Writer in Residence

Agents on TV: Samantha Haywood

By Carey Toane

To get a different perspective on the ways in which books and television intersect, I asked some agents to give us some insights. First up is Transatlantic Agency’s Samantha Haywood.

What is the market like for TV adaptations (vs. film) of books these days? Is it growing?
Yes, the market for TV adaptations is growing. Films have become quite challenging to get financed and the demand is far stronger for exciting, original and well written television series.
How is selling a film deal different than selling a book deal, in terms of the work you do and the way the story is positioned?
Pitching is pitching, whether to a publisher or producer. The angle of the pitch changes to some extent because the end goal is a television series not a book, so different aspects of the story are more important in a tv pitch than a pitch to a publisher. But author platform, strong characters and plot remain universally important. And obviously, the deal structure is quite different from a publishing contract to a tv series option contract.

What kind of stories sell well to TV?
Stories which are episodic in nature or easily adapted into episodes. Character driven is a must too.
What's your favourite TV show adaptation from a Canadian book?
I loved The Book of Negroes [based on Lawrence Hill’s novel] recently on CBC.
What advice do you have for writers hoping to see their work on the small screen someday?
Watch the kind of quality shows you wish to write, same as with books, it’s important to read the authors you admire and wish to count as peers one day as an author.
Any last words on this topic?
It’s very hard to get published as an author, as it is getting launched as a screenwriter. Perhaps even harder for screenwriters! Focus on the strategy which works best for your interest and talents. If you have a great memoir idea – work on that memoir, but recognize it might be challenging to adapt into a tv series. There is no one-size fits all really (or rarely so), so it’s better to aim at doing one thing very well then a variety of things (books, scripts) less well. I suppose what I’m suggesting is to master your craft in one genre, one book at a time.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Carey Toane is a librarian, journalist and poet. Her first collection of poems, The Crystal Palace, was published in 2011 by Mansfield Press. She lives in Toronto, where she is currently working on a collection of poems inspired by and dedicated to Twin Peaks. She is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/careygrrl

You can contact Carey throughout the month of May at writer@openbooktoronto.com