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Why Aren’t More Movie and TV Franchises Turned Into Books?


By Edward Nawotka

In today’s lead story Diana Peterfreund writes about adapting the screenplay of the film Morning Glory into a novel. Over the years several film and television franchises have been extended via book and comic book adaptations. Think of Star Wars, which comprises just six films, but has been continued in several hundred more novels — many of them bestsellers. Ditto for Star Trek. Naturally, these extensions work because they derive from two of the most popular story lines ever produced.

The phenomenon also works for hit television shows, such as CSI, NCIS, and Smallville which have also spawned numerous novelizations.

But the same can be accomplished for cult television series — just look at Firefly and the series of Serenity comic-book titles that appeared following the appearance of the film Serenity, as well as the recent publication Firefly Still Flying, a book that offers several new short stories based on the series.

A good indicator of what might work would be the numbers of postings on fan fiction sites, such as FanFiction.net — where, for example, there are some 22.487 postings for NCIS, 5,675 postings for Firefly. The top listing under “TV,” is for the show Supernatural, with some 43,699 postings (and that too has been turned into several novelizations).

The extensive community of readers who enjoy fiction prove that there’s a serious, book-loving audience that would embrace story lines about their favorite characters, even more so if they were written by top-notch professional writers.

Why don’t more publishers take advantage of this opportunity? Even for titles that are less-popular, the licensing fees are likely to be reasonable, and the talent to produce high quality work, abundant. The upside is that you’re buying a product that has been pre-approved by the market, which is more than one can often say about most book titles.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Ms. Peterfreund’s experience seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Basically, most movies are novelized, but not out of any desire to produce compelling literary works—it’s so that the covers of the books act like little mini-movie posters. It’s additional advertising for the movie that’s not only free, but they actually get people to pay them for it. This is why many if not most novelizations are shoddy, slapdash affairs—for all the studios care, the book could just as easily be filled with blank paper.

    Orson Scott Card talks about this in the introduction to his novelization of the movie The Abyss, and explains how The Abyss had been intended from the start to be an exception to that—his work in the novel and the changes in the movie fed back into each other, so they became true companion pieces. The better novelizations are like that.

  2. Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Very often, people picking up the book with the film’s cover will be disappointed. For example, I once picked up the paperback book of “Dracula”, which had a picture of Frank Langella on it in the title role from the film. The interior was simply another copy of the original book by Bram Stoker. Cheated in such a way, most readers will not buy the book no matter whose face is featured on it. Those wanting to read a novelization of a movie expect to see the screenplay rendered with word pictures, which most writers hired to create such things are not really equipped to do. A few exceptions include authors of the story on which the film was based, and they in turn may refuse if the film did not live up to the original premise, or the producers took liberties with it. Thus, it is much better to watch the film and enjoy it as is, rather than try to buy the book.

  3. Posted December 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    That’s odd, Theresa. There was a novelization of that movie, actually. I happen to remember that it served as an object of wide laughter and ridicule at the time. Bram Stoker’s Dracula…by Fred Saberhagen.

  4. Gretchen Vaughn
    Posted December 24, 2010 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Indeed, it could work. Some movies seem to “read” better as novels. I’ve been dying to see how “Remember Me” would play out as a novel.

    As for FanFic, many of the writers could give the “professionals” a run for their money, if only the publishing industry were more transparent.

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