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Featured Article: What Do Acquisition Editors Really Want?


Just what does that confounding acquisitions editor want from you?

And you thought the age-old question about what women want was a stumper. Today I wanted to discuss just what it is that acquisition editors are looking for.

Do you know what makes an editor choose one story over another?

Well, it’s fairly simple really, but for those on the outside looking in, it may seem like the mystery to rival the creation of the universe, especially when you are sitting at your desk with another rejection letter in hand.

An acquisitions editor has one job: sign authors.

But not any author will do.

If you want to publish your book in the traditional manner, well, you are going to have to give your potential publisher what they are looking for. And what’s that, you ask?

They are looking for three specific things.

  • Books the publisher’s consumer base wants to read.
  • Books that are easy to promote and authors who are marketable and reliable.
  • Books that will not cause the editing department to stage a revolt.

And if you want to get published, you have to meet these criteria. No ifs, ands, or buts. Fall short in any way and it’s “thanks, but no thanks.”

So let’s break it down.

Books that fly off shelves!

It’s basic economics. Publishers who publish books that don’t sell, don’t stay in business. The cold hard fact is very few publishers care about creativity or “the craft.” Sad but true. They are looking for a book that is going to hit the bestsellers list and stay there and an author who is going to write bestseller after bestseller.

So to this end, you need to know your publisher. Publishers work hard to build their niche. Do your research. It’s a waste of your time and the editor’s time to send your book to a publisher who is not looking for what you have written.

Publishers aren’t into wasting your time either. They tend to be explicit about what they are looking for and what they aren’t. You can find this in the submission guidelines. Read it. Take it to heart. If the publisher puts out a call for paranormal new adult, don’t send them literary fiction. It’s a guaranteed rejection.

It’s all about the marketing, baby!

Marketers are keen observers of sales trends. They know what’s going to be popular next year and what’s going to be passé. And while you need to pay attention to the trends in genre, it’s more important to understand the importance of categories in publishing.

Books that sell tend to fall into one of three categories: entertaining, meaningful, and controversial. The market moves in cycles. For a while there will be a run of meaningful books, and then it’s the controversial, and then it’s all about entertainment. Right now, entertainment value is highly prized and the markets for controversial books are blazing hot. Keep that in mind. If you want to be published, then write what consumers are buying and write it well. It’s as simple as that.

Beyond this, you have to sell yourself. Social media is more important than it’s ever been. A publisher is going to stand up and take notice when you walk in the door with a huge fan base. Never before has it been expected that an author develop a readership before they publish their first book. This is no longer the case.

And a word of caution. As I’ve stated before in articles like this, watch the crazy. If your acquisitions editor sees even a hint of immaturity, nonprofessionalism, unreliability, rudeness or snowflake syndrome, it could tank your chances. Comport yourself well at all times. I cannot stress how important this is.

Grammar matters!

Don’t overlook the word that follows acquisitions. It’s editor and it’s there for a reason. The acquisitions editor at your perspective publisher had a love affair with words, spelling, and grammar long before they obtained that title, and they are still clinging to that love.

A sloppily edited manuscript, synopsis, or query letter isn’t going to earn you any points. And a manuscript that needs massive amounts of work, no matter how much potential it has, is never going to see the light of day.

Get your manuscript edited before you send it out and proofread your synopsis and query letter.

Okay, I’m climbing off my soapbox now. Back to writing, y’all. 🙂


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