Privately-owned Big Six publisher Macmillan is the latest to enter the film and TV waters with Macmillan Films, which will be run by Brendan Deneen, a former development executive and literary agent who joined the publisher last year as an editor with company's Thomas Dunne Books imprint, where he'll also remain. According to Hollywood blog Deadline, the venture's first deal is with Summit Entertainment for Tempest, the first in a time-travel trilogy by Julie Cross, pitched as "Twilight meets Time Traveler's Wife," that Thomas Dunne will publish starting in 2011.
While Bertelsmann-owned Random House Films co-finances movies in a joint venture with Focus Features (though to date, only one -- Reservation Road, based on the 1998 novel by John Burnham Schwartz -- has made it from deal to screen) and Simon & Schuster (CBS) has made deals with sister division CBS Films, Macmillan's new venture will work a little differently, as Deneen told Deadline: "We will develop the ideas in-house, and hire writers who'll share in the success of the projects. We will retain all rights and hopefully set them up." Once those ideas are set and a treatment written up, the rights will be shopped to prospective studios.
The in-house development route echoes the method employed by Alloy Entertainment, the packaging company that created books for teens such as Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and produced the successful TV show and films those books spawned. But there's a key difference in how Alloy operates: Its writers work solely for hire, sometimes with several writers on a given project. Most if not all rights are signed away: A flat fee is more common than receiving royalties after the fact, and it's rare for such writers to hang on to film and TV rights.
Traditional trade publishers sign plenty of authors to work-for-hire deals (just ask many a ghost writer on a celebrity or business book) and the rise in e-books is currently causing more traditional, advance- and royalty-based contracts to become more variegated -- creating all manner of complications for authors and their agents. But Deneen stressed in an email to DailyFinance that in-house idea generation wouldn't affect what sort of authors Macmillan Films would approach or what projects they would pursue. "It'll be on a project-by-project basis," he said. "We'll be open to new writers as well as bestsellers. We just want people who can write great books and are also team players."