The Making of a TV Show from the Ground Up, Part 4
Last time we talked about what producers and studios are looking for in general when they option or buy a book to make it into a TV show or film. So…what about my project? How did that happen?
What about your book that made it get sold for television?
I’m the first person to say I got incredibly lucky! In the first place, I happen to have an agent who really knows the TV/film world and has a lot of excellent contacts in that industry.
Although many literary agents know the basics of how to do a TV/film deal, very few literary agents are insiders to the TV/film world and have contacts at the top end of the industry.
If you are serious about selling into the TV/film world, you might consider submitting to agents who specialize in selling projects in that medium. Fair warning, they’re incredibly hard to get representation with, and they tend to pick up authors with significant sales records already.
Also, it’s one thing for an agent to say, “Sure. I know how to sell to TV/film.” Many agents attend seminars and get basic training in how to package a project, submit it, and do a basic option deal or shopping deal. It’s another thing altogether for that agent to have a Rolodex of dozens or hundreds of the top producers in the business, to have made multiple sales into the industry, and to know who’s looking for what right now.
In the second place, without knowing what a hook was, I accidentally wrote a book that had a great one in it.
So, what’s a hook?
It’s an idea or premise for a story that is super catchy. When people hear the hook, they naturally react with, “Oooh. That sounds like a show I’d want to watch!” The hook also tells a producer exactly what kind of show it will be. The hook paints a picture of the show in the mind’s eye.
Let the record show, hooks are unbelievably hard to write. They have to do a ton of heavy lifting in only a few words!
The hook for my book was, “She’s an assassin of a certain age.” You hear that, and you immediately know what kind of show it would be, what kind of character the show is about, and you can guess at what the plot will be like.
What’s a logline, then?
A logline is a full sentence (usually one sentence, or maybe two sentences) that describes the project. Again, this sentence has to paint a picture of what the project will be like and has to make it sound really exciting, interesting, and cool.
The logline for my project is: So what if she’s 55 years old, just got fired from her job as an assassin for the CIA, and a deadly psychopath is after her? She wants her family and a normal life back, and she’ll kill to get them.
What are some books that are getting made into TV shows and films right now?
I found this complete list of books that started or finished production in 2022 on www.shondaland.com. You can visit the link if you want more details about the individual books or the status of the films and TV shows. https://www.shondaland.com/inspire/g38737912/all-the-books-becoming-movies-and-tv-shows-in-2022/
- Killing Floor by Lee Child
- Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
- The Unbreakable Boy by Michael LeRette
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore by J.K. Rowling
- Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico
- The Black Phone (a story from 20th Century Ghosts) by Joe Hill
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
- White Bird by R.J. Palacio
- Lord of the Rings Prequel by J.R.R. Tolkien
- She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
- Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre
- Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
- Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
- Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
- Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- White Noise by Don Delillo
- The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
- The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
- The Power by Naomi Alderman
- All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
That’s it. The lucky few books that went to TV and film last year. And for what it’s worth, a pretty darned good reading list. Not only are these good books, one and all, but if you wonder what producers are looking for, this is a great sampling!
Next time, I’ll talk a little bit about what happens after a project is sold. Until then, happy reading!