The setting: Overworked and Underpaid Editor arrives home after delivering The Daughter to college in San Francisco. She has sourdough bread, Ghirardelli chocolate, and trolley cars on the brain. The last thing she needs to see is the beagle sipping margaritas while stretched out on a chaise lounge.
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: Dammit, beagle, why haven’t you filed all the stuff in my Inbox? And why are there five messages on the phone?
Beagle: [applying another coat of SPF 50 on her little black nose] Because, you cranky loser, I’m now part of the exclusive Bitchen BowWow Club, and we BowWowers don’t do physical labor. We nap, we have underlings, like that skank chihuahua across the street, peel grapes for us.
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: [makes a mental note to get the beagle into the vet for a brain scan] And what, may I ask, did you do to earn a spot with the Bitchen BowWows? Did you chase a cat up a tree? Walk a blind lady across the street while rifling through her wallet for loose change?
Beagle: Phhht…no such effort was required. I got a film option for my book, Eat, Nap, Bark. That means it’s going to be turned into a movie! That means my book is going to sell to a much wider audience than just Mom and Dad, and my litter mates. I’m going to be rich – dogbonestinky RICH! I’ll never have to file another one of your papers or answer another phone call in your lousy office. I’ll be a beagle of leisure and walk the red carpet in my diamond studded collar. [The beagle slides her Ed Hardy sunglasses down her long nose] By the by, you need to call the distributor tomorrow and have them send out tons of my book to the national chains. They’re sure to want them in light of my newfound famousness.
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: You idiot fleabag. A film option doesn’t mean squat in most cases. Who signed you – a producer or a studio? Did you get paid some huge bucks for the option? Do they have a cast in mind? Do they have funding? Who’s doing the screenplay? Do they have a projected film schedule? What’s the time limit on the option? Did they pay you or promise to pay you?
Beagle: [dropping her margarita to the ground] Whoa. Wha’? Huh? Time limits? Funding? What are you talking about? Pay me? [blink blink] They actually pay for a film option?
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: [rubbing hands over eyes] Yes, dingbat, they should pay you for the option. You never give something away for free! The more they have to pay you, the more serious they are about the project. And at that, many films still never get made, but the author, at least, gets some good money.
A film option means nothing until it actually gets filmed and has distribution. There are a gazillion things that can kill a film deal before it ever even reaches the point of actual filming. Bookstores know this and don’t get excited about them because it doesn’t sell books. It’s not newsworthy unless you got paid some really big bucks.
All this means is that someone thinks Eat, Nap, Bark is interesting and they want first dibs on it. Chances are very strong it’ll never get made, or be seriously considered for a real project. So you’re still in the same boat you were before – with a book that is selling curiously well among poodles and Dalmations.
Beagle: Poodles and Dalmations have always been more spiritually inclined. [the beagle looks over at Overworked and spits out a nervous laugh] I…ah…uh… perhaps I was a bit hasty in calling you a loser.
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: Perhaps you should unpeel yourself from my chaise lounge and get to filing.
Beagle: [jumps up and and bounds up to the office] I’m on it, boss!
Overworked and Underpaid Editor: And don’t forget to call Bitchen BowWows. [reclines on the chaise and takes a long pull from her margarita] Eat, Nap, Bark…no one would ever make a movie based on such a flimsy premise…
The point of the silliness is to drive home that film options aren’t a big deal unless they are a BIG DEAL – meaning some serious money exchanged hands. I’ve seen a rash of queries this summer that bragged about film options. Upon inquiry, these are the typical, “Hey, loved your book. I’m a film producer and would love to option your book for a film.” Cheap promises were exchanged for little or no money, thus freeing said producer to stick it in his back pocket and more than likely do nothing with it.
This will excite few in the publishing industry – not the editors, their distributors, nor the booksellers – so unless you can say that Steve Spielberg has cast Antonio Banderas and Sandy Bullock and filming begins next Tuesday, then leave it out of your query.