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November 2018
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Just How Does a Book Become a Movie?

Kristin Nelson

Just another November…except for that quick jaunt to LA for the gala movie premiere of Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX.

Record needle scratches to a halt. That’s pretty much the sound I wanted to drop in at the end of my previous sentence. The whole event, including Netflix’s after-party with the entire cast (including Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes), was exciting, surreal, and just plain fun.

Over my career, I’ve optioned just about every book I’ve represented, but BIRD BOX is the first to make it to the big screen. So this seemed like a good time to chat about just how a book becomes a movie.

Step 1: Sell the book to a publisher.

Any number of indie-published books get optioned for film/TV, too, but in general, selling the book to a publisher is usually the first step. The initial publication deal is what often gets Hollywood excited about the property.

Step 2: Partner with the perfect film co-agent. 

I’m a literary agent. My speciality is not Hollywood. My day is spent making connections with editors and publishers, not producers and directors. So once I take on a client, put their manuscript out on submission, and (fingers crossed) know a sale is imminent, I connect with my perfect film/TV co-agent for that particular project. A lot of agents work with one co-agent for all titles, but I much prefer to pair each story with the co-agent who will be most passionate about it. Passion makes more happen in Hollywood than just about anything else. The co-agent who believes in the project and is willing to champion it even if it doesn’t appear to be an immediate slam-dunk sale is exactly the type of partner I’m looking for. That co-agent then shops the material to producers or studios, or packages the material to attach a piece of talent (a writer, a director, an actor). 

Step 3: Option the rights via a formal agreement.

Once an option offer comes in, then it’s up to me, my co-agent, and my entertainment attorney to negotiate the deal. Once the deal points are settled, the next step is to negotiate the long-form agreement. (Detailing exactly what goes into the film/TV agreement would comprise a whole series of articles, so I won’t go into that here.) 

Step 4: Studio and/or producers develop the property.

As the literary agent, I’m not involved in this part of the process. Sometimes the author does participate as an executive producer (which is pre-negotiated at the deal-points stage) or as a writer involved in the screenplay (which is also pre-negotiated). Often the author is not involved at all except to answer questions or offer feedback on the direction of the project. 

Step 5: Studio goes into initial production.

When this happens, the studio has to pay the author a purchase price. The author will get a chance to go on-set, but in general, the film company is doing all the heavy lifting. 

Step 6: The movie releases in theaters or on a streaming platform. 

And that’s when the gala premiere takes place to spark initial reviews and generate excitement! In the end, a movie or TV series will always be different from the book. After all, film is a visual medium and requires different storytelling techniques. 

Regardless, a movie or TV show is truly a giant commercial for the book. In this case, Josh and I were thrilled with the adaptation, even despite its departures from the book. The tone, emotion, and feel of the story are spot-on, true to the world Josh created.

Please do watch BIRD BOX on Netflix on December 21, 2018. Also, please wink at your friends and tell them to read the book before the movie releases!

Recent News
Think Like an Agent

Social Media: How Important Is It?

By Danielle Burby

When I go to conferences, authors often ask me about social media. Is it necessary? Which platforms do I need to be on? And, by the way, how many followers do I need to land an agent/book deal?

I see a lot of stress around this topic so I’m happy to say I have good news for those of you with social-media anxiety! If you write fiction, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have when you are querying. The thing that matters most is that you write an incredible novel. The rest can follow down the line.

(Nonfiction, on the other hand, is largely platform-driven, so you nonfiction writers will most likely be expected to have at least some social-media presence before you start looking for publishing partners.)

When I am considering taking on a client, I do Google them first to see how they present themselves to the world. But the number of followers an author has doesn’t affect whether or not I’m considering offering representation. My priority is a high-quality, incredible novel with top-notch writing that I think I can sell into the market. That’s it!

That said, you will eventually encounter social media as an author, and it is definitely a useful professional tool. If you do want to dip a toe in, here are some platforms to consider:

Twitter is a good place to make connections with other writers and form community. Sometimes it can be an overwhelming place, but it is also great for finding your tribe and building relationships.

