Dollars, Cents, and Being Left With the Bill: Jillian Medoff on Breaking Up With Her Literary Agent
lithub.com – Saturday August 6, 2022
In 2008, after 13 years together, my literary agent and I parted ways. (To preserve her anonymity, let’s call her Michael Ovitz.) Between 1995 and 2002, Michael Ovitz sold two of my novels, including my debut, Hunger Point. By any measure, our partnership was a terrific success. Michael Ovitz and I were more than just agent-writer, we were mentor-protégé, friends, confidantes. She invited me to stay in her country home. I corresponded with her daughter. She met my parents. We bought each other gifts. “You’re a part of the family,” she liked to say.
Business isn’t emotional, but people are. This is especially true in the highly subjective book industry, where an author’s imagination, manifested on the page, is the product. Michael Ovitz is an attorney, and the smartest, savviest woman I’d ever met, like Ari Gold from Entourage, but with a maternal affect. Near the end of our first conversation, she asked if I had any questions. I was so wowed I could barely speak. “Who else do you represent?” I blurted out. “Can I see a client list?” (This was before agents posted their client rosters on websites, but Michael Ovitz was way-old-school, anyway. She wouldn’t accept electronic submissions, corresponded only by hand on heavy cardstock, and didn’t adopt email until well into the aughts.) “Oh, Jillian,” she said, chuckling at my farm-girl faux pas. “That’s simply not done. Those names are confidential.”
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