How A Self-Published Novel Becomes A Film

Two years ago today, on May Day, suitably – having got a top notch agent to represent it but no deal – I self-published my novel about the women in the 1984 miners’ strike, The Gritties.

A couple of nice friends wrote reviews, but then nothing…. I looked at authors’ twitter streams where the content was endless pleas to ‘buy my book’ and thought that was not for me. I would have to be more inventive. Having a grandmother a market trader meant I loved selling when customers were interested, but just to hassle people endlessly and mindlessly? Well, life felt too short…or maybe I was just too chicken.

I read Rachael Abbot, David Gaughran and the indispensable

Joanna Penn’s, advice and by July got this result:

pic1_kindle (this was Amazon UK, no 2 in USA)

If you don’t know how to do this, drill down to a less popular category in Amazon and offer your book as a freebie through them. Many people will download your book but probably not read it. But at least it is moving…

Then I started to make things connected with the story. My then 17-year old son made the video above, which we shot at the pit his grandfather had worked at. Though there is much comedy in the story, this has a definite tragic air. I made a cinema post, a blog, cast the film (!!!)… at which point, the family thought I had really lost the plot. An infographic I made got a lot of clicks.

I went to talk to a book club about it, in John Lewis cafe in Cardiff, and they said ‘It’s not a bad novel, but it could be a great film’.

A few months later, a phone call came from a film company asking me to go and meet a head of commissioning at a tv company. She said her commissioning decision was between my story and one another. A most dear friend had championed my book, pressed it on her producer husband and its dramatic potential had been identified.

Months passed, Gwyneth Lewis agreed to write the screenplay and then finally about a month ago the film got fully commissioned. I don’t have much to do with it now – I’m a total rookie in this field, even though I’ve lots of non-fiction experience. But I’m wildly excited about seeing the story interpreted.

To any of you writers out there reading this and thinking ‘lucky bitch’ I’d just like to say two things:

Remember you are a writer and that makes you immensely resourceful and that if your story is robust it will be open to many forms of expression.

Resourcefulness makes us good at hunting readers, foraging for opportunities and connecting, only connecting, with locations where interested parties may lurk.

Go to it. And if you chuck yourself into the ride with enough verve, you may end up shocked but delighted at your destination.