A Book’s Becoming a Movie Is a Difficult Proposition for Even Million-Seller Writers


An author switching literary agencies might not seem like something remotely worth mentioning to a writer trying to break into the industry by landing a bona fide agent and an equally reputable publisher, but I found it rather remarkable that Nelson DeMille switched agents.  Nicholas Ellison had handled Mr. DeMille’s work for as long as I’ve been following this industry, and in late 2012 he signed with a pair of agents at ICM.  Of course I have no idea why this change was made, as Nicholas Ellison is a fabulously successful agent with a reputation that is beyond reproach (I worked one of my own novels with an agent at his firm some years ago and found it a solid experience.  Sadly, the guy left the business before placing my book, and with his departure my chances at the agency).

While I admit to no private knowledge of why the agency switch occurred, I have to give a smidgeon of credence to ICM’s having stronger cinematic influence than what is available via even an uber-agency such as Nicholas Ellison’s.  And this goes directly to an article I wrote on the reality of film options in a recent Newsletter.  Nelson DeMille, for all of his enormous success as an author writing Thrillers that the public, including me, can’t get enough of, has had one lone book, THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER, turned into a movie.  Yet I have to guess, and I believe it’s a good supposition, that every one of his book’s have been optioned.  As I wrote, an option is great for the ego, but a book’s becoming a movie is right up there with getting hit by an meteorite while in a submarine.

ICM is a multibillion-dollar operation with a spate of major mergers over the years that has created what many believe is the most powerful force in all of the book and entertainment industry.  ICM has strong tie-ins with a number of top Hollywood producers, making the synergy both formidable and undeniable.  With this aspect of ICM’s structure blatantly extant, why wouldn’t a million-seller fiction author–of which how many of these are out there–desire a relationship with an entity that might be better able to bring his or her material to film?  Again, my reason for writing about the agency change is not to illustrate a one-in-a-million author’s success story and the ability to move around at will, but to demonstrate just how hard it is to have a book made into a movie–even a lousy adaptation (I’m not referring to THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER, but to any great book that’s produced a dud of a movie).  My advice is to never, ever pay someone to turn your material into a screenplay, no matter how enticing the offer might appear. First, the business doesn’t work this way; and, second, the possibility of the material’s coming to the big screen or television is as remote as my earlier analogy.  It’s easy for any author to get sucked in by the hype–bottom line: just don’t let it happen.

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