Friday, August 10, 2007

That Old $3.7 Million Apocalyptic Vampire Trilogy Deal

In case you've been on the moon, I've inserted the New York Magazine article about the literary author who just sold his apocalyptic vampire trilogy for $3.7 million (sold the film rights for another $1.5 million too) at the end of my post.

It's taken me a while to collect my thoughts on this deal because (to be really honest) my initial reaction is why this guy and not one of my clients? I've sold more than 200 vampire novels in my career, how could this non-genre lit professor get so much when you know apocalyptic vampire novels are as old the threat of the modern nuclear apocalypse? Let's face it, Matheson's I AM LEGEND and McCammon's THEY THIRST are both apocalyptic vampire novels, but we know neither one of them got anything like $3.7 million.

OK. Then I read about the author and I remind myself that when one of my clients calls or emails raging that some other author got $1 million for the same idea as s/he had, I remind her/him that you can't copyright an idea and it's all in the execution.

And I remind myself that this author probably was toiling in the low paying lit fic genre (it is a genre) where you can't sell more than 5000 hardcover copies to save your grandmother's life, so what's so bad about him getting lucky and hitting one out of the ballpark? It doesn't take away from any of my clients. It just adds more attention to the niche within the genre that I love.

But the timing was right for this too. I should have had all my brilliant horror authors working on a post-apocalyptic vampire novel.

But it's an archetype of fear. We, as Americans, are always transfixed by the fear of being wiped out (in this case by an anti-aging virus that turns the populace into vampires) and the undead.

So, my advice to all of you is re-work the genre. There's marrow in those old bones.

Try a post-apocalyptic YA novel.

Or an apocalyptic zombie novel.

Has anyone every written an apocalyptic vampire/zombie novel? (where only some of the undead become vampires ,and those that don't become zombies and they all feed on humans?)

What if the only survivors of an apocalypse were ghosts?

Look at the other archetypes of horror.

The Frankenstein mythos
Dorian Gray
Jekyll & Hyde

They can all be updated, combined and reinterpreted. It's time.

Anyway, the moral of this story is to use this as an inspiration/challenge and not to think of it as someone else getting a slice of the pie that should have been your's.

There's more than enough pie to go around, and they're always baking new pies!

Ballantine Pays $3.75 Million for a Literary Novelist's Vampire Trilogy?
Justin Cronin, a.k.a. Jordan Ainsley
Courtesy of Random House
Last week, we hear, agent Ellen Levine at Trident Media closed a deal for a postapocalyptic vampire trilogy with editor Mark Tavani at Ballantine. Now, if we reported on every postapocalyptic vampire trilogy out there, we'd never have time to write anything else. But this postapocalyptic vampire trilogy sold, we hear, for a whopping $3.75 million for North American rights. Impressively, the deal was made off a 400-page partial manuscript. And even more impressively — given how cynical most of the people we know in the book world are — everyone seems to really like the book.

"Usually I hate this stuff, and I love it!" we hear one scout told her colleagues. Another publishing insider gushed to us, "It is totally awesome," while a third suggested that comparisons to Michael Crichton and Stephen King were appropriate, given the likelihood of this book being "a big best-seller." Who's the writer? Jordan Ainsley is the name on the manuscript, but we've been told that's a pseudonym for Justin Cronin, a literary novelist whose book of stories Mary and O'Neil won the Pen/Hemingway Award.

The story, set in 2016, revolves around a U.S. government project gone awry that affects a group of experimental subjects — condemned inmates plucked from death row — turning them into highly infectious vampires. Meanwhile, an orphan named Amy discovers that she has unusual powers, seemingly related to the crisis that quickly overtakes civilized society. It's pretty dark, though not completely without humor — the governor of Texas in 2016, for example, is Jenna Bush.

Now eyes turn toward Hollywood, where CAA is representing the book for film. Will it sell? One source is worried about the glut of similar material out there: postapocalyptic projects like World War Z, vampire projects like The Historian, postapocalyptic vampire projects like I Am Legend. Another source in the film world agrees but thinks it may not matter. "Everyone is tentative, because everyone has a nominally competing project," he told us. "But it's good, it sold for big money, and it's about vampires. Vampires are perennials."


Stuart Neville said...

The BBC just recently updated the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story to very entertaining (albeit joyously trashy) effect with its series Jekyll, starring local (to me) boy James Nesbitt. I'm sure it'll turn up on BBC America if it hasn't already, and it's well worth checking out. I think it perfectly proves your point about reinvigorating horror tropes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm not sure how to feel about it either. I'm about to start shopping a post apocalyptic first in a series that happens to have vampires. In fact the first book focuses on vampires. So is this good, in that I might get more view because of the subject, or bad because the market might become glutted very soon?

