Many novels have been purchased and adapted into movies and video games. Most of the time, the authors reap huge profits from the deals. But did you know that one Polish author sold the rights of his novels, not realizing its vast potential?
CD Projekt Red, a Polish video game developer, purchased the rights of Witcher from author Andrzej Sapkowski. They paid Sapkowski in two installments for only a total of $9,500.
The Creation of the Witcher Series
In the mid-eighties, Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski first started writing about Geralt of Rivia, the main protagonist of the Witcher novels. At the time, Sapkowski was a traveling fur salesman with a degree in Economics. He was also fluent in different languages. He was also a fan of fantasy novels that accompanied him during his trips. (Source: Euro Gamer)
On the side, Sapkowski worked as a translator for Fantastyka magazine. He was made aware that the magazine was to hold the 1985 fiction competition. He wanted to enter the contest and change people’s outlook that the fantasy genre is only for children. (Source: Culture)
His idea was to reimagine a Polish fairytale but make it realistic. The Polish story of a poor cobbler who killed a dragon made him think. He thought that it was a lie. Cobblers make shoes. Characters who kill monsters are professionals whose main task in life is to do just that.
Sapkowski then invented and wrote Wiedzmin, the title later translated to The Witcher, and submitted his work to the magazine. He thought he didn’t win, but his short story placed third. His work piqued the public’s interest, and they wanted more. Sapkowski didn’t intend to start a career in writing, but due to public demand, he started on his second story.
He wrote several more short stories about Geralt. It was published in books like Sword of Destiny and The Last Wish. He started writing The Witcher saga, to which many publishers didn’t expect it would do good since Sapkowski was Polish. But publisher Supernowa published his first book, Blood of Elves, in 1994 and wrote one book every year after that. He completed his saga in 1999. (Source: Euro Gamer)
The saga was heavily inspired by mythologies of different regions, taking ideas from Poland, Russia, and other Slavic countries. He also adapted ideas from mythical creatures from Asian countries and other classical fantasy books. (Source: Lithub)
CD Projekt Red Purchases The Witcher Rights
CD Projekt Red, a Polish video game development company, sought to purchase the rights for Sapkowski’s saga. When their deal was completed, the company soon developed several games using the content of the books.
Many rumors claimed that Sapkowski sold the rights at a low price, but none could confirm exactly how much it was sold until Sebastian Zielinksi, former CEO of CD Projekt Red, openly mentioned how much was spent.
Zielinksi confirmed that the company only paid Sapkowski around $9,500, and it was accomplished in two installments. That amount is meager, considering the revenue CD Projekt Red earned from the video games it created. (Source: Comic Book)