What does it mean "to option a book for a movie" mean?

What does it mean “to option a book for a movie” mean? Even the definition didn’t help m make sense of the word. I look forward to your feedback.

Nick Sacco, a k a “The Cat,” is the last man alive who can tell the inside story of the heist. Now 76, he’s collaborating with Simone on a book tentatively titled “The Great Pierre Hotel Robbery,” which has already been optioned for a movie.

verb (used with object)
to acquire or grant an option on:
The studio has optioned his latest novel for film adaptation.

A studio has paid him a fee for the right to turn the book into a movie. The option is usually for a limited time and is no guarantee that the movie will be made. If it isn’t he keeps the money he received for the option rights and can option it again. The Wheel of Time series has been optioned several times for television and film rights to the series most recently by Universal Studios.

Hereis an explanation for writers.

The studio is considering making a film of the book. They haven’t completely decided to do so yet, but they are considering it.

They pay a fee to the book’s author. The author agrees to reserve the book for them. He won’t let anyone else make a film of the book for an agreed time. For this time the studio is the only one that can make a film of the book.

If they decide to make the film, they then pay the author a much larger fee for the movie rights.

If they decide not to make the film, the agreement expires, and the author can sell his book to another studio.

It is called an option. The studio has the right to make a film of the book, but has not promised to do so. They have the option of making the film, but not a duty to do so.

Thank you all. Very helpful

Nothing much to add. It’s a speculative move by movie producers to hold the rights to a book, sometimes more to prevent anyone else from making a movie based on the book than a desire to make one by the owner of the option. Or simply to make money reselling that option.

This can also happen with screenplays instead of books. The screenwriter accepts a fee from the producer and in exchange agrees not to sell the screenplay to anyone else for a period of time (usually a year or 18 months). If there’s not a deal at the end of this period, the screenwriter is free to go elsewhere.

I have heard that there are screenwriters who have managed to make a decent amount of money off screenplays that were never actually produced, because they were able to get sequential options from different people. This is probably a depressing way to make money though, as a screenwriter presumably hopes to actually see their work onscreen someday.

Since this is about both books and movies, let’s move it to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

It can even happen with short stories. Back in the 50, Isaac Asimov optioned his story “Evidence” to Orson Welles. Isaac, however, was unfamiliar with how options worked and didn’t put an end date to the option. The rights still remain with the Welles heirs.

I twice heard Harry Harrison talk about the optioning of his book The Stainless Steel Rat, once in November 1989 and once in August 2005. Both times I asked him about the story that he’s made much more money from the optioning of that book, which has never been made into a movie yet, than from Make Room! Make Room!, which was adapted into Soylent Green. He said it’s true and that optioning a book and having the option run out is like having sex for the first time and then becoming a virgin again.

Isn’t it also true that a publisher can option a short story for publication?

A well known example of this is Harlan Ellison’s Last Dangerous Visions anthology. Ir was originally set to be published back in the seventies and several authors submitted stories for it. But Ellison never published the anthology (although he apparently still says he plans to eventually).

My understanding is that after a certain period, the authors were free to submit the stories for publication elsewhere. Ellison was able to argue some authors into allowing him to hold the rights to their stories but other authors gave up on the project and have sold the stories to other places.

Depends on the contract. Usually there is a time limit in which they have to publish the story. Once the time limit is up, the rights are returned to you. However not all contracts have this clause, so the story can be in limbo indefinitely.

Danny Rubin, the guy who wrote Groundhog Day has only had two other movies made, other than an Italian remake of Groundhog Day. Supposedly, he’s been writing continuously since 1993.

As they say, a good scriptwriter is just somebody who from time to time writes a good script.

And even good scripts have a low chance of actually becoming major movies.

What does it mean “to option a book for a movie” mean?

By the way, in the spirit of helping you with your English, I should point out that this is incorrect grammar. The word “mean” twice is wrong.
Correctly it could be either of the following:

**What is the meaning of “to option a book for a movie?” **

What does “to option a book for a movie” mean?
Personally, I’d prefer the second, in order to avoid having the question mark come inside the quotation marks. But that’s another discussion.

Just a typo. I had forgotten to delete the second “mean”, but thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

Interestingly, although he has written continuously since 1993, he’s actually written and rewritten the same story over and over again.:smiley:

Yeah, Heinlein once wrote in an essay that Stranger in a Strange Land had NEVER been out of option since it was first published. One would run out and some other studio would send his agent a check.

Isn’t this supposedly part of the reason we keep getting more crappy Fantastic Four and Spider-Man movies – because the option holders don’t want to lose the movie rights back to Marvel?

Yep. X-Men too.

Sometimes writers also collect a “kill fee” if a work isn’t used. This is particularly true if it’s a commissioned work, but it’s happened with merely optioned works as well, if the studio took the “prime” years of relevancy of a screen play or novel, so that the writer has little chance of finding someone else to take it, even if it is substantially rewritten.