It starts with the story of Deborah Gregory, a first-time author who created the highly popular Cheetah Girls novels, then sold the dramatic rights to the Disney Channel for 4% of the net from things like CDs, DVDs, merchandise, etc. In the end, though, she’s basically gotten zilch.
She did the creation and Disney pocketed the money. She did get “$125,000 over the last nine years in option fees and payments for her title as co-producer of the movies.” But as for the other stuff, the 4%? She can’t even get Disney to show her a net profit participation statement.
Before you think this couldn’t happen to you because you’d have an agent taking care of the legal stuff – she had an entertainment lawyer. It may be too late now for profits from the Cheetah Girls novels, but she’s hired a veteran New York entertainment lawyer and is now represented by the William Morris Agency. And she’s started a new series.
And if you’re thinking this wouldn’t affect you because Hollywood will never knock on your door, consider this:
The stakes are high because 43% of Hollywood movies in the last five years were adapted from books and other written materials, according to estimates by the Writers Guild of America. What makes Gregory's case unusual is that she didn't simply write a book, she wrote bestsellers that led to a movie and marketing bonanza.
Think about that – 43 percent of Hollywood movies in the last five years were adapted from books and other written materials.