5 Steps to Your Novel Becoming a Blockbuster Movie
Every author dreams of seeing their written works on the big screen. Most authors don't even mind the small screen or Netflix original streaming production. What we all really want is to see the characters and settings we created be brought to life. Successful book to movie adaptations such as Fifty Shades of Grey Series, Harry Potter Series, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Chronicles of Narnia, and much more have catapulted author's careers and made Hollywood executives very rich. Of the millions of books published, how does an author get their novel noticed and turned into a movie? There are five steps to making the dream a reality.
1. Be Discovered (by a Producer)
Getting your book discovered by a producer will look different depending on if you are traditionally published author with one of the Big 5 publishing houses and their imprints, or a small press/self-published author.
Traditionally published authors will have a literary agent and work with a team of people within the publishing house. The publisher will already have contacts within Hollywood and will broker the deals (the publisher does own the rights to your book after all). If your book does well enough, a Hollywood agent will be in contact with your publishing company.
Self-published authors have a lot more work to do when it comes to finding a producer willing to take a shot at them. Most self-published authors are discovered by producers when their sales on Amazon or other platforms place them on the Amazon best sellers list in the Kindle Paid Store. These books sell thousands of copies and have hundreds of great reviews in most cases. A producer may check out the author's social media to see how much of a following they have already established to determine their marketability. Self-published authors are usually pleasantly surprised when they receive an email from a producer interested in their novel.
2. Treatment Creation
A treatment is also called a proposal. In the case of preparing a book for optioning however, the process is a bit different than when you are pitching a book to be published. When you are traditionally published, your publisher, editor and agent will help you with your treatment package for the book to movie optioning.
A treatment includes a cover letter that is much like a query letter. You will give a summary of your book that really sells the plot as well as a brief biography about the author and any informative that proves the author's and book's relevance such as, "A debut novel with more than 1,000 five-star reviews in the first month of release", "Oprah's Top Read for Summer 2018", "Ranked #5 overall in Amazon Kindle Paid Store", etc.
A treatment will also include an in-depth outline of the book, broken down by chapters. This includes the characters, conflict, and resolution within each chapter as well as how the over-arcing plot is progressed. Each chapter should be summarized in approximately 100 words. Treatments can also include the character descriptions and developmental summaries.
The last part of the treatment is the most important. This includes how the producer plans to option the rights to the books to studios. In the marketing portion of the treatment, the producer will explain why they believe the movie will be successful, with evidence to back up their claims such as what is currently trending, movies in the same genre that have been wildly successful, any directors or screenwriters they may already have interested in the film etc.
When the book is optioned, the producer will purchase optioning rights from the author. This means that you are giving the producer the exclusive rights to represent your novel and find the people to make that happen. Usually, authors will be paid a four-figure amount (although that can vary wildly). This amount is the author's no matter whether the book is turned into a movie or not. The optioning rights are typically exclusive for 1-2 years, but this also depends on the author's contract with the producer who is optioning the novel.
The treatment created in step 2 is used when the producers are pitching their ideas to movie studios. A producer needs a movie studio to commit to the film because this is where the money comes from to hire screenwriters, directors, actors, and crew. Once a studio is interested, an advance is usually given to the producer to begin the hiring process.
4. Screenwriting Process
One of the first people that must be hired is a screenwriter. Not all screenwriters are great at adapting books to screen so hiring the right person is crucial to successful production. The movie studio will want to see the finalized screen play before dumping any more money into the project and greenlighting production.
Screenwriters will often work with the author of the novel in adapting the book. Once production on the book is greenlighted, the movie studio will make an offer to the author to purchase the production rights to the novel. Once this happens the movie studio can alter the plot of the story to create a more marketable or general audience-pleasing movie. Screenwriters often will work with the author to ensure they remain true to the characters and themes throughout the process.
Production of the movie is generally out of the author's hands. While the production companies may give some thought to the opinions of the author on aspects like casting, in the end, the final decisions rest with the executive producers and director.