An unprecedented wave of new-media players are descending on the London Book Fair, triggering a “dramatic explosion” in book-to-film/TV and audio deals.
Hannah Griffiths, head of literary acquisitions at production company All3Media, said the “exponential growth” in hours of airtime, owing to the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, marked an “optimistic moment” for the trade. She added: “It’s like if five major dedicated book chains opened up in Britain tomorrow, each needing to fill the shelves... and with loads of money to spend on stock.”
Former MI5 agent Tom Marcus has been one beneficiary, with a number of pre-LBF film and TV deals: Kudos (which recently produced the BBC’s adaptation of Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard) has bought rights to develop his Soldier, Spy into a “major” new drama series, while Chrysalis snapped up options to Fisher of Men, and Working Title the rights to Whistleblower.
Katie McCalmont, Netflix’s literary scout in the UK at Maria B Campbell Associates, said the number of new-media buyers had gone up “big time”, in tandem with “a blurring of boundaries” between different media. She said the climate was “a huge opportunity” for publishers and agents.
LBA Books m.d. Luigi Bonomi, who recently became the agent for BBC Radio, said he had seen more film and TV interest in the past six months than at any other time since founding his agency, referring to the “massive” amount of options he had done in the run-up to LBF.
Bonomi added: “A good third of all my meetings at this year’s fair are with film and TV companies to talk about plots and ideas and what people are developing from very early on—sometimes before I’ve even sold the book to the publisher.”
Mad Rabbit literary scout Philippa Donovan, who met ahead of the fair with fellow US scouts for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Studio 8, agreed, saying there was likely to be “quite a bit of action” at this year’s LBF.
Griffiths said there was “absolutely no doubt” that more players in the market raised the stakes, and observed that deals were being cut much earlier. “Rights are routinely—even for 18-month options, where you’re buying exclusive rights to consider a project—going for huge sums.”
However, the flow of rights traffic is not one way, with a recent flurry of publishers acquiring from media companies. Bonnier Publishing last week splashed out on a book deal to adapt Netflix’s “The Crown”; Random House has bought Bridget Kendall’s Radio 5 series “Cold War”, as well as a two-book deal tied to “Woman’s Hour”; and HarperCollins took rights to new BBC science series “Secrets of the Human Body”.