Commercialising on Copyrights: The Emergence of the Victorian Literary Agent

  • Marrisa Joseph


This chapter takes an in-depth examination of the literary agent. These ‘middlemen’ became accepted as agents overtook the previously informal service of the authors’ reader. They were an invaluable asset providing authors with feedback to the saleability of their literature and in some cases handling the negotiations with publishers. Through an analysis of letters, contracts and documents in the business archives of the A. P. Watt literary agency, it was possible to trace the formation and development of its business practices. The chapter argues that Watt as an institutional entrepreneur used contractual law in particular the ‘agency clause’ to establish a place for literary agents, allowing them to be accepted by publishers who were reluctant to change. Although not the first, it can be argued that A. P. Watt was the most influential due to how he professionalised the service.



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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marrisa Joseph
    • 1
  1. 1.Henley Business SchoolUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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