Literary Agent Bill Clegg’s new addiction memoir, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, has been the talk of the town for weeks now. This isn’t the first time Clegg has been in the spotlight, and his confessional book didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. So in order to make sense of Clegg’s publicity blitz, we’ve put together a brief dossier on the buildup of newsworthiness.
It’s 2005, and Clegg represents some big names in fiction, like Nicole Krauss and Susan Choi, through his boutique agency Burnes & Clegg. Then he disappears. He loses his clients. Then he returns to the scene, signs on as an agent with William Morris Agency, and gets most of them back. In 2008, Clegg sells a book, the book in question, to Little, Brown for a reported $350,000. The book comes out. Clegg and his publisher decide to focus on “getting as many major national profiles, features and reviews as possible, rather than personal appearances.” New York Magazine scores the first excerpt, and runs it with great pictures. The Guardian excerpts it, too. Everybody loves it. The New York Times calls it “a mesmerizing bummer.” Then they excerpt the first chapter.
And that’s why you’re hearing so much about him. His book excerpts well and he seems preternaturally good at taking headshots (see picture). It’s a one-two punch of pre-release publicity.