By Robert Carpenter for New Shelves on January 6, 2022
Every author’s dream is to have their book turned into a major Hollywood show or movie. Yet, few authors have a roadmap for how to do this. In this post, I will attempt to provide that road map as simply as possible so that you, the author, have the right tools to get started.
A Few Caveats First
But before I do, I want to mention a few caveats about the process of getting your book on screen in Tinseltown:
- You do not need to be a mega bestselling author to have your work bought and made. Yes, it helps to be but it is not a deal breaker if your sales are only modest.
- You do not need to live in Los Angeles or even currently know anyone in the entertainment industry. Again, it helps but most authors whose projects are on the air do not live anywhere near Hollywood and did not start off with a friend or a cousin who “got them in.”
- There are just as many opportunities to successfully pitch your book outside of Hollywood as there are inside of it. For example, there are very successful film communities in a city, state, or country near you that collectively have billions of dollars to spend on projects so taking advantage of these locales should be something that you definitely look into.
Why Hollywood Wants Your Book
Having said that, we can now move forward with the meat and potatoes of this post. The simple thing to understand upfront is that Hollywood wants your book. Repeat: Hollywood wants your book. And badly.
Managers, producers, studios, and networks want your work for several reasons. The first is simple: money. For example, more than 70% of the world’s top grossing films are based on books which typically bring a loyal audience with them.
The second reason is because it is easier to build a movie or television franchise around a world that you, as the author, have already developed. And the numbers bear this out: more than 50% of all films and television series are based on books, for example, because authors have done the heavy creative lifting to build worlds, characters, plots, and scenes that can be modified and transferred to a screenplay and eventually a finished show or movie.
The third reason is industry norms and culture. In an era of remakes and sequels, executives are increasingly reliant on pre-existing IP (intellectual property) like books to justify why they might back one project over another. So, if there are two projects a studio is interested in and one is based on a book and the other is not, the one based on a book has a stronger likelihood of success for the reasons mentioned above. But it also has a stronger likelihood of success because it seems like the less risky choice and Hollywood is all about risk management.
Independently Published Authors Have Never Been In Higher Demand
As a consequence of the entertainment industry’s thirst for IP and risk management, it is now starting to look outside of the traditionally published authors to find books and talent. For example, movies like Legally Blonde, The Martian, Still Alice, The Celestine Prophecy, and Eragon are all major motion pictures that started out as self-published works.
But while it might be tempting to think these are “miracles” or the exceptions to the rules, please consider this: the major studios are increasingly (and quietly) employing analytics firms to analyze independent authors’ books unbeknownst to most authors. So too are major mainstream producers and independent producers. In other words, Hollywood has been secretly searching for you and you may not have ever realized it.
Part of the reason for this search is because of the explosion of new movies and television shows that are being brought to the screen. For example, in the United States over 500 television series and 1,000 movies are made annually. In Europe, over 1,000 movies and 1,000 television shows are made each year. An equivalent or near equivalent number of movies and shows are also being made in China, South Korea, Latin America, and increasingly in Africa too.
There is no reason that your book or series should not be a part of this explosion of opportunity.
What Content Hollywood Is Looking For Right Now
Again, Hollywood is looking for your work right now. And in particular, they are looking for projects with well defined worlds and characters; plots with unique twists and turns; and original content that makes them feel some type of emotion above all else.
At the same time, Hollywood is also looking for particular kinds of projects at the moment. Stories with diverse characters, for example, are in high demand. So too are unbelievable true-life-stories, Christmas stories, horror stories, animation stories, and medical, police, and detective dramas.
Stories that are having a more difficult time in the industry include “period pieces” (given their expense to produce); Marvel or DC-like superhero stories or high-concept worlds (if there is not a large audience already connected to the story); stories about grief, loss, and sickness; or more literary type stories.
But the important thing to remember is that, despite what is trending at the moment, if you write a great story with great characters Hollywood will be interested. Even if your story doesn’t fit a nifty trend or is not currently a bestseller. So be reassured that you may still get a shot as long as you deliver a great story on your end.
