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EllyJackson
11-14-2016, 04:54 AM
I'm new here, although I've lurked before joining. I wasn't sure where to ask this question and I've tried Google but haven't come up with anything. Anyway, I'm a self-published author and have about ten works available and have been doing this for over six years. Out of the blue in June, I received an email (sent via my website contact form) from a major film agencies. One of the top four in Hollywood, actually. It was very brief, just had the title of one of my books in the subject line, the person identified themselves as being from the agency, and asked if the film/television rights were available. I wrote back, thanking them for the inquiry and that yes, they were available. In reply--which I might add, was sent in less than an hour from my reply-- was just a quick 'thank you'. The person who inquired is probably an assistant to the actual agent. I figured this out because there was a name in parenthesis beside the email addy of the person who replied to me. I checked, and sure enough, there is an agent there with that last name.

Of course, I was all excited. The book has sold fairly well. (over 50k) and once reached the top 20, but that was years ago. Now, it's a steady seller and has over a thousand reviews with a good rating. I should know by now not to get excited about this kind of thing, and I'm not really, anymore, but I couldn't help imagining my book as a movie. :) *sigh*.

Anyway, my question...should I write to them and ask if they are still interested? Or just let it go. I figure they probably had a few books they were looking into and mine was in the running for something, but didn't make the final cut to move it to the next level. I don't want to pester them, I just want to know for sure that they are no longer interested. Mostly, I'm just curious. Like I said, I Googled the film agency and didn't find a whole lot of mentions from other authors. A few had the agency listed on their website as being repped by that agency for film, but as far as I can tell, they are all trade published authors, not self-published. I had hoped to find stories from other authors hoping I'd find out how things turned out for them, but couldn't find any that had the same situation as I had.

cornflake
11-14-2016, 07:05 AM
I'm new here, although I've lurked before joining. I wasn't sure where to ask this question and I've tried Google but haven't come up with anything. Anyway, I'm a self-published author and have about ten works available and have been doing this for over six years. Out of the blue in June, I received an email (sent via my website contact form) from a major film agencies. One of the top four in Hollywood, actually. It was very brief, just had the title of one of my books in the subject line, the person identified themselves as being from the agency, and asked if the film/television rights were available. I wrote back, thanking them for the inquiry and that yes, they were available. In reply--which I might add, was sent in less than an hour from my reply-- was just a quick 'thank you'. The person who inquired is probably an assistant to the actual agent. I figured this out because there was a name in parenthesis beside the email addy of the person who replied to me. I checked, and sure enough, there is an agent there with that last name.

Of course, I was all excited. The book has sold fairly well. (over 50k) and once reached the top 20, but that was years ago. Now, it's a steady seller and has over a thousand reviews with a good rating. I should know by now not to get excited about this kind of thing, and I'm not really, anymore, but I couldn't help imagining my book as a movie. :) *sigh*.

Anyway, my question...should I write to them and ask if they are still interested? Or just let it go. I figure they probably had a few books they were looking into and mine was in the running for something, but didn't make the final cut to move it to the next level. I don't want to pester them, I just want to know for sure that they are no longer interested. Mostly, I'm just curious. Like I said, I Googled the film agency and didn't find a whole lot of mentions from other authors. A few had the agency listed on their website as being repped by that agency for film, but as far as I can tell, they are all trade published authors, not self-published. I had hoped to find stories from other authors hoping I'd find out how things turned out for them, but couldn't find any that had the same situation as I had.

That wasn't even six months ago. I wouldn't assume anything at all.

I also wouldn't personally write to ask - I mean I don't know what you'd gain.

I'd guess someone was looking for stuff to option and someone ran across your thing. They certainly may still be pondering that; a few months is nothing.

That said, even if they wrote tomorrow and offered to option it, that does NOT mean your book would end up as a movie. People of all sorts (studios, actors, producers, etc.) option shit all day long that never sees the light of day. Some does; it's not impossible, but it's hugely unlikely and would be years down the road even if everything went super perfectly.

Mostly, an option gets you a bit of cash. It's a nice thing if it happens, but it's usually all that happens. I'm not trying to be negative, really. It's just the nature of the odds.

EllyJackson
11-14-2016, 07:20 AM
That wasn't even six months ago. I wouldn't assume anything at all.

I also wouldn't personally write to ask - I mean I don't know what you'd gain.

I'd guess someone was looking for stuff to option and someone ran across your thing. They certainly may still be pondering that; a few months is nothing.

That said, even if they wrote tomorrow and offered to option it, that does NOT mean your book would end up as a movie. People of all sorts (studios, actors, producers, etc.) option shit all day long that never sees the light of day. Some does; it's not impossible, but it's hugely unlikely and would be years down the road even if everything went super perfectly.

