Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Publishing Screenplays as Ebooks: eScriptsHub

There was a time, and it feels like not that long ago, when screenwriters would go to Kinkos and run off fifty copies of their scripts in order to send them to agents, producers, and anyone else who might be willing to read them. Now there are numerous ways to showcase a screenplay on digital platforms, including publishing that script as an eBook.

I've investigated several ways of creating such an eBook. Some services advocate translating the script to a simplified novel (Aisle Seat Books), and other books and blogs tell scribes how to just tinker with a traditional script file and upload it to Amazon (see: How to Publish Your Script or Publish Your Screenplay on Kindle eBook, by London Tracy.)

However, nobody seems to have really found the right format, connected movie scripts with a viable market of readers, or provided an easy way for screenwriters to make the transition.  Ken Miyamoto thinks he's solved the problem.

If you have already read Ken's smart and entertaining Quora answers on the craft of screenwriting, you know he is a man who knows what he is talking about. I recently had a chance to interview him about his latest venture...

You have been a professional screenwriter for many years. What motivated you to create


As screenwriters, we pour our hearts and souls into our stories. We spend anywhere from a few months to a year or more on each script that we write. And what do we want to do the moment we finish that final draft? We want to take it to people that can get it made.

And then what happens? Most of the time… nothing. Because getting a film made is difficult. It’s damn near impossible. Even making a sale on a spec script is damn near impossible these days.

That’s what is unfortunately unique about screenwriters. We only have one platform for our work to be seen. On the screen. If the scripts aren’t produced in whatever fashion, nobody sees it. Our stories aren’t told. They are left in the void of our own imaginations.

So I started to think about the thousands upon thousands of great screenplays that will never see the light of day. They’ll never find an audience. That’s a shame.

Then I started to look at my own spec scripts, thinking, “Gosh, I’d love for them to have an audience.” Then I started to look at the current craze of ebooks and the idea that these undiscovered writers are self publishing their own ebooks on Amazon. Garnering hundreds of thousands of readers.

Thus my idea of eScripts was born. The thought was to create a hybrid of ebooks and movie screenplays. To create a format that popped off of the screen of those Kindles, iPads, and PCs. itself started as a drop page to my own eScripts. Then I began to think that if I really wanted this new format and platform to grow, we’re going to need to drive a universal format (i.e. the format I cracked) into the mix to offer readers some consistency. So I created the Hub to be a central gathering point for this format and platform, offering screenwriters everything they need and also offering readers a place to learn more.

How is an eScript different in format than a regular script?

Many of the scripts being self published on Amazon were converted PDFs. They look horrible on Kindles, Nooks, tablets, and PCs. That format and the fonts that we normally write screenplays with just don’t pop off of the screen like an ebook.

The format changes that I eventually made to eScripts came to me by chance. I eventually discovered that moving almost everything to the left margin made the read so much better.

And here’s the kicker. Because we are trying to find a new audience with ebook readers, it created the perfect hybrid for them. They are used to reading from the left margin. Their eyes are tuned to that scanning, as opposed to going from left margin to center margin back and forth, back and forth, between scene description, dialogue, etc.

Beyond that, with eScripts, we’re allowed to use chapter headings, images, and can allow ourselves to use an extra few lines or so here and there in our scene descriptions because we don’t have to abide by Hollywood standards.

Reading screenplays, because they are essentially just a blueprint or armature for a movie, is generally less fun that reading books or even plays. Why would ordinary people read eScripts?

I disagree somewhat. To me, reading screenplays is a whole new medium of storytelling for readers. A visual medium. It’s the perfect hybrid of literature and watching movies; two of the world’s most favorite past times. And eScripts are the truest form of that perfect hybrid.

Beyond that, the exciting factor for readers is that they can experience a whole story, told in visual flare, in just two hours worth of reading, if that, per each eScript. As opposed to the commitment of multiple hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months of reading an ebook.

eScripts are perfect for lunch breaks, late night reads before bed, while waiting for their flights in the airport, etc.

If the format is easy to read, would it make sense for development professionals to read all scripts in eScript format?

That would be a big leap for them. Creatures of habit. Personally, I think it would make a real difference, especially with the advent of iPhones, iPads, tablets, Kindles, Kindle Readers, Nooks, etc. But easier said than done.

Why would it be a good idea for screenwriters to publish their un-produced scripts as eScripts?

By all means, screenwriters should go the film industry route to try and get their scripts packaged, sold, and produced. The reality of it is that chances are that’s not going to happen. So if you’ve exhausted those attempts, and it isn’t happening, with self publishing your scripts as eScripts you have a Plan B. You have a secondary platform.

