Many authors dream of seeing their book turned into a film or TV show, but what are the realities of pitching and even getting optioned? In today’s show, DJ Williams shares his experience and tips.
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Today’s show is sponsored by PublishDrive, a global self-publishing platform distributing to 400+ stores and 240,000 libraries, with innovative marketing tools like integrated Amazon Ads. The writing process is hard enough, so the publishing and marketing process should be easier. PublishDrive helps authors write more, publish more, sell more and worry less. Go to www.PublishDrive.com to learn more.
DJ Williams is a TV executive director and producer with more than 400 episodes of broadcast TV syndicated worldwide. He’s also the author of three novels, including The Auctioneer described as ‘Bourne meets Bond meets National Treasure’.
- On the shift from directing for TV to writing novels
- Finding an agent who specializes in your genre
- Pitching to a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime
- Once again, the importance of intellectual property rights
- Podcast episode with John Grisham and Harlan Coben that Derek refers to. Also check out the book, Hollywood vs the Author for Michael Connelly’s story and more.
- Our thoughts on Taleflick.com – you can get $8 off if you use my link: www.TheCreativePenn.com/taleflick
- On what authors can bring to their pitches that will keep them involved with the production
- Compressing your idea down to the short ‘logline’ to use during pitching
- Hollywood’s search for stories that are unique and producable
- Tips on how to find production companies
You can find DJ Williams at djwilliams.com and on Twitter @djwilliams316
Transcript of Interview with DJ Wiliams
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I’m here with D.J. Williams. Welcome, Derek.
Derek: Hi, Joanna, how are you? Good to be here.
Joanna: It’s great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Derek is a TV executive director and producer with more than 400 episodes of broadcast TV syndicated worldwide. He’s also the author of three novels, including ‘The Auctioneer’ described as ‘Bourne meets Bond meets National Treasure,’ which is right down my alley in the action-adventure space.
Derek, start by telling us a bit more about you and your career in writing and TV and film.
Derek: Sure, after that introduction, I feel like I need a vacation. I feel like I’ve been working way too hard.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, so I’m an expat to some degree. Moved back to LA when I was 15, ended up getting into the music business for a long time, producing records. I owned a couple indie labels. And then when iTunes came along, all of us had to revamp our career. And I got a phone call from a friend who said that they were shooting a pilot for a new show.
And he said, ‘I want you to come out and direct the pilot.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve never directed TV before’. And he said, ‘Well, how hard can it be? Just show up, act like you know what you’re doing.’
So, I flew out to Indiana, and we shot the pilot, and the pilot took off. And I think we’re in season 16 of that particular show. And it’s just one of those things I said yes and took a risk, and it’s been 12 years. I’ve been working in the TV world and very grateful to always have work because that’s one of the challenges.
Joanna: It’s really interesting because a lot of people romanticize the TV and film industry. People would be like, ‘Well, why would you write novels then? Why would you do that?’
Why get into writing novels? What does that give you that’s different?
Derek: When I was in the music business, everything from producing records to promoting and marketing the records or artists, I always saw myself as a storyteller. And music was the outlet at that point.
Now, on the TV side, we do a lot of unscripted shows, but you’re still storytelling. If someone’s being interviewed, you’re still trying to tell their story.
But there was a point in my life where I was at a crossroads in my career, and I found myself on the Zambezi River in a tent for three days with wild animals all around me. I’m a total city boy, so that was quite an adventure.
One morning I got up, I was looking out on the river, and I’ll back up just a little bit. We were shooting a documentary over there, so we had been there for three weeks filming, had seen all kinds of amazing things and met all kinds of amazing people. And that morning on the Zambezi, I looked out on the river, and I thought, ‘One day I’m going to write about this place.’
I didn’t know what that would look like. But I came home, and it’s kind of how it is. You leave one of those adventures and you come home and life’s back to the grind, and you’re working, you’re doing a lot. I put it on the shelf for a while, and then I picked it up probably about three or four years later, and I thought, ‘I’m going to write a novel, but I’m not going to tell anybody.’
