Literary Agent Wisdom From Curtis Brown LTD.

100 Years of History and Current Day Book Market Insights

••• Curtis Brown Ltd

With a history that spans a century, Curtis Brown Ltd is one of the world's leading literary agencies. Here, for the benefit of readers, is a motherlode of book marketplace insights from Curtis Brown CEO Tim Knowlton; VP and children's book agent Elizabeth Harding; and dramatic rights agent Holly Frederick. From digital innovation to the boom in children's and young adult books, to how TV and film rights get sold, these veteran agents explain how the publishing landscape affects authors' livelihoods — and weigh in on the publishing probabilities and best practices for new authors.


But first... 

A Brief History of Curtis Brown LTD.

Native New Yorker Albert Curtis Brown founded his eponymous agency in London in 1905 and established the New York office in 1914 to market US rights for the agency's British authors, such as D. H. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, Daphne du Maurier, A. A. Milne and Winston Churchill. They quickly established a list of American authors, including W. H. Auden, Theodore Dreiser, Ayn Rand and Ogden Nash. Today the New York office of Curtis Brown Ltd exists as a separate company. 

The 100 years of history is apparent in the rich and varied list of Curtis Brown represents. From storied literary estates (like W. H. Auden) to evergreen iconic authors (S.E. Hinton; Diana Gabaldon), to today's bestsellers, Indie Next Picks, and children's book award winners.

Impact of the Changing Book Publishing Landscape on New and Established Authors

The last decade has brought about a lot of changes to the publishing landscape and Curtis Brown CEO Tim Knowlton's interview illuminates the literary agent's perspective on:

According to Knowlton, "Of course, we've stayed on top of the latest developments and flourished whatever the marketplace changes have been — but I'm actually proud of the thing that hasn't changed for us: Curtis Brown's commitment to serving, supporting, and growing the truly amazing, talented list of writers and writers' estates. And I'm proud of the the breadth and depth of book publishing knowledge that our wonderful, smart, skillful, and dedicated team of agents and employees bring to representing our authors.

Two of those agents are Vice President Elizabeth Harding, who represents authors and illustrators of picture books, middle-grade and young adult fiction, and Holly Frederick, film and television agent. 

Children's and Young Adult Book Publishing - Much Bigger Than Before

Harding discussed the boom in publishing for young people and how the bigger marketplace has necessitated more gatekeeping — creating more need for children's writers and illustrators to have literary representation. Read what she has to say about:  

Film, Television, and Stage Rights - Helping Sell the Book

Frederick's role is different in that she doesn't take on her own clients, but sells the dramatic rights of the agency's clients. But not every book is appropriate for dramatic rights sale. Here's what she had to say:


In the closing of his interview, Knowlton said, "I can't talk about Curtis Brown employees without mentioning the late Emily Jacobson. She started as an assistant to an agent out of college, wound up running the magazine department then eventually became an agent. When we threw a 50th-anniversary party for her, we were glad to say it wasn't a retirement party. When she passed away a few years ago, she'd been with Curtis Brown for over 64 years. 

"While we're not all going to last that long in the job, she's a great symbol of our employee's dedication to our authors and the industry."