The New York Observer has a fascinating article on how all the economic turmoil is causing a lot of editors at the big houses to not be able to expense fancy lunches with agents every day. There is some protest because many old-timers see this as the only way to get agents to notice and know you, and send you book proposals that fit your list.
Here in the Midwest, of course, we had no idea this was going on. I think it puts us at a slight disadvantage that we've never wined and dined an agent. In fact, I spend most lunches eating leftovers in our tiny kitchenette--or kvetching with coworkers over fajitas at the strip-mall next door. But the most enterprising agents know how to do their research and target their c-list authors to specialty publishers outside Manhattan.
This is just another reminder that there is relatively little excess in independent nonfiction publishing. Times might be painful for the bigshots, but we already know how that feels.