Agency creates publishing division

Signaling its expansion into the author representation business, Endeavor has hired veteran ICM lit agent Richard Abate to create an East Coast book division. Abate will operate out of existing offices the agency occupies in Carnegie Hall Towers.

The move puts Endeavor in league with ICM and WMA, Hollywood agencies that have full-service publishing businesses. Abate spent the past decade working alongside Esther Newberg and Sloan Harris at ICM, which has long run a very successful operation that makes publishing deals for swarms of bestselling books, and then feeds them to ICM West Coast agent Ron Bernstein, who turns many into film and TV deals.

Like UTA and CAA, Endeavor rarely brokered publishing deals. Instead, it formed alliances with independent author agents who made the book deals and turned to their Hollywood counterparts to shop manuscripts for film deals. Endeavor’s co-agent business has long been handled by Brian Lipson, who will continue to manage Endeavor’s West Coast lit operations.

The goal of Endeavor’s expansion is not only to turn a profit by brokering book deals, but also to put the growing agency on the ground floor of film-friendly literary material that can be serviced to movie and TV clients and be the catalyst for packages.

The move doesn’t come without a challenge, however.

Several independent lit agents were troubled by the expansion plan. The earth is still scorched from the time that Mike Ovitz started a lit division at AMG and then, after making some film deals for Tom Clancy, poached his book deal business from William Morris.

That led independent agents to shun him from opportunities to co-agent properties generated by their author clients. Most lit boutiques are propped up by a few core author clients, and those agencies are wary of bringing them into a big agency if poaching is a possibility.

Sources at Endeavor tried their best to allay the fears of the lit agent community. Abate, they said, has a long classy track record as a book agent, which is more civil and less predatory by nature than film and TV agent counterparts in Hollywood. There is an unwritten code, they said, that agents do not poach authors from book agents who entrust them to make movie deals.

Abate, who left ICM three weeks ago, will bring with him a list of about 50 authors, and has plans to grow a full-fledged business that will likely be staffed by at least five agents. Abate’s personal list includes longtime author clients like James Swanson, Evan Wright, Yiyun Li, Lisi Harrison, Dale Peck, Anthony Bozza and Ian Kerner. Abate, who has a doctorate in American Studies from New York U., began his career at Random House.

Lipson, who has made film deals for such authors as Stephen Ambrose, Brad Meltzer, Joyce Carol Oates and Jonathan Lethem, selectively made book deals as well, for Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Ambrose, Sharon Rocha (mother of murder victim Laci Peterson), and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

Endeavor’s Gotham headquarters house several film agents, and a marketing division.

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