Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fun Fact: The MTI Bump

"MTI," of course, standing for "movie tie-in." It's probably no surprise to you that the sales of a book jump when the film version comes out, but there are a few interesting facts regarding the MTI phenomenon that may surprise you:

• The publisher not only accounts for the number of copies of that fancy movie tie-in edition when gearing up for book sales around the movie release date, but also tries to factor in how many copies of the original edition they'll sell due to the publicity surrounding the film. Yes, both the movie tie-in version with that shiny screen shot cover and the original version get a nice sales push from the movie. (This is more pronounced if the book has already been published in paperback form.)
• Even if the reviews for the movie are uniformly abysmal, there will still be a bump in sales for the book. No one is quite sure why this is, but my theory is that most people bank on the book being better than the movie (or, alternately, they want to see whether the book was just as bad).
• As far as I can tell, there's no real second jump in sales when the DVD of the film is released.

Many of you have asked how the movie tie-in phenomenon is figured out in-house. It depends on a lot of factors, but the most important one is: the film rights for your book have to be optioned and somebody (somebody pretty important) has got to turn your book into a movie, which can take years. And that's just not my department. I'll do some research to see what I can dig up, but the honest truth is that without a novel that will translate well to the screen (which is very different from a generally brilliant, salable novel), you're pretty much out of luck.

And besides, if you're writing books in the hopes of having them made into movies... why not just cut out the middle man and write screenplays?


  1. The spec screenplay mkt. is D.E.A.D. right now.

    They're making movies from board games, ya know, like Monopoly and such...

    A book reaching the Best Sellers list at least has a option chance!

    Haste yee back ;-)

  2. I hate owning the cheesy celebrity-actor-laden movie-tie-in cover of any novel, but I have been known to pick up a book because the movie is giving the original novel some good publicity. I'm the reason why the original version gets a bump in sales!

  3. Quick answer to that: It's even harder to break in as a screenwriter than a "regular" one, I think. As a novelist, you can live anywhere; as a screenwriter, your (US) options are pretty much LA or NYC, and really that means LA. Also you need connections; as much as those might HELP a novelist, they're not strictly necessary.

    That said, I agree with you that a novelist who is only a novelist in order to get books made into movies is probably going about things the wrong way...

  4. I recently bought and read SHUTTER ISLAND after seeing the movie trailer.

  5. A couple of the publishers I've worked for exist solely to do the "Making of"/"comic of"/"kids' novelty of" etc versions of films and TV.

    Sci-fi is far and away the best for this because there's a fan base. But at least one of said publishers was recently looking at whether money was to be made this way out of more 'mainstream' stuff. (OK so sci-fi is the mainstream in movies these days, but that's another debate).

  6. I'm thinking it might be easier to stop editing, get Universal to make my MS into a movie, then have a ghost-writer finish it. I would still get paid, right?

    word ver- butt flat. thanks a lot :)

  7. Good post. Screenplays = too much white space.

    I like the tie-in idea, of course, but as you said, years. From what I've heard, like even ten. And some screenplays never get made.

    If you find out more, please keep us posted.

  8. I'm also one of those hate-the-tie-in-version people, but I'm very likely to pick up the trade paperback version because I want to read the book before watching the bastardized movie version.

    Bring on the MTI phenomena.

  9. Good stuff, Eric.

    I think you're right about the sales increasing even if the movie is bad because of word of mouth, I'm guessing. How many people have said about (your book-to-movie choice here), multiple times, "the book was way better"...and they're usually right. So based on that, others buy the book, and hey! they don't want the book with the "movie" cover (because the movie sucked, remember?), so there you go, the original cover version keeps selling.

    It's all a big nauseating circle.

  10. How about made-for-TV movies? Much of a bump in book sales for those, or is this bump predictable only for feature films?

  11. *raises hand*

    I read Eragon because the movie was terrible, but everybody kept insisting that the book wasn't.

    For myself, I'll buy the MTI version if (1) I liked the movie and/or main actors and (2) the MTI cover looks cooler than the original. Otherwise I prefer the original.

  12. What I want to know is this: why hasn't anyone in Hollywood made a movie out of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series? Those books are SO right for the big screen. There are even web sites devoted to casting the perfect actors in the key roles. Not joking here.

    Who can I talk to about finally getting this series a spot at MGM or Warner Bros?

  13. Fab ideas. Screenplays, good answer, good answer.

  14. Mechellle, I've been wondering the same thing myself. Evanovich's books are hilarious and they read so well you can picture everything in your mind, how hard can it be to put it on screen?