I got two very similar emails today asking, basically, the same question about tie-ins. Here they are:
I’m seeking guidance on writing a novel series for a past TV franchise that continues to hold a loyal fan base. You had accessibility to writing the Monk novels from your freelance work on the show and your established relationship with the creator. Any suggestions on who would be the appropriate contact to query regarding rights from a past dramedy for which I am interested in writing a novel series? Would it be the creator via his agent or someone else?
And here’s the other one:
wanted to let you know that lately I’ve read several of your Monk novels and have enjoyed them greatly. I wanted to ask you how would someone approach studios regarding writing novels based on existing shows? I’ve a Doctor Who novel and was wondering if you had any pointers on how I should approach publishers. Who do I approach – do I approach BBC Books direct or do I approach the TV company, copyright holders?
The simple answer is that, in most cases, TV tie-in books are publisher-generated and do not come about because of an author’s interest in the property. The way it usually works is that either the rights-holder (usually a studio) with a hot series property auctions the publishing rights to the highest bidder…or a publisher approaches the rights-holder (usually through the licensing department of a studio) about licensing the publishing rights to a property. Either way, the publisher will pay the rights-holder a license fee as well as a percentage of the sales. The rights-holder also maintains creative control of the project and provides photos, logos, and other marketing materials related to the show. Once the rights are secured, the publisher then seeks out authors to write the tie-in books…usually going to established professional writers who they know can work within tight guidelines and deliver a strong, clean manuscript in very little time.
As unproven authors, you really have nothing to offer the rights-holders of a classic, or hit, TV series that would motivate them to license the novel rights to you. If a publisher is already producing books in a tie-in series…like, say, STAR TREK or DOCTOR WHO, you could contact the editor and pitch yourself as someone to consider to write one of the books, but the chances of that approach succeeding are, to be blunt, nil.
So the bottom line is there’s really no way for you to interest a studio in letting you write novels based on one of their shows unless you approach them with a publisher attached…or you are already a big name in your own right and having you attached to the book would guarantee significant sales and publicity. You can learn more about tie-in writing, and how the tie-in biz works by reading Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing