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DEAL Of THE WEEK: How to Launch a Franchise: A year ago, Amanda Hocking was a 25-year-old college dropout earning $18,000 a year in Minnesota. On March 24, St. Martin’s Press said that it had signed the self-published author to a four-book deal worth $2 million. And three days later, Media Rights Capital said it had optioned Hocking’s e-book paranormal romance series The Trylle Trilogy for District 9 writer Terri Tatchell to adapt, setting up a possible new franchise. The phenomenon began last April, when Hocking, hoping to make enough money for a trip to see a Jim Henson exhibit (she’s a Muppets fan), decided to self-publish her manuscripts on Amazon. She priced her books mostly at 99 cents because that’s what iTunes charged. Amazon pays self-published authors 30 percent on 99-cent books, so when she sold 624 books in the first month, she made $362. Then she sent copies to book bloggers; she tweeted; she Facebooked; she joined Goodreads.com. In June, her sales jumped to 4,000 copies. In August, when sales reached 15,000, she quit her job working with disabled people to sign with top literary agent Steve Axelrod and write full time. In December, she sold 109,000 books. She has sold about 850,000 books in 2011 so far. Analyst Robin Sullivan, who tracks self-published authors, estimates Hocking is on pace to make $4 million this year. So why sign up with a traditional publisher? “We come with extraordinary marketing capabilities and a sales force that can get the books into places that Amanda’s books have never been before,” including airports and supermarkets, says St. Martin’s publisher Matthew Shear. Shear is considering publishing Watersong, Hocking’s new series, in just paperback and e-book to keep the price down. At the same time, Tatchell, wife of District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, has already started penning the first of two Trylle screenplays. “The characters and the world were really intriguing, and her voice kinda makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping on someone’s diary,” says Tatchell, who discovered the books and brought them to MRC, where she is developing another project, Chappie. — Andy Lewis
Fox 21 Boosts reality Slate
Fox 21, the lower-cost offshoot of TV powerhouse 20th Television, is ramping up its unscripted development under Bert Salke, who took over as president in September. 20th and many of its rivals had largely ignored the genre, leaving what Salke sees as an opening. “Unscripted is the one area where I’m going to sell to broadcast,” he says. “Frankly, I’m more interested in selling to broadcast right now than I am to cable, or at least as interested.” Fox 21’s reality slate:
- Model Apartment, from Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy, will take viewers into the world of competitive modeling in Manhattan. Sold to A&E.
- Family Bonding, from Krasnow Productions, will explore what happens when a parent and teen are handcuffed together for 45 hours. Sold to A&E.
- All About Annette, a comedy from Joke Productions, centers on globetrotting photostylist Annette Joseph. Offers pending from several female-skewing cable networks.
- Geek Meets Girl, a syndicated dating strip inspired by Beauty and the Geek, from Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Films and producer Nick Santora. Nearing deals for clearance in 80 percent of the country.
- Come Back. Live Nation will stage a live competition that gives one-hit wonders a chance to win a spot on a major tour. To be shopped to broadcast networks.
Salke and his team, led by top creative lieutenant Jane Francis, have no plans to scale back on scripted. In addition to FX’s Sons of Anarchy and A&E’s Breakout Kings, the studio has projects in development with Shawn Ryan and Jason Isaacs and high hopes pinned on the Showtime pilot Homeland, starring Claire Danes and Damien Lewis. — Lacey Rose
Amy Adams will play Lois Lane in Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ Superman reboot for director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan. Adams (WME, Brillstein, Sloane Offer) joins Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in the December 2012 release.
Josh Radnor (Gersh, Schreck Rose), the How I Met Your Mother star who made his directorial debut with the 2010 Sundance hit Happythankyoumoreplease, will write and helm the indie Liberal Arts and also co-star with 2011 Sundance breakout Elizabeth Olsen (Gersh).
James Vanderbilt (WME, Ufuse Management, McKuin Frankel), writer of Columbia’s summer 2012 tentpole The Amazing Spider-Man, is already working on a sequel.
New Line has picked up the story of Laura Vikmanis, 42, the oldest cheerleader in NFL history, for a script to be written by Emily Cook and Kathy Greenberg (Gersh, Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment, Gendler & Kelly).
Writer S. Craig Zahler (UTA, Caliber Media, Ziffren Brittenham) has sold the crime-drama spec The Big Stone Grid to Columbia with Michael De Luca (The Social Network) on board as producer.
