Tom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License.
Everyone loves a worst, best, average, largest, smallest, most bizarre top 10, top 20, or even top 149 list, don’t they? Or is it just me. Many of these relate to dodgy book covers, terrible titles, opening lines with the strongest impact and my personal favourite the downright cringe-worthy book to film adaptations. I’m currently shuddering at the thought of Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels and the general shambolic interpretations of The Cat in the Hat, Catch 22 and The Bonfire of the Vanities.
For what it’s worth I believe there are all too few great books which have translated well onto the big screen. But should this come as any real surprise? After all, the great writer Paulo Coelho once said; “The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That’s why we go to movies and say, “Oh, the book is better.” Of course there are some exceptions and you only have to look at this year’s Oscars to realise how en vogue book to screen adaptations currently are (five of the six big winners were from originated from books or articles).
Of course films such as Cloud Atlas, Beautiful Creatures, World War Z and The Great Gatsby (amongst others) have since dominated the big screen and it’s evident that Hollywood’s desire for adaptations is getting even more voracious. But this is not a new phenomenon, seven of the top 10 and twenty of the top 25 highest grossing movies of all time are adaptations. And this runaway success is not just restricted to big screen. There are currently ten major TV series based on books and at least thirteen more said to be in development. These statistics highlight just reliant the TV and film industry currently is on already published pieces of literature for inspiration.
Fiction or non-fiction title that has been transformed into a film, television, or web property, is not only relatively lucrative in itself, it’s also one of the biggest things that can happen to a writing career. For example, books like Sideways, Coach Carter, Slumdog Millionaire, The Tiger’s Curse are just a few that struggled to gain traction from the bookshelves but found huge sales and publishing success after their Hollywood adaptation process began (and the ensuing buzz that spread like wildfire)
Production companies continue to snap up options to various book rights, left, right and centre. But how does this affect you the author? Well, simply put, film companies will option the rights to a book so that they can make the film adaptation – some of these options never turn into film deals but you get to keep the money, and you might be able to sell the option again. And if it does hit the big or small screen then this will inevitably raise sales through the roof, which is great if you remain in control of the rights and licensing. Which really does serve to underline the huge value attached to licensing, the importance of authors knowing their rights and then putting themselves in the best possible position to maximise all the available licensing and rights revenue streams.