cook books

Dinner With an Agent Last Night…

I had dinner with an agent last night. But not my agent. Someone who has been my good friend for many years. We’ve been through times of crisis and many great times. We’ve shared our birthdays and the birthdays of other good friends. He has a weekend place out here in Buck County and his office and apartment are in New York.

But, like I said, he’s not my agent. We decided years ago that if we were going to be friends we would separate business from friendship. I have gone to him for advice from time to time, and I’ve become a fan of his clients books. But we keep it simple and rarely discuss publishing at social events.

However, last night he told an interesting story. Evidently, an author sent one of his associates a copy of her new self-published cookbook and his entire office went wild. When he saw the book, he loved it so much he brought it out here this weekend to show friends how in-depth it was and how detailed all the recipes were. And he made no bones about mentioning the fact that it was self-pubbed, he’s going to offer representation to this author, and shop it to publishers.

I thought this was interesting. I read many publishing blogs that focus on queries and what to do when querying. I’ve seen authors slave over writing query letters, to the point of making themselves sick with worry. I’ve read blog posts written by agents, anonymous assistants, and even anonymous interns who’ve built a large following offering potential authors advice about how to write a query letter. One anonymous intern once actually offered her query services for hire. But I’ve never once read a story about a self-pubbed author sending a book to an agent and getting representation. If anything, I’ve always read this is absolutely taboo.

So I thought I’d share this post with other authors today. It’s not urban legend. It happened last night during a dinner party and I was there and saw it with my own eyes. I have no reason to lie; I’m not self-pubbed and I’ve never contacted an agent with anything other than a query letter. But I thought it was interesting for other authors to read, so they can grasp the concept that what they read on blogs and see in comment threads is simply the tip of what constitutes the publishing industry, how books are acquired, and how agents differ from one another.

If this self-pubbed author hadn’t sent out copies of her self-pubbed cook book, my friend would not have paid attention to her query. But even more than that, I can’t help but wonder how many of the grand Internet blogging agents who seem to enjoy this query business so much have already rejected her because she didn’t follow normal protocol and stick with just the query. I’m sure there are plenty, too. And while they are laughing at her for sending a self-pubbed book instead of a query letter, my friend will undoubtedly be laughing all the way to the bank after he sells this book.