotiate for the film and TV rights, assuming that they haven’t been sold to someone else in the meantime.

Try offering $500 — it shows you’re seriousness enough to pay them some money. See what they say. You would pay this when you sign a contract. After that, the author would receive “royalty” payments from your box office sales, and he would share in any other income that is derived from your production i.e. a cast album, etc.

Once you and the agent have agreed on a price, I strongly suggest you find some option agreements to look at and/or find an entertainment attorney who will consult with you on the option agreement. There are a lot of pitfalls you want to avoid.

Warren

Dave Hutcheson of El Centro, CA asked:

It really disturbs me that Fiona in the third book “Senator Love” has a completely different background than Fiona in the first two books. Was there a compelling reason for this?

Thanks,

Dave

Warren Adler answered:

There is no compelling reason other than the character felt like she would grow and be more interesting with the new background.

It is a little unusual to make changes like that, but not unheard of. If you read other series book, you will probably notice similar kinds of changes throughout.

Warren

David Constant of Foster, Rhode Island asked:

Dear Mr. Adler,
My name is David Constant and I am a sophomore attending Ponaganset High School in Foster, Rhode Island. At the beginning of this school year my English teacher told us that we had to read 4 books of the same genre and write book reports on each. I chose sports autobiographies and biographies. I read Drive, which was the autobiography of Larry Bird. I read King of the World, which was about Muhammad Ali. I read All My Octobers, which was about Mikey Mantle, and I read Hitter, which was an autobiography of Ted Williams. My English teacher has just recently assigned us a research paper in which we have to come up with a thesis statement and back it up with parenthetical references from the 4 books, 3 secondary sources and at least 1 primary source. I am e-mailing you, Mr. Adler because I wanted to know if you agree with my thesis statement: Sports provide a safe-haven for athletes. Thank you for reading my e-mail and it would be much appreciated if you responded as soon!
a!
s possible.
Thank You,
David Constant

Warren Adler answered:

I don’t do homework assignments!

Warren

Christopher Ricci of Foster, Rhode Island asked:

Mr. Adler….
I have been assigned to write a thesis paper for my Honors American Literature class. I have read two biographies and two autobiographies. My thesis statement is: “Biographies hold some of the (negative) information back while autobiographies tell the whole story.”

Would you agree or disagree with this, and why?
Thank you for your help. It will be an important part of my paper.

Christopher Ricci

Warren Adler answered:

I think this is something you have to figure out for yourself. The only thing I can think of that might help you is to go back a couple of weeks and look at all the articles about the movie and book, “A Beautiful Mind.” There was quite a discussion about just this topic.

Good luck.

Warren

olaf j. of bremen / germany asked:

what would be your “first choice” for the lead role in a “fiona” movie then , mr. adler ???

Warren Adler answered:

It’s not really useful to get into a casting discussion now, after the fact.

Warren

olaf j. of bremen / germany asked:

sorry , if this was already asked & also answered here before , but haven’t the producers of the “fiona” movie contacted u first & also told u , who’ll play the lead role in their movie ???
anyway … thanx a lot in advance for an answer , mr. adler !!!

Warren Adler answered:

There is a casting process that goes on. Many actresses are auditioned. Some are asked to play the part and turn it down, some are not available, some want to do it but the network is not interested in them, etc.

It is always a back and forth process and you are very lucky to end up with your first choice.

Warren

Vanessa Macias of S.El Monte,CA asked:

I wanted to say thank you for responding to my earlier question.It’s a very big dissapointment to all Kellie fans that the show isn’t going to make it:( Do you think there is any lil’ chance at all that it will make it?

Warren Adler answered:

No, I don’t think so.

Warren

Vanessa Macias of S. El Monte asked:

I completely uderstand your dissapointment to the series being “lifetimized” but I don’t think you should underestimate Kelli Martin,she’s a vey talented actress!Why don’t you think she would do a good job with The Fiona Fitzgerald Mysteries?Have you ever even met her?

Warren Adler answered:

Never met her. Just the character that I created was in her mid-30′s and was a bit tougher and smarter. Kellie’s version (because of her age and the script) came across like she was a new detective who really didn’t know her way around.

