Best-selling authors’ agent Morton L. Janklow dies at 91


“You have people writing books about dog burials,” he told the New York Times in 1980. “People write me letters about how this book should sell five million dollars. hardcover copies, 10 million in the pocket, and why Robert Redford would want to make a movie out of it. And you take it and it’s a book about a postman. Then we get these books all the time about how the CIA planted a transmitter in my teeth.

Having made millions, Mr. Janklow changed direction in 1989. He formed a partnership with Lynn Nesbit, a veteran International Creative Management agent whose clients included literary personalities such as Toni Morrison, Tom Wolfe, John le Carré , Donald Barthelme, John Gregory Dunne. and Robert A. Caro.

Representing money-makers as well as literary talents, Janklow & Nesbit ultimately established a client list of 1,100 novelists and non-fiction writers, including winners of the Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, Academy Awards and other accolades. Many were well-known politicians, artists, historians, journalists, and leaders in the arts and sciences.

Mr. Janklow took 15% commissions while most agents took 10%. But his clients have received abundant rewards. The Janklovian influence has often won signing bonuses and subsidiary rights for television and film spin-offs, as well as book club and global publishing deals. He also gained rights rarely granted to authors: a say in advertising and promotional campaigns, right down to the details of a book’s cover and jacket.

For some established writers, he secured contracts for books not yet plotted, let alone written. Many of his customers have become regulars on the bestseller list. In November 1989, he had three clients that topped The Times lists: Danielle Steel on hardcover fiction with “Daddy”, Nancy Reagan on non-fiction with “My Turn”, and Sidney Sheldon on fiction. paperback with “The Sands of Time”. ”

Unlike most agents, who remain in the shadow of their clients, Mr. Janklow was a flamboyant self-promoter who moved in political, cultural, communications and entertainment circles and threw lavish A-list parties. His friends included Mayor Edward I. Koch of New York; newscasters Morley Safer and Barbara Walters; Washington Post editor Katharine Graham; William Paley, president of CBS; California Governor Jerry Brown; and writers Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.

He was big and intense, and he was talking about a blue streak. “It’s not so much a conversation with Janklow as diving into a river of words and trying to hold on to a piece of conversational driftwood,” wrote Trip Gabriel in a magazine article for The Times in 1989. He has noted that Mr. Janklow’s quest for big breakthroughs was more than a macho game or the result of market gossip’s influence.


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