10 Things Hollywood Looks For in Your Book (Part 2 of 2)

John Robert Marlow is a novelist, screenwriter, editor and script consultant.

When deciding which books to option or adapt, Hollywood studios and the production companies that team with them look for very specific things. Picking up where the last post left off…

A REASONABLE BUDGET. In the book world, the publisher’s cost-per-page remains the same, whether your characters are playing checkers or blowing up a planet. This is not true of film, and the less costly your project is to film, the more potential buyers you have.

LOW FAT. Because of time and budgetary constraints, there’s little room for anything not absolutely essential to the onscreen story. Novelists can burn ten pages describing a room. A screenwriter might do this in a sentence–and going on for more than a paragraph will mark him or her as an amateur.

FRANCHISE POTENTIAL. If a film based on your book can be endlessly sequeled, that’s a big point in your favor. If the first movie hits, it’s a safer bet to release a sequel to your film than it is to risk vast sums on something new and untried. There are eighty-six movie sequels now in development.

“FOUR QUADRANT” APPEAL . Studios divide the moviegoing public into four large segments, or quadrants: young male, older male, young female, older female. The greater the number of quadrants your project appeals to, the better. Titanic and Avatar are four-quadrant films.

MERCHANDISING POTENTIAL . Film studios make more money from film-related merchandising than they do from the films themselves. A lot more. Films with low or no merchandising potential continue to be made, but the tidal wave is moving the other way–favoring projects with strong merchandising appeal.

This article is a condensation of  “What Hollywood Wants: 10 Things Studios Like to See in Adapted (and Original) Scripts.” John also writes the Self Editing Blog http://selfeditingblog.com.

The content of this article is copyright © 2010 by John Robert Marlow.

The Eighth San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / President’s Day Weekend, February 18-20, 2011 / Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel on Nob Hill / Keynoters: Dorothy Allison & David Morrell / Pitch your book to agents and editors from both coasts / More than 50 breakout sessions / 100 presenters / www.sfwriters.org  / blog: http://sfwriters.org/blog / free MP3s at www.sfwriters.info / Also available: A day of in-depth classes on February 21st

New! San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn, a project of the San Francisco Writers Conference / Laurie McLean, Dean /  www.sfwritersu.com

10 Things Hollywood Looks For in Your Book (Part 1 of 2)

We’re delighted to have an excellent two-part blog by  John Robert Marlow, a novelist, screenwriter, editor and script consultant.

When deciding which books to option or adapt, Hollywood studios and the production companies that team with them look for very specific things. To maximize your project’s appeal, incorporate these elements into your book or adapted screenplay…

A CINEMATIC CONCEPT that can be communicated in ten seconds, via something called a logline. Sound impossible? Try this: A fugitive doctor wrongly convicted of killing his wife struggles to prove his innocence while pursued by a relentless U.S. Marshal. (The Fugitive.)

A RELATABLE HERO that a large segment of the moviegoing public can relate to, root for, sympathize or empathize with.

STRONG VISUAL POTENTIAL. Simply put, film is less flexible than print. Film is a visual medium, and interesting things must pass before the camera, because all of the details are on the screen. Two people standing still and talking doesn’t cut it.

A THREE-ACT STRUCTURE. The vast majority of commercially successful films are “classically structured” into three acts. Even those with additional acts (like Star Wars) have only three major acts; the others fall within that framework.

A TWO-HOUR LIMIT, of sorts. If a story cannot be told in two hours or less (one hundred twenty script pages), it may be too costly to shoot. Industry veterans with proven track records warrant exceptions; newcomers do not. This is more a challenge for the screenwriter who adapts your book–but if it just can’t be done, that’s a problem.

To be continued…

This article is a condensation of  “What Hollywood Wants: 10 Things Studios Like to See in Adapted (and Original) Scripts.” John also writes the Self Editing Blog http://selfeditingblog.com.

The content of this article is copyright © 2010 by John Robert Marlow.