Mostly, an option gets you a bit of cash. It's a nice thing if it happens, but it's usually all that happens. I'm not trying to be negative, really. It's just the nature of the odds.


Yes, I know the odds of a movie actually being made is very slim, but it would be one step in the right direction and so, of course I let myself imagine for a few moments what might happen if it became a movie. That doesn't mean I expected it to become one. I know quite a few authors who have been optioned, but none whose book actually became a movie. I also know someone who as picked up by the agency, but I think she was with another agency that then became part of this bigger agency so it wasn't a direct inquiry from the Hollywood agency. In her case, she said nothing has come of it.

Also, being paid for an option would be nice. I guess what I really am wondering is if the timeline is beyond what is normal from inquiry to...well, anything really. I'm pretty resigned to the inquiry being the beginning and end of the process for this particular agency in regards to my book.

cornflake
11-14-2016, 07:29 AM
In that case, no, I wouldn't assume they're not interested. Like I said, I also wouldn't write. I mean god knows what prompted it - could have been someone at the agency trolling for stuff, could have been a client who read your particular book and was interested, etc., every iteration - but presume the inquiry was made, then sent back to the original requester with a yes. Then that person has to think about it, ask six other people, ponder thirty other things, have lunch, think about potential timelines, if someone else is as interested, send the book around for six people to read at some point...

I mean... could happen fast if someone specific has decided they want something, could be two years later someone actually narrows a list. Sorry there's not a more specific answer I know of, though maybe someone else will be along and say if you haven't heard after X, forget it. :)

Dennis E. Taylor
11-14-2016, 08:24 PM
As an "aside" question--if someone buys the rights (or options them), there's a cash payment up front. Is there further income if the deal proceeds? Piece of the gate, maybe? Or is that based on the negotiated contract?

MarkEsq
11-14-2016, 09:56 PM
My understanding is that options for for almost nothing these days, hundreds rather than thousands. If that. Now, if the option is exercised and the story actually bought, that's when you can get a bit (or maybe a lot) more.

Aggy B.
11-15-2016, 12:08 AM
Options are usually for tiny amounts of money and have an expiration date. If you have something that's desirable you can sometimes balloon the option if the same folks want to keep it for another year (or whatever), but you would probably need another party counter-bidding at that point. (I mean, anyone can say "I have other folks interested so I want $1000 this time instead of $100.")

It can depend on who has approached you as to whether you negotiate further terms of a contract when the option is made or later. (If it's a production company, for example, you would want those details from the get-go. If it's an agency, they will be negotiating a contract for the script at a later point so you may only get the option in writing up front.) You might want to consult with a literary agent if you get further contact from these folks as they can help you determine how to proceed.

Best of luck.

EllyJackson
11-15-2016, 12:52 AM
Thanks for the input, everyone. Much appreciated. I guess I'll just sit tight. :)

Toothpaste
11-15-2016, 03:33 AM
A few more thoughts: the option contract usually has all the other "stuff" in it as well. So while you can re-negotiate an option after it expires (and usually there's a renewal built into the contract), generally all the stuff like purchase price and dividends on the back end etc have also been agreed to upon signing the option. So it absolutely makes a great deal of sense as an author to have someone go over the option contract when it happens because there is a lot more at stake than just the initial option fee.

EllyJackson
11-15-2016, 04:18 AM
A few more thoughts: the option contract usually has all the other "stuff" in it as well. So while you can re-negotiate an option after it expires (and usually there's a renewal built into the contract), generally all the stuff like purchase price and dividends on the back end etc have also been agreed to upon signing the option. So it absolutely makes a great deal of sense as an author to have someone go over the option contract when it happens because there is a lot more at stake than just the initial option fee.

Thank you. Yes, if it ever gets to that point, I'll definitely hire a good lawyer with experience in that area. I know some people who could recommend one.

Old Hack
11-15-2016, 05:58 PM
Thank you. Yes, if it ever gets to that point, I'll definitely hire a good lawyer with experience in that area. I know some people who could recommend one.

Seconding everything which has been said here: but I'll add that you'd be better off with a specialist agent to handle the deal for you. An agent will automatically use the services of a lawyer, but will also negotiate a better deal for you rather than just checking that the contract's legal.

EllyJackson
11-15-2016, 07:31 PM
Seconding everything which has been said here: but I'll add that you'd be better off with a specialist agent to handle the deal for you. An agent will automatically use the services of a lawyer, but will also negotiate a better deal for you rather than just checking that the contract's legal.

Thank you. I would definitely query an agent if I had an option in hand, but I would still hire my own lawyer in addition to whatever legal counsel the agency uses. I would want someone who is there just for me.

Toothpaste
11-15-2016, 07:51 PM
The agent is just there for you. A good agent is your teammate. They want to get the best possible deal for you. It's part of their job description to protect you and get the best possible deal for you. I'm not sure where you are getting your info about agents, but it worries me a little bit that you think otherwise.

