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7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

7 Steps For Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay

Look at the Amazon Charts or the New York Times fiction list and you will likely see books that have been made into movies or TV shows

Adapting novel to screenplayIf you consider the number of people who prefer to watch than read a book, it's not really a surprise that adaptation is so popular these days.

It's also the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big – or small – screen these days. It's definitely one of my goals. 

In today's article, Alex Bloom from Scriptwriter Pro outlines how you could adapt your book into a screenplay.

Many writers such as Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), Emma Donoghue (Room) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) have successfully transitioned from writing novels to writing screenplays. If you’d like to follow in their footsteps but are unsure where to start, below you’ll find the 7 Key Steps you should take in order to adapt your book into a movie script.

Writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts. If you have experience writing the former but not the latter, it’s important to understand what makes a good screenplay first before attempting to write one.

Therefore, Steps 1 – 3 below tackle some of the research you’ll need to do before adapting your novel into a screenplay.

Steps 4 – 7 then tackle the actual writing itself and how to put this research into practice.

Step 1: Read screenwriting books

storyReading some how-to screenwriting books will give you a solid grounding in writing characters, plot, structure, dialogue, theme, etc. for the big screen. I would recommend avoiding some of the heavier tomes, such as Robert Mckee’s hugely popular but rather pompous, Story.

At least for now, seek out screenwriting books that are easy to read, “fun”, and will keep you excited about your new project.

Some of the most helpful books for novice screenwriters (and my personal favorites) are:

  • Your Screenplay Sucks: William M. Akers
  • The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Pilar Alessandra
  • My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Jeffrey Alan Schechter
  • Save the Cat Strikes Back: Blake Synder
  • Into the Woods: John Yorke

Step 2: Read screenplays

The reason many screenplays fail, whether they’re adaptations or not, is because the writer simply hasn’t read enough screenplays.

Attempting to write a professional standard script without reading any is a bit like trying to learn electric guitar without listening to any Jimi Hendrix, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.

Go to a free download site like Simply Scripts, or Drew’s Script O Rama, download a bunch of screenplays and get reading.

I would recommend finding the time to read at least two scripts a week. You’ll learn so much about how to write a screenplay (perhaps even more than attending most classes or reading most books) that you can’t afford to skip this step if you want to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 3: Outline movies

It’s also important to become familiar with movies are put together structurally. Novels may contain some structural tropes within certain genres, such as Mystery or Romance, but screenplay structure is generally much more “formulaic”.

Certain beats, plots and turning points repeat themselves in movies across all genres, from Alien to Zoolander, and so it’s important to get a handle on what they are.

The best way to do this is to write outlines of movies as you watch them. This involves simply writing a short one or two sentence summary of what happens in each scene as it happens.

For example, here’s what you might write for the opening few scenes of Bridesmaids:

  • Annie has awkward sex with Ted.
  • Next morning, she does herself up and sneaks back into bed. He says he doesn’t want a relationship and tells her to leave.
  • Outside, she can’t get out the gate so she climbs over and gets stuck as it opens.
  • In a park, Annie and her friend, Lillian, workout within ear-shot of an aerobics class. The instructor shoos them off.
  • In a cafe, they discuss Lillian’s relationship with Doug and Annie defends herself for still sleeping with Ted. Lillian says she should leave him because he’s an asshole.

Do this for the whole film and you’ll end up with an outline, or “step outline” as it’s sometimes called, of the whole plot. Then it’s time to break it down into acts and sequences (this is where your reading all those how-to screenwriting books will come in handy) which will force you to study and work out how the movie’s put together.

Repeat this process with as many movies as you can and you’ll soon have a pretty strong grasp of screenplay structure.

Step 4. Write an outline of your novel

building-blocksOnce you’ve spent some time on the first three steps, apply the same principle of writing outlines as described in Step 3 to your own novel.

Go through it again, but this time imagining you’re watching the events unfold on screen. Write out the key scenes focusing only on ones that contain action the reader can visualize being in the movie.

This means no flowery description, no inner character monologues, no backstory — just the scenes that push the story forward because the characters are active, making things happen.

Once you have a scene-by-scene outline of the whole novel, break it down into its respective acts and sequences just like in Step 3. This document will form the basic building block of your movie script, ready to be expanded upon, changed around and edited as you continue your writing process.

Step 5. Refine your movie’s core conflict

Take some time to think about the story from the point of view of someone watching it up on screen in a movie theater. What’s the core conflict here that’s going to make them pay money to want to go and see it?

As opposed to writing a novel, writing a screenplay is predominately about making the reader follow active characters who want to achieve clear-cut goals that are in opposition to each other.

Ask yourself some key questions and jot down notes on elements, like:

  • Who’s the protagonist?
  • What’s their goal?
  • Who or what is the force of antagonism stopping them achieving this goal?
  • Who or what’s at stake if the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal?

Thinking about these questions will give you an idea of how your novel can translate onto the big screen by focusing on its core concept.

Every great concept has at its heart a protagonist who has to struggle to achieve something. And this is usually a three-way power struggle between them, the antagonist who stands in their way, and what’s at stake in the movie (or the stakes character).

For example:

  • In Sideways, Miles is the protagonist, Jack is the antagonist and Maya is the stakes character.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is the protagonist, Belloq/the Nazis are the antagonists, and Marion and the future of the world are at stake.
  • In Se7en, Somerset and Mills are the protagonists, John Doe is the antagonist, and someone else getting murdered is what’s at stake.

It’s this three-way power struggle — the protagonist and antagonist both fighting in direct opposition over a stakes character or something big at stake — that gives a screenplay its power.

In order to really solidify this, write a logline — a one or two sentence summary of this core conflict — and use it as a touchstone to keep you on track when writing the script.

Here are a few loglines from some recent films. (Note how the logline describes the core conflict of protagonist vs. antagonist over something major at stake.):

  • Whiplash: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
  • Blue Ruin: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.
  • The Edge of Seventeen: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Step 6: Finalize your outline

Some screenwriters like to write outlines, synopses or treatments of their story before starting on the script. Other’s don’t. But I would strongly advise you have some kind of document to follow while writing the actual screenplay.

Finalizing your outline will give you the chance to work out what’s staying, what’s going, and what new material needs to be written.

climbing goalA novel usually runs anywhere from 200 to 800 pages, or more. Adapting a screenplay from your novel, therefore, will largely be an exercise in editing: cutting out characters, plot lines and scenes that aren’t relevant to the overall core concept.

Focus only on the one clear goal your protagonist is struggling to achieve, why it’s not easy for them to achieve it, and what’s at stake if they don’t. Everything else can probably be cut.

Screenwriting is all about brevity and getting to the “meat” of the story as quickly as possible. Every scene in the movie needs to either move the plot forward, reveal character or expand upon the theme. (A great scene will do all three.)

Therefore, if you have a novel in which your protagonist has two antagonists, five friends, three brothers and a sister, as well as different subplots with each of them, it’s probably a good idea to cut some of these characters out.

Focus on the key characters and storylines that are relevant to the core conflict, fuse one or more characters together to make one single character, and generally “cut the fat” so you’re left with just a clear triangle of conflict.

Step 7: Start writing the screenplay

Once you have your outline, it’s time to finally start writing and I’d recommend purchasing some professional screenwriting software first, such as Movie Magic or Final Draft. (WriterDuet is a great free alternative if you’re strapped for cash.)

Familiarize yourself with the software and you’ll soon find that screenwriting is restricted to just three elements on the page: description, dialogue, and technical formatting, such as scene headings.

As opposed to novel writing, the key to writing a successful screenplay scene is brevity. One page in a script translates roughly to one minute of screen time, and most scenes should be between one and two pages in length.

The best way to make sure you’re keeping your scenes nice and tight is to remember that each one should relate back to the stakes inherent in your protagonist’s goal and the overall core concept.

For example, in Stranger Than Fiction every scene has high stakes attached because they each revolve around Harold’s attempt to either stop himself being erased or to win the girl.

The next time you watch a film, make a note of how much screen time passes without any conflict that revolves around the overall stakes of the movie. One of the biggest problems with spec scripts is that the writer fails to make their protagonist struggle to achieve something, not only in the movie overall but within each individual scene.

Old style movie projectorThis results in scenes that are “flat” and predictable because a protagonist who’s not struggling to achieve anything just ends up hanging out with other characters and shooting the breeze, which doesn’t make for good cinema.

Remember also that film is primarily above all else about communicating story through images, therefore it’s important to avoid having your characters rely on dialogue to move the plot forward.

Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes, and so focus on showing us what your characters are thinking through their actions, rather than their words or inner thoughts.

Final Words

As you write your first draft, keep up Steps 1 to 3 and learning and perfecting your craft. Maybe take a screenwriting class as well in your area, or online.

Acting classes are also a great way of improving your skills as a screenwriter as they’ll force you to see things from “the other side” and understand how actors interpret description and dialogue on the page.

Steps 4 through 7 are also part of an ongoing process but should be accompanied by frequent feedback. Resist the temptation to work in a bubble and get opinions of your logline, outline and screenplay as you go along.

Friends and relatives are the obvious go-to people for this but they come with the baggage of trying to please or being afraid to tell you what they really think. I would suggest getting feedback on your ideas from free screenwriting community websites such as Stage32, joining a screenwriting group if there’s one near you, or paying a professional script consultant for a review.

Writing a screenplay may be tough, but put in the work and you’ll soon start seeing results and maybe the first steps toward emulating the careers of novelists like Dave Eggers and Gillian Flynn.

Have you ever thought about adapting your novel into a screenplay? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

Alex BloomAlex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro — a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants. They have also produced a practical screenwriting course, and book on screenwriting structure using sequences.

Selling More Books In Print Through Ingram With Andy Bromley

As global, mobile and digital book sales continue to expand into new markets, there is a continued desire for print in established markets. Many indies focus on using Amazon's own Createspace, but you can access thousands more bookstores, universities, retailers, libraries and booksellers through Ingram Spark for extended distribution.

Selling with IngramIn this interview, I talk to Andrew Bromley about IngramSpark and Ruth Jones about Aerio, which intends to make all of us booksellers.

In the introduction, I mention Amazon's expansion into Australia for physical product including books – cue the disruption! Having lived in Australia for 5 years, I know how expensive books have been and look forward to local printing options and new distribution methods making books (and other products) more affordable.

ingramsparkToday's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.

andrewbromleyAndrew Bromley is the Marketing Manager at Ingram Content Group in the U.K. He's also part of IngramSpark and helps indie authors get their print books out through the Ingram network.

Ruth Jones is the Director of Business Development at Ingram Content Group and is currently working on developing Aer.io.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here with Andy, and here with Ruth, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • An overview of Ingram and IngramSpark
  • The speed and efficiency of print-on-demand these days
  • The advantages of using both CreateSpace and IngramSpark for print books
  • The future of print-on-demand in countries like India and China
  • Marketing ideas for print books
  • An introduction to Aer.io and why authors should know about it – with Ruth Jones
  • Selling books direct from your site using Ingram's catalogue and Aer.io

You can find IngramSpark at IngramSpark.com and on Twitter @IngramSpark

Transcript of Interview with Andy Bromley

Joanna Penn: Hi everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and today I'm here with Andrew Bromley, Hi Andy.

Andrew Bromley: Oh, hi Joanna, how are you doing?

Joanna: I'm good, just a little introduction.

Andy is the Marketing Manager at Ingram Content Group in the U.K. He's also part of IngramSpark and helps Indie authors get their print books out through the Ingram network which is super exciting.

So, Andy let's start with the basics.

What is Ingram as a company as a whole and how do publishers use it and what is IngramSpark? Give us a general overview.

Andrew: Very simply, Ingram is a wholesaler. It started out in the 1960s as a wholesaler; they bought books from publishers and they sold them to bookstores.

Because typically, a bookstore wants a relationship with one or two people, they don't want relationships with every single individual publisher. And that's really how the business started in the '60s and it's built up ever since then.

The two main services or publisher services that connect to IngramSpark is one called Lightning Source, and that's a print on demand distribution engine for publishers. It allows publishers to upload their files and have them distributed through the wholesale network that Ingram have and then print them as many or as little as they require.

They can print 5, 10, 15 copies, or 100 copies or they can just not print any copies and have them in the distribution channel and then Ingram will print the books to order as orders come in.

And then the publisher receives their publisher compensation. It's just that rather than the book being in a physical warehouse waiting on a shelf it's in a computer waiting for an order to come in through Ingram wholesale.

And then the other part that is connected to IngramSpark and is familiar with the publishers is a product called CoreSource which in essence is a digital asset management solution. Very, very large publishers, HarperCollins and the very big names that your listeners will be familiar with will use a platform like CoreSource to store all their digital assets and that could be an audio file, an e-file, a print file, it could be a contract, anything that's an asset that relates to a product or a book, or a component of a book CoreSource provides. And essentially, IngramSpark use that engine, that core engine to distribute eBooks.

In essence IngramSpark is a platform for individual authors that piggybacks on existing technology that services the large publishing community. For print on demand it piggybacks on Lightning Source which is used by some very large you know publishers and for the digital distribution, for the eBook distribution it's using CoreSource, essentially, the engine of CoreSource to allow it to distribute both print and eBooks.

Joanna: Which is fantastic. IngramSpark, for people listening is like a frontend that Indie authors can use and we can access the same tools that big publishers use. It just gives us an easier frontend I guess.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the things that we really try and make it clear when we do Ingram days and authors visit us at trade shows.

Essentially the engine and the metadata, the feeds that go out to the publishing community doesn't differentiate between an IngramSpark account and some of the big accounts that your listeners will be familiar with. It doesn't treat it in any way differently, it's distributed exactly the same way.

Joanna: Yeah, fantastic. You mentioned like it's stored on a computer and then they're printed on demand, and I know a lot of listeners will understand print on demand. People can visit the plant and I visited and it was super cool.

You're actually at the factory right now.

Explain a bit about what it is like down there and the technology you have and how fast things are, so people get an idea of what print on demand is these days.

Andrew: Right now we're really at peak capacity and this is one of our busiest times of the year. We've got academic publishers using the services for universities, and we've also got authors and other publishers using it for ready for the Christmas kind of rush. We really are maxing out our full capacity in our U.K. office right now.

And, essentially what it enables customers to do is have the book in the system. Think of the physical book, an electronic version, all the information that's needed to print the book is in our system. And then the metadata, the information, the bibliographic information that goes out to the wholesale distribution community, so retailers such as Amazon and Waterstones, and all the chains can find the content.

When orders come in, they place orders and we print them to order. There's two primary ways that they keep our printers busy, there's that model where essentially it's called the channel model where the book is effectively in the channel.

We have 39,000 retailers, libraries, and we also connect with other wholesalers. That's the bit that people sometimes get confused with is that we trade with our competitors because no one really knows and guarantee that the bookstore may not order from Ingram. They may order from Gardners or another wholesaler.

But, we trade with those other wholesalers too and they trade with us and essentially whether the books do have a direct relationship with Ingram or an indirect relationship with the wholesaler they can order the book and that's the channel model.

And then the other model is how normal commercial printers work, people place orders, and they get the books sent to where they instruct that to be. So, it could be Cambridge University Press may order 100 copies for their warehouse to keep their inventory levels low. Or it could be a self publisher has got an event coming up and they're doing some talks or they want some proof copies or advances and they would ask us to just have it sent back to their home address.

There's really two models, there's the publisher direct, the publishers ordering books directly from us and there's the channel model where really we're only printing them when orders come in.

From an individual author's perspective the days have gone where you need to order 5,000, 10,000 books and have them stocked up in your spare bedroom because effectively you can have the books in the system and we fulfill orders on demand as required.

Joanna: Just be more specific there. When I came on the tour with you, we saw the covers being printed, all the machines feed everything through and it's pretty blooming fast, isn't it?

When an order is put in how fast does that come through?

Andrew: Yeah, that's true. In most cases paperbacks are printed within 24 hours, we make sure that they're printed in 48 hours.

When the orders come in the job of our operations director and operations manager is to get through that build up as quickly as possible. Right now our machines are running 24/7. They really are not switching off now until maybe Christmas day. That's how busy it is so they're running all weekend, they're running through the night.

We have different shifts that come in, a night shift, a day shift, and really the primary…the thing that's keeping our operations director awake at night is making sure that they can meet the demands that are coming in. Because the beauty and the challenge of the model is that orders come in as required by the market.

So, you can have a period where we're relatively quiet because it could be a low season or it can get to a period right now for example where we're really at not maximum capacity but we're getting close to maximum capacity where the machines, all the terminals are switched on printing the books.

Essentially what's happening is when the orders come in the system will identify all the trim sizes and print them in order of when they came in. Think about a 5 by 8 book rather than printing each individual 5 by 8 book which would take years the software, the system will identify, “Okay, we've got 5,000 5 by 8 paperbacks on a matte finish”.

And those may be 5,000 individual books but from a production and operations perspective it doesn't really matter, they're all on the same paper, they're all the same trim size, and they're all in the same stock so whether it's 5,000 individual orders or 5,000 single order from an actual printing perspective it's more difficult when you actually come to shipping but from a printing perspective it makes no difference.

When we have the Ingram days and we go to things like London Book Fair, people are perplexed by how we can possibly print just a single copy and make it affordable and really it's the batch processing, it's the way that our inventory management, and software system works that enables us to do that because there's an economy of scale building up.

There's lots and lots of choice with the print on demand environment but it's somewhat more limited than a traditional off set print run. If you would go into a printer and say, “I want 10,000 or 5,000 copies of this book,” you can pick the blend of paper, the different types of you know finish.

And there are limitations to print on demand. It's becoming less and less so as the technology improves and the capabilities become more sophisticated but there is a compromise on the range even though it's quite broad and that's to accommodate this kind of production processes that's going on which really works on a very large economy of scale operation.

Joanna: It's fantastic. When we came earlier this year, Jonathan and I, to visit, that really helped me visualize why print can be such a great product and now I'm doing 5 by 8, I'm doing large print, I'm thinking of doing hardbacks, I'm doing workbooks, all because I saw what was capable with print, so, it's very cool.

