The Power Lunch: Tips and Tricks from YPG

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This article was contributed by YPG member Mackenzie Brady. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Tara Powers at


Publishing is a highly collaborative industry, and working closely with your fellow book lovers isn’t just fun; it’s essential. But how do you go from trading business cards at a YPG mixer to collaborating on a title that lands on the New York Times bestseller list? One word: lunch.

Building relationships has to start somewhere, and most professional friendships begin over a meal. So here are the do’s and don’ts of a first lunch date with your future publishing soul mate.

DO a background check.
The purpose of your lunch date is to get to know the other person better, but there is no harm in gathering a little background information on where your dining partner works. Check out Publishers Marketplace for any recent deals he/she may have taken part in. Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads are great resources to see what someone finds important, both within the book business and outside of it. And let’s not forget that it’s always nice when someone takes the time to be interested in us—bringing up something you’ve learned about your lunch mate could instantly set you both at ease.

DON’T interview the other person.
While having a few points to bring up if conversation gets dull is smart, slamming your date with one question after another may make him/her feel nervous or uncomfortable. People often digress in the course of storytelling, and if the conversation veers in an unexpected direction, go with it! You might just learn something completely unexpected and wonderful about your new friend.

DO order a meal you’re comfortable with.
Even if you pride yourself on being an adventurous eater, your first lunch date may not be the best time to experiment with a new choice of entrée. The focus of your lunch should be the conversation, but talking can be difficult if your mouth is burning from the jalapeños in that mole or food keeps falling from your chopsticks. Stick with a dish you know and love!

DON’T get too personal too fast.
While the person sitting across from you is almost certainly interested in what book you’re reading, how you came to live and work in New York City, and whether you’re Team Peeta or Team Gale, your date doesn’t need to know everything all at once. Be sure to save some fun facts about who you are and what you’re about for the next time you meet.

DO be cognizant of the time.
Plan for your lunch to last about an hour to hour and a half, but once that time has elapsed, do your best to read the situation. If your lunch mate declines dessert, referencing the enormous pile of work on his/her desk, don’t drag out the meeting. Or, conversely, if you are the one who needs to wrap things up a little early, apologize for cutting your date short and propose a second meeting.

DON’T talk poorly about publishing colleagues.
You may cringe at even the thought of a former boss or wish your current cubicle mates would disappear, but remember that publishing is a very small industry. Any negative things you say about your colleagues have a good chance of getting back to them, and, moreover, they may give you a bad reputation. Everyone likes to be in the know, but keep the gossip and trash talking to a minimum and you’re more likely to be trusted in the future.

DO follow up after lunch.
Everyone in publishing is busy, so taking a few minutes to thank your lunch mate for a great afternoon can go a long way in solidifying the bond you’ve just established. If you discussed an article you recently read, email him/her the link when you get back to your office, or if you drooled over the new bake shop around the corner, suggest a second meeting there. Such actions let the other person know you were paying attention and are interested in becoming friends.

DON’T forget what you talked about.
Of course, it would be impossible to remember every tidbit of information you exchanged over lunch, but it might be worthwhile to quickly jot down a few of the more important topics you discussed. Making a cheat sheet of the other person’s favorite books, restaurants, or activities may be useful later when at your second meeting, and it will prove just how good a listener you are!

And there you have it. Follow these quick tips, and not only will you come away from your lunch with a satisfied stomach, but also a new connection that could enrich both your work and social lives. Bon appetit!

Mackenzie Brady is currently an assistant at the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. She has also worked at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, as well as FinePrint Literary Management. You can follow her on Twitter (@MackenzieCBrady) or email her at

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