That’s not the character. Fiona is supposed to be experienced, capable. In the pilot script, it almost seemed like she was a new recruit. It didn’t make sense or work.

Warren

Richard W. of Illinois asked:

I am a fan of Kellie Martin and us fans in the Kellie newsgroups have been following the progress of the potential Fiona series. Other than Kellie being too young, do you believe she was the cause of some of these problems with the potential series or was it the creative people/producers behind the pilot?

And can you get me a copy since us fans fear it won’t air?

Warren Adler answered:

It was the creative people. Kellie was just miscast, but she did a fine job under tough circumstances.

No, I can’t get you a copy. It won’t and shouldn’t see the light of day. Sorry.

Warren.

Robeert K. Brown of Boulder, Colorado asked:

Warren:

Inlight of your experiences with Hollywood, what would/could you have done differently to minimize the “rape” of your literary effort?

I had a similiar experience, when I licensed “Soldier of Fortune” for a TV series which turned into a 45 million dollar, 40 episode bomb. The arrogance of the know-nothings in Hollywood is both frustrating and yet amusing. Fortunately, I walked away with a few bucks, so probably would do the whole thing again, even knowing the outcome – as long as there is some money. Does make one feel like a prostitute but one can’t feed one’s face with ethics. Robert K. Brown, Editor/Publisher, Soldier of Fortune Magazine

Warren Adler answered:

You have to sit at the table. If you’re not there, you have no control. That’s what I will do differently next time.

Warren

Jim Simmons of Fishers, IN asked:

I have contacted an author’s literary agent and asked about optioning the film rights to a novel. She, of course, wants to see the offer. I’m new at this–I’m sure there is a standard form that the offer should have–where can I find a template for such a form/offer? In addition, the agent was rather coy about the amount that the offer should be, only stating that she was hoping to get the best deal for her client possible. How does one research a novel (and similar novels) to find out what a legit offer is? Ny group knows what we expect the film made from this novel to gross–is that a starting point? Or do we look at sales of the book itself? Thanks.

Warren Adler answered:

No one knows what a film will gross. You may know the budget you wish to make it on.

Offer what you feel is reasonable and what you can afford. If it’s too low, the agent will tell you. If she wants a lot of money, and you’re not comfortable paying it, that’s pretty much it.

Start out with $500 and see where that gets you.

Warren

Emma Broomhead of NY, NY asked:

Dear Sir/Madam:

I wonder if you can help me. I’m trying to find out how many books (non-fiction if possible) are optioned for film or TV in the U.S each year. Do you know of anywhere I may be able to find out this information?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Emma Broomhead
Tapestry International Limited
212-505-2288

Warren Adler answered:

I have no idea where that information might be. You might try contacting Variety magazine, or the Author’s Guild of America — they tend to keep all kinds of lists on these things and might have some better information for you.

Warren

Justin Horton of Athens, Georgia asked:

I have recently completed a short screenplay (47 pages), the idea for which was based on a song. Do option rights have to be negotiated for lyrics to a song? I have created characters, a completely new structure. The only thing I took was the basic premise that can be summed up in a sentence. Do I need clearance to proceed with producing this script?

Warren Adler answered:

Unless you are quoting the song, or using it in the plot, or your idead is somehow so closely identified with the song, it sounds like you have probably created something new that was simply “inspired” by the song. In that case, you don’t have to clear any rights. Simply proceed.

Warren

Howard Webster of Tornto, Canada asked:

I just read a book that immediately spoke to me as unique and thrilling film. I devoured the book, thinking of the many different cinematic avenues possible. The novel could translate into a good film with it’s present structure, but I also saw many ways to make it a spectacular film by altering it’s structure, focusing on specific areas of the novel and elaborating on them, and/or merely loosely basing the potential script on the novel and bringing in many other outside ideas. The novel deals with the real life story of an undercover agent that worked for the RCMP in Montreal and Toronto, and upsate New York. It deals with the many odd, hilarious, and terriyfing organized and un-organized criminals he encountered during his operations. The story raises many issues about criminals v.s. law-makers and is about fifty times more interesting than the Donnie Brasco story. In short, I’m very interested in optioning the rights to the book. I am a filmaker and have made several short films and I am presently working on a feature film based on a news story that took place in Spain in the late nineties. I am decent writer and have learned a lot about writing working on this last feature of ours. I am better filmmaker than I’m writer, but I’ve gotten recent praise for my writing nonetheless. I see the possibility of writng a fantastic, solid and unique script based on this novel. Can you tell me everything I need to know about approaching the publisher on the subject of optioning the rights to this book. Should I get lawyer to do the talking for me? I’ve already made a peliminary call to the publishing house but felt a little “green” on the phone. I don’t have any huge amounts of money but I do have some to play with. Can a book be optioned for a decent price to an begininnig (albiet very competent) independent filmaker like me? Or are we talking big bucks? The woman who answered the phone at the publishing house talked about me making an offer. Where do I begin with that? Please get back to me when you can. Thanks.

