ASJA PNW Meeting 2023-11

Publication in print is often considered the culmination of a writer’s work on a particular story, but for writers of narrative nonfiction, a book, article or essay can be just the beginning. That’s the view of Jack El-Hai, an ASJA member and a former president of the association who joined the Pacific Northwest chapter’s November meeting to talk about performance rights.

Producers interested in adapting a published story for television, film, a documentary or other production buy the right to do so from the author for a specified term, or “option period.” For writers, optioning their work can generate more revenue from an existing book or article and may lead to other assignments and improve book sales.

Jack writes nonfiction books and longform narratives and has sold 15 options to producers interested in adapting his work. Four of these have led to actual productions. He advised writers to copyright their work and to be sure to retain performance rights when they sign contracts. “This is a long game and these stories can have many lives.”

To find a performance rights agent that may be interested in your story:

  • Check the websites of large talent agencies representing writers, actors, and directors
  • Ask other writers who have sold performance rights.

Writers can improve their chances of selling performance rights by promoting their articles and essays on social media and to media outlets. “The more eyes and ears learn about your work, the more likely it is that somebody who has the interest and means to produce something else out of it will find out.”

ASJA members attending the November meeting: Maxine Cass, Fred Gebhart, Catherine Kolonko, Bruce Miller, M. Carolyn Miller, Joanna Nesbit, Randy Stapilus, Darlene West.