What The Process For Turning Your Book Into A Movie Looks Like
Having said that, there is a process for turning your book into a movie or television series that will give your book the shot that it deserves. And this process is called “development.”
In the development process, this is where your hopes and dreams of seeing your story on the screen live or die. And this is the process that is least understood by authors, so I will try to explain it as simply and concisely as possible.
The very first thing you as an author should recognize is that there is a “formula” Hollywood follows for adapting your work. And without going into great detail, I will list an oversimplified version here:
- You, as the author, will be approached by an insider in the industry who might be interested in optioning your work (i.e., paying you a nominal or greater fee for the exclusive rights to develop, shop, and sell your work for a set period of time). (Or you, as the author, might approach an insider to option your work.)
- Once your work is optioned, the insider will pitch it to production companies, studios, networks, and streamers to see who might be interested in buying. This is a complex process that usually involves many people and can take months or even years.
- Once a buyer is interested, the insider will work with a screenwriter to create the screenplay or pilot script. If the script is strong enough, it will get ordered by the buyer to be turned into a show or movie.
While this process is easy to understand in theory, you might be asking yourself 1> how do I get approached by an insider if I don’t know any insiders, or 2) how do I approach an insider?
Of course, for traditionally published authors there are teams at publishing houses that will send your book to insiders who then might approach them/you. But if you’re not a traditionally published author – or even if you are but your publishing house isn’t doing that for you – please do not despair. You can also approach insiders yourself – but you have to do it the “right way.”
The “right way” includes 1) developing a treatment and/or a pitch deck of your book for them to see, and 2) reaching out to the many (busy) insiders who are constantly in search of the next great story to pitch them your treatment/pitch deck.
Developing a Treatment, Pitch Deck, and Reaching Out To Insiders
To develop a treatment or pitch deck, it is important to first understand what they are. In a nutshell, a treatment is a compelling written pitch of your story; its hook; main characters; point of view; and most dramatic pieces and turning points. A pitch deck is a treatment’s visual cousin: it is the written pitch in a “look book” of sorts.
(By the way, the reason you develop a treatment and/or pitch deck for your book is because insiders are busy and they will need short and standardized documents they are familiar with to see if your story is right for them. In other words, because they are so busy they will not have time to read your book, sales page, website, or even script if you have tried to write the screenplay yourself.)
Once you develop these items, you will then be ready to reach out to insiders – probably a producer (or multiple producers) whose contact information you can find on IMDB Pro and other websites to reach out to. And once you find their information, you will be able to approach them to see if they are interested.
And voila: it’s that simple.
Your Next Steps To Turn Your Dreams Into Reality
But just because something is simple does not mean that it is easy.
That is why I have created a couple of products in partnership with New Shelves Books that will accelerate this process for you and make it as easy as possible.
The first product is an ebook called How To Pitch To Hollywood that goes into this process in more depth. It gives examples of treatments and pitch decks; query letters for Hollywood insiders; and the websites you can use to access producer contact information.
The second product is an e-course that gives you all of the information in the ebook but that also walks you through step-by-step with editable templates for treatments, pitch decks, and query letters you can use right now.
And the third product is an add-on service you can use after you go through the e-course if you would not only like my team to develop your treatment, pitch decks, and query letters for you, but also set up a pitch day to pitch your story to Oscar and Emmy winners along with other insiders.
Call To Action
Right now, authors just like you are seeing their work pitched – and made – into real television shows and feature films. But the question is, why isn’t your work also being pitched and made?
Your book, your story, your characters, and your world deserve the opportunity to be on the small or big screen, and there is no good reason why you shouldn’t at least give them a shot to be. After all, you’ve already done the hardest part – you have written a book – so now is the time to take the next step in your author journey if you want to try to make your dreams come true.
If you want to give yourself a shot, watch this FREE TRAINING with Keri-Rae Barnum and Dr. Rob to learn more.