It’s no secret that Hollywood has a fondness for adapting novels to the big screen. By now, we’ve all been overexposed to George Clooney’s look of chiseled shock as he stares up the face of a 100-foot wave in The Perfect Storm. And we’ve all sat on the edges of our chairs as the battle raged over who would win the coveted directing spot for the Harry Potter film adaptation. In fact, many films in recent memory-such as Boys Don’t Cry, The Cider House Rules, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Hurricane, Girl Interrupted, Get Shorty-all have humble roots in publishing.Which leads to the question, how can you get your book made into a big screen film? The answer is simple-write a best-seller. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have producers from the Santa Monica Pier to Ellis Island calling for the film rights to your novel. A best-seller has many built-in components that Hollywood executives love. For one, much of the hard work has already been done. Within the covers of a best-seller exists a well-crafted, compelling story, fully fleshed out, three-dimensional characters, detailed plot lines, conflict, suspense, character arc-it’s all there. In addition, there’s already an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers, and millions who would like to read the book but “don’t have the time.” All the studio needs to do is bring in a screenwriter, a big name star, roll the cameras, and watch the box office revenues pour in. Right? Wrong!Although this formula does work on occasion, there just aren’t enough books that meet these criteria to supply all the movies made in Hollywood. In addition to movies made and released by the major st: <>s, there’s also a big market fueled by minor studios, independent films, the broadcast television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FBC), and more recently, the cable networks. More and more, cable networks are getting into the original movie business. Some of the cable outlets that are now making original movies include HBO, Showtime, TNT, USA, TBS, MTV, Lifetime, The Disney Channel, f/x, VH1, FOX Family, A&E, Encore, E!, ESPN, Court TV, and PAX. As you can see, the scenario outlined above is certainly one that simplifies the development process and lessens the risk, but can’t keep up with the demand. So producers and development executives turn to resources outside of “best-seller” lists to find novels they can adapt to screen-both big and small.Many books that haven’t climbed as high on the charts, or are no longer there, are also being discovered by Hollywood. A few examples are: K-Pax by Gene Brewer (1995), which Universal Pictures is making starring Kevin Spacey; The Huntress by Christopher Keane (1996), which became both a movie and now a dramatic series for USA; Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore (1995) is being developed into an HBO film; the children’s book How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell will be produced by Ron Howard; The Human Stain by Philip Roth was purchased by Paramount; Danny DeVito’s company has acquired the 1993 novel On Mermaid Avenue by Binnie Kirshenbaum; Tom Cruise’s production company bought Celia Brayfield’s yet-to-be-released novel Heartswap for Nicole Kidman to star; the out-of-print book The World of Ted Serios by Jule Eisenbud MD will be directed by Chris Carter (X-Files creator); and the list goes on and on.So how does Hollywood get their hands on this material? Many producers still rely on agents to submit material to them. It’s a passive approach that is quickly changing as aggressive executives and producers turn to more ingenious methods of finding material, beating out their idle competitors for the coveted production “green light.” Some of the more popular resources that Hollywood executives turn to in their search for the next great book to adapt are trade publications like Publishers Weekly and Forward magazines that provide reviews on upcoming titles. “The Sunday Book Review” section of major newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times are also good stopping spots to find books. And there’s always the long-established method of paging through press kits, catalogs, and directories distributed by the major publishing houses.While all of these methods are helpful in allowing executives to skim through a large number of books, extracting those titles that might meet their development needs, they also come with hitch. Most books reviewed in these sources are new or soon-to-be-released books, leaving all the great titles of the past to fall from consideration. Furthermore, because this information comes in print form, there is no efficient way to search for a specific type of story outside of manually browsing through each and every listing. As the competition in Hollywood becomes more intense, the process of finding that great story first becomes ever more important.The proliferation of the Internet is quickly changing how Hollywood does business. As hot, young, Internet-savvy executives make their way into the upper echelons of studios and production companies, more and more are turning to the Internet as a resource for stories. When they meet with an actress, actor, or director who is looking for a specific type of story, they can quickly search for certain genres of books through on-line services from the Library of Congress to Amazon.com, and many other sites that locate out-of-print books. The drawback is that none of these services provide information on the film rights to these books. Many times, weeks can go by waiting for a response from the subrights department of major publishers, or the actual rights holder can never be found. Still, these means are providing access to books that were formerly tucked away on a shelf or out-of-print. New Internet services are cropping up at breakneck speeds to help eliminate inefficiencies and bring down the barriers that previously kept buyers and sellers apart.So with all these books getting made into films and series, why isn’t your book being considered? It could be nothing more than your book is not being made available to development executives, agents, and producers. As hungry as Hollywood is for great stories, if you have one that’s already been published, you need to take a proactive approach to getting your book noticed. With the sheer number of niche-specific films being made, you’re bound to generate some interest in your title if it truly is a compelling story.Keep your eyes and mind open to new, innovative ideas that will provide access to your material. Whether you gravitate to traditional methods of finding an agent or manager, or you align yourself with a publishing group or association, or you send e-mails to development executives, the important thing is you do something. Turning to the Internet for exposure is one of the quickest bets for your novel. Look into some of the inventive services that cater specifically to these markets, like my site, storyXchange.com. The important thing is to make noise and do whatever you can to find a producer for your material. In the long run, a hit film based on your book will be worth the efforts you put in now.
Dan Lux is the Founder, President, and Creator of storyXchange, an Internet marketplace for unpublished books and novels, spec screenplays, published novels, true life stories, and more. He came to this position with over a decade of experience as a development executive in Hollywood. To learn more, visit his site at storyXchange.com.