Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Editor/Agent Lunch

Last week I had lunch with an editor, and despite the ridiculous heat in New York, I had such a fabulous time. This is an editor whom I've talked to on the phone a number of times, but surprisingly never met. The two and a half hours we spent together flew by through identical lunch orders, a shared dessert, and coffee despite the heat.

So what did we do and what did we talk about? Interestingly enough these lunches, while entirely about business, are in some ways not at all about business. We talked about kids, life in the suburbs, our hobbies and backgrounds. In a nutshell, we got to know each other. While I don't think agents need to spend every day having lunches with editors (at 2.5 hours a shot, who has the time?), I do think these lunches are an essential part of the business. Because of a few hours spent over omelets and dessert I know a whole heck of a lot about this editor's personal likes, dislikes, and interests in addition to those genres she is buying for. It's really easy to tell someone that you are looking for erotica, romance, mystery, and nonfiction, but how your personal tastes vary when it comes to those genres can only be learned by spending some quality time together.

Some of the things that have come out of my lunches with editors include a submission to an unlikely source, a book that began as a simple conversation, and a lasting business relationship. Because of a lunch I've learned that an editor who I assumed was only buying romance was also looking for erotica—and I sold her an erotica. Because of a lunch I learned that a mystery editor was dying to see a mystery with a certain hook—I called an author, had her write a proposal, and we sold a mystery series. And because of lunches I've developed a working friendship with a number of talented editors whom I hope to do a lot of business with now and in the future.



Gina Robinson said...

Great post, Jessica! Thanks for sharing what goes on when an agent meets an editor for lunch. As you mentioned, you don't have time to have lunch with editors every day so I was wondering how you decide which editors to do lunch with? And who initiates going to lunch, the agent or the editor? And do you ever lunch with multiple editors from the same house at once?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOUR BLOG. Sometimes I feel guilty, like I should be paying for the inside look. Thanks much!

kris said...

Okay, so you talk and get to know each other and learn about specific tastes. But what about the secret handshake? Surely there must be a secret handshake!

Seriously - love these insights to the other side of the desk. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Anonymous said...

So how exactly do you meet editors? I'm sure you know many given your background, but there are new ones all the time. Do you just cold call??!!

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


It's not really a matter of choosing who to have lunch with, I don't think I've ever turned down a lunch invitation, I just schedule out far in advance. Right now, for example, I have lunches scheduled into September.

Usually lunches are initiated by editors, since they are the people who pay. But there are definitely times when I'll suggest it.

And no, I don't think I've ever gone out with more than one editor at a time. The only exception to that is when a client is in town and we are meeting with the publishing team---editor, editor-in-chief, publicist, etc.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

The secret handshake is how we meet editors. I don't know if there is an exact science to meeting editors. I do know that that is one of the reasons you want an agent--someone with connections. When we started the agency we certainly had a lot of contacts already through our work as editors. We met other editors at conferences and others through submissions. And yes, there were times, and still are, that we just cold call. There are also times that editors cold call us. Especially when an editor is new or has moved to a new house. Often they'll get in touch with us.

Bella Andre said...

That's interesting. I didn't know that editors initiated the lunches. I always figures it was the other way around.

Another great post. Love getting the inside track.
;-) Bella

Kate Douglas said...

Okay, so maybe I sound like an idiot here, but with all these great lunches with editors, how do you stay so damned slim? Sheesh,'re actually slinky, and that's POST baby.