Thursday, June 23, 2011

When Lunch Was More than Nibbling


The agent-editor lunch is much more of a rarity these days than when I was back in New York dividing my day in the middle to break bread sticks with my opposite number from some publishing house.

Literary agenting is a task intensive business. There was always too much to do. For an instant at about 11 a.m., I’d think, “Oh, damn, I have a lunch today. Then I’d remember. Lunch with editors was my business.

I’d wear a black suit whatever the venue. I’d take the subway because taxis are too slow. I’d arrive early to settle into my agenda.

The editor would rush in out of her crowded day. She’d exhale the stress of her morning over chit-chat, ordering something appropriately light and taking a sip of iced tea or bottled water with a twist.

All very social, very nice, and that generally continued to coffee and agenda time. Inaugurated by a casual question about what submission she was reading that turned her on and why it did so. Progressing to manuscripts she’d recently acquired and why she chose them.

Bingo! Pay dirt! This was the point of it all – dropping everything midstride, rushing across town, even the black suit. She was telling me where her head, her tastes and her company’s needs were meandering right at that very moment book project wise.

I never took notes during those lunches. Instead, afterward I would find a quiet spot – my favorite, the tea room at the Pierre – and strategize.

My brain had been busy all the while – through lunch chat, brain picking over espresso, my fast jaunt to Fifth and 61st. Mining client projects for pay dirt of our own.

Out came phone and notepad – these days it would be a Blackberry. Plans were promulgated. Authors were alerted. Fast mail was insisted upon – hard copy only. Email is too ephemeral.

Whatever I’d divined to be this editor’s desire du jour would be messengered to her the next day. The message being, if I considered this submission urgent enough to bother with a messenger service, maybe she should stick the package in her tote and give it a read that very evening.
We talk about social media being all about relationships. Those lunches were all about relationships also. Relationship of the agent to her business, the editor to her publishing list, the author to her career trajectory.

I’m glad I retired before access to that resource dwindled. Plus, I would dearly miss those amazing restaurants.

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