CBS Films has hired young scribes Amanda Harlib and Laura Sandler (Gersh, Benderspink) to write the ensemble romantic comedy Face It. McG is producing through his Wonderland Sound and Vision shingle.
IFC Films has acquired U.S. rights to the robbery comedy Flypaper, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. UTA and Traction Media repped the film in the deal.
Andrea Berloff (UTA, Benderspink, McKuin Frankel) has been hired by Paramount to write Cocaine Cowboy, the real-life story of a Vietnam vet who became a billion-dollar coke dealer in Miami.
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (CAA, Chaka Zulu, Fox Rothschild) has joined the ensemble cast of New Line’s New Year’s Eve, which is shooting in New York with director Garry Marshall.
Universal has acquired Unreasonable Doubt, a romantic comedy from Marc Klein (UTA, Jackoway Tyerman). Jon Turteltaub (WME, Oasis Media Group, Hansen Jacobson) is in negotiations to direct and produce with Andrew Panay.
Antoine Fuqua (CAA, Anonymous Content, Hirsch Wallerstein) will direct a biopic of Tang Dynasty imperial concubine Yang Guifei for Xi’an Qujiang Film and TV Investor Group. Stuart Beattie (CAA, Joan Vento-Hall) will write and direct an adaptation of the graphic novel I, Frankenstein for Lakeshore Entertainment.
Universal will distribute Savages, an Oliver Stone drama based on a Don Winslow novel.
Alan Rickman (WME, the U.K.’s Independent Talent Group) is in talks to join Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz in Gambit, a remake of the 1966 Michael Caine-Shirley MacLaine caper movie with a script by Joel and Ethan Coen and to be directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station).
Author-screenwriter Jerry Stahl (WME, Hansen Jacobson) will write The Thin Man, Warner Bros.’ remake of the 1934 private eye movie that has Johnny Depp attached to star and Rob Marshall in negotiations to direct.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (CAA, Gang Tyre) is in negotiations to star in Snitch, an action thriller that Ric Roman Waugh is writing and directing for Exclusive Media.
Kung Fu Panda scribes Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (WME, Hansen Jacobson) will write Candyland, Universal’s planned adaptation of the board game.
Ed Harris (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) has signed to play John McCain, and Woody Harrelson (CAA, Tracy Harshman, Ziffren Brittenham) will play McCain strategist Steve Schmidt in HBO’s Game Change about the 2008 presidential election. Julianne Moore is already on board as Sarah Palin.
Katee Sackhoff (Gersh, Bleu, Jackoway Tyerman) will star on A&E’s Western Longmire, based on the Craig Allen Johnson book series.
Eliza Dushku (UTA, the Collective, Morris Yorn) has joined Damon Wayans in the CBS pilot based on ESPN personality Colin Cowherd.
Elizabeth Perkins (Gersh, Brillstein, Loeb & Loeb) will star opposite Michael Chiklis in the CBS pilot Vince Uncensored.
Xzibit (Paradigm, Sloane Offer) has joined the NBC pilot Weekends at Bellevue, starring Lauren Ambrose.
Tom Hanks (CAA, Loeb & Loeb) will guest star on NBC’s 30 Rock. Wife Rita Wilson (CAA, Loeb & Loeb) will guest star on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU. Both episodes air in May.
Fox’s cult drama Fringe has been renewed for a fourth season. … CBS has renewed The Amazing Race for a 19th cycle and Undercover Boss for a third. … Comedy Central has picked up 26 new episodes of Futurama. … CTV has acquired the Canadian broadcast rights to the NBC musical competition series The Voice from Mark Burnett.
Warner Bros. is offering five additional films (Inception, the first two Harry Potters, Life as We Know It and Yogi Bear) for rent on Facebook. The move comes three weeks after the studio launched the initiative with The Dark Knight.
Taissa Farmiga, 16, who makes her debut in sister Vera’s indie Higher Ground, has signed with ICM, joining young stars Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Josh Hutcherson. … Connor Jessup, star of TNT’s sci-fi drama Falling Skies, has signed with UTA. … Writer-director Dee Rees, whose debut film Pariah was acquired by Focus Features at Sundance, has signed with UTA. … U.K.-based stand-up comedian Russell Howard, who will headline the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, has signed with WME. … Suzanne Sena, star of IFC’s Onion News Network, has signed with APA.
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