I am a small publisher that specializes in republishing long out of print books, and I am trying to find out the best way to somehow bring these books to the attention of those who might want to turn them into movies.
I am not in the “biz”, but I was recently “cold-called” by one major producer to obtain the rights to one of my titles. Unfortunately, I do not hold the rights, but have been doing my best to be very helpful (i.e. kissing ass), in hopes that there or more titles of interest. Long story short, he found the book because it is one of his favorites, but does not seem to have an interest in any others.
I have a whole slew of similar titles that I think would make great movies, and I made my “nickel pitch” to the producer: they have Tom Clancy like plots, without Tom Clancy like advances; “Thanks, but I’ll get back to you.”
My specialty is that these books are still copyrighted, but people have given up on reprinting them because the rights-holders or heirs are too hard to find. In my case, I am able to find them and secure the rights.
What would be the best way of getting these books in front of the right people to see if they would like to option them? Also, if there is a proscribed process, what are some standard terms that are used in the business?
St. Pete, FL
Assuming you really have film/television rights to these books, and not just publishing rights, I think you may have stumbled onto a potentially lucrative situation. But it’s going to take a lot of work and patience on your end.
What you have is a form of intellectual property — the right to exploit specific literary material. It’s not tangible, but in many ways it’s the same as a piece of physical property. Your Tom Clancy-like book is the equivalent of a few acres of pristine beach property.
The problem is, Tom Clancy is like Malibu. People want property in Malibu, because they know where that is. Their friends have houses there. It has a reputation.
Your book is like an oceanfront property in South America. It might be fantastic, but people don’t know what to make of it. It has no reputation. All it has going for it is its view. So how do you sell it?
By finding someone looking to buy a property like Malibu, but much less expensive.
Who are these potential buyers? In television, I would target the production companies behind shows like Burn Notice, The Wire and The Shield. For features, I would go after directors’ production companies, particularly directors who haven’t had a big movie in a couple of years. And don’t forget screenwriters. If there’s a writer whose work you especially admire — one who is not me — contact them through their agency. It’s fairly common for established screenwriters to set up books at the studios, functioning as their own producers during the adaptation. (That was how BIG FISH got started.)
You could do worse than talking with an entertainment law firm — preferably with a Beverly Hills address. They’re the people who would ultimately make the deal, and would have a good sense of both the process and the opportunities. Depending on how many titles you have, it might be possible to sell (or option) the rights as a block to a producer.
The first step is making it easy to show what you’ve got. You’ll want a written synopsis of each of the books, along with blurbs and quotes. You’ll need both a web and print version. Pay someone good to design it: presentation counts. I’d include downloadable .pdfs of the first chapter for each, assuming they really are good books. And get consider getting a mailing address that isn’t St. Pete, Florida. (Or at least, don’t include the Florida address on any of your materials.)
And when you’ve done all this, be sure to write back in. I have a feeling many of the potential buyers for your books are readers of this blog. (Or more specifically, their assistants read this blog.)