Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Six-Film Deal For Michelle Paver

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Redhammer today announces a major film deal for client Michelle Paver, whose bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series has been sold to producer Nick Hirschkorn of Feel Films.  All six books in the series will be filmed, with the involvement of a yet-undisclosed broadcaster.

Hirschkorn is currently producing the highly-anticipated Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for the BBC, co-produced by BBC AMERICA.  He has previously produced the critically-acclaimed film of David Almond’s book Skellig as well as E. Nesbit’s  Five Children and It.

Michelle Paver wins Guardian Fiction Prize“As soon as I put down WOLF BROTHER – which wasn’t easy” says Nick Hirschkorn, “I knew it was an archetypal story, the like of which I had never read before, that was crying out to be filmed. The fact that the series incorporates so many universal themes in such an original setting, packed with huge emotional punch, makes it irresistible for a wide family audience. I feel privileged that Michelle has entrusted me with her literary gem.”

Acclaimed screenwriter Will Davies is contracted to write the first film in the series, WOLF BROTHER. Davies is the writer of Puss in Boots, Johnny English Reborn, How to Train Your Dragon, Flushed Away, Alien Autopsy, Johnny English, Ghost in the Machine and Twins.

“Michelle’s WOLF BROTHER series takes you into a world like no other you’ve ever seen”, says Davies.  “Torak and Wolf are unforgettable characters, and the mysteries they have to uncover, both about that world, and  themselves are utterly compelling.  I love this series and am thrilled to be a part of bringing it to the screen.”

“We originally sold the series to Sir Ridley Scott”, says Redhammer’s Peter Cox.  “But when the opportunity arose to get a dynamic young British producer like Nick Hirschkorn involved, it was too good to pass up.”

The entire series has been recorded for audiobooks by Sir Ian McKellen – will he feature in the films?  “You’ll have to wait and see!” says Nick Hirschkorn.

Martin Bell’s Dodgy Verses

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Redhammer’s illustrious client Martin Bell took to the stage over the weekend to reveal a previously hidden talent: he is a master of light verse.  Headlining at the 2013 Much Wenlock Poetry Festival, Martin read from  his new book, For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Tony Blair and Iraq, Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic, two-faced politicians and the cult of celebrity worship were all skewered with gentle humour – extracts follow – enjoy!

 

Mal Peet Moves To Redhammer

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The widely-acclaimed British author Mal Peet has moved to Redhammer Management for his literary representation and management.  His awards include the Branford Boase Award, the Nestle Children’s Book Award, The Carnegie Medal and The Guardian Children’s Book Prize as well as a number of major American awards.

“In just five books”, says Redhammer’s Peter Cox, “Mal has distinguished himself as one of the most important writing talents of our time.   His awards have only been surpassed by praise from critics and his peers.  We are honoured that he has chosen to come to us.”

Redhammer offers a completely different management approach to other, more traditional literary agencies.  Cox came to agenting from a background in advertising and marketing, not the more conventional route through publishing or inheritance.  “We are very client focused”, he says, “and quite obsessed about delivering what authors need.  I’m sure publishers thought I was crazy initially but our success – and that of our clients – proves that this is the right approach for the future.”

Mal Peet has been tagged a “young adult” author, but both Peet and Cox feel this is unnecessarily restrictive.  “I’m with Mal when he says he sees no barrier between teenage fiction and adult literature”, says Cox.  “Good writing is good writing, period.”

“Redhammer has an astonishingly small client list compared to other agencies”, Cox says, “but we provide highly personal management and a far broader range of expertise than can be found in almost any other agency.  We’re the agency of the future, and Mal is in the right place, where he belongs.”

More information about Mal Peet here.

Better Bookselling

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Peter Cox writing in The Bookseller

Half the adults in the wasteland that used to be the great American city of Detroit now cannot read.  We’re not talking about their failure to perceive the finer nuances of Jonathan Franzen’s latest flight of fancy.  No.  They can’t read a bus sign, a pill bottle, or a McDonald’s menu.

