Monday, March 19, 2007

Acquisitions Editor

My move into acquisitions was a bit nontraditional in that there was not anyone at JIST that could train me to do it. The only person with acquisitions experience had left, leaving behind only his notes. So I studied those, and I read our standard book contract over and over, trying to make sense of 10 pages of draconian legalese, peppered with typos. I had also worked with many acquisitions editors at Macmillan, so I knew the role. Basically I took it to mean this:
  • Review unsolicited book proposals and decide whether to reject them outright or present them to sales, marketing, and the president for possible approval.
  • Find qualified, talented authors for projects we've already decided we want to do.
  • Negotiate the terms of the publishing contract with the author and serve as a go-between with the president (the person who signed the contracts for JIST).
  • Work with the author to develop a satisfactory book outline.
  • Coach and coerce the author to meet his/her writing deadlines.
  • Serve as the author's primary point of contact with the publisher throughout the process (and most importantly to them, get them their advance money).
  • Work out all details regarding the book's specifications (price, page count, trim size, target audience, marketing focus, etc.).

Meanwhile, because this was a small company, I continued to do all of the other jobs I had already been doing (development editor, copy editor, production editor, copy writer, proofreader, etc.). It's no small feat making my right and left brains work together as well as they do, and I would hazard a guess that there aren't many people who would be good at (and would enjoy) doing all of these different things at the same time. That's just one of the quirks of working for a small publisher--you do it all because they can't afford to get as many people as it would take to do it all. But you are rewarded by having the kind of project ownership you'd never get anywhere else.


Anonymous said...

This makes me think of a question that is very likely pertinent to many of your readers: would a position of this type (or any position in publishing) preclude the company you work for from accepting your own submissions? If you had a completed first chapter and book proposal ready to go, and you were willing and able to write your work after office hours (and many of us are able to do this), could you ever, under any circumstances, sell your book to the publisher for whom you worked as an editor?

Lori Cates Hand said...


This is actually a possibility, I think, depending on where you work. Two of my coworkers have written a book in their spare time and had it published by us. Just as long as you can make it very clear that you are not working on it at work--if you worked on it at work, it would be considered "work for hire," and the publisher would own the copyright and owe you no royalties.