Saturday, April 25, 2015

Query question: I have a contract but want an agent for film/translation

 I have recently secured a book contract without an agent for my YA novel with a small press. I retain  the film and foreign rights, which I believe should be left up to an agent. Will having a book contract provide me with more cachet to getting representation, or will my queries still be relegated to the "thanks but no thanks" pile?

First, you were smart to retain the rights your publisher is most likely not able to fully exploit.  

Second, if you're querying for a novel that's already got a contract, your situation is a bit different than most.  You'll want to query for your SECOND book, and mention that you retain the translation and film rights to the first book as well.

Most agents will not take on one book just for translation and film rights.  There simply isn't enough money in it to justify the amount of work.

But, if you secure an agent for the second book, having your sub rights for the first book will be a bonus particularly for film.



Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I just gotta' say that this week of posts (and comments) has been really informative. As one who thinks I always have an answer to everything, it's nice to know that because of info here, I almost do.
Thanks Janet and thanks to the rest of the yahoos who frequent this coffee house. Been a great week.

LynnRodz said...

I have to agree with 2Ns, I picked up snippets here and there (couldn't read all the comments) but the information we get on your blog, Janet, is priceless. I'm heading home and looking forward to tomorrow's WIR to see what I missed.

Unknown said...

Ditto. Looking forward to the week in a nutshell tomorrow. I'll print it off and stick it on the wall.

Be nice if it was posted in a pretty cursive font. Then I could frame it.

Unknown said...

My redundant sentiments exactly; a new twist on "info dump." Right here in river city.

Donnaeve said...

When I read the response, "Second, if you're querying for a novel that's already got a contract, your situation is a bit different than most. You'll want to query for your SECOND book, and mention that you retain the translation and film rights to the first book as well."

I feel like there's more to this question than meets the eye given that answer. I.e. there is a second book, and the questioner is curious about their chances at rep given the existing contract.

But then I read on to the next part where the comments say agents won't rep a book with only translation/film rights.

Which THEN made me think, okay, so does this mean the questioner has the first book out to agents and if so, now with pub contract in hand, they withdraw that query and explain, "I have this other book though, so, while you consider this other one, pls know I've retained film/translation rights to my other work."

I guess that's how that will happen. And will it garner them more attention from agents?

I guess I'm sort of confused but that's not so unusual. Even with two cups of coffee. What I need is to go run. That'll clear my head.

As to one of Julie's comments yesterday about March hares - OMG. Hilarious! You are a riot.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Ditto the above about an informative week. These are the finer details of the literary and publishing side of the author life that boggle my mind.

But, considering that this week has become a huge blobby blur in my head (not just from this blog but also from some IRL events), I am looking forward to tomorrow's WiR.

Anonymous said...


Glad you enjoyed the Cowboy story. He was one of the best horses I ever owned and I've owned many. He did have his quirks. He couldn't stand to be tied, so I didn't. He'd stay ground tied for a while, but if he thought I'd left him outside too long, he'd try to come in the house after me. Then I'd hear this bloodcurdling scream from my mother. "Julia! Come get your horse. He's trying to come in the house again."

He, like Alvin the pig, had figured out if you knock against the bottom of the screen door, it comes open. He just had problems navigating the door with his saddle on.

So,I had to do whatever I was doing in the house in under fifteen minutes, which was the limit of Cowboy's patience, or deal with horse breaking and entering.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other comments. It's been an informative week.

Many thanks to QOTKU and hope she's having a good time.

Colin Smith said...

This is a question that would never have crossed my mind, so thanks for asking, writer friend. Some lessons from this:

1) If your first book is published, as far as an agent is concerned, there's nothing more to be done with it. There's no point trying to get an agent for it, and why would you? It's published already!

2) If you publish without an agent, retain translation and film rights (and whatever other subsidiaries might apply).

3) If you query your second novel, mention your published first novel and that you still have sub rights to it. The agent will be impressed at what a smart cookie you are, and that might play a part in whether s/he takes you on.

Thanks OP and QOTKU! :D

Christina Seine said...

I agree, this was a really informative week. What I get out of this (along with what Janet clearly pointed out) is to never rest on your laurels. Always have another book in the works.

Anonymous said...

I think the number one rule for success in the publishing industry is to keep writing. Don't stop at one novel. Very few one-time novelists become successful. Always have another novel waiting in the wings.

Number two rule is: be persistent.

If the OP does not have a second book, it may not be impossible to sell the foreign or film rights alone. There are agencies that specialize in this. Normally, they only work with other agencies or publishers. But sometimes agents from these agencies can be found at conferences, and there's a chance you could get your foot in their door if you talk to or pitch them.

However, if the novel does very well and gets a lot of attention, despite being published by a small publisher, people might contact the publisher and author if they want the rights. And it's always a good idea for an author to own these rights, so you don't have to fight with your publisher over selling them.

