International Literary Properties, the company that acquires copyrights from authors and their estates, and currently manages the catalogs of more than 30 writers, is attending this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair with an eye toward expanding its growing portfolio. We are focused on acquiring beloved, top-performing properties that allow us to work alongside existing agents and publishers, and with family members where possible, to nurture and grow their presence across all media, and introduce iconic works to new audiences. We’re well-positioned to replicate the success we’ve seen with our acquisitions thus far, such as the estates of Georges Simenon and James M. Cain.
ILP acquired a majority stake in the estate of internationally bestselling author Georges Simenon in 2020 and since then has been working closely with Simenon’s son, John Simenon, to bring the Belgian novelist’s works to new audiences. A key part of the strategy was to strike a development deal with Playground Entertainment for a TV series featuring Simenon’s famous detective Maigret, to be penned by showrunner Patrick Harbison (Homeland, 24, ER) and sold by Red Arrow. “Colin Callender’s Playground is a truly transatlantic company—located in New York and London, just like ILP, so we are very excited to be working with the team there to bring the first-ever contemporary take on the beloved Maigret character to global viewers,” says my colleague Hilary Strong, CEO for U.K. and Europe, adding, “We are also looking seriously at opportunities to adapt Simenon’s extraordinary Romans durs for the podcasting space, which they are perfectly positioned for.”
On the publishing front, the estate is working closely with its agency on the Simenon estate, Peters, Fraser, & Dunlop, to negotiate the renewal of its major English-language publishing agreement with Penguin Random House. John Simenon says,“ILP has been highly supportive of all of Georges Simenon Ltd’s activities to date and I look forward to expanding these further together in the future.”
The new television deal builds on the success of the Frenchlanguage feature film version of Maigret et la Jeune Morte (Maigret and the Young Dead Girl), starring Gerard Depardieu, which has been one of the top ten films of the year in France. A follow-up film of La Morte de Belle (The Death of Belle) is planned. Simenon’s works continue to sell around the world, with translation licenses placed in more than 25 territories.
Similarly, ILP acquired the estate of iconic American hardboiled crime writer James M. Cain in 2020 and has used its expertise to investigate and perfect the chain of title in his seminal works—a complex endeavor given the vintage of the contracts involved. ILP has freed up audiovisual rights to The Cocktail Waitress for the first time and has entered into a soon-to-be-announced development deal with a renowned international producer.
In recent months, ILP also closed a major movie deal for Cain’s Double Indemnity with an American studio, a theatre deal for the title with Anthology Theatre Productions in the U.K., and a substantial TV deal for Cain’s iconic The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Heading into the fair, our teams are eager to meet with old friends, make new connections, and search out new properties across all genres for investment. One of our primary goals is to be a top client for every agency in the business.
In addition to its stakes in the Cain and Simenon estates, ILP owns all or part of the estates of true crime icon Ann Rule; novelist Evelyn Waugh; playwright and screenwriter Robert Bolt; Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Ed Emberley; Regency romance legend Georgette Heyer; Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, two of the four original Queens of Crime; and cartoonist and graphic novelist Howard Cruse; as well as dozens of others, with more big names to be announced over the coming months.
We’re always looking for new authors to add to ILP’s portfolio. What we do with respect to legacy management for an author’s catalog is unique. In particular, we focus on treating backlist works like frontlist—investing time, money, and other resources, to ensure that great books live forever.