When United Talent Agency, which represents celebrities like Chris Pratt, Timothée Chalamet, Kevin Hart, Bad Bunny and Lizzo, bought esteemed London agency Curtis Brown last summer, it made a bold attempt to gain a bigger foothold in the book world. With the acquisition, UTA took over the estates of towering literary figures such as John le Carré, Ian Fleming, Daphne du Maurier and AA Milne.
Now UTA is expanding its ambitions even further by buying the Fletcher & Company literary agency, dramatically expanding the number of contemporary novelists and non-fiction writers. The agencies announced the deal on Wednesday.
Founded by Christy Fletcher in 2003, Fletcher & Company represents hundreds of writers, including novelists such as Maggie Shipstead and Daniel Mason, and non-fiction authors such as Gretchen Rubin and investigative journalist John Carreyrou.
The sale, for an undisclosed sum, gives UTA a greater stake in the literary world at a time when the major talent agencies are ferociously vying for size. Talent agencies are also in a race to develop intellectual property into TV shows, movies and podcasts, and books are considered a rich source of IP
Last summer, the competitive landscape changed when Creative Artists Agency bought ICM partners, in a blockbuster deal that brought in major ICM literary agents and authors, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Walter Isaacson and Cormac McCarthy. It was the largest consolidation among talent agencies since William Morris Agency merged with Endeavor in 2009.
Some of the largest agencies – UTA ranks third behind its rival giants WME and CAA – are trying to grow to counteract consolidation in publishing and other corners of the entertainment industry. The hope is that getting bigger will give them an edge over competitors and more leverage to negotiate on behalf of their customers.
The largest publishers have grown rapidly in recent years by buying up smaller houses and merging with each other. One of the largest companies, Simon & Schuster, is currently for sale.
UTA made its first big move into publishing in 2015, when it established a publishing house to develop and sell books from its celebrity clients, including works by the actors and comedians Hilary Duff, Seth Rogen, and Chelsea Handler. Many of those projects were successful and UTA has since expanded into other genres.
UTA president David Kramer said the deal with Fletcher & Company came about in part because the agency wanted to develop more projects based on existing intellectual property and “stuff with a built-in audience.”
“There’s no better place to do that than with books that are popular or have stood the test of time,” he said.
Fletcher, who will lead the expanded UTA Publishing with current head, Byrd Leavell, said joining UTA would benefit her agency’s authors as many of them look to become multi-platform brands and expand their work into podcasts. , screen adjustments or speaking engagements. Another benefit UTA offered is its consumer analytics and marketing capabilities, Fletcher said, which have become essential tools for authors and publishers as writers look for new ways to develop an online audience and market their work in a crowded field.
“The problem with discovery is now the problem of publishing,” she said. “To ensure that authors have longevity and continue to grow, these are the tools agencies should be able to provide to help them rise above the noise.”