Writing Media and Other Tie-In Novels

Lately I’ve been getting a spate of emails from people asking questions such as, “How can I write a Battlestar Galactica / Aliens vs. Predator / Universe-of-Your-Choice novel? Do I just write it, or how do I get the rights, or what do I do?” It’s a perfectly natural question, and a natural desire. The answer, though, is one that most people won’t want to hear.

First I should specify that it depends whether you’re talking about writing “fanfic” just for fun, for your own amusement—in which case, the answer is, have at it! (Just don’t try to publish it.)

But I suspect that’s not what most people mean. Most correspondents, I think, hope to write and publish a tie-in novel. I suspect the motivation stems partly from a love of a particular show or universe, and partly from a belief that this may be an easier way to get published. It’s not. What you have to understand is that these projects come about through complex rights arrangements which publishers make with the studios, before so much as a word is set to paper. Once the publisher has an arrangement, then the editor in charge of the line goes looking for writers to write the books (whether novelizations of film/TV productions, like my Battlestar Galactica book, or original spin-off novels, like Craig Shaw Gardner’s Galactica book).

In other words, tie-in projects are generated by the studio and publisher, who then look for writers they think are best for the job. And editors for these books tend to turn to writers whose work they’re already familiar with, maybe even writers they’re already working with. Other writers may apply, but there’s little chance of getting a nod without a publishing track record. They want to know you can do the job. And they usually want the book written yesterday.

So…the short answer is, if you want to write a book in someone else’s universe, get busy and write some stories in your own universe first. (Quit wasting time reading blogs!) Get published, get noticed. Then maybe one day you, too, will get the call.

Oh—and you can learn a lot more about this business than I can tell you at http://www.iamtw.org/articles.html.

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0 Responses

  1. substandardTim
    | Reply

    Interesting time for you to post this topic because I just picked up your Battlestar Gallactica book yesterday…from the library. I know that doesn’t do you much good, but I’ve got to pinch pennies these days, got a little one on the way.

    I honestly know nothing about the Battlestar series both past and present so I’m going in without any preconceived ideas as to what this book should be.

    And more to the subject of writing…have you ever heard of a piece of software called New Novelist? http://www.newnovelist.com. It looks interesting to me if only for being a nice way of organizing all of your thoughts. Actually I think I might have found it by clicking on one of the google ads on your blog. Are there any methods you’ve developed for yourself over the years that help you keep all of your ideas for a book organized and at your fingertips?

  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Hi Tim — First of all, don’t apologize for getting my book out of the library. That’s what libraries are for. (And do tell us when your little one arrives!)

    I’m not familiar with the software–in fact, I haven’t used any of the specialty “for writers” programs. I used WordStar for DOS until I was well into the current book, when I finally switched to Word (mostly for the sake of my sanity, because I used Word in freelance editing, etc.).

    My method of keeping track of ideas and notes and so on is to scribble thoughts down on pieces of paper, and then (generally) misplace the paper in one of my piles. Sometimes I actually type ideas into my ongoing file called “Notes” which has ideas for stories.

    Details for a book I’m actually writing I keep in three ways: scribbles on the manuscript, notes to self entered directly into the book file (in red or blue), and a separate file or files which serve as reference material. For example, I have a characters file, into which, from time to time, I paste thoughts and brief excerpts of actual text containing descriptions or useful bits.

    I’m sure there are much better ways to do this, and one day I will reform and switch to one of them.


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