Morton Janklow was one of the country’s most powerful literary agents, representing bestselling authors, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, celebrities, scholars, scientists, journalists, presidents, poets, pundits and even a pope.
A specialist in corporate and finance law, he established his own law firm. In 1972, he launched his career as a literary agent when his friend and client, William Safire, asked him to handle a book he was writing about President Nixon. After initial protests, Mr. Janklow obliged, schooled himself on the publishing industry, and negotiated a contract for Mr. Safire’s book, with a large advance. After the Watergate scandal broke, the original publisher tried to back out of the contract. Mr. Janklow ushered in a new era in authors’ rights when he took the publisher to arbitration for trying to renege on the deal. When the dust settled, Mr. Janklow had shaken up and forever changed the publishing industry. He won the right for Safire to retain his advance, recaptured the rights to the book, and struck a deal with another publisher. BEFORE THE FALL became a bestseller. Mr. Janklow remembered, “We took the publisher out of the captain’s seat and put the author in it. The publisher is replaceable; the author is not.”
Mr. Janklow established his own literary agency in 1977, and was Chairman of Janklow & Nesbit Associates, which he co-founded with Lynn Nesbit in 1989, until May 2022. Most notably, he maintained a strong commitment to the arts and to education. At Columbia Law School, he founded the Morton L. Janklow Program for Advocacy in the Arts and endowed the Morton L. Janklow Chair in Literary and Artistic Property Law, now held by Professor Jane Ginsburg. Mr. Janklow also taught in the program. At Syracuse University, he served on the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors and founded the Janklow Arts Leadership Program. The interdisciplinary graduate program launched in 2012 and offers a Master of Arts degree.