Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Agents, Reviews, and Ipecac... sorry, I mean Disney

I've written a YA mystery novel and have been extremely fortunate in that (1) I met an agent at this year's BEA who asked to see the first 3 chapters before I even finished the book and (2) At a recent party, I met an executive producer for a series on the Disney Channel who heard about the book from a mutual friend and he asked if he could see the MS for a potential pitch to Disney as a series.

Man, you must have a good pitch.

First, do I dare show this guy my MS without having an agent? I've heard so many stories about people stealing ideas. Would it be insulting to ask him to sign a non-compete first? Next, if the book has not yet been published and Disney wants to make it a series, will I (as the creator of the character) lose all creative control? I keep thinking that I should get the book published first, then let Disney option it. (Hey, as long as I'm dreaming here ...)

I know enough about the entertainment industry to know they have some different rules than we do. I think mentioning this to your prospective agent might be a good idea. Perhaps one of my readers has some other insight?

And finally, I feel so ignorant of the business process behind the book game. I recently read that reviews can sell thousands of books so I should submit my book for review asap since I only have 8 months to build volume sales or it gets yanked from the shelves. How does one submit a book for review? Do you recommend this approach? What if it gets panned? I wasn't trying to write the great American novel when I wrote this. I had a fun set of characters and a story to tell and I wrote it down. It's not as awful as the Madison Fine or Clique series but it's no Harry Potter either...

What? Are we talking about the book that hasn't been published yet? Listen, get your book placed at any decent publisher, and the publisher will submit your book to reviewers, not you. Positive reviews can be a great boon to a book. Negative reviews, in my experience, have a lesser effect, curiously. Of course, if your book is really just for teachers, and SLJ hates it, that's bad.


Qual said...

I'm in a similar position to this reader. Not Disney, but I have two big entertainment names who want rights to my fantasy novel. Problem is, I don't have an agent yet. It's a case of the cart before the horse. Anyway, I am politely keeping interested parties on side while searching for an agent. In regard to a non-compete agreement, the Disney guy will not sign in a million years. So if you want to look professional, don't even ask. This is for several good reasons. One being, they may have a similar concept sitting on someone's desk already - and that's not copyright infringement. You can register copyright with the society of authors and then put the registered number on the cover page of your manuscript - but none of this is a guarantee. Don't bother posting the manuscript to yourself. It won't hold up in court if it gets that far. I will say though, it's not in anyone's interest to steal your ideas. It would be a lot more costly on someone like Disney (financially and reputation) if infringement was to be proved in a court of law.

My suggestion would be to secure the services of an agent first. The Disney angle is a juicy carrot. If you hand over the manuscript to Disney and they ultimately 'pass' on the opportunity, then the freshness of this angle with the agent is also gone. Although if Disney made an offer you could bring an agent in then to negotiate terms. But this isn't ideal. Keep it as simple as you can. Bottom line is, Disney will still be there in a month/few months when hopefully, you introduce your agent to the Disney guy. Best of luck to the author ...

Anonymous said...

Thank you - EA and qual for this response to my question. I had a feeling that I'd insult the Disney guy if I asked for the non-compete. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Good luck with your project, too! Susan

Anonymous said...

There are thousands and thousands of people working in tv and movie production companies and the number of people who have creative control over a project is very, very, very small.

I don't know for sure, but I bet JK Rowling didn't or doesn't even have a great deal of creative control over the movie star Harry.

Unfortunately, your main focus may have to be on earning fair compensation for your work and the work it generates. That's why an agent is a really good idea.

Qual said...

The more successful an author you are the more creative input you have when your work is adapted. It's a simple proportion really. The bottom line is you are much better off with an agent in dealing with TV/film companies.

To begin with, JK Rowling probably had little input in the early movies and her influence grew as the series' success blew beyond all expectations. Now Universal Studios are building Harry Potter Land in Florida. JK has major creative input into this project. So that's it - the new frontier. You know you've really made it as a children's author when they open a theme park based on your characters!

Anonymous said...

or when you earn 45 million dollars a year. ; )

Literaticat said...

I only have 8 months to build volume sales or it gets yanked from the shelves.

You don't have 8 months for an adult frontlist hardback -- more like 8 weeks. Children's books get a little bit more leeway, depending on the store volume, etc. Returns = mysterious and arcane, and NOT something that authors should worry their pretty little heads over.

For crying out loud -- just write! All the stuff you are worried about here = someone else's problem, later.

It's not as awful as the Madison Fine or Clique series but it's no Harry Potter either...

Whoa - I know plenty of kids that live and die by Madison Finn and Clique. I know plenty of people that don't much care for Harry Potter. There's an audience for every book. Write the best book you can! (broken record, much?)

Anyway these are bad examples. Harry Potter is not like anything else, he doesn't count. And I am quite sure that Mad Finn and Clique would get bad reviews if they got any at all -- but you should be so lucky to have their numbers.

Anonymous said...

As an illustrator who has done work for Disney, I would say show them NOTHING without an agent.

They are famous for wanting to own everything--even artwork done by others outside the studio system--changing agreements after the fact. But I won't bore you with that story...

Don't even give them details about your story until you have an agent to do the presenting for you, or at least look out for you.

Think: Which came first? Antz or A Bug's Life? And how would you prove it?

Anonymous said...

Thank you above anon illustrator...kind of what I suspect.

max said...

I wish I had your kind of problem. My writing is especially for boys 8 - 13. I write action-adventures & mysteries. Seven of my 35 manuscripts have been published, but I continue to encounter the fact that girls are the primary readers and not boys.

I have an agent, yet the process has been slow going to this point.

My blog, Books for Boys, is in the top 5 on Yahoo and the top 20 on Google, but with such a small publisher, distribution, marketing, & promotion are issues that have held me back, I think, despite all the promotion I do myself. And, my books aren't in many stores.

Congratulations to those who have found such high interest in your work.

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