This is the source of the big 'Hollywood calling' dream: You're sitting at home, writing cheques for all your bills, hoping you'll have the money to pay them all... then a Big Hollywood Producer calls and wants to adapt your novel for film. It's never a likely scenario, but it's possible.

*looks at pile of bills* *dreams about BHP calling* *realizes the novel has to be published first* *back to work querying*

Congrats on the book deal, OP! Good luck, and I hope BHP calls soon after your book is published.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, not every person has Hollywood dreams.

My uncle won the saddle bronc riding at Madison square Gardens in NY in the 30's. Some Hollywood producers saw him and asked him to go to Hollywood. He made one film, decided that rat race wasn't for him and returned to the farm.

My mother had three different producers beg her to go to Hollywood and screen test. She refused, but she should have. That right there is what no confidence gets you.

Regarding my books. FR isn't film material I don't think so I have no illusions of grandeur, though I would certainly want the rights protected. Another friend's agent thinks her book has tremendous film potential and is scouting that out.

It's an odd business, but even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while. I remain hopeful.

Amy Schaefer said...

I only skimmed your comment, bjmuntian (sorry - 6am, only a few sips into my coffee), got to the end and saw: "I hope BHP calls soon after your book is published."

I frowned a little and rolled that around in my mind. BHP, BHP. Why would a big mining company call the OP after publication? Did mining fiction become a thing while I wasn't looking? Or maybe those are Barbara Poelle's initials. Bureau for Historic Preservation? Benign Hypertrophy of the Prostate?

"Or, idiot, you could go back and read the comment properly," said my brain. I'm glad one of us was awake.

Big Hollywood Producer. Got it. You see? This is where acronyms get us.

Anonymous said...

That's okay, Amy. I kept mixing up the initials and had to keep going back to figure out what they were supposed to stand for. Your thoughts were a lot more creative than mine were. :)

I know, Julie. Not everyone wants Hollywood... but if you sign a book contract, you don't want to close the door on Hollywood, either. :) As for your novel not being film material - there are an awful lot of movies based on books that I wouldn't have thought had film potential. And whether or not it's got Hollywood-film potential, there's always the artistic films that sometimes get a lot of acclaim.

And I'd like to thank whomever (probably Janet) who removed my duplicate post and the post I posted decrying my disability to remove my duplicate post. Thanks.

Donnaeve said...

Amy, don't feel bad, it took me a while to realize what everyone meant by IRL.

I was like URL, did they mean URL? No, that didn't work with the sentences. Did they mean I REALLY LIKE this? Still no worky.

Finally. Finally, I figured out it meant "In Real Life."

Julie, there you go again, "even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while." ROFL. It's like..., I know all these sayings and DAMNED if I can ever remember them.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

For my small press contract (which I negotiated after I consulted with an attorney rather than an agent), I kept my film and merchandising rights. As Janet says, I didn't feel as confidently placed for exploiting my own audio, foreign rights, and bookclubs; those stayed with the publisher, for their rights agency to handle. I did have the option for this rights agent to handle the film also, btw, but I opted to reserve those. Once there is some more serious film interest (I've had some interest that didn't go anywhere), then I suspect my situation for an agent will change.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one to get stymied on acronyms. I'm going to have to go back to yesterday's comments to get OP again. I already forgot! jeesh.

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: Origami Pillow. :)

Dena Pawling said...

In my day job, OP means Opposing Party. And the opposing party's counsel is OPC. I use that acronym all the time, which is why I had to ask what OP meant yesterday [I think it was yesterday]. I'd been reading comments for the last many-months/years and wondering why the person who'd sent the question was the opposing party lol

Unknown said...

Me too, Lisa, and I repeated it over and over to remember. Pretty sure it isn't what Colin said. Original something. Problem? Position? Potbelly?

Unknown said...

No matter what it's supposed to stand for every time I read OP I think in Ron Howard.

Anonymous said...

I've adopted the OP (original poster) acronym, simply so I can try to get past the him/her/theirs, since we never know the OP's sex (until they speak up and claim their OP-ness).

Amy Schaefer said...

We probably ought to make an acronym key at some point. And by "we" I mean "Colin", because he seems to end up with those jobs. :)

Colin Smith said...

Amy: It's part of the exile. You get to sip cocktails in the sun. I compile acronym keys by candlelight in my dark dank cave. :)

Anonymous said...

I had so many random questions after reading this post and I wrote them all out and then my laptop froze. My laptop never freezes so I took this as a sign not to post stupid questions. Either that or it's an indication that I'm too lazy to recreate them, since stupid questions are sort of my forte.

I'll just say that this topic is one I don't hear discussed often and I'm curious to know more about how these rights are handled. Just pretend I'm a three-year-old asking "why?" after everything you said here.

