How One Self-Published Author Landed A Movie Deal

It’s certainly one of my dreams to walk down the red carpet at the premiere of a film made from one of my books. It seems to be relatively common for books to get optioned for movie deals but rare to see the studios exercise the option and produce the movie. But today guest blogger Grant McDuling shares how one of his books was picked up by a movie director. Grant has been writing since 1978 and is the author of 39 books.

turning book into a movieIt’s been said that finding a publisher for your novel is one of the most difficult things any author can do. But I reckon selling it to a movie studio is even harder. Having said that, I also believe it’s not impossible.

When I set out to write a novel about a young boy who loved horses, I never for a moment dreamt that it would one day appear on the big screen. But ten years down the track, it looks like this may just become a reality.

This is how it all happened.

Write a good book

I had just completed my book The Fields of Hope and uploaded it to Amazon.com when I started looking for my next writing project. I wasn’t thinking of another book but rather something shorter to complete, like a magazine article, when I came across an ad in the paper for a scriptwriter for an upcoming TV series on boxing. Having an interest in the sport, I sat down and typed out an application for the job and emailed it off.

Then I forgot all about it.

A few weeks later I received a phone call and was invited to attend an interview as I had been short listed for the job. I was amazed as I hadn’t written a screenplay before. Being a full time writer I was in the habit of taking my chances.

Anyway, in the end I wasn’t offered the job, mainly I think because the TV series never got picked up by a major TV network. What I did score, though, was some good contacts within the industry. The producer, I learnt during pre-interview small talk, was interested in horses and filming movies that feature horses. My marketing instinct kicked in and I began promoting The Fields of Hope to him for all I was worth.

Take marketing opportunities where you find them

Well, you know how it is when you get talking about your own book! I couldn’t help myself. After all, I figured it wasn’t everyday that I got to sit in the same room with a movie producer.

“Shoot me a copy sometime, will you?” he asked. “Sounds interesting.”

Well, I could hardly believe my ears. On arriving home after the interview I arranged for a copy of the book to be sent to him (I ordered a hard copy version) and got on with life.

About a month later, I received an email from the producer saying that he liked the story so much he’d like to offer me a movie deal. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

I couldn’t answer in the affirmative fast enough.

The contract arrives

When the contract arrived, it was like reading a story, not a legal document. I was being offered 4% of the total profit should the movie ever be screened and sold. I would have no input into the production of the script nor the casting of actors.

Are you kidding? I couldn’t care what they did with it, I was just so delighted in getting this far.

About a year later I received a copy of the script and was surprised to discover that the only thing they wanted to change was the ending: not to alter the story, but rather to go a bit further than the book by concluding with a horse race. I readily agreed.

So, where are things at present?

I am told they plan to start shooting early in the new year. Part funding has already been secured from South Africa and things are on track.

The moral of this story is never to lose faith in your abilities and to treat your writing as a business. You need to market your work just as any business markets its products.

Oh, and don’t ever be too shy about talking up your work and your abilities.

Are you interested in a movie deal, and so you have any stories to tell about it?

About the author

Grant McDuling is a Brisbane, Australia-based author of 39 books so far. He has published seven as Kindle books and says that since buying a Kindle, his reading habits have changed. Grant is a well-known ghostwriter, having written for a range of clients all over the world. Many of his books are now international best sellers with sales in the millions. Grant has been writing since 1978. His other interests include amateur radio, computers, electronics and classical music.
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Comments

  1. says

    Given the number of people who tell me my books would make great movies, and given my own love of film, it would be a real high point in my life to score a movie deal one day. One of my short stories is being made into a short film by a film student, and the short story features the protagonist from my novels, so you never know!

    • says

      There’s definitely something around relationships as well. I’ve been checking out Marcus Sakey, whose books are good but not in another league. Yet he has multiple movie deals with big name actors (Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire) http://marcussakey.com/
      He does work in television though so already has the connections.
      I’ve also heard that it’s good to try and at least do the first draft of the screenplay if you get optioned, because that adds to the income. There have been some authors who had movies made of their books but they had sold the rights for practically nothing and didn’t make anything from it. A whole other industry to investigate :)

  2. Brad says

    Grant: Good to see you moving on to the big screen. Also good to see another writer who is also into amateur radio and electronics! 73 de WA5PSA.

  3. says

    Congrats Grant

    After writing 39 books you deserve this big break. I think every authors wants a to experience their book become a movie because when we write them, well at least when I write my books, we see it playing out as a movie inside our heads.

    Thanks for post joanna

  4. says

    Yes, congrats! And I’m sure you positive attitude had a little something to do with it . . . ;-) May this be the continuation of a fantastic and fulfilling career for you!

  5. says

    That’s absolutely amazing! It just shows that being positive and giving things a try, even if you feel like you won’t succeed, is something that you should do. Regardless of what you think, try whatever you can and you’ll be surprised at the results.

  6. Roberta Loufek says

    Unfortunately films never make a profit. Percentages of these non-existent profits are called monkey points in the film industry because they are worthless. Either get a percentage of the gross or be paid up front, otherwise you will never see a dime. I am truly sorry that you got such a bad deal. But at least if the film is made and distributed you can add it to your resume. Any authors interested in breaking into films should read extensively about the industry first to discover the pitfalls to avoid. That industry is rife with scam artists and greedy people who steal whatever they can. How do I know? I’m a southern CA native who grew up immersed in it. Now I happily live in Arizona.

