If you love to read, then the job of acquisitions editor for a small press is a dream come true. If you hate to dash dreams, are easily swayed or thin-skinned, find another occupation.
I am the gatekeeper who stands between you and the publisher. The publisher concentrates on production and relies on me to take queries and make decisions based on the needs of the publishing house. We share a vision and it's my job is to find manuscripts for that vision.
So, read the guidelines and study titles we've published. Get an idea of what we're looking for. We concentrate on our strongest genres where we have marketing expertise.
Note our word length. Larger outfits can produce huge books and charge more; we have to keep production cost down and make books affordable.
If it's a mystery, kill somebody already! The days of long literary passages are over. This is a TV generation, so grab my interest and do it quickly.
Show me craft. Anyone with a computer can write a novel, but few realize that writing needs to be studied like any other profession. Craft is more than punctuation.
Don't be high maintenance. What do I mean by that? Here's a list. If any of the descriptions sound like you, change your attitude or change your profession.
THE BRAGGART. “This is the best book you'll ever read. All of my relatives say so.” I'm not impressed, nor am I going to let the opinions of others sway me.
THE BEGGER. “Please publish my book before I die. I just want to see my name on the cover.” I sympathize, but that's not a good reason for me to send a contract. That's what vanity press is for.
THE DEMANDER: “Have you read my book yet? Will you read it in the next 24 hours?” No, so don't bug me every week. The more you ask, the longer it takes.
THE SENSITIVE: “You don't like my book? You don't like me!” I'm not rejecting you, and I will take the time to tell you why your book didn't make the cut.
THE IMPATIENT: “I got the contract a year ago. Where's my book?” Publishing is slow. We do our best, but we get the flu, have the occasional crisis and sometimes get overwhelmed with the workload. I work on Christmas and Thanksgiving—do you?
THE SLOB: “I wrote the book, now you fix the punctuation, grammar and spelling errors.” Nope. I'm going to pick manuscripts that are clean.
THE INFLEXIBLE: “My words are precious, so don't change them.” I respect your opinion, but it might lose you a contract.
THE LAZY: “Me, market? That's for underlings. I'm an author!” I need authors with marketing savvy and a willingness to promote.
THE CLUELESS: “I want to be on the bestseller list. And I hear Hollywood calling.” Make sure your expectations are realistic.
THE BAIT AND SWITCH: “Thanks for doing all the work on my book, but now I'm going to give it to another publisher.” Time and money wasted. Plus, some deserving author lost an opportunity.
I look for red flags early on in our relationship. If you are a problem child, I'm not going to make my publisher deal with you. Like I said, I'm manning the gate. I'm looking for authors who will work WITH the publishing house, not consumed with their own self-worth that they demand special treatment. It's important to keep your individualism, but not at the expense of a contract.
What kind of author do you want to be?