Warren Adler answered:

I don’t know if I can tell you everything, but here are a few key things. You first want to know if the film rights are even available. You contact the agent to find this out. If they are, you send him (or her) a query letter saying you are interested in optioning the book for a potential feature film. You obviously want to pay as little as possible, and get the rights for as long as possible — at least a year or better yet, 18 months.

They will ask you to make an offer. How popular is the book and how successful is the author? Was it a bestseller, or is it unknown? Do other people besides you want the film rights? These are all factors that go into figuring out what a fair option price should be. If the book is somewhat obscure, try offering $500. You may end up going to $1500. It’s hard to say what the right amount should be. This would be against a purchase price that you would also negotiate in advance. The option is just that — an option to purchase. At some point before a film is made, some has to actually buy the rights to the book.

eve of los angeles, ca asked:

I recently approached an author of a book that I want to option. She is interested in seeing her book made into a feature film and she said she was broke. I am a upcoming filmmaker with no money. What do you think is a decent offer to buy the rights?

Warren Adler answered:

How broke is she and how little money do you have? How would you plan to finance or get this picture made — what’s your game plan if she grants you the rights?

You can always make her a partner in some way and offer no money up front, but a substantial share in any potential financial success.

Warren

Jared Leising of Seattle, WA asked:

My grandmother wrote a biography some time ago, and recently she was approached by a man who is interested in turning her bio into a television mini-series. She has no idea how to proceed and would like some advice.

Warren Adler answered:

Does the man want to pay her? Has he ever done this before, does he have any credits?

If he is seriously interested, then you should negotiate an option price with a certain time-frame (say a year or 18 months) and a purchase price should the project go into production. He should have a lawyer draw up this contract, and you should have one of your own look at it.

ROBERT of HATBORO PA asked:

I have had several books published and I am now looking for a literary agent to handle screenplay options (my current agent does not handle films). Can you provide the names of a few reputable agents?

Warren Adler answered:

There are several books and websites with agent information and contacts.

Choosing an agent (and having one who wants to work with you) is a very subjective process. The best thing to do is send some letters to agents telling them about yourself and your work, that you are looking for representation, and would they be interested in taking a look at your work. If someone responds favorably to your work, that is the first step to finding the right agent for you.

Good luck.

Warren

Frances M. of Acworth GA asked:

My collaborator and I have been offered a publishing contract on our first novel. The royalty clause says we will get 25% of net sales after printing, binding and shipping costs. Is this standard language? How do/will we know what those actual costs are? This is a small publishing house

Warren Adler answered:

It sounds like a fair deal. There’s no reason why you can’t ask them to calculate the actual cost of producing and shipping the book. Then you could tell how much you would get per book.

Are they offering any advance?

Warren

Dee Miller of Council Bluffs, IA asked:

Mr. Adler, your site has been extremely informing in my early-stage search for answers. Another writer who shares many of my passions and also has some good inroads as a professional in producing, directing, and writing has approached me about possibly taking my newly-published novel and writing a screen play for TV. I am prepared to turn loose of the control reins, yet I know I need to find an attorney to assist me. What I do not know is how to decide what a fair offer might be, for an option. Any good guidelines?

Warren Adler answered:

There is no screenplay for television, it is a “teleplay.” Is he writing a made-for-tv movie, a pilot for a series, etc? Where does he think it belongsv(HBO? Disney Channel, etc), how will he go about attempting to pitch it once he is finished with it?