EMaree
11-15-2016, 08:14 PM
(I've made an assumption that the book in question is self-published. If that isn't true, the below still applies for an unagented writer, and you have my apologies for the misunderstanding.)

Whatever you do, don't give your option away for nothing. I keep hearing tales from writers, especially self-published writers, of production companies snatches up all the rights they can get for free. Nothing gets done with these.

Get some cash for your rights. Your book is always worth it.


Thank you. I would definitely query an agent if I had an option in hand, but I would still hire my own lawyer in addition to whatever legal counsel the agency uses. I would want someone who is there just for me.

Seconding Toothpaste, and I have to note that an agency doesn't use legal counsel. A solid, reputable agent with book sales under their belt is your legal counsel. You're effectively hiring a literary lawyer to double-check your literary lawyer here, which is a silly move financially.

Definitely spend some time getting familiar with what agents do and what their value is. Janet Reid's blog (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/)is a good place to start. Try to research sources directly from agents, lots of them have blogs. Be wary of articles from your fellow self-published authors, as there are certain factions there who regularly demonise agents and thrive on spreading myths about how they behave.

Old Hack
11-15-2016, 08:54 PM
Thank you. I would definitely query an agent if I had an option in hand, but I would still hire my own lawyer in addition to whatever legal counsel the agency uses. I would want someone who is there just for me.

If you get a good agent, you don't need to hire anyone. And your agent is very unlikely to refer to legal counsel: they just don't need to. They know publishing contracts and publishing law inside and out, and they know about how rights work, and they know how to negotiate the best contract for you--something lawyers won't do.


Seconding Toothpaste, and I have to note that an agency doesn't use legal counsel. A solid, reputable agent with book sales under their belt is your legal counsel. You're effectively hiring a literary lawyer to double-check your literary lawyer here, which is a silly move financially.

EM, I agree with you apart from this one point. Good agents do sometimes seek legal advice, but it's rare (because they know publishing far better than lawyers, and they know what makes a good contract), and if they do it's very rarely at any cost to their authors.

EMaree
11-15-2016, 09:02 PM
Oh yikes, I was completely mis-informed! Apologies Elly, and thank you so much Old Hack for the correction.

Cyia
11-15-2016, 09:38 PM
As an "aside" question--if someone buys the rights (or options them), there's a cash payment up front. Is there further income if the deal proceeds? Piece of the gate, maybe? Or is that based on the negotiated contract?

The upfront payment is the option. It's usually 10% of the total agreed-upon purchase price for the work. (Sometimes, it's less.)

If you're selling a spec. script, be prepared for this to be paid out in multiple stages, with each one being as small a chunk as possible.

If you're selling movie rights to a novel, it's a little different. They'll pick up an option for 12 or 18 months, still at the 10% level, then assuming the film makes it to production (the actual, pre-production stages of locking in locations and hiring actors, directors, etc.), you'll get the remaining full purchase price. This comes in somewhere around 3 months prior to the start of shooting.

If the option runs out, then it can re-up, for another 10%, or it can be dropped, in which case deal, done.

"Piece of the gate" money - if you mean box-office take - is not going to happen. What most writers get offered are something called "net points" or "back-end points," which basically means a cut of the profits after all other expenses have been paid. They're basically as solvent as Monopoly money, since most movies never break out of the red on paper. (There are Harry Potter films still showing $0 profit on paper.)

Movie bookkeeping is weird.

EllyJackson
11-15-2016, 11:27 PM
Thanks all. I think what is being missed here, by myself as well, is that this wasn't a studio or production company, but a really big agency who approached me. I spoke to a knowledgeable friend in the field and they mentioned that the agency would have lawyers in house. If the agency is interested, I imagine they would become my agent? Unless they were approached by someone else who was interested, and they are already working on their behalf, but thinking of all the possibilities is making my head hurt. haha.

For instance, if a director stumbled across my book and was interested in making a movie, perhaps they would ask their agent to check into it. I think? Who knows. Fwiw, it was the literary to film branch of the agency who contacted me. I just googled and they have some huge A-listers on their roster! Yikes. Okay, now I know why I haven't heard anything since they first inquired. lol

BenPanced
11-15-2016, 11:29 PM
"Piece of the gate" money - if you mean box-office take - is not going to happen. What most writers get offered are something called "net points" or "back-end points," which basically means a cut of the profits after all other expenses have been paid. They're basically as solvent as Monopoly money, since most movies never break out of the red on paper. (There are Harry Potter films still showing $0 profit on paper.)

Movie bookkeeping is weird.

For more fun on movie bookkeeping, see also Buchwald v. Paramount (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buchwald_v._Paramount).

