Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: Hollywood – Film/TV

January Happenings

STATUS: Okay, two days without sunshine is one day too many here in Colorado. *grin*

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Nick Driver

I finally get to talk about the excitement unfolding here at NLA. What a way to kick off the year.

Huge Congrats, Marie, as the news hits Deadline Hollywood and Variety and of course, this blog! Since we don’t have cover art for the first book yet, you’ll just have to look at a picture of Marie Lu instead.

Notice the articles don’t mention the literary agent or film co-agent who actually brokered the deal. LOL. Hollywood. We are so unimportant.

How Enhanced Ebooks Will Cause Havoc

STATUS: It’s 8 p.m. and I’m still working…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? KISS by Prince and The Revolution

In this instance, I’m not relieved to have my assumption proven right. When the first mention of “enhanced” ebook emerged, it became immediately apparent (to me at least) that an enhanced ebook is a multimedia product. A subright agents always reserve for the author.

Agents reserve these rights because in order to do a book-to-film deal, you have to be able to grant multimedia rights to the film studio as part of the grant of rights for the option.

This was reinforced for me today as I reviewed film contract with a major studio. Sure enough, in the rights reserved to the author section, I found this clause:

Electronically Read Editions: The right to publish the text of published print editions of the Property via the Internet and in the form of CD-ROM, DVD, videocassette tape or similar electronically read devices individually purchased by the end-user. Such electronically read editions may not contain moving visual images (other than the text) or audio tracks of any kind.

Look at that last sentence. Here it’s clearly stated in the film contract that the ebook cannot have any animation or sound element.

Well, guess what publishers would like to have with an enhanced ebook? Yep. We’ve got a problem, Houston. If publishers dig in on this and this is the studio’s stance, well, granting a publisher a not-clearly-defined enhanced ebook right (which is multimedia) could derail a film deal.

Luckily for me on this contract, it’s not an issue as the deal in question has a publishing contract that predates any of this recent hoopla.

But it’s clear that this is going to be an issue in the future.

No Free Options

STATUS: I “ignored” email for two days so I could catch up on some royalty statement reviews and contract issues. If the email wasn’t imperative, I waited until the end of the day to start responding. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get behind in a big hurry.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PRIVATE DANCER by Tina Turner

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? I wish Hollywood would understand that there should be no such thing as a free option.

Now in talking to my film co-agents, I do know that Hollywood has also gotten hit hard by the downturn in the economy. That finding money is tougher now than it has been in years. I get that.

But I’m also sensing an interesting trend as of late. I am actually getting more inquiries about the film rights availability for a lot of my client’s projects than I have in years past.

I can’t be the only agent who has gotten a slew of interest lately only to discover when push comes to shove (as in do you have money to option said project), the interested parties say they were hoping for a free option—that they would like to “test the waters” or “shop it around” or “try to get it set up somewhere.”

And then on top of a free option they want an exclusive to boot!

Uh-huh. And I’d like to win the Powerball lotto or inherit the Hope diamond too.

Books Coming To The Big Screen

STATUS: Feeling re-energized after the long weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN LEAVEYOUR HAT ON by Joe Cocker

On Thursday night, as the holiday weekend was beginning, I met up with two girlfriends for dinner. Once ensconced at our table, one friend said she was dying to see the movie My Sister’s Keeper and were we game?

As much as I love movies, it’s rare for me to get my act together enough to actually see a film while it’s in theaters. I tend to rely on Netflix or the DVR if something is on cable. So when given an opportunity to see a book-to-film movie, I’m going to say yes (despite knowing this one was going to be a Kleenex fest).

Sheesh. What a way to kick off the holiday weekend.

(Disclaimer: I cry at movies. Doesn’t matter the movie. If it has a hint of sadness, I’ll cry. My husband has never let me live it down that I cried at the end of Terminator III. Hey, in my defense, Claire Danes as Kate just lost her pet and her entire family—I thought that was pretty sad.)

So My Sister’s Keeper was designed to be a real tear-jerker and I’m happy to say that I used plenty of Kleenex. As I had read the book several years ago, I was most interested to see how the film would handle the ending—as there was a lot of discussion around the ending of that book. (No spoiler here so I won’t comment further.)

But here’s what I found most interesting and hence the point of this entry, all the previews shown before the movie were all book-to-film projects. I wish I could remember all the trailers I saw but only Julie/and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously comes to mind (which looked pretty hilarious).

So very interesting. I don’t remember such a high percentage in previous years but that may be because I don’t get to the theaters often enough.

Maui Reunion

STATUS: It’s raining like crazy in NYC right now.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUEL TO BE KIND by Letters To Cleo

It might be completely odd to be writing about Hollywood while I’m out here in New York but tonight we did a little Maui Writers Conference reunion at D’Or. Hollywood producer Michael Palmieri was in town and so gathered a bunch of us who connected while out in Hawaii.

