Tag Archives: how much do authors earn for movie adaptations

Which Author has the Most Film Adaptations?

alex atkins bookshelf movies“All writers dream about their book becoming a movie,” writes intellectual property lawyer Matt Knight, “But moving from book to screen is a complicated [and protracted] process.” In his post “From Book to Screen: How Dramatic Rights are Sold,” Knight explains that the first step in developing a project for the big screen is purchasing the control of the story rights — the option contract. The option contract essentially pays the writer, anywhere from $500 to $50,000, for placing the book rights on hold during a specific time period spelled out in the terms. If the project gets approved, the next step is to purchase the dramatic work via the purchase agreement. Knight states, “The purchase price will vary considerably depending on the project. Usually it will be based on a percentage of the film’s budget with a cap. A good gauge is 2-4% of the production budget. If the budget grows, the producers have the insurance policy of the cap. So if the budget is $5 million, then the purchase price might be $150,000 for a 3% of budget price with a cap of $225,000 should the budget grow.” Another part of the purchase price can be net profits or gross profits options, which are negotiated percentages of a film’s profits. And of course, that can get complicated, which we will not address here. Although authors typically earn $25,000 to $50,000 for TV movie adaptations, really fortunate authors can rake in millions for blockbuster films, especially successful franchises.

In order to answer the question of which author has the most film adaptations, the staff and readers of Slate analyzed the data on — where else? — the Internet Movie Database. If you guessed that Great Britain’s greatest writer, the legendary Swan of Avon, was at the top — you are absolutely correct: William Shakespeare tops the list with 831 TV and movie adaptations. Note that their data was from 2011; as of December 2017, the Bard can take credit for 1,297 film adaptations. Below is the list of the authors with the most television and film adaptations:

William Shakespeare: 831
Anton Chekhov: 320
Charles Dickens: 300
Alexandre Dumas: 243
Edgar Allan Poe: 240
Robert Louis Stevenson: 225
Arthur Conan Doyle: 220
Hans Christian Andersen: 217
Edgar Wallace: 214
The Brothers Grimm: 212
Molière: 208
O. Henry: 201
Oscar Wilde: 181
Fyodor Dostoevsky: 177
Leo Tolstoy: 154
Victor Hugo: 150
Jules Verne: 143
Stephen King: 127
Georges Simenon: 127
Agatha Christie: 126
L. Frank Baum: 124
Mark Twain: 121
Somerset Maugham: 121
Noel Coward: 101
Miguel de Cervantes: 101

The literature-loving folks over at the Literary Hub had a slightly different approach to this topic. They asked, what living authors have the most film adaptations. Since their dramatic work has existed for a short time — as opposed to more than 450 years like Shakespeare — the list is much shorter, and the adaptations are smaller numbers. However, thanks to globalization and technological advances that did not exist during Shakespeare’s time, an author’s reach and commercial value have increased astronomically. Consider when it comes to income for movie adaptations, J. K. Rowling is at the top of the list. It has been reported that Rowling sold the movie rights for the first four Harry Potter novels for $2 million; then next four were sold for much more than that; however, if she had negotiated a typical 10% net profit participation for all eight novels, that would have earned her at least $650 million! Here is the list of living authors with the most film adaptations:

Stephen King: 34
Nicholas Sparks: 11
Johnn Le Carre: 10
Ian McEwan: 10
John Grisham: 9
J. K. Rowling: 9
Clive Barker: 8
Dean Koontz: 8
Philip Roth: 8
Nick Hornby: 7
William Goldman: 7
Stephanie Meyer: 6
Larry McMurtry: 6
Thomas Harris: 6

Let’s turn now to the trivia-obsessed folks over at the Portable Press (they produce the popular Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers series; since 1988, they have printed more than 16 million books — hashtag prolific). The Top Ten of Everything series was created by Russell Ash in 2002 (published by Dorling Kindersley); Paul Terry took over the helm in 2015 (Portable Press began publishing the series with the 2017 edition). In the 2018 edition (November 2017), they published their list of writers with the most TV and movie adaptations:

William Shakespeare: 1,195
Anton Chekov: 442
Charles Dickens: 365
Edgar Allan Poe: 338
Hans Christian Andersen: 281
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: 273
Alexandre Dumas: 267
Robert Louis Stevenson: 263
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: 260
Moliere: 260

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For further reading: Uncle John Presents Top 10 of Everything 2018 by Paul Terry http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2011/03/23/the_most_adapted_authors_revised_and_expanded_edition_infographic.html
https://www.sidebarsaturdays.com/2018/01/20/from-book-to-screen-how-dramatic-rights-are-sold-you-know-you-want-it/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_William_Shakespeare_screen_adaptations
http://lithub.com/the-living-authors-with-the-most-film-adaptations/
nytimes.com/2016/11/24/business/in-the-chamber-of-secrets-jk-rowlings-net-worth.html


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