I wrote the whole thing, didn’t even tell my wife I was writing. She had no idea what I was doing.
And when it was done, I sent it out to a friend of mine, her name is Judith McCreary, and Judith was a co-executive producer on ‘Law and Order: SVU’ ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘CSI.’ And I said, ‘Judith, if this is really bad, then the only people that will know this exists are you and me.’
She read it, and she happened to be writing a script for, I think it was ‘Lifetime’ at the time, about human trafficking. Well, the first novel I wrote had to do with human trafficking. And so she called me up a couple days later, and she said, ‘You’ve gotta get this out. You got to do it.’
So that was the push I needed to take that step forward. It’s actually a good outlet because when we’re doing the TV stuff you’re with camera crews, and a lot of guests, and we also shoot pilots that we pitch to the networks, and you can be around a lot of people.
When I’m writing the novels, that’s the exact opposite. You’re by yourself, and I kind of like that. It’s been just a good kind of one-two punch for me.
Joanna: And I’m interested because, of course, you said you were in the music scene as well.
How are you doing your publishing? Are you indie through and through, or what are you doing?
Derek: I had an agent, and we pitched the projects. The first two books I wrote were not edgy enough for a commercial house. And so with ‘The Auctioneer,’ which is the latest book that’s very commercial. It checks all the boxes for a great action-adventure story. So, we shopped that around.
The one thing I’ve learned is if you’re looking for a literary agent, because I have a TV agent, and it works for what we do. But with a literary agent, you need to find someone that specializes in the genre that you’re writing in. And so I had an agent that specialized in a different kind of genre, so that was very difficult because they didn’t necessarily have the relationships with the publishing houses.
We went through this for about a year, them not being able to really get it in front of the right people. And going back to my background, like you’re saying, I’m kind of an entrepreneurial guy. And so I thought, ‘I’m not gonna wait any longer, so we’re just going to get it out on our own.’
Part of that is learning the Amazon ads. With the first book, which is kind of funny, the first book, we built our own database of every customer relations manager at every Barnes and Noble store. And we started blasting out emails to everybody to the point where the corporate buyer out of New York called me up and said, ‘Okay, what’s it going to take for you not to email our guys all the time?’
Joanna: That’s brilliant.
Derek: I said, ‘We just want to do a book tour.’ So we ended up doing a 15-city-book tour as an indie with Barnes and Noble. And that went really well. I learned a lot, between actually doing the traditional bookstore touring versus really dialing into the online platform.
It’s been a learning process. But long story short, I feel like I’m kind of an indie. If a publisher comes along, or the right agent comes along, then we’ll figure it out. But so far, it’s working for us.
Joanna: I think that’s really interesting, and the waiting time is the big deal when you’re used to just getting stuff done, which I think is the big frustration.
Let’s circle back to the TV and film because I know people listening want to know about pitching and about the type of books that even get optioned. ‘The Auctioneer’ is out at the moment with production companies, and you mentioned the lady there who said, ‘Yeah, this is a great kind of fit.’
What are your thoughts on how an author can get optioned? And also what kind of books should people try and get optioned?
Derek: It’s because of the streaming services that are out there now. For example, we just had a meeting the other day talking about a couple of scripted shows, everything from like a film to a limited series. And so that whole conversation, none of it had to do with pitching to cable or to the traditional networks. It was all going straight to Amazon, Netflix.
When they first came out, the budgets were very low, so it was very difficult to pitch certain projects. But as we’ve seen in the last few years, because they’re winning all kinds of awards, their budgets are relatively equivalent to what you’ll find at a studio or with a cable network. So that really opens up the doors for storytellers because they’re looking for all kinds of stories.
And so a lot of it has to do with the characters, the plot, but I think it’s wide open. Whereas before they would look for a certain kind of genre, and everyone wanted that kind of a story. I think that’s completely changing right now.
I’ve seen that with ‘The Auctioneer.’ ‘The Auctioneer’ is out at a bunch of studios, a bunch of production companies. We’ve got a couple of production companies that are very interested in looking at it.
