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Selling Out?

Paul Whybrow

Supreme Litopian
#1
It doesn't take a writer long to realise that however much art or craft is involved in creating their story, the overwhelming truth is that what they've entered is a business. Their novel is as much a commercial product as a tin of baked beans, to be promoted by advertising (that is largely ignored), and sold on a shelf, be it in a bookshop or an online retailer. If your book doesn't sell in a bookshop, then it has less shelf life than a can of beans, and will be remaindered after about six weeks.

I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by Ursula K. Le Guin, about the sanctity of books, as posted by Katie-Ellen Hazeldene, but we still need to consider how to actually sell our books, and if that means them being adapted into other forms, then that's a sign of the way of the world. We can still create the best reading experience possible, for those wise enough to want the source material.

As it's become essential for writers to promote themselves and their books, if they're to make money from their literary creations, it surely makes sense to think commercially. Is your book just a book, or could it be adapted into a television series, a big screen movie, a radio play, a stage play, an audiobook, a graphic novel and—perish the thought—what merchandising opportunities does it offer? Could your superhero leap from the pages and the silver screen, as a plastic toy? The universe that you've painstakingly created on the page could become a Hollywood film heavy with CGI, before being built as a theme park.

Why not think big? As Michelangelo said:

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

Never forget, that the world's first billionaire writer J.K. Rowling earned much of her wealth from movies, licensing rights and merchandising toys, one of which gave more pleasure to their owners than was intended! :p

New Harry Potter Broomstick A Personal Vibrator For Kids?

In writing my Cornish Detective novels, I've paid attention to how the stories would be filmed, setting the action in real locations in the county, that are already popular tourist attractions. Cornwall is notable for its literary fame, what with Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham's Poldark historical series. There was a long-running television series set here, about a detective called Wycliffe, based on W. J. Burley's novels. That series is still aired, but it's twenty years out of date, which leaves my protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle ready for stardom. :cool:

I wouldn't claim to be that commercially aware, but this is a visual age, so it would be foolish to ignore the possibilities of translating my words into moving images. Where's the joy, or sense, in writing an unfilmable novel? They said that The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable, and look what happened there. Other supposedly unfilmable novels include David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are and Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. Why not make things easier?

How about your stories?

Could they be turned into Hollywood films?

Or a children's television drama or cartoon?

Are your characters merchandisable—as fierce action figures or cuddly toys?

 

Robinne Weiss

Supreme Litopian
#2
My husband and I joke about me popping up to Wellington and handing P.J. (Peter Jackson) my dragon slayer books, and what we'll do when I make millions from the movie rights. They'd be perfect for a LOTR type flick, and they're already set in New Zealand--site scouting already sorted!

But on a serious side, yes, I do consider alternate revenue streams--educational school programmes that link with my books, non-fiction companions to the novels, and other stuff. I've already got a local illustrator chomping at the bit to illustrate Dragons of New Zealand (the pseudo-non-fiction companion to the novels, which I don't intend to write until after the last book is out).

But there's a danger there. Patrick Rothfuss seems to have gotten sidetracked developing the game of Tac, featured in his novels, and hasn't finished the series in which the game appears. As a fan, I find that supremely irritating--I don't want the game, I just want to know how the story ends!
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#3
This idea, that writers should think in broader terms across more markets, is very much the thinking of late. I have even seen a few bold agencies making a point of stating that they are interested in submissions that can be more than just the book. And that is great.
But here's me thing: how do we actually plan for this?
Time was that the most outrageous, whacky book ideas - or even those crafted on too grand a scale - would be labelled unfilm-able, and forever languish solely in their written form. As filmmaking has advanced - like it or not, largely through our ability to computer generate even the most crazy of visuals - there is now nothing that fits into that bracket. So many films in the last 20 years have been ideas that could not have been realised ten years earlier, but are now up there on our screens.
My point being that if anything is now film-able, is this something the author has to worry about? I'm sure that all of us have fantasised about our work becoming a great deal more than "just a book", but what do we do about it, and is it something we have to be aware of as we write?
I know that I largely think visually when I write. I see the scenes played out, as though they are already a film, and I've no doubt many of you do the same.
Is there something more proactive we can do to achieve our dreams of owning our own, fantastic franchise? Most of us seem to be having enough difficulty getting people to read our work, let alone see the bigger picture and buy into the universes we've crafted inside our head.:D
 

Matnov

Venerated Member
#4
I suspect its horses for courses essentially. If the thought of having your work transferred onto the big screen is what motivates you to sit down and bash out the words that you need to, then best of British to you.

But for me, you are either writing novels or else you are writing screen plays/scripts. If somebody wants to adapt your work for the big/small screen, then I see nothing wrong in that but I suspect that if I set out to try and merge the two, then it would go horribly wrong and probably sap my enthusiasm. It is a whole different skill set and I am sure that whilst I would hate anybody else to take my work and adapt it, I also know that it would be for the best.

Now I certainly do not labour under any illusions about my technical abilities, or lack of them, when it comes to writing novels but when I sit down to write, then I do so solely based on the idea that I want to offer a future reader/customer a novel rather than a blue print for a potential TV show. At least for me, and bloody hell this is going to come across as pretentious beyond belief given my keen amateur status at this writing malarkey, but I want novels to convey ideas and emotions that a TV show or film simply lack the ablity to do so. To offer an understanding of a character and what motivates them in a variety of situations that all the clever CGI in the world simply cannot get underneath the skin of.

