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Literary Agents: A Writer’s Introduction

by Janice Albert

IF GOOD LITERARY agents are hard to find, a good guide to agents is just as elusive. Fledgling writers have had little choice but to consult R.R. Bowker’s Literary Market Place, or an assortment of industry magazines. But John F. Baker, the vice-president and editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, came out with a book to fill the vacuum. Published by Macmillan, “Literary Agents: A Writer’s Introduction” seemed to provide a unique product: an insider’s guide to the wily inhabitants of the agenting world. But according to some of the agents profiled in the guide, the
book is riddled with errors.

At the Gramercy Tavern in New York two months ago, several veteran agents, including Robert Lescher, Lois Wallace, Don Congdon and Carl Brandt, got together for lunch. During the course of the meal, the topic of Baker’s book came up, and the group dished its numerous mistakes. The entry for Lescher (of Lescher and Lescher) was one of the more egregious examples: Even though Lescher is listed as the agent of George Soros, Seymour Hersh and Jonathan Harr, he hasn’t represented any of these authors for years — or, in Hersh’s case, for decades. Baker claims that

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