Also, JULIE! How on earth can you say your book isn't good material for film? Every time you tell a story over here, you make a little movie in my head. Don't you realize how rare that is? Do you really not know what a gifted storyteller you are? I haven't read your fiction and maybe it's completely different (I doubt it), but holy guacamole, woman. There are more than enough voices out there ready to tell us negative things about our work. Don't you DARE do that to yourself.

That goes for all the rest of you as well. Colin, I'm looking at you and your comment the other day that you're "not good enough." STOP. DOING. THAT.

Words matter. Words have real power. Be careful about what you tell yourself.

Craig F said...

I saw the headline and thought I could jump in with hoe adorable delusions of grandeur are. Turns out I was wrong, as usual. Thanks for asking and answering a question that I hadn't even known existed, much less the importance of it.

Anonymous said...


You're such a sweetie. I'm not being negative. In my mind I can't envision FAR RIDER as a movie, but heaven knows if someone made an offer I'd jump on that like white on rice if the stars aligned. The Civil War book, yep, I have always seen that as movie material as well as some other historical things.

We'll just have to see. I just don't go around casting people for my characters. That being said, a new person followed me on twitter and I instantly saw him in armor with a cloak flowing behind him as he strode down a hallway. I pondered what he was upset about for a few days and finally figured out he's my queen's father and he's getting ready to declare war on her. I didn't even know she had a father.

The perils of following Julie Weathers on twitter....

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well, I want Hollywood, NYT best seller list, Pulitzer, cover of WD and whatever else is out there to feed my humility. I want my quotes to go viral and my bank account to bust through the stratosphere. I want Oprah to call me for advice and 60 minutes to beg me to replace Andy Rooney. Saturday Night Live will hound me until I say yes to hosting. Oops, gotta go. Have to jiggle the handle. Toilet is running.

Anonymous said...

*snort* Believe me, I am not a sweetie. I'm not particularly nice either. "Nice" is way over-rated, IMO. I'm direct and tactless and say what I mean. And mean what I say, just like Horton.

Fuck humility. I have enough self-doubt for nineteen people and I refuse to give humility any head space.

Colin Smith said...

kd: That's very sweet of you (see, you are nice!). I vacillate between good enough-not good enough. Some of the books I read definitely make me feel like my efforts are mere drool on paper. Then some of my flash fiction stories make me think, "I don't know--if this were another 79,900 words longer, it might be publishable..." I'm a woodland creature. This comes with the territory. Perhaps when I get agents wanting to sign me up, and publishers wanting to publish me, and people actually willing to part with cash to read my work, maybe then I'll consider myself good enough. Nah... probably not! ;)

Anonymous said...


Trust me, my mother taught me all about what no self confidence does. It's a two-headed beast.

Like every writer, I have dreams and I'm willing to work for them. God knows I don't want to be like the old hooker haggling over whether I'm worth a pickled egg or a Slim Jim. I want it all. Give me that damned Slim Jim, too.

Anonymous said...

Julie, someone really should make a collection of your comments. A few simple words and you put me right there in that bar.

Colin, we all have those thoughts. Of course we do. My point is, don't say them out loud. Or in print. Whatever. I'm not suggesting that anyone should go to the opposite extreme and start boasting about how great they are. Just stop the insidious creep of negativity.

Someone asks why you're not published? Make it about the work. Tell them you're still polishing your craft. Or that you haven't yet written a novel that an agent thinks they can sell in this market. Or that your best work is still ahead of you. Or, if you must, that you haven't quite hit your stride or found your voice yet.

You do not, under any circumstances, say, "I'm not good enough." Especially not in a forum like this where a bunch of other writers who also writhe with self-doubt might inadvertently validate it with their lack of dissent. Or nod and concur, "Yeah, I'm not good enough either."

You think I'm quibbling over semantics? Damn straight I am. Because the truth is that if you say something enough times, even jokingly, you start to believe it.

LynnRodz said...

Kdjames, you're my kind of girl. I agree with you wholeheartedly, what we think is as powerful as what we say.

Laura Moe said...

Thanks for all the comments on my question , folks, and all the acronyms.
Perhaps if I change my name to Jamie Paterson or Stephanie King Hollywood will be eating on my door.
I'm just happy to have the contract for now, and yes, the IS a second book. In fact I have a chest full of mostly failed manuscripts, as I'm sure most of you do.

Colin Smith said...

kd: I do say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and it's in no way an expression of self-doubt. I doubt myself capable of perfection, and I think that doubt is well-founded. All I can do is the very best with what I've been given. And to some, that's not good enough. Fine. As long as I can look my Creator in the eye (so to speak) and say I truly did the best with however much of whatever talent He gave me, I'm not at all concerned how good anyone may think I am. :)