What the Jackal Says

I have my issues with Portfolio, Conde Nast’s business mag, for all the usual reasons, mostly wondering if it will actually survive beyond a year. But then it publishes pieces like Lloyd Grove’s lengthy Q&A with literary agent Andrew Wylie and I’m left to wonder what other rabbits will emerge from the magazine’s hat. Here’s a small sample:

L.G.: Who’s giving you, at this point, the greater cash flow—your dead authors or your live ones?


Probably live—yeah, I’m sure it’s live. But there are some considerable

estates that we represent. Our business, the best piece of it, is all

about figuring out—when a writer is young—whether they will, in the

course of time, write many books which will remain in print, in many

languages. And then to get those writers into the right hands,

internationally, country by country, so that their revenues and their

presentation internationally will be maximized. In the case of older,

more established writers, who come to us later in their careers, what

we find is that usually agencies in this country have not a very

thorough knowledge of foreign markets and don’t have a lot of access to

those markets directly. They operate as subagents. So they don’t really

understand the difference between one house and another. And

furthermore, they don’t really know the people involved. So, because I

have traveled so much, and concentrated so much on this aspect of the

business, I can pick up the phone and tell [leading French publisher]

Antoine Gallimard that I think this writer is very important, and

because we know each other and he knows that for 20 years, I haven’t

done this every few months, that there must be a reason for it, then

it’s probably worth paying attention to. And so we also look at getting

a writer’s rights renewed on a regular basis-redesigned, re-presented,

so we’re quite a lot more diligent at that side of the business than I

think all of our competitors are. Because I think their focus is more

national. So our bet, financially speaking, is that if you are going to

represent quality, you must do so internationally, and it must be a

long-term bet. So all our representations are representations made in

the belief that the people we represent will last and will be published


Read the rest, especially about how repackaging Philip Roth’s backlist made him a star internationally.