Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soon to be a Major Motion Picture

Since becoming a published author -- one who is actively engaged in reaching out to bloggers and book readers on various social networks -- I have made it a rule not to respond to reviews. Good or bad, it is only natural for a writer to feel the impulse to, ehem, discuss certain points of criticism with their reviewer. So for the very first time, I am going to talk about one observation that I can’t help but wonder is influencing the critics of THE FAMILIARS (and by critics, I simply mean those who have reviewed the book, the vast majority of which have been very positive). 

Here is a sampling of a recurring theme in some of the reviews circulating:

“I can’t help but feel it was written with the movie rights or script in mind.”

“The coauthors write for screen and tv so it's no surprise that the book has already been optioned for a movie.”

“I understand that this is soon to be an animated film. If I had to guess, I would say the film rights were sold way before the book was written.”

"’The Familiars’ is the first book in a new series and soon-to-be a major motion picture. Authors Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson are former screenwriters. In keeping with that theme, ‘The Familiars’ is ‘Harry Potter’ meets ‘The Golden Compass’ meets ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’”

“There are plans already to make it into a movie, so reading it is very much like reading a script at times.”

“Screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson's children's book debut is a grand adventure with entertaining characters and magic-induced fun, written in an appropriately cinematic style (Sony Pictures Animation has optioned the story).”

Does anyone see a pattern here?

Should the fact that Adam and I are screenwriters or that THE FAMILIARS has been optioned for film be relevant to any critique of the book? I’ve noticed that certain books, like I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore – whose film was already in production when the book came out late this summer – take a lot of heat in their reviews for having a “blockbuster” feel, which might be great for movies but isn’t always great for books. But more literary friendly tomes like The Help by Kathryn Stockett gets praise heaped on it despite the fact that a finished screenplay had already been written when the manuscript for the book went out to publishers.

I think that an author who writes a book and subsequently has the movie rights picked up – say Lauren Oliver with Before I Fall or Allie Condie with Matched – you’re not going to see reviews tinged with comments about the book's cinematic aspirations. However, get a screenwriter crossing over into the world of books and cynics can’t help but think it is simply a way of reverse engineering a movie deal.

Well, I am here to say that I am platform agnostic. I try to find the best medium to tell a story that I’m passionate about, whether it’s a book, a movie, a graphic novel, or a video game. In some cases – perhaps the best ones – I am fortunate enough to create a piece of intellectual property that can bounce across all of these different platforms and enhance each experience from a new perspective. Think of ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Avatar’ or ‘Lord of the Rings.’ These are all immersive worlds that give audiences new ways to enjoy a story they love. 

I can only hope that THE FAMILIARS follows in those same footsteps.

Do book reviewers have a bias against books that are going to become movies? A bias against screenwriters who become authors? Or is the fact that a book has been optioned for film a legitimate point to make in a review? I'd love to hear what you think.

- Andrew Jacobson, co-author of THE FAMILIARS


  1. Any book can be turned into a script. Any picture or photograph narrated. Book reviewers are just looking to make their work original by looking for a controversial angle?

  2. This is an interesting question. I will say that I didn't see any of the reviews you quoted here saying anything overtly negative, but there was a subtle implication that the "film aspects" of the story somehow made it something less.

    I haven't read your novel, so I have no idea how accurate these reviews are, but I will say I'm not surprised to see critics latching on to what seems like an easily canned response when it comes to having something to say.

    Seems a little lazy to me.

  3. Being the optimist that I am, I like to think that the mention of it being a movie is a good thing. Great press for the book.

    But on the other side of this conversation I think that the reviewer should be looking at the story for what it is, not what it is going to become. We know you can never judge a book by its movie. They are separate animals.

    In today's market we are seeing books being purchased by film studios and agencies before they even have a publishing deal. A very wise agent recently told me, if you can't get in through the front door, or the back door, you go in through the window!

    In the end, I think the important thing is that your story - which is platform friendly - needs to reach it's audience no matter what format. I think if you are getting reviews and attention when most books are not, then hooray!

  4. Interesting perspectives guys.

  5. I don't see anything wrong with it being written with movie rights in mind. Authors are often advised to read books on writing screenplays in plotting their book.

    Can't wait to read the book and see the movie.

  6. Hi! I'm a book reviewer and it makes no difference to me whether the book will be a movie...I might mention it to my readers just so they can look for the movire coming out. And, I don't think the snippets you have here make your book seem bad at all...maybe other pieces of the reviews were uglier???

  7. Given the fact that many middle-grade readers, especially the reluctant ones, would rather watch a movie than read a book, I can't help thinking that books written in a so-called cinematic style aren't necessarily bad things. If it get middle-graders to read and holds their attention, that is a successful accomplishment indeed!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!