Now, one question that everybody has, is why not just use CreateSpace? The Alliance of Independent Authors, which you are a partner member, recommends CreateSpace for Amazon and then IngramSpark for extended distribution.

Can you explain why that is the best way potentially of doing things or I guess you'd say all Ingram but what are the benefits there?

Andrew: The train of thought and the recommendation from ALLi is to have both. I think the main reason for that is with CreateSpace is to get the maximum visibility on Amazon.

Amazon is a fantastic company, of course many authors have been able to make a living because of what Amazon do and they are fantastic at what they do.

But Amazon are not a wholesaler. What they're perfect actually selling and distribution on their own platform. And then the extended distribution functionality within CreateSpace enables you to sell outside the Amazon firewall but Amazon don't provide that, they provide that to a wholesaler like Ingram for example.

What we do in that situation is we provide that service for those customers. Now, the advantage of going directly is you get the full breadth of the distribution. For example in Lightning Source today we've got locations in the U.K. Where I'm from, we've got them in Melbourne in Australia, we've got multiple locations in the U.S.

In addition to that, we also have global connect partners in other countries like Germany, like India for example, we have now one in South Korea, and in China, and many, many others.

By coming direct you have the ability to switch on all that distribution. For example, if you were in IngramSpark and a customer in Sydney wants to buy your book, clearly we wouldn't print it in Milton Keynes or in America, we'd print it in Melbourne.

But when you come through a third party when you're using their enhanced distribution setup, it's limited to the agreement with that wholesaler. So, for example, at the moment extended distribution titles within CreateSpace are printed in the U.S. and in many cases the distribution limitation isn't just your ability to get the book from one end of the world to the other. It's the time and it's the cost of supplying it.

We know for example in Australia, historically books have been more expensive because they've had to import then in from the U.S. or from Europe. We're quite excited that next year we're going to launch a new service where booksellers can order directly from the facility in Melbourne in our Lightning Source facility which would include all the IngramSpark titles.

The main advantages would be that they get their books a lot faster, it could be printed from a location that's nearest to where the customer is. It's more cost effective from the end retailer's perspective.

For example, we launched a service this year called iPage in the U.K., which is where retailers can order directly from our facility in Milton Keynes and we offer the retailer free shipping on one copy. So, it could be the cheapest book in our system. It could be in the highlands of Scotland but it's free freight from a retailer's perspective and that's really attractive in the environment because in most cases it's not going to be a bookstore wanting to order 50 copies ready for the first week that the book's available.

It's going to be fulfilling orders as demand requires it and that's why we're quite excited that we're having more direct relationships with booksellers so we can supply directly and give them the advantages of going direct to Ingram.

Joanna: And what I love about this and I think is really important for authors to hear is you're actually thinking of the book seller's point of view and I think that authors forget the bookseller a lot of the time.

Someone with a bookstore is often someone who, as you said at the beginning, does not want to deal with 200 Indie authors coming round the shop and going, “Here, have my book, have my book.” That's not how booksellers work.

And also that bookseller probably will have something against Amazon, so might want to order from CreateSpace and this is something again that's really important. Whereas if they order from Ingram they order through the catalogues they're used to and they can see that it's not Amazon basically.

I think that's important too, isn't it? Is considering that bookseller's point of view.

Andrew: Yeah, and one of the things we always encourage authors to do is own their own ISBNs and be the publisher of their own content like a recording artist might record on their own label but it's an independent label.

We encourage any author who really takes that seriously to do the same, to own the entire intellectual property of their content and they extend into the ISBN. They can give themselves their publishing label that can be different and distinctive to their name.

We have many authors who succeed in that journey and then they become themselves micro-publishers, they take on other authors that they know, or they respect their work. And in some cases they create mini-collectives where they become independent publishers all collectively operating under the same imprint.

Joanna: Which is fantastic. I started Curl Up Press earlier this year again when I came to Ingram and very pleased about that.

You mentioned Australia and America, I mean you mentioned India but it's really the printing in India right now that would be of benefit because it's expensive, our books are currently expensive on Amazon. And locally, I know you can't talk about business but you've got a distributor there, right? But not a printer.

What about cheaper printing in China and India? Is that something that you might see on the horizon?

Andrew: We work with a company called Repro in India and they are actually a printer and they distribute. So, they are very similar to what Ingram is in India.

Now, there're a couple of things. I mentioned earlier the model called global connect, and what that enables you to do as an author and a publisher is it enables you to select global connect partners. You can select India as a global connect location, these are all done in U.S. dollars so you price your book in U.S. dollars, you tell Ingram what you're prepared to give away as a wholesale discount and it works in exactly the same way.

In this case Repro is the company, different global connect partners have different companies, they would then supply the metadata through their channels so local retailers can order the books and it works in the same channel model that Ingram work in, in the U.K. and in Australia and in the U.S.

The only difference is that the third party in this case Repro under the global connect agreement is providing the information out. And is ultimately the company that's going to be printing the books.

Now, what's often asked of us and is being explored at the moment is whether authors and publishers can order small print runs so they can order I don't know, 25 or 50 copies and tell the global connect partner to send them to a location of their choice. That's not something that's currently available but that's something we're exploring with our key global connect partners.

India is one of our newest but it's actually one of our most successful global connect partnerships because of the English language and also we are very strong in education and academic content and that type of content really goes well in India. As well as our independent retail publish content obviously.

The challenge in India is obviously the retail price; many of the books in India that are produced and printed locally can be very cheap. So there needs to be a real clear point of differentiation in terms of what you're offering the Indian market if that is you know a core part of your strategy.

Joanna: And just to be clear, because I use IngramSpark obviously. As an author you can print whole boxes of books like you know it says how many fit in a box, right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Joanna: And then you can get those shipped. Say when I was coming from Britain speaking in Australia I printed a whole box within Australia and sent it within Australia to another place and then I picked it up when I went to speak. And that was awesome because it was actually really cheap, I think it ended up being about $2 a copy and with shipping within Australia.

So, an author can do that. What you said wasn't possible was a wholesaler printing or something like that.

It just sounded like it wasn't possible for an author to do that but it is possible to print whole boxes, isn't it?

Andrew: Well, yes, with the global connect model what we're doing is, so, going back to the Lightning Source explanation, it's a channel model where we make the books available in the market and that's the model that global connect is. So, basically, by switching on global connect India for example and pricing your books in U.S. dollars you're saying to the global connect partner in this example Repro, “This is the cost of the book, this is the discount to provide,” and they make that title available to the local re-sellers in that market.

It could be a bookstore, it could be an online account, and then when they get orders they will then print them on demand, send it to the customer, and then compensate you the author the normal way.

What you can't do currently with this model which is what we're exploring is you can't then say, “Okay, I know we've got a global connect partner in India or Germany or South Korea, actually what I want is 25 copies sent into the next town because I've got a book signing.”

We can't currently facilitate with the global connect relationship but it's something that we're looking into and hope to be able to offer something soon because we know that is something that a lot of our publishers and other publishers are requesting.

But at the moment global connect really should be seen as an extension of Ingram's distribution, it's a way of getting into books that even Ingram don't have strong penetration in that particular market.

Or, it could be that Ingram does have penetration in that market but there's a local supplier that has a stronger relationship. Germany for example, Ingram can provide books into Germany not a problem, but there are other local print on demand and distribution networks that is more within the retail network.

One of the things that we do is partner with a global connect partner in Germany for that particular region. And the same in Poland, India, as I was explaining, and South Korea.

It's really an extension of Ingram's distribution reach. It's a way of getting into markets without the huge capital expenditure it would be to kind of enter into India as an Ingram company. The company's already established in the market and already has those relationships in place.

Joanna: Now, that fantastic, and then I guess last question, almost last question, it's amazing to be available to 39,000 partners and bookstores and universities and all these things. But obviously they're not sitting there in the bookstore, these people have to order them.

And this is probably one of the hardest things with print on demand, it's like, “Yes, sure, you can order these things,” but how do you know they exist?

Have you found any great ways for authors particularly to market print books? Or from what you've learned from your most successful Indie author, IngramSpark customers, what are the things that work?

Andrew: Yeah, and so you'd be pleased to know we often recommend you as a reference point.

Joanna: Yay.

Andrew: You know yourself as an author and we also encourage authors to join a reputable organization like the Alliance of Independent Authors. The truth is, there is no single answer as you'll know but we do find you know examples of authors that have done it in a very innovative way.

I'm just thinking of some examples who I know who have done really well in terms of marketing. One of the authors did a poetry book and historically certainly, publishing poetry is very difficult as a commercial subject. And, what they did is they used social media where they gave out their poems on Instagram and the poems were free to read.

But also they had a back link on where you could purchase the book and because of the very nature of these poems, they were very, very relatable about love and death and areas that most people will have some kind of connection in their life.

Obviously they very well written poems, this individual became known as the poet on Instagram and he got fans that were following him, sharing his work, posting it because effectively he was giving away his poems for free. A commercial publisher probably wouldn't naturally think about giving away their content in order to you know grow its readership.

He was extremely successful because once somebody was hooked in and he read one or two or three of his poems for free they were willing to pay the $10 or the $15 to buy the book and read the rest of the poems.

