AUPresses 2022 Session Recap: From Book to Screen – Navigating the Complexities of TV/Film Rights Licensing

by Laura


“Hollywood should be thankful and grateful to book publishers,” commented Ines ter Horst, International Rights Manager at University of Texas Press during the opening remarks of this AUPresses 2022 panel session. “They just have to look at book sales to see what will do well on the big screen.” Sue Berger Ramin, Director at Brandeis University Press hinted that there is the illusion of a built-in audience when a popular book’s film rights are bought. “Producers buy books for many reasons including to stop other producers from buying the rights or to possibly film at a later date.”

Agents and Opportunities

During recent years we have experienced an explosion of content, and the likelihood of a book cutting through the noise and finding its way to the big screen is slim. Cable TV and streaming channels have opened the doors and provided more opportunities for a book’s film/tv rights to be picked up. So where can you turn for help if someone wants to buy your book’s rights, or to help get your book discovered by producers? Get an agent.

All three panelists spoke highly of using an agent to not only help with the contract details and reviewing and executing the film agreements, but to help connect your projects with producers. Angelica Lopez-Torres, International Rights Manager at University of Texas Press remarked, “Agents are the experts and can keep up with the changes that are happening quickly. They are your guiding post.” Sue recommended having an agent in Los Angeles because they are in the field and can be proactive. In addition to sending your lists to your agent, look for other opportunities to pitch your books. For example, are there events happening in your own city (like SXSW in Austin) that might connect you with opportunities?

Setting Author Expectations

When an interest in one of your book’s rights is expressed, it is important to involve the author and level their expectations. Let them know that if the deal goes through, the book and the movie will be two different products and will not look the same – something that is not often easy for authors to let go of.

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