News & Politics

DC’s 6 Most Powerful Book Agents

Photo by Freddie Marriage via

Donald Trump may not be much of a reader (“I don’t have the time,” he once told Megyn Kelly), but he has been a boon to local literary agents. Looking to sell that explosive political tell-all? Here are the powerbrokers to hit up.

1. Robert Barnett

Lawyer, Williams & Connolly

Latest successes: DC’s best-known book dealmaker negotiated Hillary Clinton’s What Happened.

In the works: James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s cowritten thriller, The President Is Missing; CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s debut novel.

Challenges of the job: “Ideas that sound great today may be out of date when the book is published.”

Fave DC book: Ward Just’s The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert.

2. Gail Ross

Agent, Ross Yoon

Latest successes: Joshua Green’s look at Steve Bannon; Van Jones’s bestseller Beyond the Messy Truth.

In the works: James Clapper’s Facts and Fears; Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s investigation of Trump and Russia.

Take on recent events: “I joke that George W. Bush put my kids through college and Donald Trump is paying for my retirement.”

Fave DC book: “I have so many!”

3. Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer

Agents, Javelin

Latest successes: Donna Brazile’s Hacks; Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult.

In the works: James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty.

Ideal writers: “People who don’t speak in political-speak and clichés,” says Latimer.

Fave DC books: Mark Leibovich’s This Town (Latimer); Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes (Urbahn).

4. Ronald Goldfarb

Lawyer, Goldfarb & Associates

Latest successes: Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution; Jefferson Morley’s The Ghost, about CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton.

In the works: Another by Sanders.

Words of encouragement: “This year, maybe more than any other, is so ripe for books about what’s going on. It couldn’t be a more opportune time for writers.”

Fave DC book: Charles McCarry’s spy thriller The Tears of Autumn.

5. Bridget Wagner Matzie

Agent, Aevitas

Latest successes: Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s Shattered.

In the works: Kate Murphy’s You’re Not Listening.

The Trump effect: “I have had the most successful year of my entire career. Part of it is because of the election—people want to figure out what’s going on.”

Fave DC book: George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War.

6. Rafe Sagalyn

Agent, ICM/Sagalyn

Latest successes: David Ignatius’s thriller The Quantum Spy; Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism Is True.

In the works: James and Deborah Fallows’s exploration of middle America, Our Towns.

Advice for authors: “Great ideas, great thinking, and great writing—that’s the combination that we always look for.”

Fave DC book: David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest.

This article appears in the January 2018 issue of Washingtonian.


David Murrell, a former Washingtonian editorial fellow, is research editor at Philadelphia magazine.