We had an author in the U.K. who wrote erotica and her son was very, very good at social media, very savvy, and they had a model where they put aside a percentage of all the money they made from selling the books and the start up money on Facebook adverts.

They would follow other books like Fifty Shades and that kind of model knowing this was the kind of reader that would want to but the book. And they were tremendously successful printing thousands and selling thousands and thousands of books because that particular genre worked really well on this particular example of Face Book adverts.

There'll be other types of genres that wouldn't support that model, but these are the ones that stand out. It's no different to the general commercial publishing, the authors that are really successful tend to be the ones that are very savvy and very good at the marketing.

He was not afraid to try different things and even give away some content to get the readers involved and share content in different ways in YouTube and using different medias to reach out to their readers and they understand who their demographic is.

Very clear distinction between that type of author who has written the book but they know it's only really the beginning of the journey where the other type of author do tend to be less successful are the ones that may produce a fantastic book but they don't either have the time, energy, or desire to follow through on the marketing.

And that's where we're very clear when we do Ingram days and we extend these events, we make it very clear there's a distinction between distribution, i.e. the ability to order the book and the marketing which is the light house signal to say it is the book for you.

And, I think certainly with some authors earlier on there can be a clear confusion between what distribution is and what marketing actually does.

For example, we had a publisher who switched on their pricing in Australian dollars and then two months later they said, “Well, can you explain to me why we've not sold any books in Australia? We priced our books in Australian dollars as you suggested.” And our response was, “What have you done marketing wise in that market?”

And they hadn't done anything differently and therefore they didn't get the results. There is that connection between distribution, having the ability to do the action and the marketing which is the driver of that inevitable exchange which the distribution facilitates.

Joanna: Yeah, in fact that's a fantastic explanation. What I like about the IngramSpark model is it gives us when we do our marketing and as you've said I don't think the marketing differs depending necessarily on the format of the book.

You can market the book and it might be an eBook, print, and audio book and like you say but what it means is, it's available for people to order in these different places and in these different print formats.

I wanted to also ask if an author is listening and they have a number of books, so, say they have 10 books or you've met some of these authors who have lots of books. Or like me when I came to Ingram earlier this year, I think I had 20 books or something.

If authors have bulk books to move over is there help available from the support team? What would be the process for people if they want to do that?

Andrew: Yes, so, absolutely, it's something we get asked a lot of. We do have support team involved that can help in terms of multiple different sets of books to get them into IngramSpark depending on how the books have been set up.

They're sometimes very easy. For example, if it's on a platform that already uses our services at the back end it's very easy because the trim sizes don't need to change in most cases. Right through to for example when we first started doing POD we had one of the biggest clients was Cambridge University press. And they had 200,000 books that was written in the last century before digital existed.

It was a more complex operation but it's still possible because we can now digitally print old books without damaging them. It wasn't available 10 years ago so I'm sure most of the authors have had their books set up in the pre-digital world but if there is such an example there is a solution. But in most cases it's fairly straight forward.

Joanna: Where would people find IngramSpark online?

Andrew: So, literally, if they just put in their usual search browser IngramSpark it will come up and they can you know register all their information online, they can register an account before the book's ready.

And then there's lots of information on how to get the book set up in a print ready format. But, one of the things that I guess authors would need to be aware of is you know IngramSpark really is a gateway into Ingram.

So, one of the things we've not got lots of support available today although we can recommend people is the book needs to be in a print ready format, the author needs to have the ISBN ready to upload. We're not a author services company and that's perhaps a distinction between what we provide and what other companies provide.

There are many businesses out there that don't make their money from printing the book or distributing the book, they actually make it from adding on lots of different services like setting up the book, the proofreading, the cover design, sourcing the ISBN, we expect authors to have that in place and that's why I always recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors.

They help the new authors coming in to educate them on what their responsibilities are in terms of making the book the best possible book available. When you do a fantastic job in explaining the responsibilities and the best ways to market and get the book out and really grab the attention of the reader.

Then our role is the distribution and even though people associate us as printers we don't see ourselves as printers, we see printing as one way of distributing the content. With IngramSpark you can have the book as an eBook, and a print book, and hopefully one day we'll also be supporting things like audio books.

It's just another way of getting the content out to the reader. We always encourage wherever we can that authors have the book in as many formats as possible just because you don't know whether your reader doesn't read in eBook, or they don't read print books, and therefore having it in as many formats as possible provides you the opportunity to provide it in the way that the customer, the end reader wants to ingest your content.

Amazon is a fantastic platform, I spend lots of money on Amazon but there are some people that don't you know for whatever reason…and it could be in countries where Amazon actually aren't very strong and don't have a market leading position.

Therefore having your book on Kobo and having it on other platforms and in other retailers is important as a distribution arm because although we know certain retailers are very strong in the U.K. and very strong in the U.S. that may not be the same in Latin America. It may not be the same in a market where another retailer is actually the number one player.

So, that's important if you think about it from a global you know perspective.

Joanna: Yeah, fantastic. Thanks so much for your time today Andy, that was brilliant.

Andrew: Okay, thank you very much, thank you. Bye.

Transcript of Interview with Ruth Jones on Aerio

Joanna: Welcome back, everyone. And after that great interview with Andy, I'm now here with Ruth Jones. Hi, Ruth.

Ruth: Hi, Joanna. How are you?

Joanna: I'm good. Just a little introduction.

Ruth is the Director of Business Development at Ingram Content Group. And today, we are talking about Aerio, an exciting new development for authors.

Ruth, tell us what is Aerio and why should indie authors care about it?

Ruth: I think the reason that anyone would want to care about Aerio is that it's a really great tool for selling books. And when an indie author gets engaged, they're really in control of their marketing.

Aerio has two sides to it. The first side is a suite of marketing tools that creates widgets, samples, and ability to push your samples out to social media, and to direct your customers back to stores, which could be any number of stores that you define. And for you also then to engage or use those samples to catch emails.

So that's really important, right? Because getting to know your authorship, your readership as an author, and really starting to catch those emails, means you can start a line of communication that builds your brand. So that's the first thing.

And that is a paid-for-service. It starts at $25 a month or $250 a year. For an indie publisher, it's going to be easy enough because that allows you to load up to 20 ebooks. I assume that's going to be enough for starters. But it's really good because you start to see the analytics.

When I start to post this sample of my book with the narrative onto Facebook where I already had a good following, where did it go? Do they go and buy? Can I get them hooked in the next in a series in a sample and I can set a case within that book and say, “Okay, if you wanna read more, give me your email.”

You can decide to do that or not. You can decide how much friction you want in that relationship. So it gives a really good opportunity, I think, for the indie authors to really start to engage beyond broadcasting, which is great, but starting to see what is the result of my engagement. That's the first thing and it's all very well laid out on the area's site, and literally anyone can use that service.

The second part is really for those indie authors who are wanting to sell into the U.S. market. Right now, this is not America-only e-commerce, but think of it this way, if your print book is available through Ingram, and a lot of print books are, most print books are in some shape or form, then you can literally, for free, log on, create a store and sell your books, books by other people, create a reader, and you literally have a bookstore in three minutes.

I've shown so many people how to do this. And you can do the same thing here. You can start to tweet, to push on to Facebook, to push out to Pinterest and create a Pinterest page of “Books I really like,” so people can start to engage with you. They don't have to be your own books. And you can start to sell those books and you'll take a margin.

What's happening there is you've got this really cool software that's allowing you, as an ebook copy retailer, to be able to pull Ingram's catalog. And you can create your own metadata as well.

I've done some chunky things on my site for demonstrations. But, you know, if you really admired, I don't know, Yan Martel, who wouldn't? Then put why you care about that book. That's on your site. You can still push out with social media and you could be selling that book, delivering direct from Ingram into your reader's front door, if you like.

Same delivery mechanism everyone uses within the U.S. Yes, you make a margin, but it's an opportunity also to start to gather the e-mails. And so, I think, what you'll see is there's a real suite of products here that for indie authors, already for publishers with multiple authors, you can really start to communicate about books, what you're reading and really direct people to your site, which is the area site as I said, North America.

Or indeed you could point people too in the U.K. You can you hear from my accent about Waterstones to Amazon, if it's ebooks only, it's Kobo. We're not trying to completely disrupt the eco chain. What we're trying to do is to give you some insight and some opportunities to really hold on to the relationships you can build with your readers.

Joanna: Wow. Okay, I actually want to ask you about that.

Let's just start with the second thing and circle back to first thing, because the second thing is all I knew there was. I didn't even know about the first thing. Now I know about the second thing.

So the second thing, from what I understand, so an author can have a page on their website, like I might have books for writers and as well as having links to my books and samples of my books, print books or ebooks or whatever. Let's just stick with print because I think that's Ingram's point of difference. I can sell those.

l can also sell other people's books, and it is like a bookseller, and I can get paid a percentage from that.

Ruth: Yes.

Joanna: Yeah, that's amazing. I mean that's just awesome. Let that sink in, because all of us are readers and we're always recommending books all the time. So I think this is brilliant. It's another revenue stream.

You said selling into the U.S. Does that mean an offer outside the U.S. can still use Aerio?

Ruth: Absolutely. As long as your book has rights to be sold in the U.S. and it's in the Ingram catalog and these books will naturally be there, or any publisher who works with Ingram for print on demand, and you can easily look up the books on the site.

There's plenty of information in the site about how to do that, you can curate your collection. You can create collections. You might say, “I really love books about, I don't know, fantasy-fiction.” So you could do that.

Or you could say, “Actually, I'm just really interested in cookery books.” You could just as easily do that.

And yes, you're right. If you think there's anyone who can sell a book anywhere in North America, that's my bracket. Give us a moment to go international. But if you think about it, if you're a U.S.-based author and you want your primary…readership is U.S. and it's the world's largest book market after all, what a great place to start.

But it doesn't preclude somebody writing it in the U.K., whose books are available, to really use it to market to U.S. market. And you can easily, with your own books, then say, “I love these books etc. And if you're outside North America, hey here's some great bookstores that stock this book.”

You can use the marketing widget that you create in your book, or indeed you can create for any, but if you use the marketing widget I bet you didn't know about, then you can use that to start to point people elsewhere and use that for engagement outside. So, yeah, there are two sides, and I'm really excited about the first one.

Anyone can sell a book anywhere. I see that as completely disruptive technology. We're ramping up right now, but to your point, you've got your own site, you have your own e-commerce, right, so if you were to use the area for marketing, you could use that globally and just have all of your widgets point back to your site and, maybe, one other bookstore that you like particularly. That would be fine. We can have many more, but, you know, that's up to you.

What we've seen with some very, very large publishers, some of the largest trade publishers, is that they do want to point to their own site, but they want to see what consumers do. Do they always go to Amazon? Do they go to Barnes & Noble in the States? Do they go to Waterstones? Do they go to whoever else?

And because you can configure the buttons, you can see that. In the first piece, anyone can sell a book. If your book's in the Ingram catalog, there's 14 million, I'm sure you'll find something you like. But you can really use that tool and embed that in your website.

We've seen authors do it themselves without telling the publishers. That's always great. So, “Hey, we couldn't help, but seeing your fitness site, and you've taken the widget and dropped it in your blog and done other things.” And you're like, “Yeah, yeah.” And the publisher said, “What? What do you mean this is…”

And of course, from a point of view of the transaction, it's just as if Ingram sold the book to a standard independent bookstore, to Amazon to Barnes & Noble. There is no difference in your getting the margin.

Joanna: Yeah, and I think this is so important because we are shifting to a direct-to-consumer kind of approach. And it's great that Ingram's recognizing that in some of this technology.

Just to be clear, the first option, the marketing tool, is available to anyone and you don't need to have your books on Ingram's, so anyone can do that?

Ruth: Absolutely. And that's chargeable.

Joanna: Right. And then Aerio for the prints, for they sell any book type of thing is…

Ruth: Aerio book network, yes.

Joanna: Okay, does that have a charge?

Ruth: No.

Joanna: No, and that is for selling into the U.S. only?

Ruth: Correct. Right now, yes.

Joanna: Yeah, so just…we haven't really said how Aerio is spelt or, you know, because it's spelt funny, isn't it? So just tell us where people can find it.

Ruth: It's technical terms. So it's spelt A-E-R-I-O. And the website is www.aer.io.

Joanna: Yes, that's one of those new suffixes that has appeared.

Ruth: It's obviously very trendy. Its good to know why that's trendy. Happy days.

Joanna: Happy days, exactly. That's very cool.

You also mentioned that you have a demo. Is that available at that site, so people can have a look?

Ruth: Yes, if you go to that site, there's lots of videos. There's lots of really good social content there talking about how to promote your books, what to do. I was just looking at it just now.

There's a lot of material there that I think would be useful, even if you didn't use Aerio, from August. We've really focused on trying to give as much assistance as possible, walk through demos. I very rarely find people who can't use the site.

I mostly find, when I set up sites if I'm talking to people and say, “Well I've created your site now while we were talking,” they're quite scared. But I think, lots of microsites for the individual really make sense. And we have seen, particularly for well-known independent authors who do have a following, the type of posts that may have a radio program, may have other things that they do and then they produce a book, that this works brilliantly. The combination of a social selling and Ingram's infrastructure…it's really very powerful.

Joanna: Yeah, it's such an exciting time.

Is there anything else that authors need to know about Aerio, or should just people go check it out?

Ruth: I think go check it out. And I've probably talked far too much about it. I get way overenthusiastic and you could do everything.

The thing here is, if you take control of how you communicate and how you build an audience, it's really daunting. I know that. But that is one of the most powerful ways to get people to gather around what you're trying to say in your book, no matter what kind of book it is.

And then once you start small, you start to see the ripple effect of what you're able to do. And it's something that, being agile and independent, indie authors are in a really good position to take hold of this technology.

Joanna: Well, thanks for your time, Ruth. That was great.

Ruth: A pleasure. I hope that was helpful.

Selling More Books In Print Through Ingram With Andy Bromley

As global, mobile and digital book sales continue to expand into new markets, there is a continued desire for print in established markets. Many indies focus on using Amazon's own Createspace, but you can access thousands more bookstores, universities, retailers, libraries and booksellers through Ingram Spark for extended distribution.

Selling with IngramIn this interview, I talk to Andrew Bromley about IngramSpark and Ruth Jones about Aerio, which intends to make all of us booksellers.

In the introduction, I mention Amazon's expansion into Australia for physical product including books – cue the disruption! Having lived in Australia for 5 years, I know how expensive books have been and look forward to local printing options and new distribution methods making books (and other products) more affordable.

ingramsparkToday's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.

andrewbromleyAndrew Bromley is the Marketing Manager at Ingram Content Group in the U.K. He's also part of IngramSpark and helps indie authors get their print books out through the Ingram network.

Ruth Jones is the Director of Business Development at Ingram Content Group and is currently working on developing Aer.io.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here with Andy, and here with Ruth, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • An overview of Ingram and IngramSpark
  • The speed and efficiency of print-on-demand these days
  • The advantages of using both CreateSpace and IngramSpark for print books
  • The future of print-on-demand in countries like India and China
  • Marketing ideas for print books
  • An introduction to Aer.io and why authors should know about it – with Ruth Jones
  • Selling books direct from your site using Ingram's catalogue and Aer.io

You can find IngramSpark at IngramSpark.com and on Twitter @IngramSpark

Transcript of Interview with Andy Bromley

Joanna Penn: Hi everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and today I'm here with Andrew Bromley, Hi Andy.

Andrew Bromley: Oh, hi Joanna, how are you doing?

Joanna: I'm good, just a little introduction.

Andy is the Marketing Manager at Ingram Content Group in the U.K. He's also part of IngramSpark and helps Indie authors get their print books out through the Ingram network which is super exciting.

So, Andy let's start with the basics.

What is Ingram as a company as a whole and how do publishers use it and what is IngramSpark? Give us a general overview.

Andrew: Very simply, Ingram is a wholesaler. It started out in the 1960s as a wholesaler; they bought books from publishers and they sold them to bookstores.

Because typically, a bookstore wants a relationship with one or two people, they don't want relationships with every single individual publisher. And that's really how the business started in the '60s and it's built up ever since then.

The two main services or publisher services that connect to IngramSpark is one called Lightning Source, and that's a print on demand distribution engine for publishers. It allows publishers to upload their files and have them distributed through the wholesale network that Ingram have and then print them as many or as little as they require.

They can print 5, 10, 15 copies, or 100 copies or they can just not print any copies and have them in the distribution channel and then Ingram will print the books to order as orders come in.

And then the publisher receives their publisher compensation. It's just that rather than the book being in a physical warehouse waiting on a shelf it's in a computer waiting for an order to come in through Ingram wholesale.

And then the other part that is connected to IngramSpark and is familiar with the publishers is a product called CoreSource which in essence is a digital asset management solution. Very, very large publishers, HarperCollins and the very big names that your listeners will be familiar with will use a platform like CoreSource to store all their digital assets and that could be an audio file, an e-file, a print file, it could be a contract, anything that's an asset that relates to a product or a book, or a component of a book CoreSource provides. And essentially, IngramSpark use that engine, that core engine to distribute eBooks.

In essence IngramSpark is a platform for individual authors that piggybacks on existing technology that services the large publishing community. For print on demand it piggybacks on Lightning Source which is used by some very large you know publishers and for the digital distribution, for the eBook distribution it's using CoreSource, essentially, the engine of CoreSource to allow it to distribute both print and eBooks.

Joanna: Which is fantastic. IngramSpark, for people listening is like a frontend that Indie authors can use and we can access the same tools that big publishers use. It just gives us an easier frontend I guess.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the things that we really try and make it clear when we do Ingram days and authors visit us at trade shows.

Essentially the engine and the metadata, the feeds that go out to the publishing community doesn't differentiate between an IngramSpark account and some of the big accounts that your listeners will be familiar with. It doesn't treat it in any way differently, it's distributed exactly the same way.

Joanna: Yeah, fantastic. You mentioned like it's stored on a computer and then they're printed on demand, and I know a lot of listeners will understand print on demand. People can visit the plant and I visited and it was super cool.

You're actually at the factory right now.

