Do Books Translate More Easily to Film Than TV?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

It’s far more rare that a book makes the successful jump into a prime time TV series than into a Hollywood film.

By Edward Nawotka


It’s clear that the books-to-film industry is on a roll. Some of the highest grossing movies of all time (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Twilight) have been based on book franchises. The translation to film seems relatively direct for books, which tend to be self-contained enough to make the transition to 24 frames-per-second. But what about television? It’s far more rare that you see a series of books make the successful jump — at least into prime time series. Yes, there are BonesDexter, True Blood, any number long-running BBC adaptations of mystery series . . . but most of these works feature dismemberment, murder, blood or mayhem as the main features; those that tend not to have these heavy “genre” elements tend to be given the “mini series” treatment at best. Yes, there are a few brave producers at HBO and elsewhere willing to take a shot at making the semi-serious work as a series — Sex in the City, for instance (but that began life as non-fiction) and now Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections, but it seems to be that books have a harder time making the leap to the small screen. Why is this so?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.