Tibor Jones are delighted to share this recent Bookseller trade profile. Some of the highlights include our approach to discovering new talent, tackling the post-digital landscape and staying true to our roots in Brixton while working in India and helping authors and businesses deliver credible brand extension. Click here to download the full pdf:
The Bookseller: Brixton Rock, Tibor Jones profile PDF
The Bookseller Trade Profile
At a publishing bash recently, Tibor Jones & Associates agent Sophie Lambert bumped into a director of another agency who asked: ‘What are you doing in down there in Brixton?’ It is probably a question on the minds of many in publishing. The typical London agent is a territorial animal, keeping strictly to its hunting grounds north of the Thames—perhaps barring an annual summer migration to a Tuscan villa. Setting up in the ultima Thule of edgy, yet increasingly bourgeois, bohemian Brixton is non-traditional to say the least.
Yet for husband-and-wife team Kevin Conroy Scott and Landa Acevedo-Scott, who co-founded Tibor Jones four years ago, having a Brixton HQ perfectly fits in with how they envisage a modern agency. Scott, who worked at A P Watt before setting up Tibor Jones, explains that part of the reason for their location is economical: “I think [agents] are going to have to work a lot harder for a lot less. So we celebrate where we’re from, keep the overheads down and stay as nimble as possible.”
Yet apart from the obvious cost benefits, Tibor Jones’s Brixton base is synonymous with the agency’s whole “outsider” ethos. Scott says: “There are a wide range of authors on our list, but there is consistency in that we are attracted to: people who do things differently, because that’s what we want to do.”
Tibor Jones—the name is a joint tribute to influential graphic designer Tibor Kalman and to Nerys Jones, an author Scott represented who died in 2007—certainly has an eclectic roster, including Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker (whose book of lyrics Scott sold to Faber last month), the architect Rem Koolhaas and former Manchester City footballer Paul Lake, whose memoir of a career cut short by injury, I’m Not Really Here (Century), is published in August.
If the agency has another philosophy, it is in the way that it treats all of its clients—as not just writers. “My big pitch is that we’re in the storytelling business and we’re here to help people tell stories that can go into all different formats and shapes” says Scott. “You can’t limit yourself to thinking about this traditional model of ‘I’m going to sell something to a publisher.’”
That approach extends to Wilbur Smith, for whom Tibor Jones consults on international sales and marketing with Smith’s agent, the Charles Pick Consultancy. CPC and Tibor Jones are joined at the hip. CPC owner and former publisher Martin Pick (the agency was set up by his father Charles, who was a publisher at Heinemann for more than 20 years) is the Tibor Jones chairman, while Scott is a director of CPC. Together, the two agencies are reimagining Smith for the 21st century. Pick says: “You can see the potential of the new market— a younger section of the market coming at the material through social media. Our role is to stimulate the publishers to maximise the opportunities.”
There is “a lot in the pipeline” with film and television producers for Smith’s backlist, and in January Tibor Jones and CPC went on a “content capture” trip to South Africa to film Smith in his native landscape with Macmillan as a partner. The video and photographs from the trip are being used as part of a digital campaign for Smith’s Facebook page and forthcoming refurbished website the author will also start tweeting from next month. Scott says: “The big question facing agents is how can you get your authors to go out and do extra things in a credible way, without looking like a snake oil salesman? With Wilbur, I think we are finding a way of doing that.”
Clients for Acevedo-Scott— a former business development manager with the Barbican—are mainlycreative industry organisations. She has worked extensively with the University of East Anglia’s creative writing programme on building its brand, part of which led to the joint venture between UEA and the Guardian for accredited creative writing courses.
Lambert, meanwhile, was the driver behind Tibor Jones’ Pageturner Prize, a competition for new writers. This year’s winner, Gabriel Gbadamosi, received £1,000 and Tibor Jones representation. The agency will launch an Indian version of the Pageturner Prize next year at the Jaipur Literary Festival. Both the Pageturner Prize and the creative writing courses are part of talent development, which is by necessity a bigger part of the modern agent’s job description. Lambert says: “Editors are increasingly risk adverse and don’t have the time to take on and really nurture young new authors in the way they might have done 15 years ago.”
Almost counter-intuitively, Scott argues that starting at the time of the “two tsunamis”—the recession and digital—has helped. “Being small and young, we can react ahead of others. I hope that in five years’ time we’re still going to be innovating and enabling people to tell the stories they care about. There is no point in being blinkered about what’s going on, the market’s just going to continue to change.” Young gun agents Tibor Jones talk to Tom Tivnan about building brands and nurturing talent
The Bookseller | 15 July 2011 www.thebookseller.com