Is Your Book a Movie? A Crash Course in Book-to-Screen Adaptation, by John Robert Marlowe

Is your book a movie? Should it be? How do you get there from here—and what’s in it for you? Here’s the deal . . .


Being an author is a noble profession, but reaching the financial pinnacle of our chosen profession requires more than the ability to put brilliant words on paper.

Forbes magazine recently published a list of the top ten highest-earning authors. All have heavy film/TV involvement. And while one could argue that films are simply based on books that are already massive bestsellers, this fails to account for the many bestsellers that are not made into movies, even when written by the same authors. (Michael Crichton’s Prey and State of Fear, for example).

Then there are stories whose performance is poor to middling or genre-specific, which gain widespread recognition only after adaptation (Bladerunner, Total Recall, Minority Report—all based on short stories by Philip K. Dick).

Hollywood does like to base movies on existing bestsellers, but there’s something more going on here. And so the most important question for the book or short story author may be this: Why are some books made into movies, and others not—and what can I do to make my book more attractive to Hollywood?


Like publishers, film studios and production companies look for a good story, well told with interesting characters. But they also look for other things, some of which simply don’t matter to publishers. Which is why it’s possible to have a great book with little film appeal. Hollywood wants . . .

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