by Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam BarryApril 2010
Dreaming in Technicolor
Dear Author Enablers,
I am almost finished writing my first novel, and everyone in my writing group thinks it would make a terrific movie. Can you recommend a literary agent who also specializes in movie deals?
Whoa . . . we suggest you take this one step at a time. Get your novel in tiptop shape first. Then do your homework and find the agent who will be the best at championing your book to publishers. Many literary agents do have connections to film agents but many don’t, so if you end up having a choice, this is one of the questions you’ll want to ask when the time comes.
In the meantime, don’t worry if you find yourself engaging in “casturbation.” This is what happens when you find yourself fantasizing about which famous actors will play the parts in the film version of your novel. It’s perfectly normal and everyone does it, but we recommend refraining from indulging in public places, or at the dinner table.
Dear Author Enablers,
Is there any way to find out if a book has been optioned (or whatever the technical term is) for film or TV production in the U.S. and/or U.K.? I am particularly interested in novels written by Kate Atkinson. Also, what is the best way to find out who is the agent (literary or film) for an author?
Michigan State University
We’d usually answer this question by suggesting that you do some homework, starting with finding the author’s website, looking in the acknowledgments of Atkinson’s books for her agent’s name, and then finally contacting the publisher. But you, Alan, are one lucky guy (think of yourself as the random millionth person to drive over a bridge, getting presents and balloons). We are going to do all this for you and explain the process step by step.
Step 1: We Google Kate Atkinson and find her official website. Unlike many author sites, there is no direct contact information for a publisher or agent. There is, however, an online protocol for signing up for regular emails containing news of her whereabouts and forthcoming events, and you could start by joining that list and adding a polite note that you would like to contact the author about film rights.
Step 2: A little more research (Googling “Literary agent for Kate Atkinson”) unearths several different agents’ names associated with Atkinson. The Marsh Agency claims “translation rights only” and Casarotto Ramsay and Associates Ltd. comes up for plays. Our search also leads us to Kim Witherspoon, an agent whose name we’ve heard before. We find her website, but are unable to view the client list, in order to verify that Atkinson is really represented by this agency. Aargh, this is getting frustrating. We don’t have all day. . . .
Step 3: Amazon.com reveals the information that several of Atkinson’s books were published by Little, Brown. Great! We know some people at Little, Brown (part of the Hachette Book Group), but chances are you don’t, and we’re pretending we’re you. So we call the main phone number and ask for the publicity department. (Publicists are professionally trained to get exposure for their authors, so they are more likely to help than, say, editors—who are generally more parental and protective—as well as harder to reach.) A voicemail greeting directs us to email our inquiry to a general publicity address. We leave a voicemail message anyway, asking for Atkinson’s publicity contact, then cruise around the publisher’s website, where we find a fax number for permissions requests.
Although we haven’t actually found the information you need, at least you got the balloons, and we hope we’ve provided a few clues on how to find what you’re looking for. A polite, direct and clear inquiry by email, phone or fax should get you a response, and eventually lead you to the right person. Don’t forget to include your contact information on every communication.