Haven’t written a blog post for a while, and I thought I’d have a go at saying what the first few weeks of my new agency has been like, but honestly, all I can tell you is that I haven’t stopped eating for a month. Forget 5/2, this has been 7/7, 24/7. It’s something of a cliche, the publishing lunch, but it does serve a purpose other than making me unable to fit through the door of my new office.
I’m taking on new clients, and a large part of the agent’s job is matchmaking. I’ve got to sell the right book to the right editor, and to do that, I have to get to know them. It’s obvious, really, but you don’t get to know someone by sitting at your desk, however hilarious you’re both being on twitter. You have to sit and talk, and let’s face it, that’s often easiest over … oh I don’t know, some guinea-fowl and braised fennel, or a rocket and parmesan salad with a balsamic drizzle.
Sometimes you’re meeting an editor for the first time, and look, however confident you seem to the outside world, you’re a bit shy. And the best way to deal with that is – obviously – to gurn at them cheerfully through a faceful of French bread and butter. But then the bread basket’s empty, to ask for more might look greedy, and the conversation turns to books. How’s the publisher doing, what have they bought recently? What have been their successes, what books are they expecting ‘big things’ of? And then the pudding menu arrives, and you realise that you’ve been chatting merrily about books for an hour and all your shyness has disappeared (along with your waistline).
That is the thing about books. You can talk about them forever. And once you’ve talked about a few books, you can talk about book people, and booksellers, and book agents, and book-to-film agents, and suddenly you know the person opposite well enough to talk about Agent Provocateur and hair volumising agents, and before long you know EXACTLY what book they’re going to buy from you, and you have a fairly good idea of how to sell it to them, because you know what it is that made them laugh, or annoyed them, or Just Didn’t Work For Them.
At some point soon I’m going to have to work out how to make my connections without eating daily pie, but for this first month of returning to agenting, the age-old cliche of the long publishing lunch has been serving its purpose very well indeed.