Words to the Wise
What Does an Acquisitions Editor
summer Beacon, I did
my best to convince you of the value of hiring a freelance
editor to take a dispassionate look at your manuscript to show
you what's possible and help you gain perspective on your work.
I argued that taking this step might make the difference between
having your manuscript looked at by a publisher or tossed into
the slush pile. Here, I'm going to tell you what an acquisitions
editor does—and if this doesn't convince you, then perhaps
acquire books in two main ways: 1) by choosing manuscripts
received from agents or authors that have excellent commercial
promise; and 2) by seeking out authors to write specific
projects that the publishing house has determined will sell.
Both jobs fall to the acquisitions editor. She is the first to
see a manuscript, and if she doesn't like it—really like it—it
will go no further. But she must do more than just like it. She
must convince her superiors—the publisher and marketing
department—to really like it as well. She must pitch it
down to the last detail: the superior quality of the writing;
the manuscript's uniqueness and slant; its suitability for the
publisher's booklist; its favourable comparison to other titles
in the market; cost to produce; timing of publication; price;
expected profit; longevity. She must also assess the author: How
well known is he? How many titles has he published? What are his
sales? How much marketing experience does he have? Is he
cooperative or a pain in the ass? Does he "show" well at media
events and book signings, or does he look like he'd rather be
hiding in the weeds?
editor's job is riding on all of this. If the titles and authors
she promotes do not end up making money for the publishing
house, she's gone. So, this is not really about you, the writer;
it's about her! If you want to impress her, do everything you
can to produce the best you can; and, please, check the
publisher's submissions guidelines.
This is a must:
The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit: Everything You Need to Know
About Queries, Synopses, Marketing, and Breaking In, New
York: Penguin, 1997.
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