Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The F-Word

Fellow writers,

One day, you'll be minding your own business and your agent will drop the F-bomb.

Shock, amazement and utter bewilderment will course through your veins as you try to figure out what could have possibly brought discussions to this crossroads.

Yes, I'm talking about Film rights. The elusive, tempting creature that lurks on the edges of the publishing industry luring wannabe scribes with its call of cash and instant stardom...well, at least stardom for your characters.

Since writers have no control over where film rights discussions go, let's acknowledge that it's all the more appetizing because we know so little of it.

The F-word isn't complicated...for the writer. Someone wants to option your book for a movie? Great. More money, more exposure.

Fact is, the movie may never get made.

If it does, you'll likely lose most if not all creative control over the characters you conceived. And you probably won't score a cameo in the film.

Who do you think you are, Stephen King?

If the movie sucks, most readers know that a bad movie doesn't mean the book was bad.

So, ya' know, film rights is not exactly selling your soul to the devil. All-in-all not a bad deal for us potential mid-listers.

Matter of fact, selling the film rights may be the only thing a writer doesn't lose sleep over.

No writer I know went into this with dreams of making millions. We're nothing if not realistic. We quickly learn we'll have to hustle for our money.

Isn't that all querying an agent or publisher is anyway? A hustle to get your grind on?

So, film rights are the gravy. The unexpected perk at the end of a long year of late nights, scribbled notes while driving, midnight visits from your characters while you're slumbering and squirrling yourself away from the real world into your own.

What's scary about film rights is the stratosphere it thrusts you into. Suddenly, the activity you love doing, has become a new type of commodity - multi-media, baby.

The mere utterance of the F-word brings about the realization that, by god, you may make a living out of this writing thing, after all.

But when your writing becomes a commodity it becomes that much harder to ignore the fact that it's a business.

And this is something I knew from the word go.

The first thing I did when I began freelancing three years ago was to incorporate my business, CHY Communications. From opening a business account to creating quarterly business statements to keep up with the income (what little there was) and the expenses (stamps, copies and ink really add up), I formalized my talent.

Some days I was probably the only one who valued that my writing was indeed worth the trouble of calling it a business.

But it had to be done.

Think like it's a business and you won't be giving it away!

Still, keeping the creative side and business side separate are difficult when negotiations for the rights to things that were once exclusively mine, reaches publishers and film agents.

On one hand, I'm near ecstasy that a publisher sees my characters like I do. Sees the potential of my talent.

On the other, I'm now painfully aware that if I'm going to make a living from this, being grateful that a publisher wants to purchase my work is hardly playing hard ball.

Not a bad dilemma to have, but one worth opening for debate.

How hard do you push the business end when there are still bridges to be built with your new editor?

How far into the future, dare you look, when kinks remain, like that unsold mss that is suddenly worth a wee bit more now that a credible source or two recognizes your ability to spin a good story?

I know that agents are for playing hardball.

And I'll gladly hide behind mine as she works to ensure I'm not doomed to remain with one foot in novelist land, the other firmly stuck in my "real" job, where I'll probably quickly become known as that PR chick with XYZ Company that writes books.

But I'll admit, the mere thought of pushing the envelope to guarantee that writing can one day pay my bills makes me feel greedy and a little money hungry.

Nothing I'm losing sleep over, but certainly a seed that's rooting in the back of my mind.

So I sit, anxiously, somewhere between embracing the grind that will soon come with having to market my own books, and remembering why I write, in the first place.

And it sure ain't for the film's for the love of it.


Blogger Varian Johnson said...

Okay, you totally had me hooked with your "F-word" definitely know how to grab your reader's attention. Also, thanks for all the info about the SCBWI New York Conference. I've been to three LA conferences, but I've never had the guts to venture to the New York one.

11:48 PM

Blogger Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

LOL...yes, we all love to read a little something naughty.

SCBWI Mid-Winter was really nice, well worth it. Granted, I'm only coming from Maryland - but they had people from all over the world there.

I met a fellow blue boarder who had flown in from Japan ::hi Linda::

You should try and make it one year.

I won't be hitting the LA con this year...but it's in the back of my mind as one to attend in the future.

12:02 AM

Blogger Disco Mermaids said...

Fine, I'll say it. I'm one of those writers with dreams of making millions. Realistic? Not really. But a dream's nothin' but a dream.

Regarding films being made from children's books, they're doing a lot more of those thanks to Walden Media. Check out their website, it's very exciting!

- Jay

10:44 AM

Blogger Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

Don't get me wrong, I am all down with millions. Ya know I won't be turning my nose up if six and seven figures should find their way to my bank account.

But I was mainly referring to writers not getting into the game just for the money. It's one profession where the words "get rich quick" don't apply.

So, um, yeah I'm with you, Jay - I figure it will just mean selling loottssss of books (and film rights). Dammit, for some reason we'll still have to work for that $$$.

And of course, no bias here, but I think my book would make a very cool 'tween movie or disney show a la That's So Raven.

Gee, Jay, thanks a lot for the Walden tip...just when I was trying to stay grounded you got me thinking hollywood and wanting me to forward the link to my agent as a light "hint."


4:40 PM

Blogger Don Tate II said...

I just sent you an email. It was returned undelivered, but I did want to get back with you. I appreciate your picking up on my calendars (Peepz), and for visiting my spot. I hope your niece enjoys! I received a list from the publishers from everyone who bought one, and I wanted to send out a personal thank you to everyone, I was so excited.

9:49 AM


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