This article on literary agent Andrew Wylie is highly entertaining, even if you don’t work in publishing, I think. In an industry of characters, he stands out as one who particularly does not give even one f***.
I think that Napoleon was a terrific guy before he started crossing national borders. Over the course of time, his temperament changed, and his behavior was insensitive to the nations he occupied.
Through greed—which it sees differently, as technological development and efficiency for the customer and low price, all that—[Amazon] has walked itself into the position of thinking that it can thrive without the assistance of anyone else. That is megalomania.
The biggest single problem since 1980 has been that the publishing industry has been led by the nose by the retail sector. The industry analyzes its strategies as though it were Procter and Gamble. It’s Hermès. It’s selling to a bunch of effete, educated snobs who read. Not very many people read. Most of them drag their knuckles around and quarrel and make money. We’re selling books. It’s a tiny little business. It doesn’t have to be Walmartized.
On the business of publishing:
What I thought was: If I have to read James Michener, Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, I’m toast. Fuck it. This is about making money. I know where the money is. It’s on Wall Street. I’m not going to sit around reading this drivel in order to get paid less than a clerk at Barclays. That’s just stupid. So if I want to be interested in what I read, is there a business? Answer: Yes, there is.
On book fairs:
The Frankfurt Book Fair is my idea of heaven. The London Book Fair is a sort of squalid thing. The agents are in an agent center and it’s ghastly. Like being in a primary school in Lagos. It’s a bunch of agents sitting together at primary school tables.
That last one is bittersweet for me, since right now my coworkers are in Frankfurt without me, for the first time in 6 years. I always dreaded going to the fair a little bit, but it was also fun – crazy and busy and exhausting and invigorating. If heaven looked like a mile-long conference hall and smoky bars and sausages, then yes, the Frankfurt Book Fair is a kind of heaven.