Screenwriting : Screenplays into Novels by Michael Compton

Michael Compton

Screenplays into Novels

I've been hearing that the latest trend among screenwriters is to take those languishing scripts and turn them into novels. The idea is that it's both a way to monetize a property and to build up some cachet to make the script more marketable to producers. Anyone have any experience with this? I have one, called Gumshoe, that I'm promoting on Kindle Scout, but if that doesn't work out, I'm wondering if self-publishing is the way to go. Do producers have any interest in self-published work? Love to hear any thoughts on this.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Michael: My producer friend is always telling me I should turn some of my screenplays into novels, as if it's easy. Having written two self published books, I know it's a lengthy process; and quite honestly, takes about a year to do. I've marketed one Kindle, which has made me about ten grand so far, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp object. However, books and screenplays are completely different species. And unless your book is a big seller, I don't think most producers care.

Dianne Gardner

I am writing novels and turning them into screenplays. I never heard of doing it the other way around until I met a friend who does so. Lots of work writing a novel and it's a whole nother art to study. No, it's not easy. And it's not easy to get a publisher either unless you go Indie.

Benjamin L. Harris

The most common reason to turn a screen play into a novel is that it is essentially much easier to get a novel published rather than fund a film... therefor once a book has been published you automatically have an audience, I was looking at turning one of my films into a book the same way you hacve spoken of for this very reason however it has just been requested by one of the biggest player in L.A so with the right marketing etc it may not be necessary... it is much better adapting a book into a screenplay take for example the hunger games, harry potter, lord of the rings, game of thrones, the list goes on

Regina Lee

If you can get a quote for your book, that can really move the needle too. E.g. "Frank Darabont says, 'It's the best zombie story you've never heard of.'"

Bill Taub

A friend of mine wrote a pilot - it went nowhere - decided to self-publish it through Amazon. It did so well tv asked him if he could turn it into a series.

Bill Costantini

It's probably the smartest thing that you can do. 1. You now have an additional marketing tool. 2. You might even attain a built-in audience. 3. You might even make a few bucks. 4. A publisher might notice it and ask for more. 5. If it becomes successful, you can sell the movie rights but keep the book rights. 6. You can now justify wearing a twead wool suit jacket with jeans and deck shoes.

Michael Compton
6 is the one that keeps me going.
Michael Compton

You guys aren't kidding about the process being different. I had drafted three novels before Gumshoe, so I thought it would be a snap--just add a little description here, a little internal monolog there, and you've got a novel, right? Then there's that moment when you realize you're already halfway through the script, and you've only got about thirty pages of prose.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Peter: You've made a very good point about emotion. That and the ability to craft a story is something that can be difficult to teach people. I recently read around 50 scripts for a script contest. About ten percent are decent. About three percent are excellent. When you read something by someone who gets it right, it's an exciting thing indeed.

Michael Compton

I agree, Peter, once it's done, marketing is key. That’s why I'm trying Kindle Scout, to try to take advantage of Amazon's marketing power. They pay a modest advance of $1,500 and a 50% royalty on ebook sales. Writers keep the print rights, so it seems like a pretty good deal. The month of chasing reader nominations is a bit nerve-racking, and I've seen several other books I thought were shoo-ins go unselected, so I'm trying to be philosophical about it. Worst case, if I'm not selected, the book is ready to go, and I've had a month to build up interest.

Bill Costantini

That's not a bad deal, Michael. Good luck with that. Keep in mind that many producers, when attempting to option your script, will offer you no money up front and will also want to tie up your script for a year.

Bill Taub

Absolutely right Phillip. But with traditional publishing you have the same problem only worse. Rarely will they market your book if you're not Michael Connolly. If it doesn't sell it's off the shelves in a month. Plus you have the grief of having to go through editors/managers/agents/lawyers etc. etc. etc. Turning a pilot or a screenplay into a novel through self-publishing goes directly from you to the consumer who you have to make aware of it. Which is why social media is so important. And if you haven't been building that up you are tying one hand behind your back. Then having a website or a blog for all your activities, I presume it's more than just one book is also helpful. It all adds up. Is novel writing a different skill set? A different craft? Sure. But you're already a writer. It's not like you came from plumbing (not that there's anything wrong with it) -- and if you want there are plenty of online courses and workshops to help you get your feet wet if you're tentative about it. I know UCLA Extension Writer's Program - through whom I teach have terrific courses in writing fiction. Plus, with a novel, I don't have to worry about page count. Althought, with self-publishing one of the keys is not to write a tome much larger than 200 pages. I know I have a playwright acquaintance who wants to self-publish his 800 page book. For any number of reasons, includingn monetization, we've encouraged him to split it into 4 books. What's more Amazon is all over the world - so suddenly I had to consider having my book (non-fiction) translated -- and that's great. It's never off the shelves. I can track sales of it hourly, like election night returns -- and creatively I don't have to do everything visually -- I can tell what a character is thinking or the sub-texts or whatever that are hard to do in a screenplay or teleplay. Lots of advantages. But taking a script that's lying gathering mold and trying to do something with it in a different platform is better than not. And it does build up. And, as with name writers, sometimes their first two books bomb out, but their third book hits, and suddenly their first two books become best sellers. The possibilities are endless, but you do have to put yourself out there, which reminds me: http://www.billtaub.com

Michael Compton

Thanks for the input and encouragement, guys. By the way, here's the link for Gumshoe, if you want to check it out. If you nominate, you're eligible for the free ebook. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3K3VOJZT1KD10

Michael Compton

Great info, Bill, thanks.

Rayna W.

Apparently producers are even looking at unpublished author. I guess it's all about the story. I just recently read this article: http://www.theprofessionalsprogram.com/entertainment-business/big-breaks... Hope that helps!

Michael Compton

Thanks for that link, Rayna. While it's true that a commercially successful book is a huge attraction, Hollywood has always tried to anticipate hot properties before they hit. John Grisham ' s The Firm, I recall, was sold to Hollywood before he got a book deal. A good story can always sell.

Regina Lee

I believe Themis Files was self-published too. CAA repped the book-to-film sale. http://deadline.com/2014/10/alien-sci-fi-novel-the-themis-files-acquired...

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In