It was a small group that also included Jeff Kleinman, Folio; Marcia Markland, Thomas Dunne Books; Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord Literistic; and Neil Nyren, Putnam.

What did we talk about?

1. Depressing news from Hollywood that Studios were closing their Indie branches and laying people off. Yuck. Studios are only focused on family films (four quadrant target and yada, yada). Sigh. Also, studios are choosing to make known series (think Desperate Housewives) in local markets with local actors rather than footing the cost to export. This makes a huge difference in earned residuals here in the states.

2. Penguin group is celebrating a record number of bestsellers (38!) and thrilled about the success of HBO’s TRUE BLOOD and Charlaine Harris’s books all landing on the bestseller lists. It helps all the departments when there is big stuff like that going on.

3. Accounts are cutting back their orders across the board. Something like 10% down over last year. Borders significantly (even though they’ve promised to reorder in the near future but who knows if that will happen). Orders are down even for the big name sellers. (Yes, such depressing news makes it that much harder to sell a debut.)

4. Newspaper reviews are disappearing faster than you can say boo and that’s really going to hurt those wonderful literary projects that need the review-attention to really gain momentum. Yes, there are online blogs and review sites but ultimately, they haven’t proven to carry the same weight.

5. Sales of perennial nonfiction projects (history, narrative nonfiction with known journalists) are still selling well. (And as an aside, a lot of editors this week have mentioned that they are still looking for that good memoir—in the adult and children’s world—which was surprising.)

6. Flip flops are not good footwear in New York City (don’t ask, we got sidetracked!)

When A Movie Heads South

STATUS: Out of the office and it’s busy! All good stuff though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I WILL POSSESS YOUR HEART by Death Cab For Cutie

Or in other words, you know a movie has jumped the shark when your two nieces under the age of 15 start heckling the movie screen.

Yesterday I took my lovely nieces (one age 10, the other age 14) to see the movie CITY OF EMBER. Both of them had read and loved, loved, loved the book so they were pretty stoked to go see the movie adaptation.

And the movie certainly started very strong. Good world building. Good characters (my 14-year old niece assures me that Doon, played by the young actor Harry Treadaway, is quite hot). Good strong plot points.

We were all very happy with it.

Then about 35 minutes before the movie’s end, something happened and let me tell you, my two nieces noticed it right off. Suddenly the movie lost its plot and turned into a Disney-like theme park ride where the events that happened in the ending minutes didn’t really tie up the plot. In fact, the movie became kind of silly.

It was the after-school showing and there was no one else in the theater (so fun to have a private screening!) so my nieces started heckling the movie (a la Mystery Science theater style).

Call them cynical but I call them real. Even I could tell the movie had started to miss and my nieces had no compunction against saying so. It seems to me that this is simply an instance of adult writers (and movie makers) completely underestimating the audience and doing some sappy, simplified ending rather than something that would really conclude the story.

Because I see this so often in children’s submissions—where it’s obvious that the adult writers have also underestimated the audience—it seemed worth mentioning here.

However, CITY OF EMBER is a brilliant book and it’s not Jeanne DuPrau’s fault they mucked it so get thee a copy.

One Book, One Denver

STATUS: Another late night but I’m finally getting caught up after vacation.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DANCING IN THE DARK by Bruce Springsteen

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for One Book, One Denver hosted by Denver Mayor Hickenlooper. One of the fun aspects of being involved in Denver’s literary scene is that I get invited to interesting events.

So the launch party is the big reveal that happens before the press releases are officially out and about. I personally had no inkling as to what book they were going to choose for the city-wide book club.

And I have to say, I was a little surprised and here it is.

When I chatted with some of the committee members, they mentioned that they were really looking for a fun but literary book that all kinds of readers could get behind. Makes sense to me.

So what do you think about the choice?

For my part, it’s certainly one of my favorite movies. Nick & Nora and their very brainy sidekick/family dog, Asta, solve the crime and save the day.

Heck, I think the book is worth reading just to watch the movie again. And if you aren’t into classics, this just might be the film to win you over (with its 4 Oscars and all).


STATUS: It’s been a busy day so far and I still have one meeting scheduled for this afternoon and then dinner with another Hollywood co-agent tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BLUES BEFORE AND AFTER by The Smithereens

Got back to my hotel around midnight last night. I couldn’t quite make myself blog so late; sorry about that.

I flew into LA yesterday for Book Expo. I came early to meet with a variety of Hollywood co-agents. Some I’ve worked with for years and quite a few whom I am meeting for the very first time (even though I’ve worked with them on projects). Some are brand, brand new as I’ve heard good things from other agents and producers and I want to be on their radars and vice versa.

Meetings with Hollywood co-agents are not unlike meetings with editors in New York. The film agents talk about their current clients and what they are working on and I talk about my clients and what books I’ve recently sold. Most of my meetings have been located in the zipcode area of 90210—otherwise known as Beverly Hills.

Now I’m definitely getting the scoop on what is currently selling in the film world but I’m weighing whether it’s all that valuable to share with blog readers. Why? Because Hollywood changes its mind every 4 to 6 months. So whatever is considered “hot” right now will change when a new film releases and either “breaks out” or doesn’t. Even though Hollywood moves at a glacial pace in terms of production, it still bases its buying decisions on what currently has done well.

I know. Doesn’t make sense to me either. So, there isn’t much point in sharing the info really. Not to mention, it’s not what I base my decision on when taking a on a project for representation. I just take on what I really love etc.

But I know you readers would want to know anyway despite the fact it really can have no bearing on any work-in-progress as only a very small percentage of books published actually get optioned for film.

You gluttons for punishment! Okay, I’ll tell you. Every single film agent has asked me whether I have any projects that would fit the bill for the all-encompassing family entertainment segment (in other words, projects with enough appeal to hit the four quadrants outlined by the family—mom-friendly, enough action for dad, and something that will appeal to both teens and kids. If you have the next Shrek, they are all over it.

Right now no one is willing to risk a women-driven historical (that is until the next independent film maker has a wild success in that field which could happen at any time.)

And I found out who the real life person the character of Ari Gold on my fav show Entourage is “loosely” based off of. But perhaps Hollywood gossip should stay in Hollywood. Or 90210 as the case might be…

Book Expo

STATUS: Getting to this blog entry late tonight. It’s Friday night and Kristin is not out and about on the town. I’m actually working… I want to finish things up before I leave for LA on Tuesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

BEA. BEA. You keep hearing the acronym but what is BEA? It stands for Book Expo America. It happens every spring and it’s basically the publishing industry’s way of launching the fall list with a big bang.

The fair itself is really geared more towards booksellers and librarians who come out in droves to get free ARCs [advanced reading copies] of all the big books for the fall. Each publisher hosts a “booth,” which can be half the length of the convention floor so some booths are big. In their booths, they spotlight authors, titles, have posters up and free ARCs. Lots of attendees come with suitcases so as to ship books back.

By the way, a couple of years ago they banned anything on wheels from the convention floor. However, you can have a “storage” space on the lower floor to store your books and UPS has ground shipping there and available for easy delivery.

Big authors host talks, breakfasts, big signings, etc. There are industry panels for education on publishing-related topics. I’m looking forward to hearing Jeff Bezos talk on Friday afternoon. (For those of you who don’t know, he is the current CEO of

So what is there for an agent to do? Lots actually. Last year I had 5 authors spotlighted at BEA so I made sure everything went smoothly for them. This year I don’t have any (talk about feast or famine…) so my time will be spent attending some panels, checking in with a few editors who will be at the booths, and my main focus is on Hollywood co-agents who handle book-to-film type deals on the behalf of literary agents.

I’m touching base with the folks I already work with (on a variety of projects) and then I’m meeting some new co-agents for the first time whom I might enjoy working with on future projects. BEA is all about the networking.

There is also the Rights Center. Literary Agents will often take a table in the rights center in order to hold meetings with editors there as well as with reps from foreign publishers for foreign rights etc. Last year I met with a lot of Audio publishers just to get to know those editors a bit better.

So that’s where I’m headed on Tuesday and I look forward to reporting from the floor. If I remember (knock on wood), I’ll take the camera (although I can use my trusty iPhone) and share pics etc. Expect blog entries to come late as my day is packed with meetings so there won’t be time to blog until the late evening.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend.

I’m out!

Not Always At Once But Sometimes At Last

STATUS: I’ve got contracts on my mind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ME AND MRS. JONES by Billy Paul

As y’all know, I’ve been working on contracts and quite a few foreign rights sales as of late. I’m particular fond of some of the recent deals because they were several years in the making.

See, we submitted the project back when we did the US sale but alas, didn’t have any takers. The US sale had been a strong one so we were quite flummoxed. We received quite a few rejections that the project felt “too American” for the foreign audience.

In a sense, I get that.

But now the deals are happening, so what has changed? Several things actually. The global market climate for that genre. The strength of the US sales can be a tipping point factor. General excitement created by readers with the US copy (or of an English-language copy that was imported into a particular country). There can be a number of reasons.

The door is never closed. It’s a good reminder that even if a foreign sale doesn’t happen at once, it can certainly happen at last (and the money, and the love, can be better the second time around). This happens in Hollywood as well.

Just last year I sold a project to Hollywood that I had been shopping for three years. I hadn’t given up hope but things did look a bit unpromising. Then a surprise summer hit made this type of project suddenly hot again and voila, interest, and then a sale.

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