It’s a little bit like going to Vegas. You roll the dice, and if you’re lucky enough to get an option, that doesn’t mean you’re going to retire. I think that’s one of the big misconceptions is that people think, ‘Man, if I get my book option, I’m getting a six-figure check, and I’m going to just relax.’ And that’s typically not how it works.
If a book gets optioned, the option period is anywhere from 12 to 18 months. And then usually what they’ll do is they’ll write in kind of an additional 12-month period.
If the book actually gets into production, then they’ll option it for an additional 12 months, and they pay the author for both options, which is nice, but it’s not necessarily six figures unless you’re the best selling author.
That’s how we’ve kind of seen it progress. And once it’s optioned, the other thing is a few years back I had the opportunity to sit with Joel Gotler. And Joel was, or still is, an agent out here in LA. He used to represent Michael Connelly. He helped Michael get the deal put together with Amazon for ‘Bosch.’
Now, Michael, for years, when he first released the ‘Bosch’ series years ago, he had signed an option deal over to the studios. And I think that deal was for like 20 years, every book for 20 years. Not one of those books from the ‘Bosch’ series ever made into a TV series or a movie.
It wasn’t until Michael got the option back and ran with it on his own that they were able to put a deal together. But typically, within 12 to 18 months, you don’t know if anything is going to happen.
Joanna: That’s a really important point.
I was going to mention there’s a book called ‘Hollywood Vs. the Author,’ have you seen it? Michael Connelly writes in that book about getting ‘Bosch’ back, and he had to pay the studio something like $3 million or $4 million for it.
But luckily, the Amazon deal paid off, and ‘Bosch’ is doing really well. But it was interesting because, of course, he’s a very successful author, he can afford that type of money. But it’s fascinating because, as you say, having tied it up with an option doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to go into production, or that it’s going to be successful. So that’s something that is really important for authors to realize.
In fact, lots of people get optioned, but very few things get made.
Derek: The flip side of it, on the inside of Hollywood, is sometimes they’ll option a book, if it’s similar to something else that they already have in development. And so they’ll option it not to do anything with it but just to keep it off the streets. They’ll hang on to it so that it doesn’t interfere with something else they already have in production. I’ve seen that happen.
I would say if you’re going down that route, if people listening have an agent, that’s really great, a literary agent, because they’ll be able to help kind of walk you through that.
But my other advice would be if someone approaches you, Google’s a great thing. You can Google the producer, the production company, you can look at their credits, you can see if they’re really legit. And then if they are legit, and they actually make you an offer it’s definitely worth spending the money to take it to an entertainment attorney and say, ‘Okay, what am I signing? How’s it going to limit me?’
And then the other thing that you have to do, which this could be hard for us creative types, is, as an author, typically when they option the book, from that point forward, if it does get into development, or does get into production, you’re hands off, typically.
I’ve talked with a lot of authors that are like, ‘I don’t want to sign an option deal unless I’m the producer, and I’m a writer, and I’m all these things.’ And, in a perfect world, that would be great. But in reality, you have to be willing to let it go.
I listened to a really good podcast, I think it was last year sometime, with John Grisham and Harlan Coben. And they were talking about kind of the whole thing with getting books optioned and everything. And they had the best advice ever. They said, ‘Look, if you can get an option, that’s great. Walk away from it after you sign it, and get as much money as you can up front.’
Joanna: Do you remember what podcast that was? Because I know people will want to know.
Derek: I forget what it was called but when Grisham did the book tour last year, he hadn’t done a book tour in like 20 years. When he did the book tour, they recorded a podcast at every one of those stops.
Joanna: So it might be his website or something.
Derek: Definitely go to his website because it’s definitely on there. And he had, like, guest authors come in and they talked about all kinds of stuff from social media to the TV film thing and all that.
Joanna: That sounds cool. Okay, so just circling back again.