If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

With our libraries falling at a rate not seen since Caesar sacked Alexandria, and our public wealth being nasally ingurgitated by sociopathic bankers, the most we can expect on this issue from our rulers and masters are homilies without substance and  platitudes without resources.

Things will get worse.

Today, there is an air of urgency in the bookselling business that I’ve never sensed before.  It’s not just about the money; it’s about fighting for our society and culture.  We can all sense the darkness at the edge of town, I think.  Getting people into bookshops is today a moral issue.   But – how?

All retailers study the science of footfall.  Independents are disadvantaged in this respect, with less in the way of resources compared to their larger competitors.  Even so, some creative thinking can go a long way: challenging times call for exceptional actions.  Here are five of the best, least expensive, ways to boost bookshop traffic.

  1. Get into the street.  Scientologists do it, chuggers do it, Starbucks do it – we should, too.  Get right into your customers’ faces, every daylight hour. Take a survey, give a bookmark, read a poem, offer a trade-in – any excuse to talk to passers-by.  It’s basically a numbers game: the more you pitch, the more you’ll profit.
  2. Develop atmosphere.  Many bookshops feel sepulchral. Chill the vibe (ambient, not Four Seasons), sex up the decor, chiaroscuro the lighting (yes, the customer still has to read – but this isn’t Sainsbury’s is it?). Entering a bookshop must be an adventure, a moment of escapism. Create some magic!
  3. Build loyalty.  There are few urban businesses so cutthroat as coffee shops, and they’ve long understood the power of loyalty schemes. Try collaborating with other local shops: punters must get their card stamped by six different retailers to be entered into this month’s prize draw for a hamper.
  4. Get a patron.  Bookshops aren’t merely businesses, they are local cultural institutions. As such, they need patrons.  Your patron should have media clout, a great social network, be prepared to MC events and proudly speak out on your behalf.  Better yet, get two.
  5. Free is the most powerful word in marketing.  Every successful business on the net was built on it. Free Fridays (second-hand books taken as trade-ins)… free instore classes… free storytelling… this is one F word you can’t overuse.

We can win this battle – as indeed we must, if we’re to save Western culture before it’s closing time.


This column first appeared in The Bookseller on the 24th June 2011

Illustration by jinterwas

 

Swatch It

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Peter Cox writing in The Bookseller

The year is 1983, and the once-proud Swiss watch industry lies broken beyond repair.  Formerly a bastion of traditional craftsmanship and old-fashioned working practices, the Swiss have been humbled by a ferocious price-war fought on the battlefield of new technology.

Sounds a mite familiar? It gets better.  Devastated by a deluge of disposable digital watches from Japan, three quarters of the Swiss watch industry has simply keeled over and died.  But then, something miraculous happens.

The man tasked by the banks and creditors to dispose of the ragged corpse of the industry has other ideas.  Nicolas Hayek reckons he can best the Japanese at their own game – and he does.  Using the same technology that had nearly obliterated Switzerland’s flagship industry, Hayek’s first broadside is the now-ubiquitous Swatch – cheap, but far cooler than anything the Japanese can muster.  Next, he hopelessly outguns them at the luxury end of the market with mega-brands such as Breguet, Omega, Longines, Tissot…  Just like books, no-one needs a top-end luxury watch.  But through brilliant marketing, Hayak makes almost everyone want one.  His visionary strategy becomes a textbook example of how to turn a full-blown crisis into a transformative opportunity.

Hayak’s business bravura stands in shining contrast to some of the grubby opportunism that’s happening in our industry at present.

My own profession, for example, is currently debating the niceties of how to put our own interests ahead of our clients – which is what will happen if literary agents become publishers to their authors.  Can anyone say “conflict of interest”?  As our trade body apparently mulls a constitutional amendment to permit this desperate folly, all I can say is – being a publisher is far more difficult than many might naively suppose.  For agents habituated to doing quick-buck deals and then walking away with the proceeds, I fear the future will be both educational and painful.

