1250Financial Times asks how IFP breathed new life into literary James Bond estate
- Aug 18, 2007Financial Times asks how IFP breathed new life into literary James Bond estate
Ian Fleming Publications' decision to reanimate the late author's most famous creation, James Bond, in a novel by Sebastian Faulks to mark Fleming's centenary next year is the latest in a resurrection trade that has made literary estates some of the most powerful in the media.
As well as the 14 original Bond books and posthumous adult novels by other authors (including Kingsley Amis), IFP has reaped rewards with the launch in 2004 of the Young Bond series. These books, by Charlie Higson, have topped children's bestseller lists across the world and tapped into a new generation of 007 fans - reports the FT.
"We were looking at a younger market because that is very interesting," says Corinne Turner, IFP managing director. "We are not making Young Bond into films yet because we wanted to establish them as a literary series first."
It is the ability to control their brand names that makes estates so powerful. In the Faulks deal the estate will retain full copyright. Though the terms are being kept secret, the Birdsong author is expected to share royalties and be paid an advance. Devil May Care will be published by Penguin, part of Pearson, owner of the Financial Times.
Literary reincarnations sanctioned by estates have made some authors more prolific in death than in life. Despite her death in 1986, "Virginia Andrews" has continued to pump out gothic romances, thanks chiefly to the ghostwriting services of Andrew Neiderman.
Robert Ludlum preserved his literary legacy by preparing outlines for thrillers to be written post mortem. Eight Covert One titles and five other novels have appeared since his death in 2001.
Some of the world's most high-profile estates, including those of CS Lewis, Tolkien and Agatha Christie, are published by HarperCollins UK. Its publishing director of estates, David Brawn, says keeping an author's name alive is not about profit. "It's about keeping the flame alive and protecting the integrity of their work."
But only authors whose names resonate through ancillary media - high-profile films, television series and computer games - should apply.
The owner of Agatha Christie's rights has kept her in the public eye without resorting to new books. Agatha Christie Ltd is part of the intellectual property group Chorion, which also represents the estates of Enid Blyton, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.
As well as the Grammy Award-winning Poirot television series, ACL has produced several adaptations of Miss Marple, including the latest version, Marple, with the British actress Geraldine McEwan in the lead role. It has also branched into computer games, starting with Murder on the Orient Express.
"We have absolute control over what's made," says Mathew Prichard, ACL chairman and Christie's grandson. "The most important thing about television is that it keeps the books alive. We definitely see a rise in sales across her whole list when the series are screened."
Although ACL has allowed Miss Marple to drop her fusty image, it has prevented "inappropriate" adaptations. In 1995 the company jumped on an attempted update of Towards Zero that featured incest: all association with Christie was excised.
Often an author already has an extensive literary canon to exploit. Dahl and Dahl Ltd, which handles the estate of the children's author Roald Dahl, has refused to create new books, unlike the estate of Dr Seuss for example.
Dominic Gregory of DDL explains: "It's not part of our plan because his existing books continue to sell very well."
Among projects the estate has been involved with are the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which the author's widow Felicity Dahl co-produced, and a ride at the Alton Towers theme park. "The books are our raison d'être," Mr Gregory says. "With everything we do in terms of exploitation, it is about getting people reading them."
Because copyright comes to an end - 70 years after an author's death in Europe, sooner in the US - literary estates have turned to trademark registration for an extra layer of protection. Characters, book titles and authors' names have all been registered.
For dead authors who are still in copyright, trademarking may help estates keep control after the term ends, says intellectual property lawyer Laurence Kaye. "If you intend to republish a book that has gone out of copyright, you would have to do it in a way that did not infringe any trademarks."
IFP has registered everything from Ian Fleming to James Bond and Miss Moneypenny, so any attempt to reproduce the books without permission after they go out of copyright would meet difficulties.
Mr Kaye says: "You would have to manipulate the book so that there was nothing in it that infringed the registered trademarks."
Bond should remain lucrative for Fleming's heirs well beyond his first century.
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