If authors want to try and pitch to film or TV, should they be trying to adapt their novel, or should they be doing something like a treatment, or should they just be doing a pitch? And what do those mean, if people don’t understand?
Derek: I would say your book is your best lead-in. Depending on the production company, depending on the producer, a lot of times they may not have time to read a 300-page book. So what we’ve done is we’ll send the book, I’ve got a 12-page treatment, that is the complete story. It gives away everything, all the surprises, all the hooks.
Sometimes the author’s always like, ‘I don’t want to give them everything.’ They need to know every detail in a summary form. And then what we’ll do is we’ll do a one-paragraph summary of the story with a tag line at the top, which is kind of our hook.
An agent will look at it differently, a producer, a director, an actor, a studio, everyone’s looking at it from a different point of view. Sometimes the one-paragraph deal is good enough to get you a meeting.
But for a producer, they want to know, ‘Okay, I like the characters. I like kind of how the story begins, how’s this thing going to flow out over 110 pages?’ Give them the 12-page treatment, or it might be less than 12, but for us, it was 12 pages. Give them that treatment and they can read that in 15 minutes and know, ‘Okay, is this something that we’re interested in?’
The other thing we’ve done with ‘The Auctioneer’ is, we’ve set this up to go the distance. So we’re not only pitching it to studios for a film, but we’re also pitching it as a TV series. Because I think the characters and the way the story unfolds, it could definitely go five seasons, which that’s the goal.
For those listening, if you’re pitching a book to television, that story’s got to go at least five seasons. 100 episodes is the magic number. Because once it goes 100 episodes, then it goes into syndication. And what that means is, now that show can get sold to other networks around the world. And that, as we call out here is, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Joanna: I’m interested in the treatment there. I’ve done a little bit of this kind of thing. And with a treatment for a TV series versus a film, for example.
In the TV series treatment, would you be outlining your ideas for…presumably not 100 episodes, but at least how that might continue over five series?
Most people may have only written a couple of books or even one book, so how would that treatment work?
Derek: The approach would be this, if we’re looking at TV and film. So with film, typically, as you’re writing the script, you’ll have a three-act structure to the film script. With the TV side with a pilot, for example, that’s a five-act structure. So even writing those two, it’s a completely different process.
With television, you are really condensing things down. But at the same time, you’re having to watch your story arcs because you don’t want your story arcs to happen too fast, and run out of gas before the end of a 13 or 22-episode season.
My advice would be with the pilot, I would take your book and say, ‘Okay, I want to write a pilot, so I’m going to write a TV pilot.’ That pilot’s going to be about 52 pages. It will have five acts, and the pilot is introducing the viewers to your world, the world you’re creating, setting the stakes for what’s going to happen in season one, and then it’s also kind of introducing people to the characters, but not getting too deep.
You want to get them hooked just enough. If you look at your book, that may only be the first however many chapters of your book. But in addition to that, as part of the TV side, we put together what we call a show Bible.
And so in the show Bible we’ll have character profiles, like very detailed kind of history on the characters. For season one, we’ll write episode summaries. So say it’s a 13 episode season, we’ll write a summary for each episode, just tells you, ‘Here’s basically what’s going to happen.’ What that helps a studio look at is here’s the overall story arc for season one.
And then what we’ll do is we’ll write kind of like a treatment. We’ll write a treatment for, ‘Here’s the overall arc of the entire show, and so here’s how we go to season five.’ And it’s not necessarily giving away detailed plots because you may not know what those are, but we know the main character.
In ‘The Auctioneer,’ the main character is Chase Hardeman. We know in season one, here’s where you find Chase. He’s an ex-covert operative. He comes back home to take over the family business, which is an auctioning company. Something happens in the pilot episode that throws all that into chaos.
But when we get to season five, here’s where Chase is going to be in season five. And so they want to know that it’s just not going to be a linear character the entire way through, they want to know that you’ve got the twists, the turns, the surprises, what other characters will kind of evolve in those seasons.
And a lot of times the pilot is enough to get you in the door. The other difference would be like with film, you might write a script completely by yourself until you turn it into a producer, a director, they’ll make some notes.
