Q: Why did you sell the movie rights to Paramount rather than a less commercial studio?
In 2005, when Looking for Alaska first came out, the book was selling a couple hundred copies a week. Traditionally, a book’s first few months are its best selling months. So in those days I was making about $350 a week in royalties. This is a nice amount of money, but it works out to $18,200 a year, and it is taxed as self-employment income, so it actually works out to quite a bit less than that. And every indication was that my income over time would go down, not up, as it does for almost all books. At the time, I was moving from Chicago to New York in order to follow my fiancee to graduate school, which meant I was about to be unemployed. Then a movie studio came along and offered me what was to me an ungodly, life-changing amount of money in exchange for the movie rights to my book. I did not care (and honestly do not care) if they ever made a movie. All I knew was that moving to New York with a fiancee in graduate school was suddenly possible, whereas before it had been impossible. I would’ve sold the movie rights to We Only Make Shitty Movies Incorporated if they’d made that move possible. But for the record, since then I’ve made very different decisions about my movie rights.