Margaret Atwood Is Not Making Money Off the Rights to The Handmaid's Tale

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

A second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to Hulu, and it’s said to be even darker than the first, if you can believe it. But the story’s creator will not be making any cash off the rights to her 1985 novel.


In a column for Wealthsimple about her $$$, Margaret Atwood drops that MGM is making mint from Hulu, not her. She was hired as an executive consultant, but that is a comparatively far lower payday:

The Handmaid’s Tale television series was not my deal. I sold the rights to MGM in 1990 to make a movie – so when the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM. We did not have a negotiating position. I did get brought on as an executive consultant, but that wasn’t a lot of money. People think it’s been all Hollywood glamour since the TV show happened, but that’s not happening to me. But book sales have been brisk, so there’s that.

Actually, Atwood says there’s a surge in sales of The Handmaid’s Tale every election, so politics (along with her many other successful books) are keeping her wallet fat—and it doesn’t hurt that she’s fairly frugal. She doesn’t comment on whether or not she considers her decision to sell the book rights a mistake, but later states that supervising your cashflow is extremely important.

Atwood outlines her youthful exploits of writing while eating packages of Kraft vegetables, hot dogs, onions, and potatoes with the skin on. Cheap, yet nourishing:

Money is a symbol. It doesn’t have any value in and of itself. You can’t eat it, drink it, or wear it. For me, if you want to sum it up, it means self-reliance. I was never told that I should marry a rich man and lie around in a negligee and eat chocolates. I’ve always been expected to support myself and I always have.

She claims to have only two extravagances: “good face cream and art supplies,” both of which I find highly relatable. The art supplies she never uses, but obviously, the face cream gets applied. You can read all of Atwood’s reflections on being raised by Depression-era parents here.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



I don’t know much about entertainment law, but it really sucks that you can sell rights to your creative property in the anticipation of a single movie, and it can be applied to perpetual series on a platform that no one even knew would exist at the time.