In television, typically writers will find themselves in a writers room. And so you’re in a room with eight other people that have completely different ideas than what you may have thought. So, that show Bible is a living, breathing document.
But as an author who’s pitching to these avenues, the one thing I’ve learned is the more that you can come to the table with, the better.
And this is where I take off the writer’s hat and put on the producer hat. Because if you can attach talent to it, if you can write a pilot script, everyone’s got to judge that for themselves, can they actually do it? If you’re coming to the table with those things…or some people come with a distribution opportunity. The more that you come with, as you pitch the project, the more you can stay in the game.
Like we said earlier, if you’re an author and you sign an option, you’re out of the mix. They’re going to take it over.
But if you can give them a reason for you to stick around… Michael Connelly has done exactly that. He’s in the writers’ room, he’s figuring out how they mesh all of his books into a season on ‘Bosch,’ and he knows the characters so well.
They want him when they’re filming because he’s got Harry Bosch in his brain, and so that makes him valuable. And so I think those are things for writers to think about is, if I do write a pilot, or I have a book that I’m trying to option, what else can I bring to the table that will keep me in the room.
Joanna: If you want to go in the room.
Derek: Yeah, totally.
Joanna: Something for people to think about, as you say.
Let’s assume, because I really got into this and part of me still really wants to write scripts, and I just loved the drafts that I’ve done, but it’s a whole new way of writing, and a whole new relationship thing, and a whole new networking thing.
Let’s say there are a lot of services out there that will pitch supposedly for you. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of these come and go, and some are good, some are bad, some seem a rip-off, some seem excellent.
There’s a new one that, as we speak, has just come on my radar, which is called taleflick.com. And you and I just had a quick word beforehand, and I’ve submitted to it. It looks pretty awesome at a reasonable price.
I wondered what do you think of TaleFlick, and any thoughts on submission sites like that?
Derek: Sure. I would say, just out of the gate, there’s three things that come to mind.
The first thing is pitching traditionally, you used to have to go through one of the big agents, CAA, William Morris. Getting in with those guys is nearly impossible unless you have a track record. Fortunately, for me, over the years, I’ve met different people.
One amazing story, not that I would say everyone should go out and do this, but for ‘The Auctioneer,’ we went on LinkedIn, on my LinkedIn account, and we emailed a select group of producers, studio guys, to invite them to the release event.
Out of that, I had two production companies reach out to me to read ‘The Auctioneer.’ And they are some of the ones that are in the mix. So you never know where it might come from.
And if you reach out, in not like an overbearing way, people are pretty open. You don’t want to send five emails in the first week going, ‘Can you get back to me?’ You put it out there, you see how they react.
But with that said, one suggestion for authors is, if you find a literary agent that has experience in the TV film side, that’s a bonus.
I also did taleflick.com because I wanted to test them out and see kind of how the process worked. And up until now, I think the biggest piece that was missing was you upload your book, you upload all the information, but then you have no feedback.
You don’t know if you’re getting hits on your page, you don’t know if anyone’s even looking at it. So then you gotta wonder, ‘Do I pay the annual fee when I don’t even know what’s really happening?’
I’ve reached out to TaleFlick a few times over the last few months and got a response each time. They’re great at responding. I think they’re building the platform, so I think it’s going to be evolving. And so their next stage is they’re going to be releasing a new platform within the next couple of weeks. They don’t have a final date, but it’s on its way, and it’s a marketplace where you can reach producers and screenwriters directly.
Now, for everyone listening, you don’t know how huge of a deal that is. Because, like I’m telling you, it’s nearly impossible unless you have existing relationships. So, this is a huge thing. And they’re going to give authors the ability to write and promote your own pitch.
So that means you can craft the pitch the way you want it. That pitch will then be visible to producers and studios to search. But I think the real big thing is the marketplace where, sure, you write the pitch, you put it up there, now you don’t have to wonder.
