Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Let's Do Lunch

First of all, a tech note, the people have spoken and the people want full RSS feeds so they can read the blog in the RSS reader of their choice. I have reluctantly agreed to switch over on a trial basis -- please, I beg of you, don't forget to come out of your RSS Reader bubble and leave comments on the site!

I'm having lunch with an editor today, and I had breakfast with another editor yesterday, which really has me in a good mood. You see, while I'm told some people in the industry feel roughly the same way about agent/editor lunches as they do infectious diseases, I say bring on the viruses, and I'll take a side of fries with that. I love 'em.

So here's how the lunches basically work. An agent and editor will meet by an e-mail or a phone call or via a "you should know this person" suggestion from a third party, and then they agree to meet at a designated lunch spot. Carnations are not worn, and the first fun part of agent/editor lunches is actually finding the person who you are having lunch with. One editor I know actually got all the way to sitting down for lunch with the wrong person before figuring out that the guy wasn't an agent.

Then, once you have safely established each other's identity, you sit down for lunch and talk about what type of books the editor acquires, what type of clients the agent has, the weather, industry gossip of the moment, what trends you're hearing about (can't help it), etc. etc. After you've run out of book industry topics (usually before the appetizers), you find common interests, which is the part I really like, because if you do some digging people have some really amazing interests.

And then, at the end, the editor pays. That's just the way it is. I think back in the sixteenth century an agent and editor had lunch (mutton, I'm guessing), flipped a coin, the editor lost, and ever since then that's just the way it is.

Then, once the check has been paid, you exchange cards, express a mutual desire to work on a project together, and then you go back to work.

So, here's the checklist: interesting company, lunch at good restaurant (for free), excitement of possible mistaken identity. What's not to like??






28 comments:

Nathan Bransford said...

In my zeal to praise the agent/editor lunch I neglected to mention that they serve a great purpose -- learning more about an editor and their interests is invaluable knowledge when you are submitting a project.

Liz said...

Sounds like a marvy blind 'date.' Just curious, you don't eat pasta on these lunch meetings do you??

Always thought going the Italian food route was dangerous when meeting someone for the first time.

Nathan Bransford said...

Liz,

I definitely stay away from spaghetti. Soup also.

dan said...

Thanks for sticking the full posts into RSS! I think people still comment when they have something to say--you may sleep easy tonight.

original bran fan said...

As an introverted person, you have just described my idea of hell. Lunch with a stranger, where I have to make small talk during the entire meal. Shudder.

This is why writers need agents. We need people who not only know how to do this stuff, but are actually good at it and enjoy it. I wish I had better people skills and am always in awe of people who make it look easy. Since I don't have them, I will work with an agent who does.

Christopher M. Park said...

Nathan,
Thanks for the full RSS feed. Like many others, I find that helpful--but it doesn't have any effect one way or the other on my decision to leave comments (I obviously don't know about anyone else).

How does the fact that you are in San Francisco affect you agent-editor lunch schedule? I believe some non-NYC agents, like Kristen Nelson, regularly fly to NYC to do a bunch of lunches all together. Do you do this, or do you mostly meet with publishers in the bay area? I know that both authors and writers are plentiful in your area, and there must be some publishers there too if Curtis Brown has an arm there, but I don't really have any concept of what the publishing scene is like there. Can you provide any illumination on this?

Thanks for another great post!
Chris
My blog on writing

Scott said...

So how does it work, this lunch thing? Is it a meeting of equals, or does the fact that the editor pays, not to mention that you are usually the pitcher and the editor the pitchee, give the editor the power position? Is out-and-out pitching allowed, or do you have to wait for the editor to show interest when you're talking about your clients?

Is there a job-interviewness to the lunch? Do you ever worry about blowing it like you might with a potential employer? Do you prepare carefully to project the right image, or is it a casual thang?

You said that getting to know the editor helps you. What does the editor get in return?

Did you learn anything you can share?

And finally, were those shoes the best choice? I mean, I think they're fabulous and make a statement, but... :)

Janet said...

Drat! I thought the title was an invitation...

Nathan Bransford said...

Chris-

I've actually found that quite a few editors make trips out to the West Coast (both of the editors live in NYC), and yes, I plan to make a trip to NYC as well. Things haven't changed too much for me out here in SF.

Scott-

It's definitely a meeting of equals, and the purpose/tone depends on whether the agent has something to pitch or whether it's more of an introductory meeting, or whether they already know each other.

The purpose of the original meeting is that we both learn about each other, which is helpful because it might make me more likely to send something good to the editor, and it makes me more confident that what I'm sending would be a good fit. They're mutually beneficial.

These shoes? Shoot, you're right, probably not the best idea.

Robin L. said...