Let me state for the record that I love TV. My idea of chilling out is sitting down with a bowl of something sweet, putting my feet up and binge watching whatever, along with a retirement goal of having the time and ability to have one of those season passes for a variety of cinemas but I struggle with the notion of almost writing by numbers. For me the goal is to produce a novel that I get a buzz from creating and hope that others enjoy it. Beyond that, its a different realm.
 

Howard

Venerated Member
#5
@Matnov I think you are correct. Though I confessed above that I picture my writing in a visual way a lot of the time, thinking of them as films (Looking at dramatic moments as scenes and how they chain together to make a 'movie') has, if I am honest, led me astray before now. You can end up with very shallow characters and while you may have grand 'set pieces', I have found myself a little out of steam between them.
So yes, if you are writing a book, then write a book, as you say.
 

Robinne Weiss

Supreme Litopian
#6
I seem to recall Agent Pete suggesting once that you should focus on writing a great book. There are professional screenwriters out there with the skills to turn a book into a screenplay, but unless you capture someone's attention with the story, it won't matter if you've put in cinematic stuff, or written it with a movie in mind. The author's job is to write a story so compelling someone wants to see it on screen.
 

Quillwitch

Idolized Member
#7
It doesn't take a writer long to realise that however much art or craft is involved in creating their story, the overwhelming truth is that what they've entered is a business. Their novel is as much a commercial product as a tin of baked beans, to be promoted by advertising (that is largely ignored), and sold on a shelf, be it in a bookshop or an online retailer. If your book doesn't sell in a bookshop, then it has less shelf life than a can of beans, and will be remaindered after about six weeks.

I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by Ursula K. Le Guin, about the sanctity of books,as postedby Katie-Ellen Hazeldene, but we still need to consider how to actually sell our books, and if that means them being adapted into other forms, then that's a sign of the way of the world. We can still create the best reading experience possible, for those wise enough to want the source material.

As it's become essential for writers to promote themselves and their books, if they're to make money from their literary creations, it surely makes sense to think commercially. Is your book just a book, or could it be adapted into a television series, a big screen movie, a radio play, a stage play, an audiobook, a graphic novel and—perish the thought—what merchandising opportunities does it offer? Could your superhero leap from the pages and the silver screen, as a plastic toy? The universe that you've painstakingly created on the page could become a Hollywood film heavy with CGI, before being built as a theme park.

Why not think big? As Michelangelo said:

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

Never forget, that the world'sfirst billionaire writerJ.K. Rowling earned much of her wealth from movies, licensing rights and merchandising toys, one of which gave more pleasure to their owners than was intended! :p

New Harry Potter Broomstick A Personal Vibrator For Kids?

In writing my Cornish Detective novels, I've paid attention to how the stories would be filmed, setting the action in real locations in the county, that are already popular tourist attractions. Cornwall is notable for its literary fame, what with Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham's Poldark historical series. There was a long-running television series set here, about a detective called Wycliffe, based on W. J. Burley's novels. That series is still aired, but it's twenty years out of date, which leaves my protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle ready for stardom. :cool:

I wouldn't claim to be that commercially aware, but this is a visual age, so it would be foolish to ignore the possibilities of translating my words into moving images. Where's the joy, or sense, in writing an unfilmable novel? They said that The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable, and look what happened there. Other supposedly unfilmable novels include David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are and Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. Why not make things easier?

How about your stories?

Could they be turned into Hollywood films?

Or a children's television drama or cartoon?

Are your characters merchandisable—as fierce action figures or cuddly toys?

Totally agree with you. You are right on all counts. But, I would also like to take this moment to express my heartfelt sorrow for the now defunct "emojis". Look like we can now only "like" posts. So, I was going to give you a heart, or maybe even a salute, but alas, poor yorick...
 

Quillwitch

Idolized Member
#8
This idea, that writers should think in broader terms across more markets, is very much the thinking of late. I have even seen a few bold agencies making a point of stating that they are interested in submissions that can be more than just the book. And that is great.
But here's me thing: how do we actually plan for this?
Time was that the most outrageous, whacky book ideas - or even those crafted on too grand a scale - would be labelled unfilm-able, and forever languish solely in their written form. As filmmaking has advanced - like it or not, largely through our ability to computer generate even the most crazy of visuals - there is now nothing that fits into that bracket. So many films in the last 20 years have been ideas that could not have been realised ten years earlier, but are now up there on our screens.
My point being that if anything is now film-able, is this something the author has to worry about? I'm sure that all of us have fantasised about our work becoming a great deal more than "just a book", but what do we do about it, and is it something we have to be aware of as we write?
I know that I largely think visually when I write. I see the scenes played out, as though they are already a film, and I've no doubt many of you do the same.
Is there something more proactive we can do to achieve our dreams of owning our own, fantastic franchise? Most of us seem to be having enough difficulty getting people to read our work, let alone see the bigger picture and buy into the universes we've crafted inside our head.:D
You are on the right track in visualizing, now you have to put that on paper in a way in which it reads like the eye of a camera. That´s one part, second, make the dialogue sound movie-like. Most importantly, a good story worth making a movie out of.
Read a lot, watch a lot of movies. Read a lot of screenplays. That will give you some sort of idea. If all of that is in place, make sure you have a knowledgeable agent that knows their way around the film and tv industry. Even so, it´s a long shot.
 
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Carol Rose

Guardian
Staff member
Ambassador
#9
I think you should write a story the way you want to write it, but I'm concerned that focusing on "how will this look on film," or "would this character make a good action figure" could lend itself to changing the plot or the characters for the wrong reasons.

The story still needs to stand on its own because that is what you are pitching. Don't let the possible commercialization of the story compromise it.

So many wonderful books that were made into movies weren't written with the future movie in mind. They were simply stories the authors had to tell us. :)