Now, you can actually follow up and do the things that you would do to try and get it in front of people. So, from what it looks like on the outside, it looks like this change that they’re making is going to be really good. So, for 88 bucks, I would try it.
Joanna: Yes. And as we record this in April 2019, that’s the price. But I bet you that won’t be the price long term.
Derek: Yeah. It’s all good. We’re launching a new marketplace, and you’re like, ‘All right, what’s that going to cost?
Joanna: I have also done it, and you upload the book and everything’s fine, and then they ask for your logline, and they don’t prepare you for this. And I know many authors listening, you might have heard of a logline, people might have heard of that, but most authors have trouble crafting the back blurb or the sales description for Amazon, let alone a logline.
As far as I understand it, the logline is pretty much the pitch, or most of it.
Any tips for a good logline considering they allow, 300 characters or something?
Derek: I would say this. I go through a process with each of the books or I think I’ve mentioned I’ve written three pilots that are making the rounds. Writing the book or writing the pilot, that’s a lot of work that takes months, if not years for some people.
But once I get it done, it’s like you start the compression. I’ll take the book, I’ll compress it down to like that 12-page treatment, and then I’ll compress it down to that paragraph, and getting it down to that logline, which is no more than two sentences, basically.
That is probably the hardest process. Because you’re trying to figure out, ‘How do I tell them what the story is in two sentences?’ And so my thing would be is to take your author hat off and put your marketing hat on.
You’re trying to sell this now. Now, you’re trying to sell this to those people that are interested. So you got to think of how do you make it either intriguing, exciting, like, all those emotions?
It could take you a couple of weeks to write that logline. I wish I could say there’s like a formula and really easy way to do it, but I would do that. The other thing that we do that really helps, and you had mentioned it at the very top of the podcast is for ‘The Auctioneer,’ ‘Think: Jason Bourne meets James Bond meets National Treasure.’ Right away, someone can picture in their mind, ‘Here’s what I’m seeing.’
I would almost write the two-sentence logline, which I did this on TaleFlick, at the end of it, you write, ‘Think,’ colon, and then think of two or three movies, TV shows, something that’s current or very successful, and I would put those at the end of your logline.
Because for a studio exec or for a producer, that just cuts right to it. ‘Chase Hardeman, ex-covert operative, returns home to take over the family business and all chaos ensues. Think: Jason Bourne meets James Bond meets National Treasure.’
Joanna: It’s interesting you say that because I did a pitch a thing, and the agent said to me, ‘Wow, that’s a great pitch. That would cost around $200 million to make.’ And he said, ‘Maybe start with something that is a low budget, say, a low budget horror.’
And that was an interesting response because similar to you, I write big-scale books, and I blow big things up. And that was really interesting feedback.
Do you think that’s a tip too? I’ve got a lot of books now, and I’ve uploaded one to TaleFlick, and I’m thinking about uploading another one, which would be cheaper.
Is budget something to keep in mind?
Derek: Yeah, big time. That’s what they’re looking at. When we write the books, well, our imagination can go wild, right? There’s no limit. There’s no budget. We’re going to write the biggest best kind of blockbuster we can.
When you get into writing, say, you’re going to take that book and you’re going to put it into a film or a TV series, the budget has to constantly be playing in your mind. So there’s certain things in ‘The Auctioneer’ that would not make it into the film script.
There’s even more things in ‘The Auctioneer’ that would not make it into a TV script. And why is that? Because of the budgets. So if you come out of the gate with a $200 million movie, well, unless you’re a very successful screenwriter, unless you got a track record, everyone’s looking at it going, ‘Okay, I’m not sure.’
You have the ones that do happen, ‘The Hunger Games,’ some of those ones that hit, but look at the number of ones that don’t.
Joanna: But that was a big book first. Hunger Games was a big book.
Derek: Exactly. When they were first going out with it, I could almost guarantee you they were pitching the book before it got released. Because that’s typically how this works is even before it hits the shelves…because the publishers are going to leverage what the studios will do. So even before the book is out, that manuscript is making the rounds because everything takes forever.