Explain a bit about what it is like down there and the technology you have and how fast things are, so people get an idea of what print on demand is these days.

Andrew: Right now we're really at peak capacity and this is one of our busiest times of the year. We've got academic publishers using the services for universities, and we've also got authors and other publishers using it for ready for the Christmas kind of rush. We really are maxing out our full capacity in our U.K. office right now.

And, essentially what it enables customers to do is have the book in the system. Think of the physical book, an electronic version, all the information that's needed to print the book is in our system. And then the metadata, the information, the bibliographic information that goes out to the wholesale distribution community, so retailers such as Amazon and Waterstones, and all the chains can find the content.

When orders come in, they place orders and we print them to order. There's two primary ways that they keep our printers busy, there's that model where essentially it's called the channel model where the book is effectively in the channel.

We have 39,000 retailers, libraries, and we also connect with other wholesalers. That's the bit that people sometimes get confused with is that we trade with our competitors because no one really knows and guarantee that the bookstore may not order from Ingram. They may order from Gardners or another wholesaler.

But, we trade with those other wholesalers too and they trade with us and essentially whether the books do have a direct relationship with Ingram or an indirect relationship with the wholesaler they can order the book and that's the channel model.

And then the other model is how normal commercial printers work, people place orders, and they get the books sent to where they instruct that to be. So, it could be Cambridge University Press may order 100 copies for their warehouse to keep their inventory levels low. Or it could be a self publisher has got an event coming up and they're doing some talks or they want some proof copies or advances and they would ask us to just have it sent back to their home address.

There's really two models, there's the publisher direct, the publishers ordering books directly from us and there's the channel model where really we're only printing them when orders come in.

From an individual author's perspective the days have gone where you need to order 5,000, 10,000 books and have them stocked up in your spare bedroom because effectively you can have the books in the system and we fulfill orders on demand as required.

Joanna: Just be more specific there. When I came on the tour with you, we saw the covers being printed, all the machines feed everything through and it's pretty blooming fast, isn't it?

When an order is put in how fast does that come through?

Andrew: Yeah, that's true. In most cases paperbacks are printed within 24 hours, we make sure that they're printed in 48 hours.

When the orders come in the job of our operations director and operations manager is to get through that build up as quickly as possible. Right now our machines are running 24/7. They really are not switching off now until maybe Christmas day. That's how busy it is so they're running all weekend, they're running through the night.

We have different shifts that come in, a night shift, a day shift, and really the primary…the thing that's keeping our operations director awake at night is making sure that they can meet the demands that are coming in. Because the beauty and the challenge of the model is that orders come in as required by the market.

So, you can have a period where we're relatively quiet because it could be a low season or it can get to a period right now for example where we're really at not maximum capacity but we're getting close to maximum capacity where the machines, all the terminals are switched on printing the books.

Essentially what's happening is when the orders come in the system will identify all the trim sizes and print them in order of when they came in. Think about a 5 by 8 book rather than printing each individual 5 by 8 book which would take years the software, the system will identify, “Okay, we've got 5,000 5 by 8 paperbacks on a matte finish”.

And those may be 5,000 individual books but from a production and operations perspective it doesn't really matter, they're all on the same paper, they're all the same trim size, and they're all in the same stock so whether it's 5,000 individual orders or 5,000 single order from an actual printing perspective it's more difficult when you actually come to shipping but from a printing perspective it makes no difference.

When we have the Ingram days and we go to things like London Book Fair, people are perplexed by how we can possibly print just a single copy and make it affordable and really it's the batch processing, it's the way that our inventory management, and software system works that enables us to do that because there's an economy of scale building up.

There's lots and lots of choice with the print on demand environment but it's somewhat more limited than a traditional off set print run. If you would go into a printer and say, “I want 10,000 or 5,000 copies of this book,” you can pick the blend of paper, the different types of you know finish.

And there are limitations to print on demand. It's becoming less and less so as the technology improves and the capabilities become more sophisticated but there is a compromise on the range even though it's quite broad and that's to accommodate this kind of production processes that's going on which really works on a very large economy of scale operation.

Joanna: It's fantastic. When we came earlier this year, Jonathan and I, to visit, that really helped me visualize why print can be such a great product and now I'm doing 5 by 8, I'm doing large print, I'm thinking of doing hardbacks, I'm doing workbooks, all because I saw what was capable with print, so, it's very cool.

Now, one question that everybody has, is why not just use CreateSpace? The Alliance of Independent Authors, which you are a partner member, recommends CreateSpace for Amazon and then IngramSpark for extended distribution.

Can you explain why that is the best way potentially of doing things or I guess you'd say all Ingram but what are the benefits there?

Andrew: The train of thought and the recommendation from ALLi is to have both. I think the main reason for that is with CreateSpace is to get the maximum visibility on Amazon.

Amazon is a fantastic company, of course many authors have been able to make a living because of what Amazon do and they are fantastic at what they do.

But Amazon are not a wholesaler. What they're perfect actually selling and distribution on their own platform. And then the extended distribution functionality within CreateSpace enables you to sell outside the Amazon firewall but Amazon don't provide that, they provide that to a wholesaler like Ingram for example.

What we do in that situation is we provide that service for those customers. Now, the advantage of going directly is you get the full breadth of the distribution. For example in Lightning Source today we've got locations in the U.K. Where I'm from, we've got them in Melbourne in Australia, we've got multiple locations in the U.S.

In addition to that, we also have global connect partners in other countries like Germany, like India for example, we have now one in South Korea, and in China, and many, many others.

By coming direct you have the ability to switch on all that distribution. For example, if you were in IngramSpark and a customer in Sydney wants to buy your book, clearly we wouldn't print it in Milton Keynes or in America, we'd print it in Melbourne.

But when you come through a third party when you're using their enhanced distribution setup, it's limited to the agreement with that wholesaler. So, for example, at the moment extended distribution titles within CreateSpace are printed in the U.S. and in many cases the distribution limitation isn't just your ability to get the book from one end of the world to the other. It's the time and it's the cost of supplying it.

We know for example in Australia, historically books have been more expensive because they've had to import then in from the U.S. or from Europe. We're quite excited that next year we're going to launch a new service where booksellers can order directly from the facility in Melbourne in our Lightning Source facility which would include all the IngramSpark titles.

The main advantages would be that they get their books a lot faster, it could be printed from a location that's nearest to where the customer is. It's more cost effective from the end retailer's perspective.

For example, we launched a service this year called iPage in the U.K., which is where retailers can order directly from our facility in Milton Keynes and we offer the retailer free shipping on one copy. So, it could be the cheapest book in our system. It could be in the highlands of Scotland but it's free freight from a retailer's perspective and that's really attractive in the environment because in most cases it's not going to be a bookstore wanting to order 50 copies ready for the first week that the book's available.

It's going to be fulfilling orders as demand requires it and that's why we're quite excited that we're having more direct relationships with booksellers so we can supply directly and give them the advantages of going direct to Ingram.

Joanna: And what I love about this and I think is really important for authors to hear is you're actually thinking of the book seller's point of view and I think that authors forget the bookseller a lot of the time.

Someone with a bookstore is often someone who, as you said at the beginning, does not want to deal with 200 Indie authors coming round the shop and going, “Here, have my book, have my book.” That's not how booksellers work.

And also that bookseller probably will have something against Amazon, so might want to order from CreateSpace and this is something again that's really important. Whereas if they order from Ingram they order through the catalogues they're used to and they can see that it's not Amazon basically.

I think that's important too, isn't it? Is considering that bookseller's point of view.

Andrew: Yeah, and one of the things we always encourage authors to do is own their own ISBNs and be the publisher of their own content like a recording artist might record on their own label but it's an independent label.

We encourage any author who really takes that seriously to do the same, to own the entire intellectual property of their content and they extend into the ISBN. They can give themselves their publishing label that can be different and distinctive to their name.

We have many authors who succeed in that journey and then they become themselves micro-publishers, they take on other authors that they know, or they respect their work. And in some cases they create mini-collectives where they become independent publishers all collectively operating under the same imprint.

Joanna: Which is fantastic. I started Curl Up Press earlier this year again when I came to Ingram and very pleased about that.

You mentioned Australia and America, I mean you mentioned India but it's really the printing in India right now that would be of benefit because it's expensive, our books are currently expensive on Amazon. And locally, I know you can't talk about business but you've got a distributor there, right? But not a printer.

What about cheaper printing in China and India? Is that something that you might see on the horizon?

Andrew: We work with a company called Repro in India and they are actually a printer and they distribute. So, they are very similar to what Ingram is in India.

Now, there're a couple of things. I mentioned earlier the model called global connect, and what that enables you to do as an author and a publisher is it enables you to select global connect partners. You can select India as a global connect location, these are all done in U.S. dollars so you price your book in U.S. dollars, you tell Ingram what you're prepared to give away as a wholesale discount and it works in exactly the same way.

In this case Repro is the company, different global connect partners have different companies, they would then supply the metadata through their channels so local retailers can order the books and it works in the same channel model that Ingram work in, in the U.K. and in Australia and in the U.S.

The only difference is that the third party in this case Repro under the global connect agreement is providing the information out. And is ultimately the company that's going to be printing the books.

