A.P. Watt (Firm)

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A.P. Watt the world's first literary agency and was the largest for its first thirty years of operation. Alexander Pollock Watt (1834-1914) began working as a literary agent in 1975 when a friend asked him to negotiate a contract with a London publishing company. By 1881, A.P. Watt had incorporated his business and begun to define the role of the literary agent. The A.P. Watt firm has remained in the forefront of the market in popular fiction and it has counted numerous important and/or best-selling authors among its clients.

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors A-B). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966236

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Founded in 1875 by Alexander Pollock Watt (1834-1914), A. P. Watt is the longest-established literary agency in the world. It is also one of the most dynamic and successful. The literary estates this agency represents include those of some of the foremost British and Irish writers of the 20th Century. Its current authors include leading novelists, biographers, historians, and specialist writers pre-eminent in their field. The agency also represents some outstanding children's authors and illustrators, and, in its film and television department, a select number of screenwriters and directors. A. P. Watt's clients include a Nobel Prize winner, four Booker Prize winners, three Orange Prize winners, several Whitbread Prize winners, and the first Children's Laureate. Its writers have achieved some outstanding No 1 bestsellers, several long-running television series, and three of Hollywood's top box office successes.

From the guide to the A. P. Watt & Son, 1883-1917., (Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, )

A.P. Watt was the world's first literary agency and was the largest for its first thirty years of operation. Alexander Pollock Watt (1834-1914) began working as a literary agent in 1975 when a friend asked him to negotiate a contract with a London publishing company. By 1881, A.P. Watt had incorporated his business and begun to define the role of the literary agent. The A.P. Watt firm has remained in the forefront of the market in popular fiction and it has counted numerous important and/or best-selling authors among its clients.

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors T-Z). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966232

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors Le-M). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966247

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors H-Le). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966241

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors C-G). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966252

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982. (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966229

From the description of A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors N-S). (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 31966250

Founded in 1875 by Alexander Pollock Watt (1834-1914), A.P. Watt is the longest-established literary agency in the world. It is also one of the most dynamic and successful.

The literary estates this agency represents include those of some of the foremost British and Irish writers of the 20th Century. Its current authors include leading novelists, biographers, historians, and specialist writers pre-eminent in their field. The agency also represents some outstanding children's authors and illustrators, and, in its film and television department, a select number of screenwriters and directors. A.P. Watt's clients include a Nobel Prize winner, four Booker Prize winners, three Orange Prize winners, several Whitbread Prize winners, and the first Children's Laureate. Its writers have achieved some outstanding No 1 bestsellers, several long-running television series, and three of Hollywood's top box office successes.

From the description of A.P. Watt & Son correspondence, 1883-1917. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 299029251

In 1871, Alexander Pollock (A. P.) Watt (1834-1914) moved from Glasgow to London to work as a reader for Alexander Strahan's publishing company. By 1876, Watt was promoted to partner in the recently incorporated Strahan & Co., and, by 1878, he was operating as an advertising agent selling advertising space in Strahan's stable of periodicals. Through his experiences at Strahan & Co., Watt became acquainted with many of the leading authors of his day, such as Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling, all of whom later became his clients.

Around 1875, A. P. Watt began looking after the business interests of his friend, George MacDonald. Initially, Watt helped MacDonald negotiate contracts with publishing companies for free. However, Watt soon saw the commercial possibilities of representing authors in the sale or lease of copyrights. In 1881, Watt advertised himself as a literary, as well as an advertising agent.

By late 1881, A. P. Watt incorporated his business, creating A. P. Watt & Co., the world's first literary agency. Without existing guidelines, Watt had to determine the manner of operation and the amount he should be paid for his services. Watt settled on the commission system he had employed as an advertising agent. By charging a ten percent fee on the monies that his clients earned, Watt established the basic rate that is still used today. For more than thirty years, Watt dominated the field as he continued to define the role of the literary agent. Shortly before A. P. Watt's death in 1914, he wrote:

The work of the Literary Agency is to conduct all business arrangements of every kind for authors and playwrights; that is to say, to place Manuscripts to the best advantage; to watch for openings; to sell copyrights either absolutely or for a limited period; to collect royalties, and to receive other moneys due; to transfer property; to value literary property; to obtain opinions on Manuscripts, etc., etc.

After the elder Watt's death, his son, A. S. Watt, took over the literary agency. A. S. Watt then passed the company on to his three sons: Hansard, William, and Peter. A. P. Watt's son and grandsons continued to attract important and/or best-selling authors to the agency, among them Pearl Buck, G. K. Chesterton, Robert Graves, W. Somerset Maugham, Rafael Sabatini, Alan Sillitoe, Nevil Shute, Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, P. G. Wodehouse, and William Butler Yeats.

In 1965, Peter Watt died and A. P. Watt & Sons ceased to be a family-run business. It did, however, continue to operate in London. In a 1975 article celebrating A. P. Watt & Sons's centenary, Hilary Rubinstein, the firm's head, observed:

For many writers these days, the agent is one fixed point on the compass. Whether A. P. Watt & Son itself will survive to celebrate its bicentenary in 2075, it seems probable that the service which A. P. Watt began to render to authors a hundred years ago will be increasingly in demand in the years ahead.

Adapted from information in: Gillies, Mary Ann, A. P. Watt, Literary Agent, Publishing Research Quarterly, vol. 9 (Spring 1993), pp. 20-33. Rubinstein, Hilary, A. P. Watt: the First Hundred Years, The Bookseller (May 3, 1975), pp. 2354-2358.

From the guide to the A.P. Watt Records, 1888-1982, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors Le-M). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors T-Z). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A.P. Watt Records, 1888-1982 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers.
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt & Son correspondence, 1883-1917. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors C-G). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors H-Le). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A. P. Watt & Son, 1883-1917. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors A-B). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn J.M. Dent & Sons. J.M. Dent & Sons records, 1834-1986 (company files). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf A.P. Watt (Firm). A.P. Watt records, 1888-1982 (major authors N-S). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Role Title Holding Repository
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Place Name Admin Code Country
England
Subject
English literature--20th century
Authors and publishers
Authors, English
Authors, American
Literary agents--History
Literature publishing--History
Publishers and publishing--History
Publishers and publishing--20th century
Authors and publishers--20th century
Occupation
Historians
Poets, English
Scholars
Women authors, English
Novelist, English
Women editors
College teachers
Women novelists, English
Critic
Essayist
Women journalist
Authors, English
Dramatists, English
Journalists
Literary agents
Function
College teachers
Women authors, English
Women journalists
Journalists
Historians
Women novelists, English
Essayists
Authors, English
Novelists, English
Women editors
Scholars
Critics
Dramatists, English
Literary agents
Poets, English

Corporate Body

Active 1888

Active 1982

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