Joanna: Just on that, is that important? Because I noticed, another field I was surprised about on TaleFlick was the year the book was published.
Do you think new things are important, or do you think they’ll be looking for stories in general?
Derek: I think it’s just stories in general. Because say a book gets into production, you’ve optioned it, the studio’s come up with the money, now you’ve got to write the script and all that. That could be a five-year process. So I don’t think it matters so much when the book was released.
Part of what they’re going to look at, they might look at sales on the book so they want to know, ‘Okay, it came out in 2016, and it’s sold 100,000 copies. Okay, that’s decent.’
But what they’re really looking for is they’re looking for stories that are unique and are producable. And like what you said earlier, the budget can play a big factor.
What you might want to do, for example with your treatment is the 12-page treatment that you send out, you may want to write two versions of that; one for the film side, one for the TV side. Or if you want to go strictly film, write two treatments, write a high budget treatment, write a lower budget treatment.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to make money. The studio wants to make money. They want to leverage their bets that they’re going to make their money back and a profit.
Joanna: Often when we’re marketing our books, we’re thinking about the reader, and we’re trying to be in the readers head. And what you’re saying is you need to be in the head of the producer, the director, whoever’s buying, and what they want. And they’re not going to read the book, are they?
They don’t read the book. That’s not what they do. So you have to pitch things in a way that they understand.
We’re almost out of time. I feel like I could talk to you for ages about this stuff.
Anything else that you think authors should know about this kind of pitching process, or what happens next?
Derek: On the writing side, that’s probably the biggest thing is you’ve written your book, and maybe that’s just the way you write, don’t feel like you have to write a pilot. A lot of times people think, ‘Well, I need to write the pilot for the movie before I can get someone interested.’
I think what we’ve been talking about today, it’s a much better use of your time, and it actually can position you in a better way. If you write the treatments, in the long form, short form, the logline so that it’s easy depending on who you’re pitching it to, you’ve got to be sensitive to that because they want to be able to get to it quick. So they’re not going to, like you said, not read the whole book.
But the flip side is if you do write a pilot, and it’s not very good. There’s a lot of technical things in the pilot or the feature script that you have to know. Certain things in a feature script have to happen on certain pages. So if you don’t know that, and you just write the movie, and it reads kind of similar to your book, when you send it out, that’s your first impression. That’s the impression they’re going to get, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got an author now that wants to write a feature film,’ right?
So you have to decide what role you want to play, and so I would say spend the time to really condense those down.
LinkedIn is a great way to find production companies and people that are out there. Search online. Almost all the production companies have some kind of a contact where you can at least talk to somebody, maybe not the decision maker, but at least find out who those people are.
And what we did with ‘The Auctioneer’ is before it even got released, we sent out, I don’t know, probably 50 books with exactly what I’m talking about to the studios, production companies.
Another little tip would be, and this is a little bit of a longer shot, but it’s worked before, is find actors, not necessarily the A-list actors, but find actors that are making their way kind of up the ranks. So you’re not at the Tom Cruise level, but you’re at the Christopher Pine level, right?
Most of those guys these days, especially with the streaming services, they have their own production companies. And so instead of going to a big studio like Warner Brothers or Universal, you go to those production companies because if that actor reads what you’re sending, and it gets them thinking, ‘Oh, this is something that I could star in, and I can executive produce, and I can get points on the back end.’
They start thinking about the business side of it, and they’re bringing something to a studio that they already have a deal with. That’s another way to do it.
Joanna: Super. Well, so many ideas coming out of this, and I know people will be excited.
Where can people find your author site, and your books, and everything you do online?
Derek: djwilliamsbooks.com. That’s where all of it lives. And I’m working on the next sequel to ‘The Auctioneer’ book already while we’re shopping these pilots. So, when you get turned down on the pilots, you feel a little better when you can write when you get home.
Joanna: And as we said, it takes a long time. So just keep on writing.
Joanna: So thanks so much for your time, Derek. That was great.
Derek: Awesome. Thanks, Joanna.