Now, what's often asked of us and is being explored at the moment is whether authors and publishers can order small print runs so they can order I don't know, 25 or 50 copies and tell the global connect partner to send them to a location of their choice. That's not something that's currently available but that's something we're exploring with our key global connect partners.

India is one of our newest but it's actually one of our most successful global connect partnerships because of the English language and also we are very strong in education and academic content and that type of content really goes well in India. As well as our independent retail publish content obviously.

The challenge in India is obviously the retail price; many of the books in India that are produced and printed locally can be very cheap. So there needs to be a real clear point of differentiation in terms of what you're offering the Indian market if that is you know a core part of your strategy.

Joanna: And just to be clear, because I use IngramSpark obviously. As an author you can print whole boxes of books like you know it says how many fit in a box, right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Joanna: And then you can get those shipped. Say when I was coming from Britain speaking in Australia I printed a whole box within Australia and sent it within Australia to another place and then I picked it up when I went to speak. And that was awesome because it was actually really cheap, I think it ended up being about $2 a copy and with shipping within Australia.

So, an author can do that. What you said wasn't possible was a wholesaler printing or something like that.

It just sounded like it wasn't possible for an author to do that but it is possible to print whole boxes, isn't it?

Andrew: Well, yes, with the global connect model what we're doing is, so, going back to the Lightning Source explanation, it's a channel model where we make the books available in the market and that's the model that global connect is. So, basically, by switching on global connect India for example and pricing your books in U.S. dollars you're saying to the global connect partner in this example Repro, “This is the cost of the book, this is the discount to provide,” and they make that title available to the local re-sellers in that market.

It could be a bookstore, it could be an online account, and then when they get orders they will then print them on demand, send it to the customer, and then compensate you the author the normal way.

What you can't do currently with this model which is what we're exploring is you can't then say, “Okay, I know we've got a global connect partner in India or Germany or South Korea, actually what I want is 25 copies sent into the next town because I've got a book signing.”

We can't currently facilitate with the global connect relationship but it's something that we're looking into and hope to be able to offer something soon because we know that is something that a lot of our publishers and other publishers are requesting.

But at the moment global connect really should be seen as an extension of Ingram's distribution, it's a way of getting into books that even Ingram don't have strong penetration in that particular market.

Or, it could be that Ingram does have penetration in that market but there's a local supplier that has a stronger relationship. Germany for example, Ingram can provide books into Germany not a problem, but there are other local print on demand and distribution networks that is more within the retail network.

One of the things that we do is partner with a global connect partner in Germany for that particular region. And the same in Poland, India, as I was explaining, and South Korea.

It's really an extension of Ingram's distribution reach. It's a way of getting into markets without the huge capital expenditure it would be to kind of enter into India as an Ingram company. The company's already established in the market and already has those relationships in place.

Joanna: Now, that fantastic, and then I guess last question, almost last question, it's amazing to be available to 39,000 partners and bookstores and universities and all these things. But obviously they're not sitting there in the bookstore, these people have to order them.

And this is probably one of the hardest things with print on demand, it's like, “Yes, sure, you can order these things,” but how do you know they exist?

Have you found any great ways for authors particularly to market print books? Or from what you've learned from your most successful Indie author, IngramSpark customers, what are the things that work?

Andrew: Yeah, and so you'd be pleased to know we often recommend you as a reference point.

Joanna: Yay.

Andrew: You know yourself as an author and we also encourage authors to join a reputable organization like the Alliance of Independent Authors. The truth is, there is no single answer as you'll know but we do find you know examples of authors that have done it in a very innovative way.

I'm just thinking of some examples who I know who have done really well in terms of marketing. One of the authors did a poetry book and historically certainly, publishing poetry is very difficult as a commercial subject. And, what they did is they used social media where they gave out their poems on Instagram and the poems were free to read.

But also they had a back link on where you could purchase the book and because of the very nature of these poems, they were very, very relatable about love and death and areas that most people will have some kind of connection in their life.

Obviously they very well written poems, this individual became known as the poet on Instagram and he got fans that were following him, sharing his work, posting it because effectively he was giving away his poems for free. A commercial publisher probably wouldn't naturally think about giving away their content in order to you know grow its readership.

He was extremely successful because once somebody was hooked in and he read one or two or three of his poems for free they were willing to pay the $10 or the $15 to buy the book and read the rest of the poems.

We had an author in the U.K. who wrote erotica and her son was very, very good at social media, very savvy, and they had a model where they put aside a percentage of all the money they made from selling the books and the start up money on Facebook adverts.

They would follow other books like Fifty Shades and that kind of model knowing this was the kind of reader that would want to but the book. And they were tremendously successful printing thousands and selling thousands and thousands of books because that particular genre worked really well on this particular example of Face Book adverts.

There'll be other types of genres that wouldn't support that model, but these are the ones that stand out. It's no different to the general commercial publishing, the authors that are really successful tend to be the ones that are very savvy and very good at the marketing.

He was not afraid to try different things and even give away some content to get the readers involved and share content in different ways in YouTube and using different medias to reach out to their readers and they understand who their demographic is.

Very clear distinction between that type of author who has written the book but they know it's only really the beginning of the journey where the other type of author do tend to be less successful are the ones that may produce a fantastic book but they don't either have the time, energy, or desire to follow through on the marketing.

And that's where we're very clear when we do Ingram days and we extend these events, we make it very clear there's a distinction between distribution, i.e. the ability to order the book and the marketing which is the light house signal to say it is the book for you.

And, I think certainly with some authors earlier on there can be a clear confusion between what distribution is and what marketing actually does.

For example, we had a publisher who switched on their pricing in Australian dollars and then two months later they said, “Well, can you explain to me why we've not sold any books in Australia? We priced our books in Australian dollars as you suggested.” And our response was, “What have you done marketing wise in that market?”

And they hadn't done anything differently and therefore they didn't get the results. There is that connection between distribution, having the ability to do the action and the marketing which is the driver of that inevitable exchange which the distribution facilitates.

Joanna: Yeah, in fact that's a fantastic explanation. What I like about the IngramSpark model is it gives us when we do our marketing and as you've said I don't think the marketing differs depending necessarily on the format of the book.

You can market the book and it might be an eBook, print, and audio book and like you say but what it means is, it's available for people to order in these different places and in these different print formats.

I wanted to also ask if an author is listening and they have a number of books, so, say they have 10 books or you've met some of these authors who have lots of books. Or like me when I came to Ingram earlier this year, I think I had 20 books or something.

If authors have bulk books to move over is there help available from the support team? What would be the process for people if they want to do that?

Andrew: Yes, so, absolutely, it's something we get asked a lot of. We do have support team involved that can help in terms of multiple different sets of books to get them into IngramSpark depending on how the books have been set up.

They're sometimes very easy. For example, if it's on a platform that already uses our services at the back end it's very easy because the trim sizes don't need to change in most cases. Right through to for example when we first started doing POD we had one of the biggest clients was Cambridge University press. And they had 200,000 books that was written in the last century before digital existed.

It was a more complex operation but it's still possible because we can now digitally print old books without damaging them. It wasn't available 10 years ago so I'm sure most of the authors have had their books set up in the pre-digital world but if there is such an example there is a solution. But in most cases it's fairly straight forward.

Joanna: Where would people find IngramSpark online?

Andrew: So, literally, if they just put in their usual search browser IngramSpark it will come up and they can you know register all their information online, they can register an account before the book's ready.

And then there's lots of information on how to get the book set up in a print ready format. But, one of the things that I guess authors would need to be aware of is you know IngramSpark really is a gateway into Ingram.

So, one of the things we've not got lots of support available today although we can recommend people is the book needs to be in a print ready format, the author needs to have the ISBN ready to upload. We're not a author services company and that's perhaps a distinction between what we provide and what other companies provide.

There are many businesses out there that don't make their money from printing the book or distributing the book, they actually make it from adding on lots of different services like setting up the book, the proofreading, the cover design, sourcing the ISBN, we expect authors to have that in place and that's why I always recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors.

They help the new authors coming in to educate them on what their responsibilities are in terms of making the book the best possible book available. When you do a fantastic job in explaining the responsibilities and the best ways to market and get the book out and really grab the attention of the reader.

Then our role is the distribution and even though people associate us as printers we don't see ourselves as printers, we see printing as one way of distributing the content. With IngramSpark you can have the book as an eBook, and a print book, and hopefully one day we'll also be supporting things like audio books.

It's just another way of getting the content out to the reader. We always encourage wherever we can that authors have the book in as many formats as possible just because you don't know whether your reader doesn't read in eBook, or they don't read print books, and therefore having it in as many formats as possible provides you the opportunity to provide it in the way that the customer, the end reader wants to ingest your content.

Amazon is a fantastic platform, I spend lots of money on Amazon but there are some people that don't you know for whatever reason…and it could be in countries where Amazon actually aren't very strong and don't have a market leading position.

Therefore having your book on Kobo and having it on other platforms and in other retailers is important as a distribution arm because although we know certain retailers are very strong in the U.K. and very strong in the U.S. that may not be the same in Latin America. It may not be the same in a market where another retailer is actually the number one player.

