The original Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977, and a full six months before that, on November 12, 1976, its novelization hit bookstore shelves. Though the author of the book — Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker — is listed under George Lucas’s byline, the novelization was in fact ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.
Foster was initially under a two-book contract, which produced the well-known sequel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, as well as that novelization. At the outset, Foster was set to only receive royalties on the sequel; his deal called for zero stake in the success of the novelization.
“However, I was sitting in a meeting one day with George [Lucas] and Gary Kurtz, and Charlie Lippincott, discussing Splinter. And in the course of it, George just happened to say, ‘By the way, I’m giving you half percent royalty on the novelization.’” Foster was surprised and told Lucas he “didn’t have to do that,” but Lucas insisted.
Foster thanked Lucas but admits now that he didn’t really think the points would amount to much in terms of financial windfall. At the time, Star Wars had yet to hit theaters, and the book that preceded it hadn’t become a bestseller.Alan Dean Foster
“Obviously, it turned out to amount to something!” Foster says with a laugh. Essentially, George Lucas changed a contract after the fact to benefit an author who turned his screenplay into a book. Foster is adamant that this wasn’t something George Lucas was obligated to do, and was emblematic of both Lucas’s generosity and belief in the potential of Star Wars. “He didn’t have money to throw around at that point,” he says.
Alan Dean Foster’s next book is the novelization for the upcoming film Alien: Covenant. It will be published on May 23 by Titan Books.