Literary agent Andrew Wylie signs controversial exclusive deal with Amazon

Andrew Wylie is one of the book world’s most notorious agents who, in reality show parlance, definitely isn’t here to make friends. Dubbed “the Jackal,” if that gives you an idea of how he’s viewed, Wylie is best known for successfully extracting enormous advances from publishers for his big-name clients, as well as poaching authors from other agents. Now the highly visible agent, whose stable includes the likes of Dave Eggers, Salman Rushdie and Philip Roth (as well as the estates of Nabokov and Updike) is creating a stir in the realm of e-books.

Last week Wylie signed a deal with Amazon for exclusive e-book rights to his clients’ novels, including such classics as Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. For at least two years, these works will only be available via the online retailer and only on Amazon’s Kindle or devices with the downloaded Kindle app. Many are considering this a literary monopoly, vertical integration for a medium barely into its infancy. And where even the famously hermetic and anti-third party iPad permits users to download e-books from a variety of sources, the Kindle only allows readers to access digital copies from Amazon. Random House, which published a number of the titles covered by the deal, has since announced their intentions to dispute its legality. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum issued a statement which said, in part, “The Wylie Agency’s decision to sell e-books exclusively to Amazon for titles which are subject to active Random House agreements undermines our longstanding commitments to and investments in our authors, and it establishes this Agency as our direct competitor. Therefore, regrettably, Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved.”

Square Books, an independent bookstore in Oxford, Mississippi, has a compelling take on the whole situation.

What do you think about the issue, Shelf Lifers?

Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • YES

    What a load of crap. You can’t even read them on the Kindle app on iPad. No way.

  • alex

    people aren’t gonig to want to read these specific backlist titles enough to buy that specific reader if they already own another one. you need to make the books available to all retailers, end of story. not a smart move.

  • Sheli

    It sounds like a really stupid idea to me. It seems to limit the options for his clients, if I am reading the article correctly, so why would someone want to stick with him? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • alex

      you are reading it correctly.. those authors will be losing tons of e-sales by not being able to sell their digital books at other retailers

    • Tara

      Somewhat of a self correcting problem, isn’t it? If reader wont buy the books, the publisher/agency will die out.

  • Kevin

    Thanks Wylie Agency and Amazon! I have been trying to decide whether to go with the Kindle or the Nook and you just made my decision for me… Nook it is!

  • Steve

    Any Amazon Kindle book can be read on any Amazon Kindle App, including I-phone. This is great progress for the world of e-books. Publishers are just mad ‘cuz they are not getting their cut, but it’s a smart move for authors.

  • Elle

    If it is just the backlist who has the option to publish those titles? If its RH with no reversion then they win. If they reverted and Wylie is the agent for them then he is solid. But part of the issue is that I read where Wylie formed a “publishing company” to put out these titles so that is sort of a conflict of interest – he is the agent and publisher of the titles?
    Now – if Wylie is planning to do the same with new titles that could be a problem for the authors.

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