So, you wrote an amazing story or a book, and you’re now in the process of negotiating with a streaming platform. Perhaps, your book was so successful that you got noticed by a streaming platform. Or, you wrote from your heart, and your work got noticed by a streaming platform and they’re now reaching out.
The good news is that, with a bit of research and careful strategizing, you’re winning no matter what rights you negotiate; The bad news is, if you’re not careful, your life’s work can easily end up in someone else’s hands to do whatever they choose, and you’re left with little to no association with it.
In this article, you’ll find out how to decide if you want to sign a deal with a streaming platform.
Movie Rights for Writers Negotiating With a Streaming Platform
Getting a chance to work with a streaming platform is an amazing testament to your work. That means your title is a quality read, and whether or not you choose to proceed, you have a bright future in front of you.
So, from the get-go, understand that this specific deal can possibly determine your career. There’s no going back after signing a contract, so think about whether it’s the right way to go beforehand. So, how do you decide if you want to sign a deal? Think about the following aspects:
1: How Will A Streaming Platform Movie Deal Affect Your Future?
It’s unlikely that you published a great story without at least some desire for media exposure.
Of course, signing a deal doesn’t mean that you’ll become a celebrity overnight, but it could make you more recognizable. Media platforms could start paying more attention to you (or a lot, depending on how the project goes), so think if you’re ready for that.
More importantly, think about your career as a writer and whether you wish your work to extend beyond book publication. On the other hand, reader fandoms may not be as profitable or as aloud as movie fandoms, but they’re typically more passionate and devoted.
Literature is a different animal, and authenticity is more appreciated, whereas small errors aren’t really picked up on when judging a book compared to a movie.
2: What Do You Want for Your Story?
Turning a written story into a movie piece is a challenging task. Adaptations have to be made, and to a degree, you’re the one who carries the torch of responsibility for what you allow.
Think about whether or not you’re ready to carry the weight of audience dissatisfaction as a downside of, in a way, being celebrated for something that’s essentially someone else’s work.
3: How Will a Movie Affect Book Sales and Rights?
Although you’ll outline and negotiate the rights to your story in the process of making your deal, think about what you want for future publishing. Although getting picked up by a streaming platform, as a rule, increases book sales, the deal will affect your possibility to further pave the path for your title.
Things to Look Out For
Before signing a deal, seek educated advice from legal experts, as well as fellow writers and editors, about the following aspects:
1: How Much to Allow
Typically, you’ll get paid more if you allow the platform more freedom with the story, and less if you choose to maintain some authority over the changes being made. Outline important aspects of the story beforehand, and decide for yourself what you can and can’t allow to be changed about it.
2: Future Rights and Form of Compensation
There are many ways for each side to be compensated fairly, and they pretty much depend on what works best for you. You may choose a one-time payment, or a percentage that will be paid out to you periodically after the movie airs.
If you choose a one-time payment, you might get significant amounts of money right away, but you might miss out on a lot of profit later on if the movie is successful. If you choose monthly/yearly profit percentages, you might get little to no compensation if the story ends up being unsuccessful.
3: What Comes After?
Your deal, or rather the contract being made, will also outline your possibilities to further market your story for adaptations, like cartoons, screenplays, promotional campaigns, etc.
Decide beforehand if you’re OKAY with associating your book to this one movie, or whether you wish to negotiate terms that would allow future deals for the similar title.
A skilled legal advisor will be able to tell you the ups and downs of each choice, and what it could mean for your career.
Negotiate Fair Terms and What to Keep in Mind
The emphasis should be on ‘fair’ when negotiating your compensation for agreeing to make a deal with a streaming platform. On the one hand, you should get the highest reasonable figures since the platform has the opportunity to profit from your writing.
However, from the streaming platform’s point of view, they’re investing a lot in a project with little to no guarantee of return on investment. Simply put, no one knows if the movie will be successful or not. If you overreach and ask too much, you might miss the opportunity overall.
Streaming and Content Ownership When Making Deals With Platforms
Ask too little, and you might watch your story turn famous with little to no profit from the whole deal. The best way to come up with figures and percentages is to research and find out what compensations authors like you received in terms of genre, niche, platform, and the size of their reader base.
Whatever you choose, make sure to put your trust in educated experts, like attorneys and industry authorities, rather than making a blind guess.
Before signing a deal with a streaming platform, think about what rights and to what degree you wish to keep, and which ones would you be willing to let go, such as:
1: Author Rights
Yep, it’s completely possible to sell all rights to your work, and it’s usually done for huge sums. However, it also means that you won’t be able to call your title yours anymore. You won’t be allowed to speak about it in the media, write about it, and it will pretty much mean that you sold it to the platform like one cell, a car, or a house.
You can also choose to retain content ownership rights, like referring to the title of the book as yours, and only allow the platform to make a movie or a show based on it to the degree to which you allow.
Many authors trademark book titles, phrases, terms, character names, and other elements of their story. That way, no one uses your character’s made up language in their work, for example.
Think about what elements from your work you wish to trademark and to what degree you’re willing to allow the platform to use the trademarks.
Trademarks give you authority over deciding whether the platform will name their work after your title, or whether they need to find a different one. Either of the options can work well depending on the story, but keep the choice in mind just in case.
3: Publishing Rights
Do you plan on writing other publications for the work in question? What if you wish to write a sequel later on, but you’ve already sold all the rights to the platform? Or, you want to introduce characters or aspects of the story into your other work?
Think about how the deal could affect your future publications, and outline any wishes, observations, and questions that you might have for your lawyer.
4: What Changes to The Content are Allowed
The streaming platform has likely considered what they wish to do with your story, so they’ll probably come to you with a set of suggestions and ideas for what they wish to keep and what they wish to change.
Because of this, you should outline in advance what you want and don’t want filmmakers to do with your characters, universe, scenes, and plots.
Dos and Don’ts of Making Deals With a Streaming Platform
- Make a deal with yourself first. Think about all the aspects of being on screen, and decide on what you wish, want, don’t want, and won’t allow ahead of time.
- Get educated advice. Talk to the people in both industries who had experiences with literature adaptations and hear them out before making commitments.
- Calculate reasonable compensation for your title. Work with a consultant to figure out what you can realistically expect to be paid when everything is taken into account.
- Overreach. Stay open and honest, yet educated and opportunistic when negotiating all aspects of your deal.
- Stifle movie creators. Accept that many changes to your work will be made to better adapt the story.
- Insist on things that matter only to you. Agree to making decisions based on expert, industry recommendations rather than acting on emotion.
Great job on landing a streaming platform deal! Now, you can start thinking about what you want the contract to look like, and how you wish your story to translate on screen. However, make sure to think through all of the aspects of your deal, particularly how it will affect your rights to the title and the content in the future.
Remember, the more rights you sign over to the platform, the greater will your compensation be and vice versa. However, this doesn’t have to limit your decisions. Instead, think about what’s best for the story and your career.
Make reasonable compromises in the best interest of the project, and, of course, always have a legal expert go over your contract before signing it!