One of the questions we get asked occasionally by some of our more optimistic and forward-thinking authors is in relation to film adaptation rights and I was reminded about this at the weekend when I went to see The Martian at the cinema. For those of you who don’t know, this new Ridley Scott film, starring Matt Damon, is based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir and he initially self published the book as a free serial on his website, then on Kindle. When it was picked up by a publisher (via an agent) the printed book made the New York Times bestseller list.
There are several interesting facets to this story. One is that when Weir offered the book for 99 cents (the cheapest price he could set for the ebook), it sold far more copies than when he’d offered it for free – and in fact it topped Amazon’s best-selling science fiction charts.
Being a bit of a space nerd, Weir wanted to write a book containing a lot of science, and as he posted his story chapter-by-chapter on his blog, he welcomed feedback on the science particularly but also on how he could improve on the story. So The Martian is very much a book formed from Weir’s peers and readers’ contributions.
Once the ebook took off, things happened very fast. The high quality reviews on Amazon meant that sales rocketed, and within a week of each other, a literary agent and Hollywood agent contacted Weir to discuss rights to the book and film respectively.
So for those of you wanting to ensure you retain any future film adaptation rights? Well, the beauty of self publishing is that you are in control of your work and who does what with it. So that blockbuster could still earn you a fortune. Better get writing!