Pitchrate | 4 Ways Selling the Film Rights to My Book was Like a Cinderella Story

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Michele Barrow-Belisle

Bestselling author and artist Michele Barrow-Belisle is renowned for her fiction and nonfiction writing, sculpting, doll artistry and hosting telesummits. She has authored several how-to books, magazine articles and a nonfiction fairy-sculpting title for Search Press Publishing. Her debut ficti...

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01/12/2016 12:33pm
4 Ways Selling the Film Rights to My Book was Like a Cinderella Story

4 Ways Selling the Film Rights to My Book was Like a Cinderella Story
Okay not the best title but I’m a sucker for fairytales and who doesn’t love a happy ending?

1. Have gutsy audacious goals and never give up. Where the fairy godmother says to Cinderella, “Nonsense, child. If you'd lost all your faith, I couldn't be here. And here I am.”
Just the fact that I believed I could write a novel was gutsy for me. I'd never done anything like it before and while I've had a love affair with books for as long as I can remember, and writing had always been fun for me, the idea of actually writing an entire novel (never mind a trilogy of them) was not something I'd ever envisioned. But the characters in my head refused to be silenced, and the psychics I went to all sent the same message. (That’s another story for another time) So I wrote, and learned the subtle nuances and important elements as I went along.

“A dream is a wish your heart makes.” Cinderella

In 2013 I published my first novel Fire and Ice, (Faerie Song Trilogy) a young adult fantasy romance. My dream was to write a bestselling novel, to sign with an amazing NY agent, to sell my manuscript to a big publishing house and to sell the movie rights. From the moment the wish left my lips, I was stunned by how many people told me it couldn’t be done. I decided not to listen to them. Gordon described my tale as a Cinderella story in a tweet and something about that description make me smile. I decided it was the perfect theme for this guest post. There was no pumpkin carriage or fairy godmother, although often I felt like there was one, but there was most certainly a hint of magic.

2. Listen to no one. Unless everyone around you tells you your goals are achievable. Then listen to everyone. Where the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella “If you keep believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.”
My journey from wanting to write to actually writing was interesting. I met so many authors published and not yet published and I always found it so interesting to listen to their perspectives. Starting out, it felt like the prevailing theme song was that writing was hard, getting published even harder, making money—nearly impossible, and getting a movie deal… well just forget about it. I admit to being somewhat Pollyanna in my world views, but I chose not to let any of those statistics deter me from my intentions. That was when I met more and more uplifting, fulfilled and successful writers who were making a great living doing what they loved, and who offered encouragement, positive feedback and support. That was of great benefit on the dark days when I felt like nothing was ever going to happen.

3. Listen to all the rules. Keep the ones the work for you, and toss the rest. Where Cinderella’s stepmother told her she wasn’t allowed to go to the ball. And she went anyway.
They tell you not to approach anyone and say hey wanna read my book. I totally agree with that one. Although yes, I’ve done it once or twice, and yes, it has worked for me, once or twice. For the most part though, I’ve done very little direct marketing in that sense while utilizing social media. Just one example of a rule I decided to follow. As for many of the others, well…. I was told a first time writer can’t possibly hope to sell a 130K novel.
But it sold.
I was told only famous authors with multimillion dollars in book sales ever get any input into the making of their film once the rights are sold.
But I’ve been in close contact with the producer, and he has insisted on having my input to keep the story as true to the books as possible.
And here’s my favorite story: I was told you should never, ever approach an editor who’s reviewing your manuscript, without an appointment.
But I flew from Canada to New York City on a shopping trip with a friend, and on a whim, went right into the office building of one of the big NY publishing houses. I figured either the editor would refuse to see me, security would have us shipped back across the border, or…well my stomach was churning too violently to come up with any other less dramatic scenarios. But we went to the security desk and they made a quick phone call. Minutes later I was standing in the beautiful offices of my dream publisher. The editor greeted me with a smile, a stack of books to take home and a farewell hug.
A lasting impression was made, because I can only imagine very few people have the audacity to brazenly break the rules like that, and with good reason. Was it a good idea? I’m not sure, but it felt inspired at the time and it worked in my favor. And while they didn’t end up publishing the manuscript I submitted, I made yet another connection and received an open invitation to submit again… and here’s the interesting part… agented or not. Something else I was told would never happen. So rules are there for good reason, I’m sure. But selectively tweaking them, worked in my favor, perhaps it would work in your favor too.

