More than 25 people were gathered around a long table within the towering, book shelved walls of the Mysterious Galaxy on Dec. 4.
Some were drinking coffee, some were eating snacks, but all eyes were focused on the keynote speaker and Writer’s Coffeehouse founder at the head of the table: Jonathan Maberry.
Maberry is a New York Times best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker award winner. He has 25 books and numerous short stories published within the young adult, mystery, horror, and science fiction genres. He is most known for his Rot and Ruin series, Joe Ledger thrillers, and his Pine Deep trilogy. One of his recent books, The Kill Switch, has been selected as Suspense Magazine’s “Best of 2016” for the dark urban fantasy and paranormal category.
This recent Writer’s Coffeehouse event was particularly unique because a good portion of it was detailing the intricacies of turning books to film. Maberry has some experience in that field, as his young adult fiction Rot and Ruin is currently in the works for becoming a Hollywood film, and he has worked in the film industry himself.
When it comes to the TV and film industries, Maberry said they want to move away from commercialized series, and follow the “binge watching” model set by Netflix.
“Everyone wants to move toward that model,” Maberry said. “Characters like Arrow and Flash—they want to do movies but are stuck filming 22 episodes, so they can’t.”
Maberry said the big-name movie actors want less time commitment, and with the 10-episode-model set forth by Netflix, the whole series is bought and shot before it airs. The TBS channel is already moving in that direction, and Maberry said the rest want to follow. This seems to be great news for writers because there is little chance of a series being cancelled midway through production.
When it comes to actually writing for a TV series, Maberry’s advice is you don’t simply try to turn each chapter into an episode, since some chapters may be longer than others.
“Break down the chapters to subplots for advancing the story,” said Maberry. “It goes from arc to a dramatic hook.”
For writers looking to turn their books into movies, Maberry suggests marketing to Asia. The Asian market is actively seeking new work to turn into film, and although you wouldn’t make quite as much as you would for a Hollywood production, Maberry said there’s not that much of a difference. And yes, you are paid in American dollars.
In addition to his thoughts about the TV and film industry, Maberry had many other great insights. For example, who knew Amazon has an actual publishing house? Maberry went in depth about the publishing industry, marketing books, creating a social media presence, creating effective newsletters, and how the horror genre is growing compared to other mainstream genres. If you thought romance was the way to go for a writing career, you’re hearing it here, that’s not the case.
“It’s hard for romance writers to make a career because they just get lost in the shuffle,” said Maberry. This makes sense, given all the self-published romance novelists.
Since there are only a few big names in the horror genre, Maberry said publishers are looking to up the competition, and that’s why horror is a making a comeback.
There was so much to be learned from this Writer’s Coffeehouse event. If you’re a writer looking to grow through the knowledge of people who have actually “made it,” definitely check to see if there is a Writer’s Coffeehouse near you.
The Writer’s Coffeehouse in San Diego is a free event at The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, and typically takes place the first Sunday of the month. It offers the opportunity to mingle with new and polished writers, ask questions about the writing and publishing industry, discuss writing tips, and keep updated on the group’s writing progress and achievements—all while surrounded by stacks of science fiction and fantasy books. What more could you ask for?