It’s an exciting time to be a writer. There are so many possibilities. In addition to books, there are podcasts (scripted and non-scripted), audiobooks, and TV shows, and there are more pathways these days to each of these mediums.
Book-to-screen deals are not new but TV and streaming have changed the industry. The LA Times has an interesting piece about eight people (agents, scouts, managers, and execs) who make these deals happen. They talk about their process, the types of stories they look for, and they adapt books and podcasts for the screen.
More writers are moving to write for TV directly. The LA Times has another piece about novelists turned TV writers. It’s partly because book advances are harder to come by, and partly because TV shows have become more novelistic (Mad Men, Sopranos, etc.), so there’s more of a demand for these types of writers. It also helps writers hone their skills by writing in the two different mediums. Some writers even prefer writing for TV, because there’s often a bigger audience, so more people see their stories and their messages. There is some luck involved in becoming a TV writer, but there are also some programs now that can help with training and networking.
There’s now a podcast to screen pipeline, and again it all comes down to telling good stories. It’s worth noting, most of the podcast to screen deals were for narrative, scripted podcasts (both fiction and non-fiction). Timber shares advice on navigating the pipeline, such as making a great podcast, having compelling characters, and taking advantage of the intimacy of the audio form. Other tips include partnering with platforms and making connections, marketing, and if your show gets picked up, trying to stay involved. And having an agent can be helpful too.
According to the New York Times, podcasting is booming, but the formats and business practices, including distribution models, are still developing. So there’s some concern now about gatekeeping coming up around podcasting, which may make it harder for new voices. (Though there are currently shows for all kinds of niches, including one show about nothing, where a woman talks in a soothing voice about what she’s looking at for 20 to 30 minutes each week.) And there’s also a trend to adapt shows into podcasts, as well as vice versa. One producer, Ben Silverman, said, “There are no rules anymore. If you are a creative person, you can go anywhere.” For now too, podcasts have a low barrier to entry, so there is room for a lot of diverse voices and stories.
In audiobook and podcasting news, Spotify has been testing audiobooks on its platform, which shows they’re experimenting with different types of audio content. It could get interesting as a new outlet in the future for writers.
Last, social media influencers are also getting more Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) National Board approved an influencer agreement “to cover content created by certain types of influencers when they are paid to advertise products or services.” There is no minimum follower count required but there are certain work requirements, according to the New York Times.
Again, exciting times to be a writer, with so many mediums to pursue and ways to strengthen and hone writing skills.
Editor’s note: Originally published in March 2021.