Pub Rants

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

Category: Hollywood – Film/TV

Grumpy About WGA Strike

STATUS: Mail arrived! Hooray. Huge stack too. And there were royalty statements and checks. I told you so.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FIND THE RIVER by R.E.M.

Most normal people might be grumpy because of the dearth of interesting programming on the telly right now. I’m annoyed because it’s keeping one of my projects in film limbo because the script needs reworking. Since the screenwriters are on strike, no revisions allowed.

I got a call today from my film co-agent just to update me that there is no update. Good to know and I’m glad she called, just to stay in touch. (It tells me she’s still employed; there are lots of rumors about mass firings that may be imminent in Hollywood).

But I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking, “who do I need to bribe to get the parties back to the negotiating table?”

Starbucks anyone? I’m buying.


Hollywood or Bust?

STATUS: Busy. On the phone all day. Almost literally.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL by The Rolling Stones

Or Bust for sure right now. Can you say reruns? It’s not just your TV screens going dark. The current strike in Hollywood will be impacting the book industry. Right now, it’s not clear as to how much—yet.

Book-to-film options are still happening but there may be a slowdown. Too soon to tell. If an option has already been bought and the screenplay delivered, then that project is probably sitting pretty.

If the screenplay needs revisions, then the strike hurts because screenwriters are on strike. I just hope both sides go back to the negotiating table soon. Right now that’s not looking likely.


Great Covers, Film Deals, Good PR, That’s What This Job Is About!

STATUS: It’s one of those days where everything has come together. It makes being an agent perfect.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SONO ANDATI from La Bohème

First off I get the news that my author Kim Reid is going to have a live interview about her memoir NO PLACE SAFE on NPR this Oct. 10th.

She will be on the program News & Notes (which is the flagship African-American talk radio program on National Public Radio and is hosted by Farai Chideya).

I love NPR and it’s always a special thrill to have an author spotlighted on their radio program.

Then I finally get to share my most recent exciting film news. Universal’s Strike Entertainment has optioned Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted, Inc. Look for the Deal Lunch announcement to appear soon. This is especially thrilling because this deal has been three years in the making—not to mention this project was optioned by a whole other company about a year ago and that deal fell through. It’s the little film option that could!

And then, cherry on top, I receive the most gorgeous cover for a recently sold young adult project. It’s always amazing when a publisher gets it exactly right. Brooke and I are so in love with this cover, so if you hate it, I don’t want to hear about it.

Just kidding. Well…maybe not.


Rumors Confirmed

STATUS: With the mail, I’m reminded that it’s October royalty statement time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN DOVES CRY by Prince

The rumor is now official. Harlequin is closing its NEXT and Everlasting lines. Not a huge surprise but now things need to be re-evaluated if an agent has an author writing for either one of those lines.

And I have to laugh. Publishers need to be able to move as fast as the word does and they rarely do. The poor editors. They all had to say they didn’t know anything about it until Harlequin made the official announcement (which happened today). Talk about being in an awkward position.

Once information hits the streets (and I do mean the virtual streets), word spreads rapidly.

Speaking of streets, virtual or otherwise, I had an interesting time getting to work this morning. Chutney and I were doing the usual walk down 17th street before taking a right on Wazee. Usually the streets in Lodo are a little quiet since most businesses are more uptown. Then I noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of attractive and well dressed people on the street and literally, standing in front of my office.

But hey, it’s a free country and fashion plates can stand where they like.

I walked into my lobby only to run into several of my fellow office building mates. They asked if I were “in it?”

Confused, I said, “in what?”

“The movie. They are shooting a movie.”

Ah. Well, that explains the people with the walkie talkies. I’m thinking not since nobody stopped me as I walked down the street. I probably ruined a scene and didn’t even know it.

Ends up they are filming an Eddie Murphy movie literally right outside my office door so when his next film comes out, look for the SH Supply Company brick building and you’ll know that is where the Nelson Literary Agency resides.

I have to say that car alarms were featured heavily in the scene they shot this morning because we would hear the command, the alarm would go off, and when “cut” was yelled, it stopped.

And no, I didn’t get a glimpse of Eddie.


Going Hollywood

STATUS: Busy but I’m feeling productive. Contract stuff is still dragging along. So close to finishing too. Maybe it will all resolve tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE IMPRESSION THAT I GET by Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Am I making too broad a statement by saying that every author dreams of having their book made into a movie?

After all, Hollywood butchers it more often than not. Still, I can’t think of a better 2-hour commercial for a book than a movie. There is no doubt that it sells books—even if the movie isn’t good.

But I think writers are often a little clueless on how a book-to-film deal works. (And I know this by all the queries from screenwriters that I receive.)

Let me clarify to begin. I rep books. I don’t rep screenplays. I sell the print and subsidiary rights for my clients’ projects. Film/dramatic rights are simply one of the subsidiary rights that I shop so my clients can earn more money.

I get queries all the time from authors who have published their works with small publishers and are now looking for someone to shop just the film rights. I don’t do that. I only shop film rights of client projects for which I’ve sold the primary print rights. Why? Because Hollywood is always such a long shot that the money isn’t worth it otherwise. I’m only willing to expend the time and energy for my own clients. Make sense?

To do this, I have Hollywood co-agents because they are the experts (just as lit agents are the experts in publishing). As partners, we split the 20% commission for the sale.

But I don’t work with just one co-agent. I tend to work with a variety of folks at the various book-to-film agencies in L.A. Why? Because the co-agents choose which projects they like and think they can sell. Just because I partner with them doesn’t mean they are willing to take on every project for which my agency sold the print rights. Co-agents want sell-able projects and although lots of stuff is published, not all of it works for the screen. It’s always on a project-by project basis.

That’s why literary agents partner with more than one co-agent. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of finding the right fit (almost like finding the right editor). I’ve had one Hollywood co-agent pass on a project that wasn’t his/her cup of tea only to have it picked up by a different co-agent who loved it and sold it.

Ultimately, I need a co-agent who is enthusiastic enough about the project to keep pitching it even if it doesn’t sell right away.

Sound familiar?


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