February 25, 2009

Agent says it’s time for authors fees to better reflect sales, then falls down laughing


Binky Urban

Binky Urban

So she’s the most powerful literary agent in the history of mankind. So she’s legendary, feared, reviled, loved — even more than the jackal, Andrew Wylie. So she “made” Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy, and a lot of other writers I don’t much fancy — who cares, they’re big! So what do you know about Binky Urban? Me neither. So isn’t she the kind of member of the club the New York Times profiles, oh, about once a week? Strangely enough, no — you have to go here, to the great Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, to learn who the real Binky Urban is. Or at least, learn some interesting things about her, beyond the gossipy stuff about her clients, such as that she thinks with its pricing $9.99 pricing on e-books for the Kindle, Amazon “can definitely wipe out the publishers. The problem is that the publishers need them. Amazon isn’t an easy company to do business with. It’s a very secretive company; they will not share any of their sales data.” Plus: “I think it will start affecting authors’ advances, and I think authors’ advances will become more in line with what their actual sales are. And that’s probably a good thing — we are just selling fewer books. The whole business needs adjustment.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives