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Has anybody here optioned a book before?

Hi all!
Sorry if this has been asked before, I didn't see it.

I was wondering if anyone here had been through the process of optioning a book (through agents, with producers, or by themselves) with the aim to make a feature drama.

If so, I'd love to hear more about the do's and don'ts and if you have any tips. - Many thanks!

  • I've been through it from the other side, and in the end I said NO.

    I am a simple man. If they had offered me commercial money, "now go away, we'll send an invite to the premiere", I'd have said yes.

    If they had offered peanuts but serious involvement and points on the gross, I'd have said yes IF I thought they might be able to get the funding. But that's just me. Unless a writer WANTS to be involved, that offer has no value.

    They offered small money, and by the time they did, I'd also done enough back of the envelope to know that there was no way they could get the film funded. A smaller film, maybe, but not this one.

    All you can ever do is make a sensible offer. I'm assuming budgets are constrained, so I'd suggest cards on table best offer up front. Get a fast answer, and if it's a no, move on.

    3 weeks ago
  • Hi Marlom,

    Sounds like you had a pretty regrettable experience.
    But I guess not as bad as if you went with the offer by the looks of it.

    Thanks for your answer and tips anyhow!

    3 weeks ago
  • Hi Raphael,
    I've taken part in various book option deals, from different positions:
    - optioned a novel with a production company
    - optioned the same novel when that company went bust
    - optioned another novel with a different company
    - optioned a non-fiction book with another company
    - took out a shopping agreement on another non-fiction book myself
    - had one of my books optioned twice. The first was good money, the second time for £1 which I never received.

    Here's what I've learnt.
    1.There's a wide range of experiences. You can't generalise from a single case
    2. Some book writers are very unrealistic in their expectations of editorial control and payment for books that did not sell well.
    3. Some writers are too casual, giving up control for lengthy periods for no payment
    4. A new screenwriter trying to option a best selling book won't get a look in. Production companies offering big money will be ahead of you.
    5. So you are looking at lesser known books which have not sold well. The task then is to persuade companies and financiers to sink resources in, if the IP isn't a draw.
    6 Option terms are necessary but work against you. If you option a book for a year with automatic renewal for another year, you have two years to write the script, get compnaioes on board and finance in place. After that the rights revert to the author and you can do nothing with the script other than use it as a sample. This was the fate of most of the projects listed above.

    My Qs to you: waht do you plan to do once optioned? Write the script then take it to production companies? Or take to them a proposal to write the script? Do you have a submission strategy or network in place? Work on your answers to these Qs before you take out an option and part with the money. Be straight with the writer: "This is what I plan to do, this is what I can offer, what do you think?" As Marlom says, a fast no allows you to move on.

    Good luck

    2 weeks ago