Agency begins new chapter

The Gersh Agency has expanded into the book biz, forming a department that will broker publishing deals for author clients. Phyllis Wender will run the division from Gersh’s New York HQ and will bring agents Sonia Pabley and Susan Cohen with her.

The tenpercentery’s move into book deals follows one by Endeavor, which hired away Richard Abate from ICM to establish its first book division. That prompted a lawsuit by ICM, which sought a restraining order to prevent Abate from leaving until his contract expires at year’s end. A federal judge refused to shelve Abate, and the dispute will be decided by an arbitrator.

Gersh will have a much quieter launch by comparison. It joins Endeavor, ICM and WMA as Hollywood agencies with dedicated book dealmaking operations. CAA and UTA do not have book divisions but co-agent film deals with independent lit agents. The existence of publishing divisions at talent agencies makes independent lit agents wary of bringing in author clients for film deals because of the predatory reputations of Hollywood agencies.

Percentery co-prexy Bob Gersh, who with David Gersh launched a division last year to make on-field contract deals for athletes, said that the book division was part of an attempt by the agency to keep growing and to better service existing clients with writer aspirations. Wender’s track record, he said, should allay any fears from lit agents who’ve brought their books to Gersh for film deals in the past.

“Most book agents know Phyllis, and her reputation and stature will dictate how the division will do business,” Gersh said. “We’ve wanted a good book division for years but never found the right person to run it. We think she will be a great combination with Amy Schiffman in Los Angeles and Sarah Self in New York, who make film and TV deals for authors.”

Wender ran Rosenstone/Wender with Howard Rosenstone, who died last year. She brings her assets to Gersh, including Pabley and Cohen. Wender’s clientele ranges from stage talent like director Jack O’Brien, the late Wendy Wasserstein, Frank McGuinness and Jeffrey Lane to authors like Amy Bloom, Jamie Lee Curtis (for publishing), Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Lee Martin, Loring Mandel and the estate of Louise Fitzhugh.

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