But publishers themselves – or rather, some publishers – are not beyond reproach, either.  Publishers buzzword du jour is “owning the IP”.  That’s a euphemism for cutting the author out of the financial picture; it means that “book concepts” will increasingly be originated by Henrietta in marketing and given to a team of hack writers to flesh out.  This is sweatshop labour.  It produces dross that “reads like an assembly-line product, poorly written and thinly imagined”, as the New York Times aptly wrote of James L. Frey’s latest offering manufactured in exactly this way.  I, for one, don’t want to be part of an industry that exploits authors like this.

The challenge our industry faces today is at least as momentous as the “quartz crisis” faced by the Swiss three decades ago.  We will survive – and thrive – only through courageous, strategic thinking.  It’s time for the heroes of publishing to put on their armour: the battle awaits.


This column first appeared in The Bookseller on the 29th April 2011

Illustration by Nancee_art

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Icon Books has acquired a third title by Redhammer client, veteran reporter and former-MP Martin Bell.  Icon m.d. Simon Flynn acquired world and full digital rights to For Whom the Bell Tolls from Peter Cox of Redhammer Management.  The title is an autobiographical collection of “light and dark” verse.

Flynn said: “This light and dark collection of poems is a funny, honest and often moving account of Martin’s life and experiences.”

Icon will publish as a £9.99, B-format hardback on 1st December.

Paver Ignites Bologna

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Penguin’s international deals for Redhammer client Michelle Paver ignited the Bologna Children’s Book Fair today. Penguin penned deals for Paver’s Gods and Warriors series with House of Books in Holland, Hachette in France, Semic in Sweden and Mondadori in Italy, with “plenty more to come over next weeks and months”, according to rights director Chantal Noel.

Paver met international publishers at the fair to give details of the new series, set in the Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age. At a presentation this morning, Paver told publishers she chose the era because it was a “rich, spectacular, exciting world to inhabit, with chariots, ocean-going ships, slaves, warriors, myths and magic”.

The new series will tell the story of Hylas, a lowly 12-year-old goatherd in the Greek mountains, whose adventures take him far afield to Crete and Egypt, and involve him, like Torak in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, with animals—in the new series, a lion, a falcon and a dolphin.

Paver moved to Puffin with her new series, after publishing the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books with Orion. Elv Moody, editorial director of Classic Puffin, promised international publishers a “global sharepoint to share ideas and resources” for the launch campaign for the first book, as yet untitled, in the autumn of 2012.

Books Need Authors. But Do Publishers?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Peter Cox writing on Litopia

Recently, Margaret Atwood cautioned the publishing business not to forget the central important of authors (read the interview in this piece from the Globe & Mail). How very timely.

At lunch last week I was discussing this issue with someone from the film industry. We were comparing notes about the ways in which our relative industries were developing.  We came to the conclusion that we’re both headed in the same direction.

The big boys increasingly want the whole pie.

This is how their logic runs.  Why pay royalties to bothersome authors, when you can keep all the income for yourself?  Even better – why bother licensing a manuscript (that’s exactly what a publishing contract is) when you can own the whole caboodle… for ever?

That is absolutely the way publishing and the feature film business are both moving.  The studios and major publishers increasingly want to own the core intellectual property.  That right – it’s their copyright – not yours… even though you may have written it.

Work Harder, Slave!

What of writers, then, in this future scenario?  Well, they’ll still be needed – a little.  Hire them in… pay them for what they do… sack ‘em if they get uppity… then move on to the next project. The central importance of the writer is increasingly under attack.  Soon, you’ll just be the nameless hired gun.

Hack writing has always been around, of course. There have always been naive writers willing to accept any deal just to see their name in print.  You only have to think of nincompoops such as Jobie Hughes (a “minion” from James L. Frey’s “literary sweatshop” according to the New York Times) for a classic example of that.

You may be wondering, well – isn’t it Ok for writers to be minions – if they choose to be? Personally, I find the idea repellent.

Writers from Dickens onwards have fought for the idea that if you create something, you should own it.  That notion will soon find itself under increasing attack.

Guns For Hire

Movies are increasingly franchise operations, and that’s the inexorable way Big Publishing will develop.  In fact, dating back to the days of book packagers, this kind of approach has been slowly but surely gaining traction.

