Morton L. Janklow
In the world of publishing, Morton L. Janklow ’50 is a legend. Since the ’70s, he has been one of the country’s most powerful literary agents, representing best-selling authors, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, celebrities, scholars, scientists, journalists, presidents, poets, pundits, and even a pope.
Renowned for his negotiating prowess, he regularly nets seven-figure advances for his clients. Among some of the prominent authors who’ve had Janklow grapple with publishing houses are Danielle Steel, Sidney Sheldon, Anne Rice, Richard Price, Thomas Harris, David McCullough, Barbara Walters, Malcolm Gladwell, and Michael Moore.
As a political science major in the College of Arts and Sciences in the late ’40s, Janklow probably didn’t envision negotiating blockbuster deals for top-selling wordsmiths. A Queens native, he supported himself at Syracuse by playing poker and working at a freight company, then went on to earn a J.D. degree from Columbia University School of Law.
A specialist in corporate and finance law, he established his own law firm, but in 1972 all that changed when he launched his career as a literary agent by chance. William Safire ’51, H’78, who had worked in the Nixon administration, turned to Janklow, a longtime friend from their SU days together, to represent him in a book deal. After initial protests, Janklow obliged, schooled himself on the publishing industry, and went to work for his old friend, negotiating a contract for Safire’s book about his experiences working for Nixon. After the Watergate scandal broke, however, the original publisher tried to back out of the contract. By the time the dust settled, Janklow had shaken up the publishing industry. He took the case to arbitration, won back Safire’s advance and the rights to the book, and struck a deal with another publisher. Before the Fall became a best-seller.
Within a couple of years, Janklow established his own literary agency, and today he is a senior partner of Janklow & Nesbit Associates, which was founded in 1989. Not only a presence in New York literary circles, Janklow has served on numerous corporate boards and philanthropic organizations. Most notably, he has maintained a strong commitment to the arts and to education. At Columbia, he founded the Morton L. Janklow Program for Advocacy in the Arts and established the Morton L. Janklow Professorship of Literary and Artistic Property Law. At SU, he serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors and recently founded the Morton L. Janklow Arts Leadership Program. The new, interdisciplinary graduate program is scheduled to launch in summer 2012.