Want To See Your Book Become A Movie? It’ll Take Perseverance And Patience.

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book become a movie

From Hollywood to Nepal, this story of how a self-published novel became a major motion picture started with an author’s crazy idea of turning readers into agents. Crazy… until it worked!

My debut novel, The Reincarnationist Papers, is being re-released in print, eBook, and audiobook by Blackstone Publishing this year, the same year that the movie Infinite, a Paramount Pictures adaptation of my novel starring Mark Wahlberg and Dylan O’Brien, will hit theaters globally. This has been a dream come true for me, but only a few people know what it took to get here. It’s been a long journey of ups and downs, successes and rejections, risks and giant rewards, and it all started with the tiniest of ideas.

Like most authors, I struggled to get this book published. After several years of work, I finished the novel in 2008 and submitted it to literary agents and publishers with the excitement that all new authors feel when putting their work out for the first time. I dreamed of my story reaching and entertaining a wide audience. But my novel about a young man who is haunted by the total recall of two past lives and who then stumbles upon a centuries-old secret society of similar individuals was met with rejection.

An expected reaction might have been to take the series of rejections as a message from the entertainment world that this project wasn’t good enough, but I was encouraged by feedback from early readers of the book who raved about it and wanted to see it as a movie. So, I decided to self-publish the novel in 2009, but I took a risk and included one item, a single unproven idea that changed everything: I asked my readers to help me, and I incented them to do it with a reward.

Enlisting the help of my readers

Specifically, I empowered my readers to help by placing a cash reward on the first page to anyone who could introduce the novel to a Hollywood producer who would adapt The Reincarnationist Papers into a movie. After all, I was prepared to pay an agent a commission to get the novel published or adapted into a movie, so offering that same fee to readers wouldn’t cost anything more. What I didn’t realize at the time was how far this message, this tiny idea, would carry into the world as this reward effectively turned those early readers into a silent army of new agents.

This unorthodox idea of incenting readers to become agents sounded crazy… until it worked!

I received a few inquiries about the reward in the first year, but the breakthrough happened on Thanksgiving Day, 2010, when Rafi Crohn, an assistant to a Hollywood director, found a copy of The Reincarnationist Papers halfway around the world in a hostel in Nepal. Rafi picked up the book, loved it, and emailed me about the reward offer. When he returned to Los Angeles, he set about getting the novel adapted into a motion picture.

Rafi and I worked on short summaries and adaptations of The Reincarnationist Papers that he took to several studios who showed interest, but they eventually passed on the project in 2012. He had warned me that this was the most likely outcome, that less than one percent of adaptation projects ever get made. I was disappointed, but we didn’t give up. He took the book to other producers and he secured the first movie option with Bellevue Productions in 2014. Bellevue sold the adapted screenplay, Infinite, to Paramount Pictures in 2017. It took him a total of seven years with stops at several studios to get it done, but Paramount finally shot the film in 2019.

It only took twelve years

I paid Rafi the reward in December 2019, the same month I got a book deal with a traditional publisher, closing the loop on this crazy idea of offering the agent’s reward to readers. All told, it took twelve years to see my dream of taking this story to a wider audience come true. And in that twelve years, I took some risks, got some help, and never let the flame go out on my dream. An inspiring quote from singer-songwriter Nick Cave brilliantly sums up this process for me.

All of our days are numbered. We cannot afford to be idle. To act on a bad idea is better than to not act at all. Because the worth of the idea never becomes apparent until you do it. Sometimes this idea can be the smallest thing in the world, a little flame that you hunch over and cup with your hand and pray will not be extinguished by all the storm that howls about it. If you can hold onto that flame, great things can be constructed around it, [things] that are massive and powerful and world-changing, all held up by the tiniest of ideas. — Nick Cave (from the documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth)

Embrace this advice to take chances, to try new ideas, get your work in front of readers, and nurture your dream. Don’t let your flame go out, not ever, for as long as it takes.

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The Reincarnationist Papers launches on May 4th and Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, premiers globally on September 24, 2021. Order your copy on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Eric,

    Interesting article! Movies based on novels are also great because they draw attention to the books. In a technology-rich society, with access to numerous social media websites to pass time, teenagers are reading less and less. By turning novels into movies, children and teenagers’ interests are turned to the books that provided the basis for the worlds they come to love. For instance, when “The Hunger Games” movie began production, there were 9.6 million copies of the trilogy books in print. In early 2012, when the movie was nearing its March release date, there were more than 26 million. Following the movie’s release, my sister bought copies of the books even though she had already read them in school, and she convinced her friends to buy and read them too. Thanks for sharing, Cheers!

  2. I am a self published author of four books and currently writing my fifth. I am also 72 years old and would love to have my work turned into a screen play and produced by a major studio however waiting twelve years is probably impossible.