There are many answers you need to know before turning over your work. When you feel you have a solid understanding of what he wants to do and how he will do (and you feel comfortable with his answers) then you should find a lawyer and have a simple option agreement drawn up. There is no exact science has to how much an option should be. But whatever it is, it should be tied in to an ultimate purchase price should the project get made.

Warren

Bonnie Davis of Cotati, CA asked:

I am the administrator and literary executor for my father’s estate. He was a published novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer. A screenwriter has contacted me and wishes to option one of my father’s stories for a small amount, for a one-year option. He got in touch with our agent, who refused to consider the offer because the amount offered was too small. However, the estate could use the money, even though it’s not a heck of a lot. Would it be dumb of me to offer to negotiate an option with the screenwriter without the help of my agent? If I did so, would I be doing something illegal, immoral, or unethical? I have an earlier option contract for another property that I could compare with, but other than that I don’t have much knowledge in the field of contracts and negotiations. Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks!

Warren Adler answered:

Who is the screenwriter and how much is he offering? Is he credible? Have you read any of his work? Did he tell you his plans/and what he wants to do with the material?

As administrator and executor, it sounds like you would have the right to deal with him directly and grant him rights, but without an agent or lawyer looking at any contract, you will probably end up making some mistakes that could come back to haunt you.

Agents are pretty much interested in one thing — money. If he’s only offering a little bit, that means the agent only gets a little bit. How valuable is the property? Have you gotten a lot of offers for it, are you likely to? These are important considerations. If you haven’t already, get some of these answers from the screenwriter. Write back and let me know how it goes. Don’t give away anything just yet until you feel satisfied — but ultimately, you’ll have to go with your gut one way or the other.

Warren

Jeremy Vandiver of Durango, CO asked:

More simply. How do you go about adapting a book to film? Also, do you believe that one is better than the other? Why?

Warren Adler answered:

Read a book you might like, than watch the movie based on the book. “War of the Roses” would be good, “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” “All the President’s Men” — but there are plenty to choose from. You’ll see — some adaptations are faithful to the original material, some are completely different. The thing is to identify the story you want to tell from a book, and then figure out how to make it cinematic, or flesh it out, dramatize, etc… Analyze how some of the pros did it when they adapted material. Also, read books, then get your hands on the screenplay adaptations and read those. See what they did, how did they do it… What would you do?

Movies and books — They are too different animals. It’s hard to say which is better than the other.

Warren

Jeremy Vandiver of Durango, CO asked:

I am a high school film student preparing a presentation for a local film festival. The topic is “Film Adaptation” and was wondering if I could get the opinion of someone familiar with the subject. What are you feelings concerning the connection between the two? Do you feel the messages of books are compromised by their film counterparts? Can literary techniques ever truly be translated into cinematic terms or vice versa? In general, can film preceed its literary counterpart? I would love to know your feelings on the subject. Thanks for your time.

Warren Adler answered:

Jeremy –

Ask me a simpler question that I can wrap my mind around!

What is it you actually want to know about a book to film adaptation?

- Warren

Anne Marie Hammers of Pacific Grove, CA asked:

Mr. Adler -
Can you tell me how to go about optioning a book? I’m interested in producing a documentary on a book,and am wondering what steps I need to take to get the rights.

Thanks – Anne Marie

Warren Adler answered:

You first need to find out who the agent is for the author, and then contact him to see if the rights are available.

You can usually find the agent by calling the publisher of the book.

Warren

Rod L. Griffin of Clearwater,
Fl.
asked:

Dear Mr. Adler, I have recently crossed over into the fiction field and am
wanting to send my book out for the possibility of having it produced into a
motion picture. Who would I send the book to? Directly to the studio heads,
producers, directors, actors? Please advise, RG

Warren Adler answered:

I wish I could be more encouraging, but without a Hollywood agent you are
really handicapped. The movie business, believe it or not, doesn’t have many
players who can green light a movie and finding a way to the top is tough
sledding without an agent. I’m sorry to be so negative. Miracles do happen and
don’t let me discourage you from moving ahead and finding a way. Warren Adler

Belinda Anderson of Las
Vegas, NV
asked:

I am new to the world of trying to sell a manuscript. I have written a 502
page (semi) autobiographical novel about city life. It’s not your typical
tale, it’s about a young lady that loses someone who means the world to her as
a teenager, and goes on to find “love” with high level drug dealers,
professional atheletes, and winds up in an abusive relationship where she has
all the trappings of living with a major player in the street drug game, but
no way out except death. Please advise me as to how to get this thing off the
ground. Thanks! Belinda

Warren Adler answered:

It is almost impossible to sell an unpublished manuscript to Hollywood
without a plugged in Hollywood agent. It doesn’t matter what the story is
about. Miracles, of course, do happen, but rarely. I would try to get the
manuscript published which means finding an agent that would take you on.
Sorry to be so negative. Nevetheless, I would continue to plough ahead. Warren

Phillip K. Mitchell of Fremont,
Ohio
asked:

I’ve recently released a sci-fi suspense novel for a large publisher. I
believe this material could become a movie as it is almost prophetic of the
current situation. Can you help me with this? Would you consider taking a look
at it?

Warren Adler answered:

While I would like to help you, I know nothing about science fiction and,
I’m afraid, cannot be very helpful in connection with movies. Writers, in
movie terms, are the lowest people in the food chain. What you need is a
Hollywood agent. Thanks for your interest. Warren Adler

Christina Davis of Brentwood,
CA
asked:

My husband, a first time novelist, has an offer on the table from his
literary agent. $20,000-$50,000 signing bonus and 10% of all royalties for a
450 page hardback fiction book. Is this competitive? Should he sign the
contract with this agent or wait to see what two(2)other agents in NY can
offer?

Warren Adler answered:

I would be very suspicious of this offer since it is not the agent that
ever makes the offer but the publisher (through your agent). Have you checked
who the publisher is, who made the offer and what rights are involved. The
details are much too sketchy for me to answer this question. Warren Adler

Christina Davis- daughter to WarrenDavis(sonny)
of Brentwood, Ca formerly Potomac,
MD
asked:

Warren: My husband is on the verge of having his first novel published.
Castlerock approached him a couple of months ago, they were interested in the
rights to his novel… wanted to make a movie & do the screen play.
However my husband declined, because the book is not published yet. Was that
the correct move? Or will they rescind their offer now? What do you think?
Should he hire someone separate from his literary agent to handle movie right
negotiations? Any advise would be appreciated. And of course once the novel is
published, I’ll send you a signed copy…..my father Sonny Davis, says hello,
he’s living in sunny FL, retired, fishing… ridding a Harley!!

Warren Adler answered:

Selling a manuscript to the movie people before publication is not unheard
of. I’ve done it twice. There is nothing wrong with doing that providing the
offer is genuine. It sounds to me that you really didn’t get a hard offer,
meaning numbers, terms etc. If your husband has a literary agent, the agent
should be negotiating for him. Under no circumstances ever negotiate with
movie people without a rep, either an agent or a lawyer. Be cautious. The
movie guys are notorious for promising the moon, getting material cheap or
paying nothing. If it’s not in writing, forget it. And bear in mind that only
a tiny percentage of novels optioned ever reach the big screen. Warren Adler

Marianne DeMarco of New
York, NY
asked:

I’m on the other end of the equation. I’m a filmmaker interested in
adapting two particular books. I know the steps that I’m required to take, but
as an author is there anything in particular you look for in a query letter
that piques your interest in a project? In other words, any tips on getting
the author/agent to say “yes?” (Other than money, of course)
Sincerely, Marianne DeMarco

Warren Adler answered:

This is like a shoe on the other foot question. As I understand it you are
a filmmaker wanting to adapt two books. Have you optioned these books? Or
bought them outright? Are you expecting the authors to have any input? Authors
are either interested in money or input (scripting, casting, participation.
Money is the first consideration depending on the author’s experience in the
movie business. If you are a filmmaker with bucks or a studio deal where the
studio will put up the money, you have some leverage with the author. If you
are an independent producer with meager access to money and since you will be
using the author’s material to sell your project, you might make the author a
partner with a backend deal or sell the author on your sensitivity to his
material, perhaps catering to primarily to his hopes and fantasies. It is a
complex question forcing a complex answer. I hope I have the question right.
If not, the answer might have to be revised. Good luck. Warren Adler

Robert Armstrong of Morristown,
New Jersey
asked:

How much creative control do you have over the film? Is that something you
can negotiate? I imagine that there is virtually no creative control unless
you are a well known writer. Do you ever write a screenplay based upon one of
your novels and then submit it?

