Why James Comey’s Book Agents Are One of DC’s Biggest Literary Business Stories

“Political books,” says Javelin's Keith Urbahn, “will be hot for the foreseeable future.”
Why James Comey’s Book Agents Are One of DC’s Biggest Literary Business Stories
Javelin’s Keith Urbahn and Matt Latimer with James Comey. Photograph by Dan Swartz.

James Comey was late to his own book party, racing to the Newseum after his flight was delayed. But if the event’s hosts were stressed, it wasn’t apparent to anyone in the room. Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn—who together run the Washington literary agency Javelin—were deftly working the crowd, greeting guests like Donna Brazile and James Clapper.

Finally, Comey arrived and it was time for the agents to introduce him. A Higher Loyalty, they announced, was on track to sell an astonishing 750,000 copies in its first week. It was a big moment for Comey—and for the Javelin guys, who have quickly become major players.

When Latimer and Urbahn opened Javelin in 2011, the local scene was ruled by Bob Barnett, who repped everyone from the Obamas to Sarah Palin. Javelin, in contrast, was a right-leaning boutique. Its first client was their old boss, Donald Rumsfeld. (Both Latimer and Urbahn had worked as speechwriters at the Defense Department.) Soon other Republicans, such as Ben Sasse and Ted Cruz, signed on.

After Trump won, Javelin was well positioned to capitalize. Yet the agency’s first big project of the Trump era was a surprising departure: It was written by a Democrat. Latimer and Urbahn sold former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile’s tell-all. Since then, they also made a deal for Hillary-campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri, whose book hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list two weeks before Comey’s. “Matt and Keith understood you have to think uniquely about the author and the moment and where the interest is going to be six to eight months from now,” says Palmieri. “They have such a good sense of that.”

But Comey has been their biggest get. To sign him, they sent cold e-mails to potential addresses; one turned out to be good, and Comey wrote back. “We explained why we were different, implored him to give us a chance,” says Latimer. It worked. Soon they were shopping the hottest political book in recent memory.

Now Javelin’s working with more than a dozen DC authors, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “Political books,” says Urbahn, “will be hot for the foreseeable future.”

This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

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Amanda joined Washingtonian in January 2016. She has written about Maryland brewery Flying Dog’s First Amendment fight, pored over Hillary Clinton’s emails, and come clean about owning too much stuff. She lives on H Street.