LJ Charleston said...

Isn't it great that when stories like this become news fodder, it will hopefully encourage people who might not otherwise read books from this genre to actually step outside of their comfort zone (ie book club choices) and buy such a book. Re comfort zones, yesterday I met a man yesterday who, as a rule, does not read ANYTHING that is written by a woman.

Sandra Cormier said...

Vampires seem to be the new black this year. Or the new red. It's all over television, too. Maybe vampires will vanquish those annoying reality shows.

BernardL said...

Thanks for the tip. It's much appreciated. Little nudges in any direction get the juices flowing, even if they don't pan out into a multi-million dollar contract. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You make some good points here. But these things are always so hard to predict, and execution isn't always the major factor from some of the things I've read. In most cases of life I truly believe we make our own luck and happines, but in rare cases I just believe luck (call it what you will)and timing and fate all play an important role. There are many examples I could give, but Paula Abdul is the best.

Hope your summer is going well.

Rhonda L. Jones said...

I'd rather just hate him. ;) Millions indeed.

JDuncan said...

Lori, what is your take on why Ballantine thinks this story is going to be a best seller? As you pointed out, this story isn't doing anything terribly unique. Even if the writing is stellar and amazing, that doesn't always generate huge sales, but they sure seem to be banking that it will.

I'm wondering, given the publicity this deal is generating, if Ballantine was thinking, 'we think this is a great book, capable of being a best seller, so let's dump some publicity money up front into the advance in order to turn a few heads and get some buzz generated.' It doesn't sound like a bad idea really, but I don't know publishing enough to know that they would even think along those lines. Sure makes me wonder if I can write horror though.


Tyhitia Green said...

That is ALOT of money. Wow. Do your clients genreally discuss their ideas with you before they write them, or do they write them and then show you the work?

Anonymous said...

But did they have to go to the other extreme, and pay so much? I mean, leave a little in the pot for the rest of us. Please.

Anonymous said...

I guess that means there is hope for me and my various attempts to use every frigging vampire cliche I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

If this books does badly do you think it will adversely impact the market for vampires and other paranormal stories?
I don't begrudge any author the deal. Comes maybe once in a lifetime. But if it kills a genre, it's a drag, and it takes a long time to come back. I'm still waiting for horror to come back as it should be!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Ebola scare a decade ago. You know that some virus would wipe out the human population. Seems like he just combined a few genres to come up with something interesting. As a person not interested in vampire stories I would be interested in this because of the virus aspect, the government gone awry, and there's a hero to rescue us that was born because of the idiots who let the experiment get out of hand.

I guess I can believe this because I see stories where the govt. did this in the 50's to black men (deliberately infected them with disease in order to study the disease), I've come to realize that at least 50% of govt employees are there because they are incompetent and can't get work elsewhere, and it would be just like one of them to arrogantly believe he/she could change the world and instead threaten the human population because of a mistake. They would, of course, take credit for the hero who saved the world because her powers were tied to the virus. I especially like that the hero is female.

So this is a book I would pick up to read because I like the idea of human error creating a virus that threatens to kill the world and that same human error creating the hero that would save the world even though I'm not into vampires.

And I'm anonymous because my husband works for the govt. I believe he falls into the 50% who are competent category!

Anonymous said...

I'll say it. I don't write vampire novels, so I'm free to rant. This is so incredibly stupid of the publishing industry it just proves, in spades, how stupid it is to even bother with them. What are they thinking? I'd bet this author would have been happy as can be to get a five digit advance. Now what have they done? Told every other really great writer they suck the big one. Forget it. You're not literary, you're not whatever it takes.

After The Road, I pretty much thought big Publishing had completely lost its mind. This just proves it.

At least his name isn't Paris. That's about all the redeeming characteristic I can see.

I'm posting this as anonymous since I'm so supremely ticked off at the stupidity of this. If I put my name on it, I'm sure I'd be blacklisted from any publisher so stupid as to pay this kind of money for a retread story.

Anonymous said...

I read this after you first posted it and it got me thinking...scary, I know.

But WOW! I got the most awesome idea for a novel! I love it when this happens. 11,000wds in and the character idea is still making me buzz. And no vampires of any kind!
Can't wait to see the response.

So, thanks! You've inspired new worlds.


Anonymous said...

Amazing how many people have opinions about a book they haven't read! Justin Cronin is an amazing, award-winning writer: you can be sure whatever he writes will rise way above the usual cliched "vampire" book.

AzGhostWriter said...

But we haven't had the trailer trash vampire story yet. So let's not give up hope on the genre just yet.

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