Demand for TV rights ‘never been higher’

From The Bookseller:

In an overcrowded market with the proliferation of streaming platforms alongside the traditional broadcaster, creating content based on previous IP is an ever-growing trend . . . Not that it wasn’t a trend before, it’s just that IP generation (writing a book, creating a podcast, a YouTube series) has never been as accessible or opportunity-filled as it is today. Books still have the lion’s share of the source material market for TV and cinema adaptation. But not all books are created equal when it comes to adaptability. 

Some genres are more easily transferrable to the screen and tend to create a better connection between the source audience and the series viewers. Classics of world literature still retain the trophy when it comes to literary adaptations. 

Across genres, from Jane Austen to Bram Stoker, these stories have been revisited time and time again in the visual medium, allowing younger generations to discover them anew.

Every time a new “Dracula”, a new “Pride and Prejudice”, a new “Frankenstein” or “Sherlock” hit the screen, the original texts are looked at with fresh eyes, as curiosity around the source material is reinvigorated, and audiences revisit the original books to discover those nuances that can only exist in the written form. It is definitely true that you can make one book from a series, but a thousand series from a book.

When it comes to new titles, thrillers reliably make promising adaptation fuel. The booming of new authors in the thriller space and the insatiable global appetite for crime stories that has always characterized fans of television series are a match made in heaven. From the most established and well-recognised IP to the newcomers, content providers have always been eager to turn a “page-turner” into a bingeable series. From HBO’s “Sharp Objects” (Gillian Flynn) or “Big Little Lies” (Liane Moriarty), to “The Haunting of Hill House” (Shirley Jackson), from “Hannibal” (Thomas Harris) to “The Alienist” (Caleb Carr), watching a series based on a thriller novel has never been so satisfying. 

Fantasy, however, is probably the genre that benefits the most when it comes to screen adaptation. From the gothic saga of “The Originals” to the modern tale of “Discovery of Witches”, from the epic battles of “Game of Thrones” to the generational conflicts of “His Dark Materials, thanks to the evolving world of CGI and special effects, it’s become increasingly possible to bring to life with staggering precision and realism the worlds we imagined in the page. But the bigger the book, the bigger the responsibility of those who adapt it: for if a book has managed to captivate thousands of fans around the world, one needs to be very cautious and respectful when it comes to translating onto the screen, so as not to lose the connection that the readers have with the original story. It also of course comes with the unique opportunity of attracting a completely new pool of fans, and producers should be equal parts thrilled and humbled by the prospect of transforming a beloved fantasy book into something that can grace screens the world over.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says this trend is all the more reason for authors to hold on to their subsidiary rights or, if traditionally-published, bump the royalty rates up for subrights or negotiate for an increasing percentage of subsidiary rights as gross income to the publisher from subrights hits certain revenue levels.

Most books, indie or traditional, aren’t adapted for motion pictures or televisions, but if lightning strikes with a big subrights deal, it will almost certainly because the author did a great job of writing the book instead of the publisher doing better than usual in selling print and ebook rights.

5 thoughts on “Demand for TV rights ‘never been higher’”

  1. A comment based on personal experience advising authors —

    Commercial publisher boilerplate often grabs the media rights. However, commercial publishers very frequently (almost always in my experience) strike that grab whenever there’s an agent involved without even a request, and except for publications that are already media properties do so upon request.

    That these rights grabs even appear in standard contracts at all is a relic of the 1909 Act’s “indivisible copyright” doctrine… which became deceased, went to meet its maker, became an ex-doctrine, died forty-four years ago this month. Even though these clauses continue to perch on the boilerplate, having been nailed there. Which means that it’s still at least six more years until the publishing industry will give up trying.

  2. “But the bigger the book, the bigger the responsibility of those who adapt it: for if a book has managed to captivate thousands of fans around the world, one needs to be very cautious and respectful when it comes to translating onto the screen, so as not to lose the connection that the readers have with the original story.”

    Having watched Amazon botch their Wheel of Time adaptation every which way from Sunday, it’s obvious that some people haven’t taken that bit of advice, which is one reason why I’m pretty sure they’re going to end up doing the same thing to their LOTR adaptation, especially because from what I understand they’re putting it in a time period not given an extensive treatment in the source material.

    • While I’m probably no more optimistic than yourself about what will emerge from the Amazon studios, a lack of treatment in the original source is not necessarily an indicator of an inevitable train wreck. Many a good fan fiction piece has been created from an obscure tangent that was never explored by the primary author.

      • Agreed–I mean, look at what Brandon Sanderson did with Jordan’s notes for the ending of Wheel of Time–but I anticipate this looking much more like what happened when the GoT people ran out of novel.

    • That is a feature, not a bug.
      By choosing a wide open setting with no actual details in the canon they avoid the otherwise unavoidable “that’s not how tbe books did it!” We know what Sauron did but not *how* he did it. (Why would be nice but I’m not holding my breath.)

      They have a roadmap to follow but a free hand to tell *their* story *their* way. How well it works we’ll see in sept.

      RINGS OF POWER will have the chance to be its own thing and be judged on its own merits.
      A billion bucks bought them that right.

      As for wheel of time, I lost interest by the fourth episode. Too conventional high fantasy for my taste. Yet another chosen one. Yawn.
      I never read the books but as a heretic I’m not all that interrested in faux-Tolkien.

      I’ll withold judgment on Rings till october.

Comments are closed.