Agent Andrew Wylie Is Threatening to Bypass Publishers

Agent Andrew Wylie is threatening to bypass publishers and license his authors’ e-book rights directly to Google, Amazon or Apple because he is unhappy with publishers terms. In an interview with Harvard Magazine, Wylie said the agency’s negotiations with publishers on e-books were currently on hold across the board.

“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, or Apple. It would be another business, set up on parallel tracks to the frontlist book business,” Wylie said.

Such a “heretical strategy” would likely meet with stiff resistance from publishing houses, the piece notes in response. The Wylie Agency’s stellar list includes authors Martin Amis, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie, as well as the estates of giants including Italo Calvino, Arthur Miller, Vladimir Nabokov and John Updike.

Wylie also takes issue with the deals publishers are making with Apple, which he says are similar to those entered into by music publishers. “The music industry did itself in by taking its profitability and allocating it to device holders. Manufacturing and distribution accounted for roughly 30 percent of the music industry’s profit. These were conveyed to Apple in the deal for iTunes. But why should someone who makes a machine—the iPod, which is the contemporary equivalent of a jukebox—take all the profit?” (The

Ah-ha, a standoff! Just what we’ve been waiting for, a player with enough hudzpah to challenge the Big Six. Benedictine Page’s post pits literary superagent Andrew Wylie against the publishing industry. That is, thetraditional publishing industry. This could get ugly, but I’m pleased to see someone willing to challenge the Gutenberg Paradigm from within. Outcome will be watched by authors, agents, publishers, book sellers everywhere.

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