Pushing Boundaries & Expanding Horizons
last updated 05 May 2021
This year, Vicki Willden-Lebrecht has been nominated for The British Book Awards’ Literary Agent of the Year for a second time! To celebrate, we’re releasing a series of blogs about Vicki’s work and career. Our second blog asks Vicki about her predictions for the future of publishing, her work in Film & TV and the importance of exploring different territories…
Tell us about the launch of Bright’s China division.
The launch of our China division was a ground-breaking step for us as an agency. I could see the massive opportunities in Publishing across Asia, and following our success in establishing our office in the US back in 2014, I knew Bright could work as well internationally as it did in the UK. In 2018, I attended the Shanghai International Book Fair with my Senior Agent Lucie Luddington who then became Head of our China Division. Personally, and professionally it was an incredibly rewarding trip. Even though we were completely new to this market, we established some brilliant new client relationships, learned a huge amount about the publishing scene in Asia, and laid the groundwork for exciting new projects.
Since that first visit, we’ve hired a Chinese-speaking agent, launched our China website and celebrated the release of several debut author/illustrated works in Asia, including Paddy Donnelly’s ‘The Vanishing Lake’ with Yehoo Press, and El Primo Ramon’s ‘The Heartless Deer’ with Ta Chien Publishing. The appetite for high-quality, beautiful books in this market has been a great opportunity for our artists and authors.
Lucie Luddington and Associate Agent Ilaria Vigilante visiting China.
Where else do you see opportunity?
There’s opportunity in so many places, but I’m really excited for everything we’re doing in TV & Film. The media landscape is so fast-moving, the need for new content is so high and the content our authors and illustrators deliver is of a remarkable level.
When I recognised this opportunity a few years ago, we hired a top TV producer to help us, headed out to the Cannes Film Festival, and pitched our books to producers and studios over some very over-priced Gin & Tonics. We came away with some huge successes, and there are a serious number of projects in the works that I can’t tell you much about right now but also can’t wait to shout about!
I’ve loved doing this work. I’ve been able to go back to many of the books created early in Bright’s journey. Just as I did originally, supporting the artists in writing and launching their stories to find the right publisher, I’m now working in the same way to find them a home in the world of TV & Film. A single property can contain multiple stories across the world and characters. We work with our artists and authors to extend their stories, explore secondary characters, or turn the one world and story into a series.
How did your journey into TV & Film begin?
The first TV deal I worked on, about 15 years ago, was super tough. I was appalled at how my artists were treated as their work moved through the big business machine of media when this was supposed to be an exciting time for them. So often the money guys were making the big decisions and didn’t seem to have respect for the creators. I would be in meetings to discuss key creative choices and I was like, let’s ask the artist, they know and understand this world better than anyone. I was looked at as if I had three heads, and the answers were always ‘The market research said this, we know best, and we own the rights so we don’t need to ask them’. It was so frustrating - why on earth would you not want input from the person who created the property in the first place?
I learned so much from this process. Since then, all the deals I’ve done in this sphere have made sure the creatives I represent get a seat at the table, so they can make comments and have input throughout the process. The rights might sit with the studio, but I ensure that the relationships we’ve built are with people who appreciate the benefit of having the artists on board. It’s all about working with good people that we can trust, whose top priority is making sure the show works.
Artwork by Debby Rahmalia
What do you think the future of Children’s Publishing holds?
Our industry is currently going through an important moment in authentic representation and the championing of diverse voices in the creative agencies. Right now, we are all working to be conscious of, and rewire the preconceived biases that we have. As well as working on ourselves, I see this as a great opportunity with the stories, books, and illustrations Bright is involved with to create a wholly inclusive world for us all and the generations to come. It’s important for all of us as agents to work to bring about this future by discovering new diverse talent, developing authentic stories and fighting for continued change. I’m really proud that Bright has recently joined Agents for Change, an assembly of agencies working together towards a more diverse industry.