And who knows what happens then? The possibilities are endless. In the end, the short answer to this question is that it offers screenwriters multiple platforms instead of just one. And with multiple platforms comes multiple opportunities. And with multiple opportunities comes better chances for our dreams to come true.

Others have advocated translating a script into a traditional novel-ish format. (see: Converting Your Script To a Novel) Why do you think eScripts is a better way for the average person to read a script?

What if the average ebook reader has never read a screenplay before? That’s the core of this question. I’m a firm believer that reading screenplays is easier than reading a book, and within the format that I’ve come up with, there is a brief opening page that offers descriptions to the most common technical jargon found in most scripts. INT. EXT. Etc.

What really makes eScripts stand apart, beyond the freedom to use chapter headings, images, and what not, are the format changes I mentioned above. They look great on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, tablets, Kindle readers, etc. They are so much easier and vibrant to read.

With the deluge of self-publishing and millions of ebooks already out there, how is there a market for eScripts?

That’s the undiscovered country. It’s a new platform.

The key thing is marketing. You’re right. There are millions of self published ebooks out there now. But any successful author that has published hit ebooks will tell you that marketing is everything. If you don’t market, how can you expect to stand out amongst those millions of others?

It’s not about creating a whole new market. We as writers can’t do that. Only the consumer can. But a market can’t be created without product. That’s what I’m trying to do. Shepherd this format and platform and hope that down the road it takes on a life of its own. 

It’s a new dawn. A new age of technology. In the film industry, we are seeing a major shift for screenwriters. Gone are the heydays of the 90s and early to mid 2000s, when spec sales were at all time highs. Spec scripts are calling cards now. Samples. Rarely are they ever picked up and even more rarely are they ever produced. These days it’s all about the pre-packaged deals. Projects with existing fan bases are the ones that sell (Graphic novel adaptations, ebooks, novels, etc.). This leaves thousands upon thousands of screenplays left unseen. Rich concepts, stories, and characters without an audience.

It’s about time we screenwriters start doing something about that. 

You can read one of Ken's own scripts in format HERE:

You can follow Ken on Twitter at @KenMovies.
You visit his blog at 
You can also follow on Facebook and on Twitter as well at @eScriptshub.

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Ed Gray said...

Hey, Ken. Welcome to this corner of the reading/publishing fray.
You're absolutely right. At this early stage it's all about awareness -- teaching readers (and moviegoers) that, given proper formatting, it's almost as enjoyable to read a movie as it is to watch one. And reading is the ONLY way they can enjoy a not-yet-produced one. You and I might quibble over what constitutes the most reader-friendly formatting, but we're brothers in arms in the fight to build this new entertainment platform.
And thanks to you, too, Sean for your early and ongoing support.

Anonymous said...

I believe the same about reading screenplays.

The great writers who write great screenplays really know how to combine the visual narrative with the dialogue.

I recall reading MIDNIGHT COWBOY for the first time. It was my second actual script after i read BUTCH CASSIDY and the SUNDANCE KID, along with GOLDMAN's book on the SCREENTRADE -- fascinating all on its own.

But no matterw how great BUTCH/SUNDANCE script felt really like a blueprint?

When I read MIDNIGHT COWBOY...there was more writing going on the page. More words. And the structure wrapping up the dialogue, the visual narrative was so much more powerful to me.

I decided then and there -- MIDNIGHT COWBOY screenplay was going to be my foundational model to work off of.

I still write in the primal visual driven narrative style, but instead of many 3-4 line paragraphs...I've also taken the influence of the first ALIEN script (its final draft by Hill and Giler) and have found an easier reading flow in tight,
1-2 line(s) paragraphs.

It will always be about structure to me for this weird beast of a writing model known as a screenplay. least in my first draft (which no one sees at all ) I truly write the way I want to write. As if I'm the camera itself and some invisible narrator, without directing on the page. At all. MARKT11

The Den HQ said...

My third screenplay in its first draft was read cover to cover by a friend of mine. She originally came over to work on some songs we were writing together, unfortunately I handed her the printed script and she was immersed for 2 hours. She couldn't stop reading it. The lightbulb didn't go off in my head then, back in 1997 as I had Hollywood in my sights, sad thing is being Australian I didn't stand a chance. 18 years later I am refreshing the script and selling it as an eScript/Screenbook which is a term a fellow co-writer and best friend coined last week. I started reading Ken's eScript "Revelation", now I have to upgrade my old Macbook Pro to install iBooks and Kindle.