How to turn your book into a movie - 5 steps to take

In this post I will go over the basics of how to turn your book into a movie. I have had a few emails asking about this since my post about short film ideas got popular this year. 

This post will look into the various options writers have and also link to some of the best articles I have found online on this topic.

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Why do you want this?

First we have to come to terms with the reality of making a movie. The vast majority of screenplays written will not be made into movies.

Very few screenplays even get optioned by producers.

If you want large numbers of people to experience your story you are best sticking with books. After all if you do become an established writer then producers will approach you directly making things easier.

The odds are against you for a screenwriting career, however if you still wish to go ahead here are 5 steps to take -

If your interested in learning about screenwriting from the experts check out Masterclass which has lessons from screenwriters - Aaron Sorkin , Shonda Rhimes as well as filmmaking classes with  Martin Scorsese & Ron Howard.

1. Ask your agent

If you are a working writer and already have a literacy agent then they might have contacts to move this process along faster.  So contact your agent or publishing house first to see if they can help send you in the right direction. They may also be able to help you find the right screenwriter to adapt the book to screenplay format. 

Reference - Vulture: How does a book become a movie

2. Find a producer

How to option a book for a movie? In filmmaking the term ‘option’ means a legal agreement between a producer (or a movie studio) and a source of material for adaption (book, play, short story etc.). To get your book optioned you will need interest from a producer or production company. 

Producers are on the lookout for material with a built in audience. So if your book has already sold thousands of copies a producer may show interest. You can find producers and production companies yourself  (through IMDB pro) and contact them directly. Look for people who have made films similar to your story and genre before.

A book with no existing audience,  without a well known director / producer or any actors attached will be harder to find funding.

Reference - SPR: How to get your book turned into a movie

3. Write the screenplay

How to turn a book into a movie script? Consider hiring a screenwriter. Collaborating with a screenwriter with a proven track record can only help. Especially if your book hasn’t sold thousands of copies then commissioning the screenplay yourself is a good option.

If you have the skills to write a novel you will likely will be able to write a screenplay. The screenplay format can be learnt from reading other screenplays, if your willing to take the time then do the job yourself. 

Reference - EM Welsh: How to adapt your novel into a screenplay

4. Pitch your screenplay

There are contests for screenplays globally. If you turn you book into a screenplay yourself you can enter these competitions with other screenwriters. Have a Google search for screenplay writing competitions in your country, there are also contests in Hollywood that accept international submissions.

Some film festivals also have pitch sessions. Look up film festivals that showcase films similar to your story and genre (as this is more likely to attract people who would make your film).

Production companies may read your unsolicited screenplay if you ask nicely. If you send a producer a treatment or just a polite email asking them to consider your screenplay, if they reply back then they may read it. There also open calls for submissions such as at the BBC's Writers room.

5. Go Independent

How to turn your book into a movie? If your agent cant help you and the competitions don’t pay off then the independent route maybe the only option. 

Filmmaking is a tough business, even if your script is great sometimes the only way to get it made into a movie is to make it yourself. 

Resources - EM. Welsh - Why you don't want your novel adapted into a movie | Any Possibility: Screenwriting in LA| John August: Screenwriters Blog