Today's Observer piece about new-minted literary agent Scott Moyers contains a controversial assertion: That Moyers' boss Andrew Wylie's Wylie Agency is "the most powerful and prestigious in town." Some of the publishing types we contacted for comment would beg to differ. And others were like "Well, yeah!"
"I think he's the most powerful in England. Here he has to compete with Esther [Newberg, ICM], Binky [Urban, ICM], Suzanne [Gluck, William Morris], and [Robert] Gottlieb [Trident]. Wylie has the highbrow stuff but I suspect the others' lists are probably more lucrative than Wylie's because they have so many huge commercial stars," says a senior editor who works on both fiction and nonfiction.
Interesting answer because: Can you really use "lucrative" interchangeably with "prestigious?" We think maybe yes. However, we'd also then have to say that it's easier to rake in the lucre when you're working for a big, connected mega-agency.
That view is seconded by an editor at a super-commercial house: "Wiley is def the most prestigious (at least for nonfiction). But in terms of brute power I'd say WMA and ICM are more powerful—Suzanne, JRW, Esther, Binky... etc. And all those Hollywood connex don't hurt. How else could Greg Behrendts have really gotten a talk show? That man is so lame."
"Also, 'gentle' isn't an adjective normally ascribed to Scott." Intriguing!
A prestigious and powerful editor of mostly literary fiction has the final word on the subject. "Do you know, I read that this morning and thought: unusual non-hedging of that claim instead of the standard 'among' to avoid pissing anyone off. And that made me wonder if it's true, and I decided — well, yes! There are plenty who are powerful (JR Walsh, Esther N, Janklow, etc) with varying degrees of prestige, but none packs the same punch as AW in terms of the client list (I mean, my GOD — and unlike those other folks who balance between high and low, like the rest of us mortals, you can't really point to a Strictly Commercial [bad] writer on his list) and the indomitable force of his 'negotiating' technique."
Okay, we give! Observer junior newsboy (and our former Weekend Editor!) Leon Neyfakh wasn't wrong. This time.