Top Literary Agents still Doing Well, But…

This week I had an amazing time meeting with many of the top literary agents in business book publishing (although they all deal in other areas as well, such as fiction and poetry). What impressed me the most was that these agents—who really were among the top agents in publishing—are still selling their books to publishing companies and garnering big bucks for the best projects. Speaking to them you would think that there is no recession. But I probed further by asking them this question:

“Has the recession hurt your business?”

And their responses were almost all identical. They say that while they are still selling top projects to the biggest and best publishers, there are fewer editors and publishing houses to sell their books to, and as a result, they are indeed feeling the effects of recession. Many of them, with sadness, named editors who they had relationships with who are now without jobs.

So what is the bottom line? If you are one of the industry’s top agents you will always do well. This is reminiscent of former GE CEO Jack Welch’s rule: if you are #1 or #2 in your market, then you will always do well. But if you are number five or six, watch out. If you are #5 in your market you will catch pneumonia when #1 catches a cold. In business book publishing you don’t have to be #1 or #2, just one of the industry’s top tier agents. That’s because regardless of what happens with the damned economy, there will always be publishers hungry for top notch authors and projects.   




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