where the writers are


So publishers are paring expenses by not passing the bread at swank bistros and eateries. One publisher recommends the turkey sandwich in the cafeteria. The drinks trolley might be a thing of the past.

However, what I find most disturbing, is that no mention is even made about feeding a lunch to a poor author. Alas for the downtrodden editors and agents. Authors - apparently - are not even allowed the crumbs from the table.


“What happens at lunch for agents that’s important is sometimes they find out things about an editor that they wouldn’t otherwise know,” said Ms. Braman, “and then when a particular project comes along, they say, oh, it’s perfect for so and so—she’s adopted, this is a memoir about being adopted, or, you know, this is a medical book about a condition that it turns out the agent found out at lunch the editor’s mother had.”

For 82-year-old Al Silverman, who presided over the Book of the Month Club throughout the 1970s and ’80s and later served as publisher of Viking Books, the notion that lunch as a ritual is fading signals a sorry chapter in the history of his industry.

“I’ve been out of book publishing for quite a few years, but last night I was just talking with one of my colleagues, who said to me, ‘You know, you go to lunch at these places now and there’s nobody there.’” said Mr. Silverman, whose recent book The Time of Their Lives, a rigorously researched chronicle of publishing’s golden years, mentions lunch more than 70 times. “Everybody’s clamping down on spending these days.”

In other words, sorry, kids! What was perhaps the last quaint ritual left over from the old days is going the way of the foreign-rights fair. Which is to say, it has been rendered impractical and so prohibitively inefficient that no amount of romantic attachment can protect its place in the budget.

Still, some say that lunch remains a necessary part of the business—particularly for young editors and agents who have not yet established themselves. As Norton editor Bob Weil put it, “The young people have to let themselves be known.”


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Economy drive

Authors of the female persuasion will be very relieved by this development.