My question is about etiquette. I don't know how often it comes up, but you're the only person I can think of to ask.You're probably over-thinking this. Editor X will not expect you to send him a free copy of your book; if you decide not to, he won't be offended. All editors know how many friends authors have, and know you can't possibly give all your friends free copies. (Also, would it kill them to support their friend and BUY the book?)
I've known Editor X since I was very young. He was a long-time friend of one of my parents before my parent passed away, a few years back. He is absolutely enormous in the New York publishing world.
I've wanted to be a fiction author professionally since I was a child, and it has nothing to do with the connection. I didn't even register how well-known Editor X is until recently, when I Googled his name to find contact info. I've been grieving quite badly over my parent and have been keeping myself to myself, but it was time to reach out. As a result of my Googling, Editor X and I have re-kindled our friendship.
To my good fortune, I signed a contract with an independent publisher last year and the novel will be released in a small run some time in the 3rd quarter of this year.
I know I am extremely lucky in both regards and wouldn't change any of it for any amount of money.
Is it appropriate to send Editor X an advance copy of my novel as a gesture of friendship? How do I make it clear that I sent it because he loves books, not because he has connections? My friendship with him is very important to me, and I want to make it on my own, so perhaps I shouldn't send it at all. But maybe he'll be offended that I didn't think of him when gifting copies...! What do I do?
If you do want to send him a copy of the book, I would suggest carefully wording the note you send with it to communicate that you don't expect him to read the book; that you understand how many books and manuscripts are always waiting in line for attention from people in the book business. (Both books we need to read for our jobs, and ones we just want to read, when we get the chance. My when-I-get-the-chance pile must be around 30 books high right now.) Reference your friendship as the motivation for sending it, and that will be enough.
Then: be a good gift-giver and never ask him if he got around to reading it. I know, some people have a tremendously difficult time giving gifts without also giving the obligation to enjoy the gift and report back on that enjoyment. As well-meaning as those people are, and as much as I love them, I don't want another "gift" from them ever again. These are alligator presents. True generosity comes without obligation.