Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From Book to Hallmark Movie 15 Tips and Tricks, Part 1 by Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter
In the spring of 2015 I signed an option with a producer who wanted to make one of my books, The Convenient Groom, into a Hallmark movie. Shortly afterward the same producer also optioned one of my novellas, A December Bride. To say I was excited is an understatement. I tried to temper my enthusiasm. After all, a lot can happen between signing an option and the actual film debut. But I crossed my fingers, said a lot of prayers, and waited patiently.

Then in March of last year I was notified that filming on The Convenient Groom was soon to begin. The movie was really happening! Partway through filming I was notified that A December Bride would also be filming soon and was slated for Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas 2016. Two movies in one year—someone pinch me!

As I began sharing the news about the movies I found that other writers are curious about the book-to-movie process. So I thought I’d offer some ways to increase your chances of scoring a Hallmark movie and tips to make the ride go more smoothly if you do.

  1. Write a romance novel. Hallmark isn’t called “The Heart of TV” for nothing. Their movies usually revolve around romantic love, so romance novels that have lots of good “feels” fall right into their sweet spot. Hallmark also keeps their content clean so it makes sense that they’d actively seek wholesome novels. And they seem to go fishing in the Christian publishing pond for this very reason. If your novel hinges on a drunken one night stand—probably not going to happen.
  2. Publish your novels through a publisher that actively seeks movie deals. I’m sure there are many ways producers “find” novels. But in my case it was through HarperCollins Christian Publishing, whose rights department routinely pitches their novels for film rights. As it happens, this particular production company had already optioned a couple of other books and made them into Hallmark movies, so there was already an established history.
  3. If you watch Hallmark movies then you know most of the stories have compelling hooks, so start your novel with a gripping premise. High stakes don’t hurt either. Here’s the hook for The Convenient Groom
    A celebrity relationship expert with a best-selling book about finding Mr. Right finds herself jilted just before her highly publicized wedding. In a panic 
    she accepts the offer of a contractor—who secretly loves her—to step in as the groom in order to save her career.
    And A December Bride:

    What started as a whim turns into an accidental—and very public—engagement announcement. For Layla, it's the chance to save her career. But for Seth, it's his last chance to win her heart.
  4. Utilize a romance trope; they’re popular for a reason. If you can take a trope and spin it in a fresh way, all the better. The Convenient Groom is, of course, a modern day marriage of convenience story. A December Bride is a pretend engagement. 
  5. Many books are optioned for movies, but few of them actually get made. An option is when the production company reserves the right to make your book into a movie. The option expires after a period of time—usually a year. If your book gets optioned, celebrate! But realize that there are a lot of steps between the movie option and the film premier, not the least of which is funding. A lot can go wrong, so you can’t really count on the movie happening until filming is underway. The producer who optioned my books has a long and close relationship with Hallmark, which really helped my chances. 
  6. If your book gets optioned you will split the option payment with your publisher as per your book contract. If your book has not yet earned out, this payment will go toward earning back the advance. If the movie actually gets filmed, the production company will pay whatever was negotiated in the option agreement, usually on the first day of filming. You will split this with your publisher as per your book contract. If your book has not earned out this payment will also go toward paying back the advance. Everyone is curious about how much a Hallmark movie pays. I’m contractually prohibited from sharing the specifics, but suffice it to say you probably won’t be buying that yacht you’ve always dreamed about. The payment, however, could serve as a nice kick-start for your kid’s college tuition. 
  7. Don’t expect to write the screenplay for your movie. Just like novel writing, screenwriting is a craft that takes years to hone. And even if you’ve got experience with screenplays your production company may have favorite writers they prefer to use. I wouldn’t know the first thing about writing a script, and since I wanted “my” movies to turn out great I was happy to leave it in the experts’ hands. 
Thanks, Denise! That's great information, especially tip #6.

Come back next Tuesday for the remaining eight tips on the process of turning your book-into-a movie. Never happen to me, you say? No, you never know. Dream big and save these two post! ~ Angie

Tweet: What happens when your book becomes a Hallmark movie? @DeniseAHunter http://bit.ly/book-to-movie-tips-1
About the Author
Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 25 books, including "The Convenient Groom" and "A December Bride" which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books. 

When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking good coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband have three boys and are rapidly approaching an empty nest. 

You can learn more about Denise through her website www.DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/authordenisehunter

Mark your calendar: Denise is celebrating her latest release, Sweetbriar Cottage, with a Facebook party, June 13, 2017 at 8 p.m. EDT. 

Sweetbriar Cottage 
When Noah and Josephine discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.
Sweetbriar Cottage
by Denise Hunter

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job and settled at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?


  1. That's so exciting, Denise! I can't wait to read the rest of your tips and story!

    1. Thanks, Sandra. I'm so glad you enjoyed the tips. :) And thanks for allowing me to join you all! The Christian writing community is so wonderfully supportive. It's a great group you've got here.

  2. Thanks so much for this post, Denise. I believe it's every author's dream to have their book made into a movie and you've done it twice!

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your tips with us!

    1. Truly a God-thing, Angie. I think every novelist dreams of having a movie made--I sure did. But to have it happen twice . . . it still feels unreal sometimes!

  3. Thanks for sharing some great tips. It would be a dream come true to have one of my books turned into a Hallmark Channel movie. That's my favorite channel. I write sweet clean romance so who knows? Maybe someday.

  4. Thanks, Denise! It's been great fun seeing your books come to life on the screen. As a fan of the Hallmark Channel, it's interesting to learn about how it all works. One thing I've observed is that Hallmark uses a lot of the same actors, directors, etc. Its seems once you're in - you're in. It's a family. Since I'm indie published and I write historical romance, it feels like it would be almost impossible for me to break in, but if God worked a miracle someday, that would be AMAZING!

    1. Dawn, what you said is true. They do seem to reuse a lot of directors, actors, etc. In fact, both my movies had the same producer so she used the same director and crew for both of them. I think that helps when they know one another and know what they can expect. Yes, historicals are a pretty hard sell with Hallmark. They do historical series sometimes though, so you never know.

  5. Denise - congratulations on your two movies. Sweet!

    I'm appreciate you sharing these tips with us today. Like every other author in town I'd love to have a book made into a movie. And why quit dreaming?

    1. Exactly, Terri! I sure never dreamed it would happen to me. All we can do is keep writing the best books we can and leave the rest in God's hands. :)

  6. How wonderful! I really enjoyed "A December Bride"! I just started reading "A Convenient Groom" so I'm sure I'll enjoy the movie too.
    I love when a gifted author has such great things happen! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Susan. Thanks for writing. So glad you enjoyed "A December Bride"!

  7. Admittedly I haven't been following Seriously Write for a while, but picked it up again and found your article just when I needed read something like this. The timing for me to read this was perfect ("For I know the plans I have for you..." Jeremiah 29:11), so I wanted to say thank you for your information, inspiration and hope!


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