Jackal says e-books on hold

Star literary agent Andrew Wylie has said that he’s prepared to take the licensing rights for his client’s e-books outside of print publishing and thinks the days of chain bookstores are numbered.

Wylie told Harvard Magazine: “‘We will take our 700 clients, see what rights are not allocated to publishers, and establish a company on their behalf to license those e-book rights directly to someone like Google, Amazon.com, or Apple.”

And Wylie’s clients - including Martin Amis, Dave Eggers and Elmore Leonard not to mention deceased authors such as Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Vladimir Nabokov - have the authorial mass to shift publishing in a new direction.

His opinions on big bookstores are characteristically cutthroat: “a combination of online booksellers like Amazon.com and independent bookstores will be the future of bookselling. The chains will go out of business - their model doesn’t work.”

Wylie’s ruthlessness as an agent earned him the nickname the Jackal when he lured Martin Amis away from his agent in the 1990s. He credits his skill as an agent to a heightened empathy. “My ability to transmit the writer’s qualities, to persuasively describe them with admiration, is strong because I have this sort of hollow core: I take on the author’s identity.”

Some may speculate that Wylie’s ‘taking my clients and going elsewhere’ approach is a just canny manoeuvre to negotiate better rates for digital rights. But the profile piece has a title that suggests Wylie’s agenting is almost godlike: “Fifteen Percent of Immortality”.

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