Pub Rants

Myth Buster #3—Out To Lunch

 13 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: Feeling a little despondent. It’s my last day in the tropics. I hear it’s going to snow in Denver on the day we return. How’s that for climate shock?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod. Why I didn’t travel with it is a mystery to me.

So just what exactly to editors and agents do when out to lunch?

We eat of course—and the good stuff. After all, editors don’t get paid a ton of money (until they’ve been in the biz awhile, have a couple of big sellers on their rosters, and have worked up to being senior editors or higher). One of the editor perks is that they have expense accounts to take the agents out to lunch.

Yep. You heard that right. Publisher pays for lunch.

Nothing crazy exorbitant (unless you are the agent of one of the big sellers on the editor’s roster) but definitely nice. And editors have their favorite joints—usually within walking distance of the publishing house because as I mentioned yesterday, lunching is time-consuming and both parties pretty much want to jump right back into work. No wasting time in a cab or on the subway to hightail it back to the office.

What do we do?

We talk. I’d say, on average, 10 to 15 minutes of the lunch might actually be about business. It depends on whether the editor has a client of mine or not. If there is big business to discuss (like an issue, or a publicity/marketing campaign outline, or something along those lines, then that meeting is always done at the publishing house so all the key players can be involved—lunch or dinner then comes afterwards). Sometimes all the key players will come and other times, just the editor.

Publishing folks are busy. It took two months of scheduling to set up a meeting with me, my client, her editor, the editorial director, the head of publicity, and the head of marketing. The publisher just popped her head in to say hello. To get all these people together for lunch might take more than 2 months of scheduling. Big smile here. It happens though.

So lunches are usually just with the editor. What writers need to understand is that the business of publishing is all about who you know and your connection to the editors. If the editor is new to me, lunch isn’t about pushing business (how rude would that be) but about getting to know the editor, his or her tastes, what writers he or she has on the list. Can you send me copies of your list favorites? When the copies come, I read those books and take notes in my database regarding that editor so I’ll know what she likes and what submissions of mine might work for her.

Agenting is about relationships and that’s what is solidified over lunch. The agent is a person the editor wants to do business with and vice-versa.

If I have something in the submission hopper, I talk about it. I’ve certainly sent a project to an editor who wouldn’t have originally been on the submission list because of a lunch conversation. (But to be honest, the majority of sales don’t happen this way. I have better sales history when my submission list is carefully targeted but you never know. Sometimes an editor has a secret passion that is only revealed over lunch and boom, I’ve got a new submission where that passion is the main subplot or propels the story. Suddenly that editor is the perfect person to look at it. It happens.)

Often, I’ll give a copy of my client list to the editor so they can have it as a reference. Editors often request copies of my clients’ books. Maybe they have been hearing buzz and want to read what everybody is talking about. I’ll send Sara a quick note to get a copy out to the editor.

And yes, sometimes editors want to take you to lunch so they can casually chat about a client of mine published by another house. It’s their job to find out if that client is perfectly happy because if they are not…

But for the most part, we talk about life. What we are doing. Our hubbies, boyfriends, or girlfriends. A new baby. A recent trip. A fun movie we saw. Something crazy that happened on the subway literally on my way to this lunch (and for some reason, this happens a lot to me…). We create a powerful connection.

This is what lunch is actually all about.

13 Responses

  1. Scott said:

    I think the bottom line is that it’s like any ‘business lunch’, or business ‘meeting’ that takes place on a golf course. On the course, you may talk specifically about that upcoming deal for a few minutes, but you’re on the course for three hours. You’re going to talk about a whole lot of different things.

  2. The Unpretentious Writer said:

    That sounds downright cozy! *eyes her ‘just-add-water’ lunch eaten at her desk*

    I never knew that agents and editors were so friendly to each other, but then, I guess it makes sense – it’s always better doing business with a friend.

  3. An Aspiring Writer said:

    “Agenting is about relationships.” Wow. And this is what good business is about, making those contacts, knowing someone’s likes & dislikes, and building a trusting relationship, not just pitch & dash.

    If it’s any consolation about the weather in Denver, we’ve had about three days of 70 degrees. Kinda freaky for early November. Sure hope you left a jacket in your car.

    Have a wonderful & safe trip home!

  4. Mari Mancusi said:

    I want to just chime in here and say that it’s similar to what authors and their editors do when they lunch.

    If you’re a published author you should definitely plan a trip to NYC if you can budget it – at least once a year to get some facetime with your editor. Not to pitch new projects necessarily (though you can certainly mention what you’re working on!), but just to get to know them. Until you do this, you’re just a name on a manuscript. Once you lunch with them, they get to know you as a person. It definitely helps with the relationship and future consideration, in my opinion, and as a bonus you can learn a lot more about how things work in the publishing industry.

    Plus you get a free lunch! 🙂 And in my experience editors LOVE getting dessert.

    BTW, if you can’t afford NYC you can usually book some time with your editor at a conference they’re attending. But their slots fill up fast so ask early or settle for coffee.

    🙂 MARI

  5. newkidontheblock said:

    I love to read your blogs! It makes me feel like Editors and Agents are just as human as we are. That’s important for someone like me who is just starting out in this business. Thanks for the down to earth comments.


  6. Anonymous said:

    Sounds like the best kind of business is to build a trusting relationship. Thanks for the humor and the good advice. 😉

  7. Patrick said:

    Kimber An – it’s as Scott said above, this is no different than any business lunch. Sales is sales. They might have different interests, but that doesn’t change the overall tone or purpose of the lunches.