Friday, October 19, 2007

Literary Agents in a Cat Fight

The agenting world has gone a bit wacky across the pond. Today’s issue of The Economist has an article called Literary Agents: A Tale of Glamour, Greed and Gossip. Sounds rather like an Enquirer headline.

Apparently an agency in England called PFD is in chaos. The agency was bought six years ago by a sports-marketing firm and recently hired Caroline Michel, from America’s William Morris agency, to run the agency. Apparently the agents at PFD weren’t so much upset with Ms. Michel as they were with the direction the sports-marketing firm was taking the company.

Twenty-one of the company’s 70 staff have turned in resignations. Some of the agents tried to buy the company, but were turned down. Board members accused the agents of taking big bonuses and commissions for themselves. Departing agents intend to take their loyal clients. The company says they keep the reprints and film rights for books, new productions of plays, and video and DVD rights for films that have been released on the big screen – the backlist. The defectors intend to start up their own agency. And so it goes, back and forth.

In the meantime, Ms. Michel is working to make PFD the European version of America’s William Morris – aggressive, big, fingers into everything from books to films to play to authors to actors. She’s still losing agents, though. And the reputation of PFD is suffering.

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