4. Get creative in your networking, but stay true to you. Where Cinderella’s little forest creatures, who because of her friendships with them, wound up helping her along the way.

Networking. This is where the really cool stuff began to happen. I took a course in business management, and I recall vividly the words of my instructor: “Networking is everything.”
At the time I heard the words and dismissed them as a pithy catch phrase with limited merit. Surely networking was only a small piece of the equation. True…but little did I understand how powerful that small piece really was. For me, I discovered it was a powerful key that unlocked doors that were previously impenetrable.
There were only so many conferences, lectures and classes I could attend in person, and still have time to write and money to live. Enter social media; a tool I'd been using all along, but not quite to its full potential. I brainstormed creative unique ways to meet people in the “know”. People who might be willing to offer a key introduction to someone in the film making industry. I should mention that I was completely ignorant of who that person might be, or what position they would hold, but part of my desire to see my book as a film stemmed from my passion for filmmaking. I also dabbled in acting, seriously considering it as a profession for a time. So when the opportunity to join a coaching group for actors and musicians I jumped on it. Then I joined every social media group I could find that lined up with both my dreams and my interests. Law of Attraction clubs, (I was a huge fan of The Secret) Facebook groups for screenwriters, actors, filmmakers, publishers, agents… you name it. If they were in the industry or knew someone who was, and shared any of my interests, I signed up. Then I looked for ways that I could possibly be of service—or in the case of coaches, hire their services.
I met some incredible people along the way and I hope I offered as much advice as I received. Relationships have to be reciprocal in order to survive, and networking and business relationships are no different.
I think it was two parts serendipity, one part luck and 10 parts networking that led to my film deal. One day, I sent a congratulatory message to a fellow group member who had just scored a position within a production company. One thing led to another and before long she offered the name of a producer she thought I should check out. And so the conversation began, not from a place of trying to sell something, but from the place of creating a connection.
The producer and I exchanged a few messages on Twitter, where I mentioned my book and asked if he’d be interested in reading it. I sent him a copy, with zero expectations. He told me it might take him a few months to get to it. One week later, he emailed to say he was 100 pages in and already wanted to say “let’s make a movie!” And while I agonized that he might change his mind after reading the other 200 + pages, he didn’t. The rest, as they say, is history.
But the takeaway was definitely the true value and potential of networking. I have a whole new appreciation for social media. Especially Twitter. I’m truly falling in love with Twitter…something I used to think had no practical use whatsoever.
I'm always willing to share my story, though surprisingly few have asked for it. I try to be as transparent as possible in sharing my writing journey so far, in the hopes that it might help someone else on their journey. And I‘m very grateful to have met so many authors who have shared their journeys with me.

That is my story, such that it is. It’s been a fascinating journey and I’m looking forward to what comes next. As for my dreams coming true, they seem well on their way so far. I didn’t sign with the NY agent, but I did have an awesome NY agent rep me for the film deal. I didn’t sell to a NY publishing house, but I signed with a wonderful mid-sized publisher who I’m thrilled to be working with. I just got back the samples for the audio books of my first two novels Fire & Ice and Bittersweet, and I can’t wait to see the foreign language covers. The support keeps pouring in and I’m meeting more and more amazing authors. My to-read pile grows exponentially every day! And of course I’m very excited about the journey my books will take from page to screen.
Now I’m back at it, shopping for agents and doing all the things I did in the beginning with the first book, but with a little more ease in getting into doors which were previously harder to get through. And I still hold fast to my Disneyesque belief in hard work, big dreams and a hint of magic.


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