The Publishing Life

So You Want to Be In Pictures? (The Sequel)

To simulate how the book-to-film process really works, I waited five years to write this sequel to my original post on books and films.

Experiences with book-to-film connections are a very real box of chocolates for authors ever since the opportunity to connect the two media debuted a hundred years ago.

Authors never know what they are going to get. The experience can leave either a good or bad taste in their mouths.

However, the common experience for every author was the lengthy period of time between a book and film release. It was never fast.

For sure, the current world of original programming from Netflix, Amazon and a host of others accelerates the process a bit, but it is still multiple years between book and film release.

On the theatrical release (theaters first) side of the ledger, some of the fastest book to film transitions were To Kill a Mockingbird (two years), The Godfather, Gone with the Wind and The DaVinci Code (each three years).

The first Harry Potter movie released four years after the first book (1997 book, 2001 film), as the immense scope and production complexity made a faster turnaround impossible.

Other recent examples would be:

–1982 book The Shawshank Redemption released on film in 1994

–1996 The Notebook released on film in 2004

–2005 The Glass Castle was a 2017 film

–2006 Water for Elephants became a 2011 film

–Written in the 1950’s, The Chronicles of Narnia took six decades to find their way into live-action films.

Of course, so many books were difficult or impossible to film without current day technology, so it is easy to see why Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit needed to wait until computer generated imagery (CGI) appeared, allowing film makers to create magic on screen which previously required ten-thousand extras or was simply impossible.

Do you want your book to become a film? Be ready to wait a while.  There is no average length of time between a book and film release. Those books which sell millions of copies will move to film quicker than a book which sells 10,000. But maybe not.

The Christian market has a number of films based on books, some which went to theaters, some which were television films and some which were  broadband releases.

But the process was never fast.

Catherine Marshall’s classic Christy became a film almost three decades after the book released.

Some Christian novels which would make great films, such as This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers have never appeared in film. It takes a variety of factors coming together (desire, creative vision, money) to make it happen at any point, but just because something hasn’t yet been made into a movie, doesn’t mean it will never happen.

Massive spending (billions of dollars each year) on original films by Netflix, Amazon and others might result is some great Christian books ending up in film.

Goodreads has a list of Christian novels which readers think would make great movies. See the list here.

Many authors would like to see their books as a movie. For this to happen, here’s the timeline they will likely experience:

  1. Write a great story
  2. Publish it and have it sell well for years
  3. Wait several years
  4. Wait a few more years
  5. Film company interested, but then backs out
  6. Wait a few more years
  7. Decide to give up on the dream of your book in film
  8. Wait a few more years
  9. Book is optioned, produced and released and their grandchildren are very proud.

If you think book publishing is slow, just take a peek behind the curtain at the film industry and you’ll see really what the terms “deliberate” and “careful” mean.

So, you want to be in pictures?

Pray for patience.


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