  3. I am a self published author and published my first book, “A City in the Sand” November of 2020. The sequel “The Lost Years” came out March 2021. The last book in my series will come out in 2022. I already had a movie studio contact me about my book, but they $9400 up front, so I passed.

  4. I’ve read many times that great literary works get rejected, for example, Harry Potter. This fact begs the question, who are these literary agents? What are their interests? Or are they just dumb people to whom smart people need to beg to get published?

  5. Great Thought! I wonder how long it would take to get a reality or other TV show inspired by my 30+ years as a licensed marriage therapist and over 10,000 hours of conversations with couples motivated to have their happy and best relationships? PLUS—my Relationship Keeper Series of wellness materials including books, cards, coloring books, and over 70 creative non-fiction stories of couples working on their relationships. Everything is non-jargon and has humor and practicality. I love to talk and never met a question I did not like!
    Dr. Patt—The Marriage Whisperer

  6. Really enjoyed this article and comments. Reading it re-ignited my tiny little spark of excitement and hope. I can’t think of anything more exciting than watching years of hard work and effort, blood, sweat and tears, once absorbed by pure white paper, evolve to become a movie. I know he scenes will not be new to you, the writer. So many times you have cast yourself in the leading role to become the driving force behind each one. Sure, you look different and you have your own screen name but behind that face and that name…it is you. You are the one who has played out the scenes over and over again until they are perfectly flawless. You’ve probably chosen your own list of supporting characters. How wonderful it is to hear that a writer’s dream can still come true. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I love the way you did things differently, Eric. And you put book adaptation into a realistic perspective. I’ve been circulating an adaptation project for a couple of years, and folks keep asking me when the movie’s coming out. Ha! Not only can it takes years to sell a project, you have the years of production after that. Guillermo del Toro worked in writing and films for 40 years before he had breakthrough success. This sort of work is certainly not for the faint of heart. But, wow, is it fun!

    • Thanks Robin. Yes, I had the same thing: “how’s the movie coming?” I was warned at the beginning that it takes a while, and it did.

  8. I started out writing spec scripts in 2005; by 2012 I had writing a dozen and had invested countless hours into something that had almost no return. I made it to the quarter final round of a couple of competitions, and was paid several thousand dollars several different times to develop and write someone else’s ideas. I lost my passion, which ultimately lead to me losing my voice. After nearly 10 years I’m starting to hear voices again. lol. One of the screenplays I wrote is becoming a franchise that I’m self publishing as short novels set to start going into print @ the end of the year. It would be ironic if somewhere down the line someone in Hollywood stumbled on to my stories and wanted to turn them into films.

  9. I self-published a romance thriller in 2013 and published it via Book Baby and the sequel to it in 2015 as well. In 2016, I adapted my first book into a screenplay and started pitching it to producers. While several meaningful producers showed interest and requested to read the screenplay, it still has not been produced yet. What I learned along the way is that it is not just the story or how it is written that is important for landing an option or production deal but also what the budget would be for the production and which actor/actress would want to be attached to play the main roles. These are things out of your control.

    It would be easy to be discouraged because of rejection but when you learn that many immensely popular and successful films had the same fate in the beginning and it took 10 or more years for those to finally be made, you will keep your efforts going. I have meanwhile written 3 feature film screenplays, one contemporary romance thriller, one espionage thriller set in 1980’s Berlin, and one biopic as well as one crime drama TV series set in the late 80s international finance world inspired by my previous finance career. Once I started writing screenplays, I was not too interested in writing books anymore. I am now contemplating turning one of the screenplays into a stage play/musical.

  10. Many congrats — a real win for self-publishers. :-) I think a key part of this story is that the book sold in the first place, on its own, and actually wound up in Nepal for that dude to find. If I could even figure out how to do *that* (as in sell a few freakin’ copies), that would be a huge milestone.

  11. Something we need to keep in mind is that Hollywood appears to like to work with a winning template. The sequels with the same stars appear to be their choices. The stars get typecast and the plots become predictable. I think audiences want more and sometimes you can enjoy completely new ideas.
    Perhaps the small production companies might be more receptive. They appear to team up to cover production costs.
    How does an author present his novel to these individuals?

  12. Thanks a Million! I’m excited! Just reading your post has sent me into the little engine that could mode! Over a year ago I was accepted by TBN Publishers to publish my Inner Healing-Life Changing Memoir. I didn’t have the money to pay the initial fees so I kept seeking publisher’s. They all love the book.I just didn’t have the money; with the Corona Virus and the new normal. Bless and Thank you for giving me hope again.

  13. Having spent 36 years of my life working in the film industry, I can tell you this was indeed brilliance!
    Bravo on so many levels… Nepal, no less! Wow!

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