Literary Agents: A Writer's Introduction

John F. Baker, Author MacMillan Publishing Company $14.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-02-861740-4
""Literary agents,"" writes Baker, ""are the uncrowned kings and queens of the book publishing business today."" In this eminently useful guide to these publishing royalty, PW's editorial director provides the information writers need to determine which agent is right for them, and to gain entree to his or her court. The emphasis is on helping the aspiring author, and so Baker bypasses agents at large firms like ICM or William Morris in favor of independent practitioners, more open to taking on newcomers--but established writers would do well to heed his findings. For in the 44 profiles, alphabetically arranged, that follow a background introduction, Baker harvests from agents from A-Z (Dominick Abel to Al Zuckerman) wisdom gained from decades upon decades of experience. Even before Baker reports that Don Congdon ""began work in 1936 as a teenage messenger at the long-gone Lurton Blassingame agency at $12 a week,"" it's clear that his book doubles as a history of contemporary publishing--and as an oracle of its future: ""The industry's continuing pursuit of a paper-based medium is, he declares, a waste of time,"" writes Baker of Richard Curtis. But above all this is sourcebook for new writers, and Baker serves them well. The profiles, based on in-person interviews, include data on agents' history, attitudes, genre preferences, author list and means of contact. Abjuring fact-packing, the profiles present elegant, occasionally tart portraiture: Georges Borchardt is ""the very model of the dapper Frenchman""; Robert Lescher flashes ""a frequent smile that does not always seem to accord with what he is saying."" As amenable to being read cover to cover as to being referenced one profile at a time, this unique volume provides the scoop on ""the people who make it happen."" (The book also includes contact info for 20 agents not profiled.) Agent, Jean Naggar. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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