Unsolicited: A Taxonomy of Literary Agents

Absurd as this might sound, having lunches and drinks with literary agents is an important part of an editor's job. But while fancy expense account food and booze is great in theory (especially since it takes about three years for your average editor to start raking in a public schoolteacher's starting salary), it's a double-edged perk when you consider the motley assortment of semi-strangers that editors can end up trapped at a table with. Here's a random sampling of the type of agents whose lunches with me tend to get scheduled, rescheduled, and then postponed again — indefinitely:


Frat boy for life:
Why is this corn-fed jock not a banker? He professes to love books, but it's hard to tell whether or not he's ever read one — and it seems even more doubtful that he reads his own typo-riddled submissions. Lucky for him, though, there will always be a market for total crap. This unfortunate specimen also tends to misinterpret "I am nodding and acting interested because it's polite/ in my career's best interest" as "I want your bod."

Eminence Grease:
There's nothing so terrible about this patronizing older gent, except that he'll order everything on the menu and regale you with tales of the good old days for hours while you fixate on the green thing that's been stuck on his front tooth since the first course.

Joey's agent on Friends, but with books
Remember that cigarette dispenser on her desk, the one shaped like a fountain of cigs? This agent must totally have one too.

"Dance, jester."
This agent is smart and powerful and knows it — and is only too happy to let you know it, too, by sitting back like a pasha while you desperately try to keep a long, awkward silence from descending by saying everything that pops into your head. Expect to suffer indigestion all afternoon because you basically swallowed every bite whole and also maybe sold out everyone you know.

Fake Ari Gold
The real Ari Gold is not a literary agent. Maybe someone should tell this guy.

Slumber party
This lady agent wants to be bffs immediately. You have nothing in common, but you pretend to sympathize with her manicure travails and J-date disasters because you know she sometimes has good submissions. Later, she will send you a submission about shoes.