Your Favorite Book Won’t Be Turned Into a TV Show Anytime Soon

Authors whose books are being adapted into movies and TV shows are the latest to be affected by the strike, which is taking a toll on projects at every stage of development.
Authors whose books are being adapted into movies and TV shows are the latest to be affected by the strike, which is taking a toll on projects at every stage of development.


  • Studios from Netflix to Amazon put book-adaptation deals on hold amid writers’ strike

Joshua Ferris thought two of the books he wrote had a strong chance of appearing on the small screen—until a strike by Hollywood writers put everything on hold.

Efforts to turn both books into screenplays won’t resume until the strike ends, Ferris was recently told by his lawyer. The entertainment companies that bought the TV rights to each book have extended the option period by the length of the strike—with no extra compensation for Ferris.

Authors whose books are being adapted into movies and TV shows are the latest to be affected by the strike, which is taking a toll on projects at every stage of development. Studios from Amazon to Netflix and Warner Bros. have notified authors and their agents in recent weeks that they are invoking force-majeure rights included in their contracts.

That action means studios are largely extending production deadlines and option dates until the end of the strike and affected authors aren’t receiving any additional pay, according to people who have seen and received their calls and letters. Book-option fees can range from as low as $1,500 to seven figures, said a New York literary agent.

The move has Ferris concerned that efforts to turn his books into TV shows may lose momentum.

“Both writing teams have worked really hard to see these books get adapted and adapted well," said Ferris in an interview—who, as a member of the Writers Guild of America, is also on strike. “I hope that the strike doesn’t damage the process."

The work stoppage began on May 2, after talks between the WGA and a coalition representing the major Hollywood studios, streamers and networks failed to agree on terms of a new contract. Key issues include the number of writers used on projects andwhat they are paid in a streaming era that is largely void of residual payments and job security, particularly as artificial intelligence grows more advanced.

The strike led late-night shows including ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live" and CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" to immediately go dark. Writers continue to picket outside streamers’ corporate offices and production facilities, at times delaying shoots.

Should the work stoppage drag on through the rest of spring and into summer, the fall television offerings for the broadcast networks could also be delayed.

Studios’ recent decisions to pause work on potential book adaptations affect a range of authors, from those who have penned bestsellers to authors that self-publish books and have optioned them to production companies, streamers and studios.

Mary Oldham, a romance novel author who has self-published nine books, sold rights to her first book, “The Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction," to a studio late last year. The studio, which she declined to name, paid her before the strike to write an outline with a collaborator.

The studio told her to expect radio silence once the strike began. “The timing is not great, but I believe in the writers’ strike," said Oldham, who is an affiliate member of the WGA.

Books are typically optioned for 12 to 18 months in exchange for a “modest fee," Ferris said. The options can usually be extended for an additional payment.

Ferris’s first novel, “Then We Came to the End," about a Chicago ad agency, was published in 2007 and optioned by the production and distribution company FilmNation Entertainment in 2020, he said. His 2010 novel “The Unnamed," about a troubled marriage, was optioned by the production and distribution company Fifth Season in 2021, said Ferris. FilmNation Entertainment couldn’t be reached for comment.

The management and production company Gotham Group has been receiving suspension letters from multiple companies that have optioned books, including producers and studios, said Rich Green, who heads the department that oversees the conversion of books to film and television.

The strike has made it impossible for companies to move ahead with projects that are in active development with WGA writers, he said, nor can these companies discuss adaptation opportunities with guild members until the strike ends. Guild members adapting books into scripts were instructed to stop writing the moment the strike was called, Green said.

Books have long offered Hollywood compelling tales ripe for movies and television, and in the streaming age, content based on beloved novels and series has become a staple of major platforms’ libraries.

Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year said it is making a new TV series based on J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter" books. Recent Netflix hits include “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," a spinoff of the popular show Shonda Rhimes made based on Julia Quinn’s romance novels, and “XO, Kitty," a spinoff of the series “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before" based on Jenny Han’s young-adult novels.

Among the new, U.S.-produced TV series released last year, 77 were adapted from books, according to London-based data and research company Ampere Analysis. That compares with 48 for 2021.

The Authors Guild, to which Ferris also belongs, has issued a statement of support for the WGA strike. Authors, it said, “are quite literally being put on hold when force majeure clauses are invoked and can suffer delayed payment and loss of other opportunities as a result."

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.



Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App