Recently I learned that a major publisher was severely limiting the amount each of their editors could spend taking agents to lunch. And then there was another major publisher who eliminated editor/agent lunches for a month at a time and cut all T & E expenses in a significant way. Finally, there are those publishers who have totally eliminated the editor/agent lunch.
I have to ask why, in a business that is really a “people” business they chose to do this? For decades the editor/agent, editor/author lunch was where real work got done. Ideas were exchanged and concepts were developed. Indeed, I know that many great books resulted from these relatively inexpensive forays.
At the same time as these lunches have been cut out (or cut way back), publishers still continue to:
- Send significant contingents to enormously expensive international book fairs, some traveling first class.
- Use town cars to travel to and from appointments.
- Insist upon delivering signature contracts in the mail or even by messenger rather than electronically.
- Send covers by hand rather than as jpegs.
- Fed-ex documents and books hundreds of times weekly (a publisher I spoke to recently told me this).
- Keep their lights on overnight.
- Use messenger services to return proposals and manuscripts which have originally been e-mailed to them.
- And, of course, cut very good personnel from their staffs.
My question is why? Why not change all of these things immediately so that exciting new book ideas and important relationships can develop again? Yes, over lunch.
Can you think of any other ways publishers can cut current expenses to enable them to operate more efficiently and less expensively without costing them the creative exchange of ideas our business depends on?