One company that successfully ploughs this furrow is Working Partners.  According to their website, they create series fiction ideas internally, and then hire writers under “umbrella pseudonyms” to do the hard graft.  And of course, Working Partners keep the copyright.

Working Partners are commendably straightforward about your chances of striking gold with them.  “The upfront sums for each title are relatively small”, they say.  “However, for writers struggling to find a publisher for their own work, we provide a great learning experience…”.  Well, fine.  if all you want from your writing life is a great learning experience- and that’s all that many writers obviously do want – then, great.

Unequal Partners

Let’s be clear about how the money works in these situations.  Working Partners asks writers to produce work on spec, following the series concepts, storylines, and cast lists that Working Partners has already figured out.  They then try to sell the project to publishers.  if they succeed, they get an advance – in the same way as any author would normally get an advance from a publishing deal.

The difference is, Working Partners  keep a goodly proportion of that sum for themselves.

And only a “relatively small” sum is passed on to the author.  Finally, if there’s an agent in the chain, the agent will take their percentage of that “relatively small” sum… and hopefully, the agent wasn’t planning on eating that day.

To my mind, this type of arrangement is wrong.  Most importantly, it fails to properly value the author.  Its saying that the organisation that owns and markets the concept actually deserves more reward than the person who does the creative work – and in my book as an agent, that’s just plain wrong.

Not everyone agrees with me.

Philippa Milnes-Smith, a literary agent at LAW, is quoted on Working partners’ website thus:

“We have a number of clients who have worked very successfully with Working Partners not just on one but on many titles and several different series: we have enjoyed a good long term working relationship. In addition, for some authors it’s a first real – and often invaluable – introduction to the rigours of commercial fiction market, in turn helping them to develop their individual talent and skills.”

Sorry to say this, Philippa.  But in my view, you shouldn’t be endorsing this type of working practice.

I’m sure Working partners are great people.  I’m sure they are very ethical, highly talented and nice to their pets, too.

But that’s not the point.

The author should always be at the centre of the whole process – not some anonymous hack-for-hire.  Sales agents such as Working Partners should be there to serve authors – not the other way round.  Frankly, I’m surprised you don’t see this.

And you know what?  I don’t believe this practice generally does justice to readers, either.  As the New York Times wrote of I Am Number Four, it “reads like an assembly-line product, poorly written and thinly imagined.”

Yes – that’s because it is an assembly-line product.

Things To Come

I predict we’ll see Big Publishing increasingly claim ownership of the core intellectual property, and retain writers, where necessary, to do the hard stuff… i.e. to actually write the books.  Only another ten thousand words this afternoon, and you’ll be done for the day!

This scenario is one that will continue to grow in the future and – ironically – its growth may even jeopardize external book packagers.   As Big Publishing increasingly searches for profit, it will realize the economic value of keeping copyrights for themselves.  It certainly won’t want external third parties to control them.

And yet.

I predict this disrespecting of the authorial function – for that is what it is – will carry a heavy and unexpected price for those publishers foolish enough to pursue this path.

Not every publisher will go down this route.

The less corporate will not.

The publishers who value authors will not.

And – let’s not forget that authors increasingly now have a choice.

While years of indented servitude might once have been the only way to advance in any skilled profession, authors today have a myriad of options.  They don’t need to work for your “relatively small sums”.

I think some publishers will understand this, and firmly come down on the side of the author.  Others won’t.  Same for agents.

Interesting times ahead.

Phase Change

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Peter Cox writing in The Bookseller

When water becomes ice, it undergoes an astonishing transformation: something that physicists term a phase change.  Think about it: water, the very essence of fluidity, becomes hard, sharp and brittle.  Phase changes takes place when environmental conditions reach a critical point.

That moment has now arrived in publishing.  Yet the transition that most of us are expecting, even willing, to happen is far from what is actually happening.  Let me explain by analogy to the newspaper industry.  Many years ago, the wise ones in the newspaper business could see that change was coming, like some distant digital tsunami.  So they prepared.  For some, this meant throwing their lot in with “walled gardens” such as America Online (in publishing terms, think the iBookStore).  For others, it meant trusting DRM to protect their revenue… or  expecting that income from online advertising would expand infinitely.

