Converting best-selling books to big-screen blockbusters has long been profitable for Hollywood, but a staple of today's megadeals is selling a book's film rights before the novel is published--or even has a publisher. According to Publishers Weekly columnist Paul Nathan, here are five of the most recent lucrative pre-publication deals:
"Pest Control," by Bill Fitzhugh
Spring Creek Productions paid $1.25 million for this story of a Queens exterminator who is plunged into the deadly New York City underworld when he is mistaken for a big-time hit man. Fitzhugh still doesn't have a publisher for his manuscript.
"Simple Simon," by Ryne Douglas Pearson
This thriller features an autistic teen-age computer whiz who breaks a top-secret government code and becomes a target for assassination. Universal spent $1 million in July for the film rights to the book, which William Morrow & Co. won't have in stores until next year.
"Prince of Darkness," by Joseph Finder
Several publishing houses rejected Finder's second novel because of its high price, but after it was leaked to Hollywood producers, Schindler-Swerdlow Productions bought the film rights for $1.5 million. The deal helped Finder sign a seven-figure, multi-book contract with Morrow (hardcover) and Avon (paperback).
"Vertical Run," by Joseph R. Garber
Bantam Books has yet to publish this story of an executive who is pursued through a high-rise by a murderous boss and co-workers and defends himself with office supplies. Producer Jon Peters and Warner Bros. paid $400,000 for it.
"Burnt Bridge Road," by Henry Harvey
So far, publishers have rejected Harvey's first novel about a small-town newspaper editor coping with mortality and middle-age love--but producer Rick Rosenthal paid the rural Pennsylvania iron sculptor between $400,000 and $500,000for the film rights.