    • says

      There’s definitely something for marketing in it regardless of the income (although as per my previous comment it’s best to try and write the first draft of the screenplay too). I heard Lee Child speak at Thrillerfest and he talked about how the Tom Cruise movie ‘Jack Reacher’ is basically spending $150million to market his brand. Whether he makes income is probably secondary from book sales as a result of the film.

    • Grant says

      Hi Roberta, Yes I understand but one has to start somewhere. And when I think of how much I have made for my ‘authors’ who I ghosted books for …. better not go there. One has saled approaching 2 million books, and at $30 each …

      Oh well, it’s the writing I enjoy most.

    • Larkin Hunter says

      Yes. I worked for some years in development for several movie entities, and I feel a bit queasy whenever I hear of a writer getting involved with the movie business. If I knew how, I’d make these words large, bold, italic and bright purple: get an attorney, one with experience in the film industry.

      Accounting in the film industry is like accounting in no other industry–at least I hope so!

      Still, it would be lovely to have a good movie made of your novel. Another volume for your bookshelves, and something for the grandkids to enjoy.

      And who knows? You might have happened across a producer with recognizable ethics. Best wishes!

  7. says

    Very encouraging. It seems that hard work and a good story get you 80% of the way there. The rest is luck/fate/devine intervention. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Grant. And thank you, Joanna (J.F), for passing it along.

  8. says

    What a great story…and really inspiring for us authors who are trying to write great books for possible movie deals! Excited for you!

    Congrats Grant and thanks for another great post Joanna :-)

  9. says

    Congratulations to Grant – well done for grabbing the opportunity when it presented itself. Amazing things can happen when you step up and take action.

    Here is my movie deal story:-
    My name is Ian Usher, and Joanna interviewed me for this blog a while ago when my self-published book “A Life Sold” came out. It is the true story of how and why I listed my “whole life” for sale on eBay, and the amazing two-year journey that followed.
    During the run up to the eBay auction, which took place in 2008, there was a good deal of interest in the movie rights for the idea, and eventually a deal was struck with Walt Disney Pictures.
    They bought an 18 month option over the story, which they extended by a further 18 months at the end of the first option period. (An option is an agreement which allows the movie studio the right to buy the story within a given timeframe, and prevents the author selling the story elsewhere during the option period.)
    In November 2011 the second option was due to expire, and the contract did not allow Disney to renew again. They had to either purchase the rights completely, or allow the option to lapse. By this point my book was in print, and I steered the exec at Disney that I had contact details for towards the book on Amazon, pointing out how much bigger the whole adventure had become.
    I have no idea how much the book influenced the decision, but Disney decided to go ahead and buy the story.
    At the moment they still seem to be working on it, and recently had a big-shot screenwriter doing a script re-write:-
    http://www.deadline.com/2012/06/disney-pays-seven-figures-for-scott-rosenberg-pitch/
    I don’t imagine the movie will follow the book too closely, but we’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
    All very exciting though.
    Happy writing, and good luck with your movie pitches.
    Ian Usher

    • says

      Hi Ian – how good to hear from you again! For everyone reading, Ian’s interview is here:
      http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/12/13/achieving-goals/
      It’s also good to hear about the option process – selling a movie option doesn’t seem to be a big deal but once they actually go and buy the rights, there’s more of a chance, but not a guarantee. On the Reacher story again, I think Lee said it was 15 years from the rights being bought to the film coming out – a long wait, but well worth it.
      I hope you don’t have to wait as long Ian, and congrats!

      • Grant says

        Great story Ian. I know you do need to be patient in this business, but so what? Better than waiting for nothing to happen. Thanks for sharing. Very inspiring, and original too.

        • says

          Fifteen years!! Goodness Joanna, I too hope it isn’t that long.
          Still, as you say Grant, patiently waiting for something is better than waiting for nothing.
          Hopefully something does come from it all eventually.
          I’ll update here if I ever hear anything more from Disney – they are never very forth-coming with info.

          • Grant says

            Do keep us informed, Ian. It’s really motivating to us to hear that ‘our community of writers’ is making progress, often against the odds.

  10. says

    You never know where your published books will catch on in terms of interest. A well-written book with well developed characters provides a solid foundation for a script. Never underestimate your impact as a writer and your ideas.

  11. says

    Your current post offers verified necessary to us.

    It’s very useful and you’re simply clearly very educated in this region. You get popped my sight for you to various views on this subject along with intriguing, notable and reliable articles.

  12. Duarl Richardson says

    I have selfpublished my book Zammatra with Xlibris. I’m a 65 year old man that doesn’t know how to get someone to consider my book for a movie. Zammatra is about sisters one F.B.I. other terrorist. Twist to my book is the terrorist becomes the American hero. what should I do? i’m also a vietnam vet. Living on VA.ans SS. so i don’t havea lot of money to invest. Stil working on Zammatra 2 Looking Back. Plans for Zammatra Fnal Confrontation. Thank you for your time.

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