Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guest Post by Brandon Engel: "Film Adaptations in the Age of Social Media"

I'm so excited to welcome Brandon Engel back to the blog today! You may remember his fascinating article posted here in February concerning the Odd Thomas film and why it was slated for re-release.  He's back with a brilliant new guest post about film adaptations and social media.  Enjoy, and we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Film Adaptations in the Age of Social Media

Film adaptations of books are as old as the film industry itself, starting with George Méliès 1899 film Cinderella, based on the Grimm Brothers story of the same name. Today there seems to be at least one new movie based on a book released every month. Some are fantastic films that become instant classics and almost eclipse the book they’re based on like Gone with the Wind, The Graduate, Mildred Pierce, The Shining, and The Wizard of Oz. There are, as always, some who really miss the mark, misrepresent the book, and generally give film adaptations a bad name. 

            One good thing that film adaptations do, aside from providing us with at least a few hours of entertainment, is encourage people to pick up the book they’re based on. In this day and age, actually reading a book for pleasure is becoming an increasingly rare indulgence. However, with the surge of Young Adult film adaptations, it seems that more and more teenagers are getting interested in reading the books some of their favorite films are based on. While many may dispute the literary or cinematic quality of the Twilight franchise, it’s resulted in millions of books sold and read -- not an easy achievement these days. In many instances, the films are what propels a book to the top of the bestseller list. After The Help was released in 2009, it was more or less a sleeper hit. However, when the movie adaptation of it was released in 2011 and started gaining major buzz, it seemed like everyone I knew was reading the book. It’s an interesting situation authors are put in; do they sell the movie rights to their book to, in turn, sell more books? No one can question the impact that movies have had on book sales, particularly with popular series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight

            Another thing currently impacting both the books and adaptations popularity is social media. One could argue that social media is responsible for the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. It wasn’t a book women were necessarily going to chat with their mother-in-law about, but they were eager to Tweet about it’s salacious content to their friends. There was no marketing campaign for the books, no big release party -- in fact, the original editions weren’t even sold as physical books, but rather as e-books through a small Australian electronic publishing house. The e-books gathered a steady following and rights to them were purchased by Vintage Books, who then published them in physical form in March of 2012. Of course now, as you all know, they are all international best-sellers and are being made into a movie. If that doesn’t show you the impact of word of mouth and social media, then I don’t know what will. 

            Knowing this, many authors, film studios, and publishing houses are using social media to market their books and film, often in tandem. With the onslaught of film adaptations coming in 2014, Twitter is the platform of choice for both viral marketing as well as a place where fans generate buzz organically by talking to each other about books they’re excited about that are becoming movies. A prime example of this is the upcoming film Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The book, published in 2012, took social media by storm and quickly surged to the top of the bestseller list, something increasingly hard to do with a debut novel. Now that the film is about to be released, people are talking about it again on Twitter, and many have mentioned how the film announcement lead them to read the book as evidenced by the tweets gathered through social media monitoring software platform ViralHeat. It’s becoming an increasingly important cycle that many authors are counting on to help drive both book sales and box office numbers. 

The good news is that the major publishers might not necessarily have the same stronghold on the publishing industry, thanks to social media. Independent authors can make use of such platforms, and just as we saw with social media helping to generate interest in the film adaptation of the Dean Koontz novel Odd Thomas, perhaps more independent authors can use social media as a means of propelling film adaptations of their works. 

 About the author:
 Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based blogger who writes about everything from pulp horror to environmental legislation. Follow him on Twitter at @BrandonEngel2.

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