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How Publishers Bolster Their Bottom Line by Retaining Film Rights

25 February 2012

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Sharp-eyed moviegoers at the Sundance Film Festival in January might have noticed an unfamiliar title card before the Bruce Willis comedy Lay the Favorite: Random House Films, the movie production arm of the venerable book publisher.

Get used to it. While books long have been prime source material for movies (six of this year’s nine best picture Oscar nominees started as books), publishers traditionally have not participated in the development process or shared in the profits. Scholastic and Little Brown, for instance, make money from Harry Potter and Twilight only through book sales, not their billion-dollar box office.

But that’s changing. Facing financial pressures from everything from the rise of self-published e-books to Amazon’s move to become a publisher, Random House and another “big six” publisher, Macmillan, have set up in-house film divisions to bolster their bottom lines.

. . . .

Millions in producing fees and backend profits are just one side of the equation. Functioning as producers, they hope, will give publishers a voice in the marketing of films that could yield higher book sales.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

Big Publishing

4 Comments to “How Publishers Bolster Their Bottom Line by Retaining Film Rights”

  1. Just say, ‘no’ to big six publishers and NEVER sign away your film rights. Don’t even sign an option your work without talking to an *industry specific* (entertainment law) attorney….EVER. I have talked to authors who received a contract from a production company that would have not only gotten their work for a song, but would have had the author paying the production company for the “exposure”. Don’t be afraid to tell these sharks to take a flying leap, because this is an industry that would sell their grandmother’s bones if there is a profit to be had in it without the slightest tinge of remorse.

    This I know quite intimately having seen both sides of the equation. There is a reason why authors are almost always barred from film sets and the production process because they do not want you there. If you get a day pass, then with some studios, you can consider yourself fortunate. Unless you are Anne Rice and can throw a hissy -fit (not that it did her the least bit of good), as soon as you are signed, and the project is greenlit, your input is no longer needed or wanted. The producers and financiers are in it to make money. The bottom line is the bottom line and make no mistake, your creative babies *will* get sacrificed on that altar. Your attorney should help you negotiate the best deal possible and read the fine print.

    • “The producers and financiers are in it to make money.”

      No offense, but duh. It’s a business. What the hell else should they be in it for?

      This notion that seeking profit is somehow dirty and shameful is foolish and dangerous in the extreme. It leads to all manner of injustice and inanity, and must be stopped.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with profit. There is proffesional and there are those who do it with less than ethical practices and take advantage. Anyone who has ever been screwed over in a film deal will know exactly what I am talking about. I find it pretty sad that my warning about getting an attorney to get the best deal possible for themselves was miscontrued as an anti profit tirade. That was not the intent.

    • I thought your warning was pretty clear. Making a profit is fine, but taking advantage of people is wrong. Money and morals go together.

      I wouldn’t want film versions of my book made without my input. I don’t know how you’d put that in a contract. I couldn’t sign away the rights and watch them destroy my story. It’s in a different format but it’s still my story.

      If the publisher takes 3 years to publish a book, how long would a film take?

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