Have you heard? Amazon Studios is creating original content, à la Netflix and HBO. The first pilots are up, including the brilliantly scripted Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, penned by David Anaxagoras. It was reading this script that made me realize what an opportunity the Amazon Studios (AS) open submission policy is for kidlit writers. One look at Gortimer and you know AS is seeking truly original content, not just regurgitated kid’s show fair.
I’m currently going through the submission process for the second time and wanted to share everything I’ve learned so far in hopes of encouraging other kidlit writers to give it a try. If you have any questions, please comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Why submit to Amazon Studios?
Because you will learn so much in the process and because it is so much fun! There’s too much smart, unpublished content out there. I know this because I belong to the Blueboards, a vibrant community of kidlit writers. As the pathway to traditional publishing narrows, we must seek new roads.
What is Amazon Studios looking for?
Movies, comedy pilots and kid’s series (*preschool series must have an educational theme). Series can be live action, animated, stop motion, or mixed media and should be 11 or 22 minutes long. All children and tween proposals must include a mini-bible (*between two and six pages). The mini-bible details your vision for the series, the main characters and should include five or six episode ideas. You may also submit a pilot script and cover art to help your proposal stand out. For more read "What You Need to Know Before Submitting Your Children’s Series to Amazon Studios" at Hollywonk. Also check out the FAQ page at AS.
How to submit:
1. Pilot scripts/mini-bibles must be in PDF or rtf format. I did not spring for screenwriting software (such as Final Draft) but I’ve been very happy with Adobe Story, which is free and easy to use.
2. Decide if you want to make your project public or private. I have done both and can honestly say, as long as your comfortable having your IP “out there”, public is the way to go. If you’ve ever participated in WriteOnCon, it’s a lot like that. It takes a great deal of effort to keep up with it on social media but it’s worth it!
3. Go to the Start a New Project Page to upload and follow the prompts. You will upload your mini-bible first. While that is uploading you will not see a button to add your pilot script. Do not make the same mistake I did and contact the poor, kind people at the help desk, frantic that months of work might go unnoticed. The button will appear, once the mini-bible is successfully received. Note, this can take a very long time. BORISLAV took upwards of twenty minutes for both the mini-bible and the pilot script. Yes, over 40 minutes to get my project uploaded. My first project uploaded much faster.
What happens if Amazon Studios is interested?
Break open the bubbly! Amazon Studios will either buy your project outright ($55,000 for a series and $200,000 for a movie), or extend the option period for up to 18 months (paying you $10,000 for each extension).
You wait. Amazon Studios requires exclusivity during the 45-day option and evaluation period. Yup, 45 days. That’s it. In the publishing world that’s like a nanosecond. And get this, there’s an Evaluation Tracker that allows you to see where you are in the process (Received, Queued, Evaluating, Deciding, Complete). I once waited six months to follow up with a literary agent on a requested manuscript only to find it had gotten eaten up by her spam folder.
How long will it take for your project to move through each stage? No one knows. There are so many factors at play. I’ve sifted through the Commissary Forums and from what I’ve gathered, some projects move all the way to deciding very quickly (sometimes in minutes) others can spend weeks in evaluating. The general consensus is that the deciding stage = “thanks, but no thanks” and once your project has been moved to deciding, you’re running clock down until your 45 days is up.
This is all conjecture. No one knows for sure what’s happening behind the scenes. Deciding did = “thanks, but no thanks” for my first series proposal (STRANGETOWN) but everything we know about the process is anecdotal. I will post BORISLAV’s journey through the evaluation tracker in a separate post (ETA: Evaluation Tracker post is up).
Speaking of BORISLAV…
My second series proposal, BORISLAV THE TERRIBLE was uploaded Friday, April 25th in the evening. Because of the support it received, BORISLAV moved to the #2 spot (when sorted by popularity) for children and tweens and the #5 spot for All Series Projects in the first weekend. I am overwhelmed and so full of gratitude for the support!
Next up…Screenwriting for Novelists 101.