Fiction to Film: Will your favorite book be made into a movie?

My favorite read from last year has been optioned for film! I am so excited!

How likely is it that my favorite book will become a movie?

Not likely at all. An option does NOT a movie make.

Book Option Does Not a Movie TV Show Film Make Gail Carriger

My dear Gentle Reader, I searched so hard to find someone else’s blog post on this subject so I wouldn’t have to write my own. I searched and searched until I realized I was spending more time searching and asking around than it would take to write the cursed thing, so I might as well do it myself.

One of those “she who sees a problem is responsible for the solution” situations.

An Option DOES NOT a Movie Make!

I don’t want to be a downer, it’s not really my thing, but I am a realist.

Yes, the Parasol Protectorate books have been optioned. I talk a bit about the first one here, when it originally happened in 2012. And here’s a more recent option announcement where I break down my team, their roles, and answer your questions about the process.

Witness Gail the author fielding a Social Media storm about Soulless the Movie…

  • So where is the movie?
  • When does the movie come out?
  • Doesn’t the fact that it has been optioned mean we get a movie?
  • I want it!
  • I want it NOW.

(OK so my options are usually for TV, but leaving that quibble aside…)

No. No it does not mean you get a movie.

No movie for you!

I’m not going to sugar coat it.

A friend who worked in TV told me on the DL that accepted industry guesstimates were that:

of one hundred options a production company took on, ten would move to script stage and, of those ten, one would actually get made.

That means

99% of book options die in production

“In media industry jargon, development hell (or development limbo) is a state during which a film or other project remains in development without progressing to production.”

“Someone hands you an envelope of cash and a puppy. The puppy has a 99% chance of dying in twelve months. This is called a movie option.”

~ Daryl Gregory (@darylwriterguy)

Here’s another thing to consider…

“The upper female quadrant—shall we call it Apple Pie?—is composed of women over twenty-four, like me. We are the least frequently targeted quadrant because of our penchant for waiting until we have unloaded the dishwasher and done every other imaginable errand we have to do before we leave the house and go to the movies.”

~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst

Do you know what else that Apple Pie quadrant is?

My readership.

Yes, I know there are exceptions out there *waves* but there is a reason the Apple Pies are also voracious book consumers. Because a book is something you can pick up and put down again.

(Although I try to write in such a manner as to make the putting down part very difficult.)

Look, I am super excited about the fact that there may be anything made of the Parasol Protectorate series, even the possibility is pretty darn cool. I have played at fantasy casting and you have played at fantasy casting. It’s fun to imagine. But even if the odds were in my favor, my books have three additional strikes against them…

Why is it particularly difficult for my book to become a movie?

  1. They are expensive to make because they take place in London, which means foreign location (Budapest in this day-and-age, if rumors are to be believed).
  2. They are expensive to make because they have supernatural creatures and steampunk elements which means lots of CGI.
  3. They are expensive to make because they require period costuming and set dressings.

Conclusion? Expensive.

“The one thing human beings do not do well with is abundance.”

~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst

What are you doing Gail?

You’re talking anyone interested in optioning any of your other books out of it.

My dears, I certainly hope Hollywood is at least as realistic as me about my various properties because, frankly, a loss of any one of the above elements (in the interests of economy) would make them no longer really my books.

Which brings us to the final aspect of this situation. Once the option is sold, the author has little to no control over anything from production to casting to script.

But they are YOUR books, Miss Gail!

Did you see the Wizard of Earthsea TV Series?

I rest my case.

Book to TV adaptation struggles – further reading

All the above articles are a little old.

If anything, here is the USA, it is has gotten more difficult for books to become movies (or TV shows) rather than less difficult. The globalization (or perceived globalization) of the film market means action-based, low-dialogue, tent-pole movies are increasingly profitable and other movies are, well, not.

So far as TV is concerned, streaming platforms have changed things, but not as much a you think. There is a reason content out Asia is shifting the viewing world (like k-pop with music). As exciting and unique as many of these shows are to American audiences, at the back end it has little to do with what’s being made so much as HOW it’s being made.

Book recommendation on the insides of the film industry

If you are genuinely interested in this subject and the weird reality of how Hollywood works, I cannot recommend Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business by Lynda Obst (2013) highly enough. I found it utterly enthralling.

Yours (destined to die in development hell),

Miss Gail 

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Soulless Promo Diagram from @readandrunwithjamie on IG I’ve seen these for other books but this is the first I’ve encountered for one of mine, exciting

This is the book that is usually under option, or to be more precise, this is the series.

Quote of the Day:

“We cannot judge the business by what happens during Oscar Season. It’s like judging your own work behavior only by the times your boss is in the room.”

~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst

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Posted by Gail Carriger

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  1. Salsta said:

    I've seen two fabulous book series that I love optioned, made and done very well. They are Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries based on the Phryne Fisher books by Kerrie Greenwook and Outlander based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. I recommend each book series and TV series unreservedly.

    The reason I think both worked so well is that in each case the authers were very involved in scripting and creative control (in Kerrie Fisher's case just for the first two seasons but that was enough to get it right).

    I'd love to see the Parasol Protectorate books made for TV as there's so much more scope to tell complete stories over a full TV series and it can be done very well at times, but only if they do it well. Otherwise it'd be very frustrating.

    I hope that one day this might happen but only if you get the same level of involvement thes two wonderful women did. Chances are low but if it ever happens, the result will be brilliant.

  2. Heather Button said:

    I hope your books get made into a series. But I understand why they might not. And if they do get made I really hope that you end up more like Kathy Reichs on Bones (where she gets regular input) than Kelley Armstrong with Bitten (where she has absolutely no say whatsoever in the series and who constantly has to explain to her readers that she has no say.

    At least with a miniseries or TV series your readership can record, pause and rewatch what they've missed.

  3. Nissa Norris said:

    As much as a mini-series of PP would be wonderful, it probably would never live up to our (or yours) imagination. In that, I am content if it doesn't happen.

  4. Kerry said:

    As much as it pains me to say, you may be right this is how Hollywood views us Apple Pie'rs (if it's not a word, it is now) still being over 34 myself I take offense to the fact that it's assumed by Hollywood I wouldn't go see these as a movie. Lets take all the books made into movies so far, yes they were YA books to start with, but if they look really hard at the audience they'll find Apple Pies too. As for the expense of television, all three elements mentioned Location, Monsters, Period Costumes all have been done, granted at what cost I couldn't tell you, but one of my favourite shows Sanctuary had all of these elements started as a webseries and went to TV for I believe 5 seasons.

    My point here is, the audience is here, TV or movie it could be done, and I for one am behind you all the way what ever happens.

  5. Marti said:

    Salsta – I have just finished the first season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and I agree it is great!

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