Instagram is great for anyone who loves to look at covers. A large community of book lovers (just search #bookstagram) share gorgeous photos of the books they love.

Goodreads is a fantastic platform where you can interact with other readers, discover new books to read, and share your reviews.

Pinterest is great for creating mood boards of your novels. In fact, I often steal images from my authors’ mood boards to share with editors during submission. Sometimes we even share them when it comes time to talk about a book’s cover. You may as well start now!

Those are just a few of your options. The key to your social-media approach as an author is to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing and are having a positive experience. You need to find your niche and feel like you’re able to present your authentic self to the world. If it feels like a chore, then that’s going to come through to your audience. It’s okay to take a break.

One final thought: Social media is a very public forum, and it can be overwhelming, but just remember—how you present yourself and how much of yourself you share online is entirely within your control. Boundaries are necessary and healthy in your social-media use. So be mindful as you embark on this journey and be sure to check in with yourself to make sure you feel comfortable at every step. You don’t owe your deepest self to your followers.

In fact, you owe it to yourself to make sure you are respecting your personal boundaries and comfort levels. For example, I love to tweet about my cat and about how amazing my clients are. Sometimes, when it feels relevant or in some way important (and after I have given it real thought), I will share something more personal. But, when I do, I always check in with myself first and make sure it feels right. The same thing goes for you. As an author, you will be a public figure, but always remember that you are entitled to your boundaries and your privacy.

Social media is a fantastic tool, cultivates community, and can facilitate wonderful friendships, so go forth and conquer! And, most of all, enjoy.

Kristin's Book Club

At the beginning of the year, Book Club votes on titles we plan to read for the next twelve months. Everyone in the club contributes suggestions, but I had nothing to do with AMONG THE RUINS landing on the voting list—even though author Ausma Zehanat Khan is Agent Danielle’s client. Liz in our book group had heard good things about Ausma’s Getty-Khattak mystery series from a friend.

And Book Club voted to read it! So in early December we’ll discuss the third book in the series. I’m an hour away from finishing the audio book, and I can reassure that you don’t need to start with book one to be completely mesmerized and embroiled in this mystery series, set in both Iran and Canada. Ausma masterfully filled in the details readers need to make this a seamless, standalone read.

“Iran’s stormy history is the atmospheric backdrop for AMONG THE RUINS…The story takes on the air of a James Bond movie, including an explosive finale on the Caspian Sea.” ―The Washington Post

ABOUT THE NOVEL: Esa Khattak is traveling in Iran, reconnecting with his cultural heritage and seeking peace in the country’s beautiful mosques and gardens. But Khattak’s supposed break from work is cut short when he’s approached by a Canadian government agent, asking him to look into the death of renowned Canadian-Iranian filmmaker Zahra Sobhani. Khattak quickly finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the regime, but when the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls on his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help. As Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been a political crime at all.

New Releases

The Color of Lies

by CJ Lyons

High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.

Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.

After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.

Buy It Here:


The Frame Up

by Meghan Scott Molin

By day she writes comic books. By night, she lives them.

MG Martin lives and breathes geek culture. She even works as a writer for the comic book company she idolized as a kid. But despite her love of hooded vigilantes, MG prefers her comics stay on the page.

But when someone in LA starts recreating crime scenes from her favorite comic book, MG is the LAPD’s best—and only—lead. She recognizes the golden arrow left at the scene as the calling card of her favorite comic book hero. The thing is…superheroes aren’t real. Are they?

When too-handsome-for-his-own-good Detective Kildaire asks for her comic book expertise, MG is more than up for the adventure. Unfortunately, MG has a teeny little tendency to not follow rules. And her off-the-books sleuthing may land her in a world of trouble.

Because for every superhero, there is a supervillain. And the villain of her story may be closer than she thinks…

Buy It Here:

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