Literary agency Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) has launched a spin-off digital publishing business, Ipso Books, to publish both backlist and frontlist writers. The move follows similar ventures by other agencies: Ed Victor Ltd launched Bedford Square Books in 2011, and Curtis Brown set up Studio 28 last year.
The publishing wing is to be run by Robert Caskie, chief operating officer at PFD. The debut list, launched in September 2015, draws on the crime literary estates managed by the agency, including e-book only titles from Eric Ambler, Margery Allingham, and John Creasey. Caskie said the publisher was also looking for the best in contemporary genre fiction and timely, original non-fiction, and was "actively committed to identifying and developing new talent". Up to now the agency has published a range of e-books using Amazon’s White Glove initiative, but this latest development sees it significantly enhance its publishing activities.
Caskie said the publisher was inspired by its success with publishing backlist titles from estates, with Caskie using the publishing as a way of further growing their author brands, through the use of social media and author-specific websites.
"From the estates there are books that publishers couldn’t publish in print, but which we thought ought to be exploited digitally. Working with Amazon on White Glove has given us the springboard: both they and Apple are really keen on original e-content, and very keen to grow and develop the digital market. Through working on the estates, we also now have access to a social media consultant, jacket designers, and copy editors and it made sense to also offer those skills to new writers."
For starters, Ipso intends to republish a re-edited version of Francis Cottam’s The Colony, and has commissioned two further sequels from the author. Cottam is agented by Caroline Michel chief executive of PFD, and Caskie said he would consider approaching other PFD clients if their output could not be fully handled by a publisher. In the case of the estates, print and e-book rights have been sold to a number of publishers, but not all the publishers wanted to re-publish the full backlists digitally so Ipso stepped in. Ipso Books will offer writers 50% of "whatever we receive from the retailer".
Caskie said the business was looking for short-form non-fiction, and series fiction, particularly if it challenged previously accepted publishing forms. He said there was also opportunity to use the medium to challenge the book form, both in terms of content and length. "The form of the book is going to advance and change quite a lot over the next few years. This is an immensely interesting area, and can be truly pioneering." Caskie said there was also an opportunity around graphic novels and illustrated books, which so far have under performed digitally, but which, according to Caskie, both Apple and Amazon are keen on publishers developing.
Caskie is to speak at this years FutureBook Conference (4th December) on author-specific publishing and growing brands online. For more information and to book tickets click here.