Home » Big Publishing, Non-US » Bonnier Zaffre poaches Wilbur Smith in eight-figure deal

Bonnier Zaffre poaches Wilbur Smith in eight-figure deal

19 June 2017

From The Bookseller:

Bonnier Zaffre has poached author Wilbur Smith from HarperCollins in an eight-figure sterling deal, described as “one of the biggest in publishing history” by Bonnier Publishing group chief executive Richard Johnson.

Mark Smith, c.e.o. of Bonnier Zaffre, acquired world all-language rights to eight new Wilbur Smith books, together with English language rights to 34 backlist titles including classics such as When The Lion Feeds, Elephant Song and River God, from Kevin Conroy Scott at Tibor Jones Agency.

Smith, who is now 84, is said to have sold more than 130 million copies of his novels worldwide, and is currently published in 25 languages.

HarperCollins published Smith’s first co-authored title, Golden Lion, in September 2015 after he moved from Pan Macmillan in a six-book deal, rumoured to be worth £15m. Before that Smith published 34 books with Pan Macmillan. The last book under contract with HarperCollins deal is due to be published this autumn.

. . . .

“With over 130 million books sold, Wilbur is at the top of his game and is much loved around the globe. With world rights in the new titles, we are very much looking forward to working with likeminded, entrepreneurial and commercial publishers in all international territories,” he said.

He told The Bookseller there would be “more of this to come”, with Bonnier Publishing looking to grow both by building their own brand authors and by buying them in.

“This is exactly part of our strategy, if we do have the opportunity to deal with, talk to and convince other brand name authors we are the place to be,” said Smith. “We’ve built a great team and we’re having great results, we’re very focused and determined and we have a successful approach to commercial fiction; I think what we do is appealing so I hope there will be more of this to come.”

Asked whether other publishers should be nervous about their prized writers being poached, Smith added “there is enough opportunity for everyone to succeed.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Big Publishing, Non-US

20 Comments to “Bonnier Zaffre poaches Wilbur Smith in eight-figure deal”

  1. Perhaps I’m being ageist here, but if he’s 84 isn’t there the possibility he’ll die before he can fulfill any contract?

    • …it’s more like a probability, not a possibility.

    • That was my first thought, but he signed a six-book deal with HarperCollins of which the first came out in September 2015 and the last is due this autumn. So apparently an eight-book deal will take him less than three years.

    • It’s more of a license to use the name and IPs. Each series has a “co-author” attached.

    • I think Dave, with what they are buying backlist there’s plenty of time for him. Just recently met a 96 year old man, sharp as heck, strong of body. Not sure all old age is at death’s door, though sadly, one can be that at any age.

  2. You never know. He could be a low-mileage 84.

  3. Several Indie pundits have suggested, hopefully, that new blood is wising up to the ways of the big publishers. Perhaps we will see the big publishers fight amongst themselves, throwing ever larger amounts of money at authors already in their system to lure them away from other big publishers in place of nurturing new talent.

  4. These deals remind me so much of sports teams that “bought” their star players at the peak of their game – and then watched them dwindle back down to just a bit better than average (or take a career-ending injury, all too frequently).

    Compared to the teams that really dig through the players in the draft to find those that will be stars in three to five years. (Again, barring injury.)

    I sometimes wish I could bet on the winner of a championship for, say, the year 2022…

  5. If nothing else, the press release was certainly buzzword-enabled. I felt slightly faint from marketing flashbacks while reading it…

  6. just a couple thoughts; That’s not a lot of money for the whole humongous rights and many many already pub’d books. Foreign rights are a gold mine as are movie option rights.

    Though the ceo didnt say apparently, one wonders how this is paid out. All at once or over the usual strangle econ used ONLY for authors, over five or more years, with performance demands in between

    I like this author’s work and am glad for his boon.

    And I smell a predator in Bonnier Zaffre. My hunch is certain authors sniffing the mon
    ey in the supposed air, who are always hyping in extremis are going to take a shower for a change, and show up at Bonnier Zaffre, HOPING to wheedle a deal for themselves.

    My hunch tho is Bonnier Zaffre already has their eyes on certain authors, not walk ins.

    and this line, is true only if the guy is an idiot about business: “Asked whether other publishers should be nervous about their prized writers being poached, Smith added “there is enough opportunity for everyone to succeed.””

    No, man. First out of the gate with strong runners wins. Saying there are enough gold medals for all the runners would be only said to make others think one is a agreeable pussycat instead of a shark with plenty of room yet left in its belly.

    Oddly, I think Bonnier Zaffre didnt buy the work of an author. They bought an entire continent, most of which is already sotten with diamonds and coal.

    AND IF THE author was so inclined and had the energy prob could have hired a team to format and ebook everything, sell foreign rights himself, run a printing press and distrib through Ing or other, keep a calender for hungry indie filmakers and estab studios to come try to lure…. and make four times as much moolah just on the books alone.

    • And for the same reason they pay infamous people too much money, it makes good headlines and causes some to think they are a going concern.

      By ‘getting’ Wilbur, Bonnier Zaffre gives the impression that ‘trad-pub is still where the big bucks are!’, hoping to sucker in the next ‘big thing’ before it’s already an indie ‘big thing’ and they have to pay too much for it. For Wilbur it seems to be true (to a point), but for all the other hopefuls that can’t figure out the whale math(TM)? Not so much.

      I’m going to make a prediction for the future. As ‘well’ as B&N and other bookstores are doing, I predict that Amazon will frown on the next set of contracts from the qig5 if they include ‘agency’ on the ebooks – or anything else controlling the pricing. And Amazon won’t do anything like remove the pre-sales ‘reserve a copy for me’ buttons, they’ll just drop ‘all’ discounts from the publisher’s books. After all, it would be an interesting experiment to see if those publisher prices are what the public really wants – right? 😉

  7. Well, go old dude! Make sure to spend it all before you pass on the the great typewriter factory in the sky.

    I’m kidding. My father is 87 and still pretty dang spry considering the bone marrow disease he has. Mind still sharp, but he has slowed down a lot in the last couple of years.

    I plan on still writing when I’m 88 and beyond, so I’m all for an author getting loads of money in their golden years.

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