ICM books U.K. digs

Agency's London ops to pursue Blighty talent

HOLLYWOOD — The ICM book division has opened a London branch, ICM Books Ltd., to handle foreign rights to U.S. titles and serve as a conduit to the increasingly lucrative Blighty lit market.

ICM’s move follows a flurry of activity by London and Gotham book companies to consolidate their power on both sides of the Atlantic.

British publishing imprints A.M. Heath and Hodder Headline recently opened N.Y. offices; Gotham lit agency Janklow & Nesbit opened a London branch more than a year ago; William Morris retains lit agents in London.

ICM has traditionally used London co-agents for its titles. The agency has held a minority share in ICM U.K. since chairman Duncan Heath engineered a management buyout of the shop in early 2002.

Setting up shop

As a mark of the U.K.’s strategic importance to the agency, ICM is committing a significant staff to the operation. It will include foreign rights director Margaret Halton; foreign rights manager Betsy Robbins; Tricia Davey, a former motion picture agent at ICM and BKWU; and Kate Jones, a former editorial director at Viking Penguin and director of Ian Fleming Publications.

The London staff will report to ICM longtime book division chiefs Amanda Urban and Esther Newberg.

Urban and Newberg told Daily Variety that the main motivation for the move was to sell U.K. and foreign rights directly.

But a London literary beachhead for ICM will serve a number of purposes. It will enhance its leverage in negotiating international deals at a time when the New York-London lit circuit is growing more competitive and publishers are increasingly seeking world rights to manuscripts. And it will provide access to new U.K. authors, providing more material for the ICM pipeline.

“Esther and I felt it was essential to have a committed group on the ground in London discovering a new generation of talent,” Urban said.

“As a full-service agency, we hope to offer our U.K. clients access to our film and television arms as well as our theatrical, music, commercial, lecture and videogame divisions,” Newberg added.

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