Thank you so much for putting the whole feed in the reader! See, I'm still here commenting. :)

I always saved your blog for last b/c I knew I'd *have* to click on it and I sometimes didn't have time. I usually read them all in bloglines, then open them up if I'm going to comment and comment all at once. Not that you wanted to know all that...

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Another yay vote for the full feed in the reader...

As for this statement: because if you do some digging people have some really amazing interests

Wise words, indeed, Nathan. And a sentiment very much along the lines of my own thoughts while waiting for #2 at dance class today.

Bryan D. Catherman said...

The lunch you describe sounds like the same way Rum-Runners work. Wait, are there even any rum-runners left in the world? Now it's all about cocaine and pot I guess. Thanks for the peek into the seedy underground of the agent/editor relationship.

By the way, thanks for the RSS. I use Wizz RSS (a FireFox add on) so leaving a comment is no problem what so ever.

Niteowl said...

Ok, you just left the barn door open. Tell us about the amazing interests! Boringly boring people (well, me, at least) want to know!

Bareback backwards pygmy horseback riding!?

Authoring critiques on ancient sanskrit novellas written out on dried out tablets of goat dung?!

A mild interest in speech impediments in major world leaders of the 20th century!?

Baseball?

What!? I'm going crazy over here with speculation!

Marti said...

No carnations? I was picturing fedoras and tapping the side of one's nose, a la The Sting.

LOL

Thanks for the enlightenment! Hope you have a great day!

Eliza said...

Commenting for the first time to say THANK YOU for giving us full feed.

And thanks for giving us insight into how it all works. We thrive on that kinda stuff.

Catherine Ipcizade said...

Loved this...and the "infectious diseases with a side of fries" comment. :)

Laurel Amberdine said...

RSS feed?! You mean people don't have the blog as their home page?

I'm with original bran fan on the lunches. It sounds nice in theory -- yay, free lunch! -- but when it came time to actually go, I'd panic.

Megan said...

This is interesting! An agent (now representing me) took me out for lunch and I was so petrified...I didn't actually eat much (which I still regret to this day) but at the end of the lunch, she automatically paid. I had a feeling this would happen but I still had some crumpled notes in my pocket incase I was expected to pay...

Also a publisher invited me to an event down in London and paid for the hotel. I never realised everything else was included too like room service! It was a surprise when I found out that Penguin paid for everything...

So in general, how often does an author pay for things? Does the agent treat the author, and the publisher treats the agent? Who does the author have to treat?!

adrienne said...

Doing lunch. So cool. I've done a couple now, and I just always feel so decadent. I wish I could do lunch every day! I mean . . . I guess technically I have lunch everyday, but I don't "do" it. . .

Now be honest Nathan, did you or did you not feel a bit like you were playing grown-up the first time you went on one of these lunches?

Roxan said...

Free lunch and invaluable info. Sounds good to me.

Annalee said...

Thanks so much for the full feed! And don't worry, people will still click through. One of the best parts about a blog is the comment thread (at least when the blogger engages with their readers the way you do).

On lunch: Your job sounds awesome, man. I want free food. And by the way, it was mince pie in 1703.

Do you ever take on interns at your office?

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the full feed. Not having to leave my RSS reader for a full article really does make my morning go faster. (Multiply your posts by 200+ sites and extrapolate!)

Sean Lindsay said...

Thanks from me for the full RSS feed. It really makes a (positive)difference. I couldn't write my Weekend Updates on 101 Reasons without RSS.

Your relaxed, anecdotal writing style didn't suit the cutoff/read more RSS feature, as often the cut would come before you reached the substance of your article. It, um, sometimes made it easier to skip.

Chumplet said...

Meals with strangers are also on my list of things I don't like to do.

Salads are a bitch to eat in public. Every leaf is two foot square and you get the dressing all over your face before you fold the whole thing into your mouth.

That's when they ask you a question, and you have to chew furiously with one finger in the air. By the time you swallow, you forgot the question.

Niteowl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandi. said...

The full RSS feed is great. Thanks for offering it!

alvina said...

It was nice having lunch with you last week, Nathan! ;)

I, too, love author/agent lunches. It IS a bit like a blind date, but one where you know from the beginning that you have a common interest to talk about, and also where attraction doesn't matter. The perfect kind of blind date. But I can understand why more introverted people may not enjoy them.

Oh, but Nathan, I HAVE had the agent pay for me three or four times--and in fact once the day after our lunch. "You're on our turf" she proclaimed. I didn't protest. But yes, I usually foot the bill, perhaps because publishing companies in general have more liberal expense accounts.

Nathan Bransford said...

Oh my goodness! An agent paid for an author/editor lunch and a storm of locusts did not descend upon the earth? In that case the next one is DEFINITELY on me. I owe you.

Thanks, Alvina!

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