The Eighth San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 18th-20th, 2011 / Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel on Nob Hill / Keynoters: Dorothy Allison & David Morrell / Pitch your book to agents and editors from both coasts / More than 50 breakout sessions / 100 presenters / www.sfwriters.org  / blog: http://sfwriters.org/blog / free MP3s at www.sfwriters.info / Also available: a day of in-depth classes on Monday, Febraury 21st

Selling by Telling: Speaking from the Heart

Jerry Seinfeld once said that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. This means that at a funeral, you’d be better off in the coffin than giving the eulogy.

Speaking, like writing, is exposing yourself in public, so  fear is natural. But readers want to connect with authors in person, so speaking can accelerate sales and the development of your career.

If speaking about writing, your work, your subject, or yourself makes sense for your book, consider these suggestions:

Giving talks will help you

* promote and build an audience for your book and other talks

* get feedback on your ideas, your humor, the impact of your stories, and the difference you make in listener’s lives

* build

–sales of your books, products and services

–word of mouth

–online buzz

–relationships with your listeners

–your email list, if you ask for addresses

–a collection of videos for fans, agents, editors, the media, book buyers, and people who book talks

The challenge is making your listeners share your passion for your book. Look at a talk as having three parts: an introduction, the body of the talk and a conclusion. Or as someone once said: Tell’em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.

As with your book, don’t think about what you’re selling, think about what people are buying. What’s the best way to present the essence of your book so it serves and excites your listeners? Appealing to the head is easier than appealing to the heart. People understand the value of ideas. The heart part is harder.

The most effective talks inform, enlighten, entertain and inspire. They

* provide valuable information

* present a vision or perspective based on that information

* hold listeners spellbound

* inspire audiences to act, if only to buy what you offer

* continue to improve as speakers learn from responses to them and find ways to make them more effective

Unless you can read a section of your book that will have a strong affect on audiences, the impact of reading isn’t clear to me. Usually, the Q & A session that follows readings is more interesting. But reading is a standard part of book-signings for novelists and memoirists, and if it will help sell your book, do it.

Use handouts. They add lasting value to your talks and can include your contact information, events, products and services, and order information. The organization that  invites you to speak may print them for you.

Want the best intro? Write it yourself. Also write your outro, what you’d like to have said after you speak about book sales, upcoming events, your blog and website.

Most of what you communicate isn’t the words; it’s you. It’s everything else that audiences experience: your clothes, movement, gestures, voice and passion.

To minimize the fear of speaking:

* Attend talks, watch them on YouTube and television, listen to them on iTunes and CDs. Use the best as models.

* Write and revise your talk until it’s as strong as you can make it. Use stories and humor. Credit the work of others.

* Practice your talk as often as you can.

* Audition your talk. Ask people to make suggestions, and grade the content and impact on a scale of one to ten.

* If you’re planning to read your talk, underline the syllables you will stress. Professionals memorize talks. They look at the parts of them as modules that they can shift and eliminate, depending on the length and subject of the talk.

* Attend a talk at places where you’ll speak, if you can.

The better you know your talk and the more often you give it, the more confidence and less fear you will experience. The kicker: the fear of speaking is a good thing if you use it to energize your talk.

Business, professional and nonprofit organizations need speakers. As soon as you feel ready to speak, begin doing it. You’re an amateur until someone asks you how much you charge.

At the end of your talk, ask your audience to tell you if they know of any organizations that would like you to speak. If you’re speaking before publication, they may welcome you back when your book comes out.

What are the joys of speaking?

* Audiences laughing at your jokes and being moved by your stories

* Listeners telling you how much they enjoyed your talk

* Changing people’s lives

* Getting paid to give voice to your passion

* Creating a community of fans and customers

* Being asked to come back

* Getting referrals for talks

If corporations, associations and nonprofit organizations will pay you to speak, you may be able to make more income from giving talks and selling books after them than you can in royalties.

To develop your speaking skills, join Toastmasters, www.toastmasters.org. If you want to become a professional speaker, join the National Speakers Association, www.nsaspeaker.org.

The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue may be more lucrative than either.

Comments, questions and humor welcome.