if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

On Books, and Movies, and Anniversaries

First of all, thanks to everyone for your warm wishes on the occasion of kt literary’s first anniversary! I know there’s a lot of fantastic information about publishing and agenting out there on the intrawebs, and I’m thrilled so many of you choose to seek that out here, in my humble little corner of the world.
But enough about me, let’s talk about books — and that holy grail of book success — movies! I had the opportunity to speak this weekend on a panel with several other agents about all manner of topics. I chatted a bit about how to find an agent, while WordServe‘s Rachelle Gardner discussed what to expect from an agent, and Maryann Karinch of The Rudy Agency talked about developing a marketing plan, even before submitting to agents. Afterwards, a gentleman author of a self-published book came up to me and asked if I had any ideas of how to get his novel into the hands of development executives at Hallmark Studios. And my honest answer? “Sell a million copies.”
Everyone knows this business is tough. If you don’t, allow me to burst your bubble: this stuff is hard work, with no guarantee of success. Those book-to-film deals you may hear about, and see on the silver screen (more on that in a minute) are very rare, in the big scheme of things. Just look at the NY Times hardcover bestseller list for a sec. Fifteen titles, and the only one with a dramatic adaptation (that I know of) is #12, Charlaine HarrisFrom Dead to Worse, in her Sookie Stackhouse series, now adapted by Showtime for TV. But fine, those are all new titles. How about the trade paperback list? This looks a little more film-centric. Four books in the top twenty with film adaptations. For some, it’s easy to see that the book’s success came first — like with The Kite Runner, on the list for 71 weeks. For others, like The Reader and Revolutionary Road, I think you can trace their time on the list back to their respective movie’s release. (Although I’m reminded that Oprah picked The Reader, but being picked by her is even MORE of a pot shot.)
So what’s my point? Even with the best, most popular books out there right now, literary success is still no guarantee of cinematic glory.
Then again, sometimes things DO work out, and bestselling books like Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (currently, the series has 18 weeks on the list) get made into fun, fascinating movies like the one that Rexroth and I saw on Friday night. In case you don’t know, Brendan Fraser plays Mo, a “silvertongue” with the ability to read a story into life, pulling characters from fiction into reality. I think the movie does a great job with the book — no, it’s not an exact retelling of the story, but what film ever does complete justice to a complicated book plot?
Anyway, Mo and his fellow silvertongues (with varying degrees of success) bring a number of creatures of our imagination into the real world, including a unicorn, the minotaur, some flying moneys, and Toto. And it made me ponder: if you could bring any one literary creation to life, what or who would it be?1
I’m tempted by a hoverboard from the Uglies series, or my very own Wesley from The Princess Bride. What about you?
1 – Ignoring, for a moment, that in Inkheart in order to bring something out of a book, something else often goes in.

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