So, that's important if you think about it from a global you know perspective.

Joanna: Yeah, fantastic. Thanks so much for your time today Andy, that was brilliant.

Andrew: Okay, thank you very much, thank you. Bye.

Transcript of Interview with Ruth Jones on Aerio

Joanna: Welcome back, everyone. And after that great interview with Andy, I'm now here with Ruth Jones. Hi, Ruth.

Ruth: Hi, Joanna. How are you?

Joanna: I'm good. Just a little introduction.

Ruth is the Director of Business Development at Ingram Content Group. And today, we are talking about Aerio, an exciting new development for authors.

Ruth, tell us what is Aerio and why should indie authors care about it?

Ruth: I think the reason that anyone would want to care about Aerio is that it's a really great tool for selling books. And when an indie author gets engaged, they're really in control of their marketing.

Aerio has two sides to it. The first side is a suite of marketing tools that creates widgets, samples, and ability to push your samples out to social media, and to direct your customers back to stores, which could be any number of stores that you define. And for you also then to engage or use those samples to catch emails.

So that's really important, right? Because getting to know your authorship, your readership as an author, and really starting to catch those emails, means you can start a line of communication that builds your brand. So that's the first thing.

And that is a paid-for-service. It starts at $25 a month or $250 a year. For an indie publisher, it's going to be easy enough because that allows you to load up to 20 ebooks. I assume that's going to be enough for starters. But it's really good because you start to see the analytics.

When I start to post this sample of my book with the narrative onto Facebook where I already had a good following, where did it go? Do they go and buy? Can I get them hooked in the next in a series in a sample and I can set a case within that book and say, “Okay, if you wanna read more, give me your email.”

You can decide to do that or not. You can decide how much friction you want in that relationship. So it gives a really good opportunity, I think, for the indie authors to really start to engage beyond broadcasting, which is great, but starting to see what is the result of my engagement. That's the first thing and it's all very well laid out on the area's site, and literally anyone can use that service.

The second part is really for those indie authors who are wanting to sell into the U.S. market. Right now, this is not America-only e-commerce, but think of it this way, if your print book is available through Ingram, and a lot of print books are, most print books are in some shape or form, then you can literally, for free, log on, create a store and sell your books, books by other people, create a reader, and you literally have a bookstore in three minutes.

I've shown so many people how to do this. And you can do the same thing here. You can start to tweet, to push on to Facebook, to push out to Pinterest and create a Pinterest page of “Books I really like,” so people can start to engage with you. They don't have to be your own books. And you can start to sell those books and you'll take a margin.

What's happening there is you've got this really cool software that's allowing you, as an ebook copy retailer, to be able to pull Ingram's catalog. And you can create your own metadata as well.

I've done some chunky things on my site for demonstrations. But, you know, if you really admired, I don't know, Yan Martel, who wouldn't? Then put why you care about that book. That's on your site. You can still push out with social media and you could be selling that book, delivering direct from Ingram into your reader's front door, if you like.

Same delivery mechanism everyone uses within the U.S. Yes, you make a margin, but it's an opportunity also to start to gather the e-mails. And so, I think, what you'll see is there's a real suite of products here that for indie authors, already for publishers with multiple authors, you can really start to communicate about books, what you're reading and really direct people to your site, which is the area site as I said, North America.

Or indeed you could point people too in the U.K. You can you hear from my accent about Waterstones to Amazon, if it's ebooks only, it's Kobo. We're not trying to completely disrupt the eco chain. What we're trying to do is to give you some insight and some opportunities to really hold on to the relationships you can build with your readers.

Joanna: Wow. Okay, I actually want to ask you about that.

Let's just start with the second thing and circle back to first thing, because the second thing is all I knew there was. I didn't even know about the first thing. Now I know about the second thing.

So the second thing, from what I understand, so an author can have a page on their website, like I might have books for writers and as well as having links to my books and samples of my books, print books or ebooks or whatever. Let's just stick with print because I think that's Ingram's point of difference. I can sell those.

l can also sell other people's books, and it is like a bookseller, and I can get paid a percentage from that.

Ruth: Yes.

Joanna: Yeah, that's amazing. I mean that's just awesome. Let that sink in, because all of us are readers and we're always recommending books all the time. So I think this is brilliant. It's another revenue stream.

You said selling into the U.S. Does that mean an offer outside the U.S. can still use Aerio?

Ruth: Absolutely. As long as your book has rights to be sold in the U.S. and it's in the Ingram catalog and these books will naturally be there, or any publisher who works with Ingram for print on demand, and you can easily look up the books on the site.

There's plenty of information in the site about how to do that, you can curate your collection. You can create collections. You might say, “I really love books about, I don't know, fantasy-fiction.” So you could do that.

Or you could say, “Actually, I'm just really interested in cookery books.” You could just as easily do that.

And yes, you're right. If you think there's anyone who can sell a book anywhere in North America, that's my bracket. Give us a moment to go international. But if you think about it, if you're a U.S.-based author and you want your primary…readership is U.S. and it's the world's largest book market after all, what a great place to start.

But it doesn't preclude somebody writing it in the U.K., whose books are available, to really use it to market to U.S. market. And you can easily, with your own books, then say, “I love these books etc. And if you're outside North America, hey here's some great bookstores that stock this book.”

You can use the marketing widget that you create in your book, or indeed you can create for any, but if you use the marketing widget I bet you didn't know about, then you can use that to start to point people elsewhere and use that for engagement outside. So, yeah, there are two sides, and I'm really excited about the first one.

Anyone can sell a book anywhere. I see that as completely disruptive technology. We're ramping up right now, but to your point, you've got your own site, you have your own e-commerce, right, so if you were to use the area for marketing, you could use that globally and just have all of your widgets point back to your site and, maybe, one other bookstore that you like particularly. That would be fine. We can have many more, but, you know, that's up to you.

What we've seen with some very, very large publishers, some of the largest trade publishers, is that they do want to point to their own site, but they want to see what consumers do. Do they always go to Amazon? Do they go to Barnes & Noble in the States? Do they go to Waterstones? Do they go to whoever else?

And because you can configure the buttons, you can see that. In the first piece, anyone can sell a book. If your book's in the Ingram catalog, there's 14 million, I'm sure you'll find something you like. But you can really use that tool and embed that in your website.

We've seen authors do it themselves without telling the publishers. That's always great. So, “Hey, we couldn't help, but seeing your fitness site, and you've taken the widget and dropped it in your blog and done other things.” And you're like, “Yeah, yeah.” And the publisher said, “What? What do you mean this is…”

And of course, from a point of view of the transaction, it's just as if Ingram sold the book to a standard independent bookstore, to Amazon to Barnes & Noble. There is no difference in your getting the margin.

Joanna: Yeah, and I think this is so important because we are shifting to a direct-to-consumer kind of approach. And it's great that Ingram's recognizing that in some of this technology.

Just to be clear, the first option, the marketing tool, is available to anyone and you don't need to have your books on Ingram's, so anyone can do that?

Ruth: Absolutely. And that's chargeable.

Joanna: Right. And then Aerio for the prints, for they sell any book type of thing is…

Ruth: Aerio book network, yes.

Joanna: Okay, does that have a charge?

Ruth: No.

Joanna: No, and that is for selling into the U.S. only?

Ruth: Correct. Right now, yes.

Joanna: Yeah, so just…we haven't really said how Aerio is spelt or, you know, because it's spelt funny, isn't it? So just tell us where people can find it.

Ruth: It's technical terms. So it's spelt A-E-R-I-O. And the website is www.aer.io.

Joanna: Yes, that's one of those new suffixes that has appeared.

Ruth: It's obviously very trendy. Its good to know why that's trendy. Happy days.

Joanna: Happy days, exactly. That's very cool.

You also mentioned that you have a demo. Is that available at that site, so people can have a look?

Ruth: Yes, if you go to that site, there's lots of videos. There's lots of really good social content there talking about how to promote your books, what to do. I was just looking at it just now.

There's a lot of material there that I think would be useful, even if you didn't use Aerio, from August. We've really focused on trying to give as much assistance as possible, walk through demos. I very rarely find people who can't use the site.

I mostly find, when I set up sites if I'm talking to people and say, “Well I've created your site now while we were talking,” they're quite scared. But I think, lots of microsites for the individual really make sense. And we have seen, particularly for well-known independent authors who do have a following, the type of posts that may have a radio program, may have other things that they do and then they produce a book, that this works brilliantly. The combination of a social selling and Ingram's infrastructure…it's really very powerful.

Joanna: Yeah, it's such an exciting time.

Is there anything else that authors need to know about Aerio, or should just people go check it out?

Ruth: I think go check it out. And I've probably talked far too much about it. I get way overenthusiastic and you could do everything.

The thing here is, if you take control of how you communicate and how you build an audience, it's really daunting. I know that. But that is one of the most powerful ways to get people to gather around what you're trying to say in your book, no matter what kind of book it is.

And then once you start small, you start to see the ripple effect of what you're able to do. And it's something that, being agile and independent, indie authors are in a really good position to take hold of this technology.

Joanna: Well, thanks for your time, Ruth. That was great.

Ruth: A pleasure. I hope that was helpful.

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