Cyia
11-15-2016, 11:42 PM
For instance, if a director stumbled across my book and was interested in making a movie, perhaps they would ask their agent to check into it. I think? Who knows.

*raises hand*

If a book is published and then a studio wants rights to it, then they'll offer up an option with the intention of finding producers, director, stars, etc. later.

If a director or producer sees a project they're interested in, and the person owning the rights to said project is amenable to a deal, then they'll work with both the writer's agent (Assuming they have one) and the writer's attorney (assuming they have one - get one if you get an offer. Seriously, get an entertainment lawyer.) If both parties are interested in working together, then they'll approach their "home" studio to see if that studio wants the project. If yes, then YAY - an offer will be made an a year or so later (yes it takes that long to comb through the details with the finest of toothed combs) you get paid, minus your agent, sub-agent and lawyer commissions. If no, then the director/producer/interested party can take the project to other studios who might want it.




Fwiw, it was the literary to film branch of the agency who contacted me. I just googled and they have some huge A-listers on their roster! Yikes. Okay, now I know why I haven't heard anything since they first inquired. lol

From your description, and the fact that CAA doesn't accept unsolicited subs, I'm going to assume you're talking about WME. They have a literary arm and a film arm (as well as enough other arms to make an octopus), and are a great agency. They like to "package" things, if they think they have something that will appeal to more than one market. You might get a book deal, or they might find you an in-house screenwriter that can help them approach things from the movie side, etc. And yes, they have in-house attorneys. You don't need to find one on your own. In this case, your agent gets 15%; your sub-agent (the guy who sells movie rights) gets 5%; your attorney gets 5% and you get 75% of the purchase price.

AW Admin
11-15-2016, 11:45 PM
Do not sign an open-ended no date of expiration option.

EllyJackson
11-15-2016, 11:50 PM
*raises hand*

If a book is published and then a studio wants rights to it, then they'll offer up an option with the intention of finding producers, director, stars, etc. later.

If a director or producer sees a project they're interested in, and the person owning the rights to said project is amenable to a deal, then they'll work with both the writer's agent (Assuming they have one) and the writer's attorney (assuming they have one - get one if you get an offer. Seriously, get an entertainment lawyer.) If both parties are interested in working together, then they'll approach their "home" studio to see if that studio wants the project. If yes, then YAY - an offer will be made an a year or so later (yes it takes that long to comb through the details with the finest of toothed combs) you get paid, minus your agent, sub-agent and lawyer commissions. If no, then the director/producer/interested party can take the project to other studios who might want it.





From your description, and the fact that CAA doesn't accept unsolicited subs, I'm going to assume you're talking about WME. They have a literary arm and a film arm (as well as enough other arms to make an octopus), and are a great agency. They like to "package" things, if they think they have something that will appeal to more than one market. You might get a book deal, or they might find you an in-house screenwriter that can help them approach things from the movie side, etc. And yes, they have in-house attorneys. You don't need to find one on your own. In this case, your agent gets 15%; your sub-agent (the guy who sells movie rights) gets 5%; your attorney gets 5% and you get 75% of the purchase price.

I never submitted my book to the agency, they contacted me from my website contact form--and it's a miracle my reply made it to them as I didn't notice at first that was what they went through. I thought it was just a regular email. Just the week before I'd discovered that other emails from readers I'd received via the contact form were bouncing. Luckily, my reply did make it to them. Anyway, I'll just say it's one of the top 4 agencies. Not trying to be evasive, just don't want to feel stupid when nothing comes of it, or worse, the agency in question stumbles across this thread.

Toothpaste
11-16-2016, 01:14 AM
Okay but still regardless of all of this (and it sounds great) you did say that you would hire a lawyer on top of what people the agents were using and we were explaining that that really isn't necessary. Your agent will be enough. :)

EllyJackson
11-16-2016, 01:34 AM
Okay but still regardless of all of this (and it sounds great) you did say that you would hire a lawyer on top of what people the agents were using and we were explaining that that really isn't necessary. Your agent will be enough. :)

That's true.

EllyJackson
11-16-2016, 01:38 AM
Also, to the person who messaged me, I was fine with everything. I didn't reply to your message because my daughter interrupted me and when I came back to my computer, the message was gone! I don't know what I did or how to get it back--and I can't recall who it was who messaged me. Anyway, everything is cool. :)

Old Hack
11-16-2016, 11:24 AM
If an agent has contacted you about buying an option on your book, remember they'll be working for their client, not for you: so you'll need to find your own agent. If the agency has contacted you with an offer to represent you, in order to try to sell options, then they will represent you and you won't need another agent.

EllyJackson
12-08-2016, 02:53 AM
Sorry, just saw this. I get what you're saying. If I actually receive an offer from this agency, I don't think I'd have much difficulty finding an agent to represent me. :)