Warren Adler answered:

It is almost impossible to get so-called creative control over the
adaptation of your book to a movie. Everything is negotiable and depends
always on how much clout or luck or negotiating skills you can bring to the
table. Some writers have been enormously lucky. John Irving got to write the
script, pick the director and have a lot to say in the movie made from his
book. Clive Cussler just entered a deal where he got total creative control,
but he is backed by big money which always talks loud in Hollywood. Because
motion pictures are a collaborative medium so-called creative control is
merely an accommodation with directors, actors, cinematographers, editors, set
designers and craft people. It is impossible to be dictatorial or autocratic
in today’s movie making. Generally speaking the writer of the novel is not
the prime mover in getting a green light on a movie. Other elements count a
lot more, e.g. an actor or director. It is indeed rare that the vision of the
novelist is ever fully realized in an adaptation of his work. I was lucky with
The War of the Roses, which essentially caught the spirit of the book. On the
other hand Random Hearts missed the mark as far as my vision of the book was
concerned. If you are not a brand name novelist with a popular provenance you
stand little chance of any “control.” Then again, the compensation
for the sale of your book might be astronomical enough for you to look the
other way and let the moviemakers do their thing and hope for the best. Still,
getting a movie made from a novel is a thousand to one shot at best and, if
the title is retained, it can be a very valuable asset to the author,
especially if the movie is a hit.

Carl Homersham of Tauranga-New
Zealand
asked:

I’m working on novel now which is destined for the movies. This is my
ultimate dream. But I’m wanting to know who can I ask\discuss about with the
likeliness of my story getting used for a major motion picture. It might seem
absurd, or as if I am getting my hopes to high, but I have a Director who I
personally think is the only person alive that could do this film in the right
style. Are there any ‘safe’ links that I could get the draft of my story
through to such or person, or as such; a mediator. Of course naturally I
believe in this novel of mine. Simply because it is mine. And, also I don’t
think it would be wise of me to put any information of my novel over the net,
as my ideas could be taken. Is there any place that you know of that I could
send this draft too, so that it could be analyzed by a professional and if I
have a chance at all or not in succeeding in my dream. Carl Homersham

Warren Adler answered:

Carl: I wish I could help. The best bet might be to get a list of Hollywood
agents and send your manuscript to them. They may or may not steal the idea,
depending on how original it may be. They’ve seen it all. Good luck. Warren
Adler

John P of New
York
asked:

I have written four novels and haven’t a clue about selling them to the
movies. How have you had so much luck with two major movies made?

Warren Adler answered:

In order to sell a book to the movies, you have to have an agent that is
plugged into the Hollywood scene. It is a matter of connections. Hollywood is
clubby, agents socialize with producers, play golf, tennis and cards together.
This is not to say that many books make it by themselves into the mix.
Hollywood employs scouts reading the latest books by publishers and often some
of these make it to the option level. Even when books are sold or optioned
they never make it to become an actual film. I’d say one out of a thousand of
optioned or bought books become a released film by a major studio.
Occasionally a novel breaks into the Independent market but rarely does an
independent film get a profitable ride that does a novelist any good.
Discouraged? Don’t be. Just keep at it. Lightening does strike. It has struck
for me on occasion.

No one helped, except my agent, who reacted rather than being proactive.
For some reason, “The War of the Roses” hit a chord with producers,
most of whom were divorced. Everyone in Hollywood will tell you they’re
looking for material. Watch out. Don’t send your book out indiscriminately.
They’ll be glad to take it but few will read it. They have a system called
“coverage” where college kids read the books and check off their
opinions. It’s absurd. There are hundreds of producers fishing for material,
but if they can’t get a studio to put up money to buy it, the chances are they
won’t either. If they do, it won’t be for much, then they’ll take it and haul
it around to stars and directors. If there are no takers, the project is
dropped. It’s bizarre. In the end, it’s the luck of the draw.

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