A number of producers have been interested in a book whose film/TV rights I represent. It’s a debut novel, hopefully the first of a series. The author is smart, and done a lot to educate herself on how it all works and what to expect, but it’s a steep learning curve.
It’s been great – perhaps a bit overwhelming – that producers have bought us nice lunches, offered fresh muffins and nice folders showing what a great TV series they’d make of the book they’re so enthusiastic about. An author’s dream.
She’s asked me what to expect, and what the implications are of granting producers the right to allow other writers to create stories for the series. It’s all a known quantity and probably unlikely to prompt any writer to suicide – unless it’s a big success.
In a bad scenario, maybe the alchemy that happens during development and production will go against the book, and a bad programme will emerge. Only a few people will watch it, and the producers will try and forget it. Probably remove it from their CVs.
More likely, the producers will do a reasonable job. The series will run for a few years, everyone will get paid, and then go on to something else. The author’s value will have risen, and she’ll have more power to make other creative choices – write novels in other genres, for instance.
But it’s if it really takes off that things get amazing and nightmarish in seemingly equal measure. She’ll make more money, and publishers and producers will become more deferential. She might overhear them asking for ‘the next’ her – just like her but a bit different, probably younger and cheaper. Her villain will make a jovial appearance on Children in Need, and people will adopt his costume for Halloween parties. There’ll be a spin-off series in totally the wrong style, and an American version which is probably better thought-out but subtly askew. Her series and name will become a short-hand for something they never originally meant.
It really feels like standing at the gate of the world’s biggest roller-coaster, wondering whether to persuade a friend to get on it. Would it help if I offered her a blind-fold?