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Film Marketing: E-Publish Your Screenplay

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 21, 2011

Sample script page from Avatar

Just as the Internet has opened up new avenues for filmmakers to get their movies distributed and seen online, writers also now have the opportunity to upload their manuscripts and have them beamed directly onto computer hard drives and into mobile devices.

Indie filmmakers who script their movies prior to shooting can now take advantage of both Internet booms: After releasing a film on DVD or just online, filmmakers can also publish their screenplays for Kindle and Nook e-book readers, as well as for various print-on-demand services. Ambitious, writerly filmmakers can also publish their production diaries and include behind-the-scenes photographs.

Screenplays aren’t normally thought of as publishable entities unless they’ve been written by high-profile writers like William Goldman or the Coen brothers. But with cheap electronic publishing options today, who’s to say that there isn’t a market for curious indie film fans willing to buy a quick read about a film that they’ve loved and enjoyed.

While this is a new frontier open for filmmakers today, there are examples from the past of filmmakers who built part of their reputation by selling their screenplays in printed form. The most significant example of this is Spike Lee, whose relentless self-promotion early in his career included a published production journal and screenplay for each of his films. If you’re an indie film fan or maker and you haven’t read one of Spike’s books like Uplift the Race, By Any Means Necessary or Do the Right Thing, you’re really missing out on some fascinating, entertaining reading.

(Personally, I’ve always thought that reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, then seeing Spike’s Malcolm X, then reading By Any Means Necessary makes for an indispensable film education.)

Dark Matter Heart book cover

However, modern filmmakers don’t need to look so far in the past to get ideas on how to take advantage of the e-book publishing boom. Inspiration for this article came from news that indie filmmaker Nathan Wrann turned one of his screenplays into a novel called Dark Matter Heart that he has published for the Kindle, Nook and a CreateSpace print-on-demand version.

Wrann is also planning to e-publish a future special edition of Dark Matter Heart that will include the original screenplay that the novel is based on.

It should also be noted that one doesn’t necessarily need a Kindle or a Nook to read an electronically published book, for those worried that the Kindle market for scripts might be too small. E-readers continue to gain in popularity and any kind of book published electronically can be read on all kinds of computers and mobile devices. Kindle and Nook also exist as apps that can be used on iPhones and iPads, for example.

Granted, it’s difficult enough for indie and underground filmmakers to drum up audience interest in their actual films, so publishing a screenplay for a movie hardly anybody is going to see may seem like an adventure into futility. But, on the other hand, there’s not much to lose other than mostly the time it takes to put such an item together. Well, that and the risk of the emotional toll a publishing let-down may have on the psyche.

It might be worth a shot, no?

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