For all their plotting, we can see now that none of these tactics worked.  Newspapers are today in extremis.  Why?

Fatally, their owners signally misunderstood the transforming nature of that digital tidal wave.  They assumed that “the news-paper” as a product would survive untouched, in a world where “news” as a commodity is free, instant and infinitely reproducible.  All they had to do, they reasoned, was to convert their paper product into electrons, and business would continue without missing a beat.  This became an item of faith, as industry commentator Clay Shirk lucidly explains:

“Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world increasingly resembled the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. ”

That is precisely the same mistake we in publishing are now making.  What we fail to understand is that our business is undergoing a phase change to an altogether different state.  It is not simply a question of digitising our paper product.  The publishing environment is not just changing: it is new and virgin territory.  Bad news?  Only if you fail to grasp the opportunities inherent in the new environment.  Here’s one.

Traditional publishing is a one-way enterprise: a small number of publishers deliver lots of product to a larger number of retailers, with little feedback going the other way up the chain.  This model worked in an age when book production and distribution were accessible only to a few.  But in a digital age, it makes no sense.

Today, we should see booksellers as local publishers – a kind of mini-HarperCollins or Random House, just round the corner.  Publishing, instead of being a highly-centralised activity, should become distributed and collaborative.  Bestsellers would originate locally, and rise up through the system.  The slushpile would become a valuable asset;  booksellers would become a digital nexus for their whole community.

Am I barking? Or is this the future?  We may find out sooner than you think.


This column first appeared in The Bookseller in March 2011

Illustration by violscraper

 

Shoot The Armadillos

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Peter Cox writing in The Bookseller

Our cherished publishing industry—which to outsiders can appear more like a part-time hobby than a serious business—is a veritable cornucopia of contradictions.

A case in point. We have a boundless appetite for new ideas which we commoditise, package and sell. Yet we are notoriously slow to innovate ourselves. Although latecomers to the digital banquet, we have learnt next to nothing from the harrowing experiences of our cousins in the music and media industries. “Publishing is not like other businesses,” executives habitually tell me over lunch with a knowing wink, certain in their belief that we’ve been granted special dispensation from the laws of physics. It feels more like a terminal case of hubris to me but I usually say nothing because, after all, they’re paying.

Similarly, publishing exists in a heteromorphic continuum of risk. A successful publisher has the soul of a gambler: they win more often than not, and they see opportunity where others perceive only peril. Rock stars such as Anthony Cheetham and Jamie Byng have this instinct in spades. Corporate publishing, however, is massively risk-averse. “We’re looking for reasons not to publish books,” one chief executive proudly drawled to me recently. A line that probably goes down well with the bean counters at head office, but it’s anathema to real publishing.

To these corporate panjandrums, publishing is merely one component in a diverse portfolio of businesses. An industry in decline, in fact, to be milked where possible, starved of investment capital, and back-burnered before ultimate disposal. That, at least, is classic business school strategy to manage businesses in waning markets. Good for them, perhaps, but fatal for us.

So let me ask you this. As we enter the most challenging year in the history of our industry, whose side are you on? The risk-takers? Or the armadillos? Will you stick your neck out this year  or curl up into a tiny armour-plated ball of denial?

You have little choice. No industry can endure 5% year-on-year declines. Our survival depends on your ability to discern the opportunity contained within the risk. Safe publishing is no longer an option: shoot anyone on sight who says otherwise.
If your company’s culture discourages risk-taking, then quit. Their fate is sealed—don’t let them take you down with them. There has never been a better time to strike out on your own: the era of publishing dinosaurs is all but over and nimble mammals will inherit the earth.

Build secret alliances with other risk-takers. Conspire against your management. Twist their arms until they scream or, even better, until they give you your head. Great publishing is never conducted by committee—subvert, divide and conquer. Go crazy pants at every opportunity—you know you’re worth it.

I wish you a dangerously successful new year.


This column first appeared in The Bookseller on the 18th January 2011

Illustration by Suzanna