The Role of an Acquisitions Editor– Reader Question

Hello, Readers! Today I bring you a question from Wendy, a Pub Crawl Reader:

Question for you: I have an author friend/mentor who is also involved in publishing. He’s asked me my thoughts/ideas on an Acquisitions Editor position. My internship & classes in publishing didn’t cover this area too much, and while I’ve learned a bit about it on my own, I could use more info. Specifically, since hundreds (if not thousands) of unsolicited mss are submitted each week to pubs, is there really a need for an acquisitions editor, and how—other than traveling around the country/world to various conferences/retreats—how would they go about soliciting mss?

It’s a great question, Wendy, and let me start by defining the role of an acquisitions editor—(and I’ll use “she” since I work in YA, and 95% of the editors I deal with are female), she is an editor who works for a publishing house where she acquires, edits, and champions books. And by “champions books,” I mean that she will be a writer’s main point of contact, and she’s the one taking your book to launch meetings, coordinating the cover design, writing the back cover copy, etc, etc.

She is not out there scouting and requesting material—although that’s certainly possible in select circumstances—what she’s doing is actually reading the books sent to her by agents (or possibly directly from writers, if it is a publisher still open to that—not many are any more), deciding which ones she’d like to publish, and then taking them to her team for approval. She’s there every step of the way for her books.

What you describe above—an editor “traveling around the country/world to various conferences/retreats” for the purpose of finding authors is not, in fact, part of the job description, at least not in the way you might think.

When an editor goes to a conference and meets with writers, they are often doing so on the weekend—and they still show up to work on Monday. There may be a small honorarium for their time, but they’re going to these conferences of their own free will, becuase they’ve been invited by the conference coordinators, not because a publisher sends them to seek out manuscripts.

I go to conferences several times a year, and while it would be great to say I am there to find authors, truth be told I have yet to sign anyone from a conference. I go to network, socialize, teach, and socialize some more. I go because I genuinely enjoy it. But I find that the slush pile is far more fruitful in finding clients.

Now, there IS a job called “book scout,” which is a person who generally works on behalf of pbulishers, spending their time finding books and getting them into the hands of the right folks. They are often used for foreign pubs to get a hold of buzzed US books, often before they formally hit the foreign teritories on submission, but there are a variety ways a publisher (and an agent) may utilize a book scout. However even this job isn’t so much flying around and hitting the streets so much as knowing the right people and talking. A lot.

So, you might very well make a great acquisitions editor one day, but don’t dream of flying around, wooing authors. You’ll be doing that from your desk.


2 Responses to The Role of an Acquisitions Editor– Reader Question

  1. Leigh Smith Oct 25 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Ok, I now want to be a book scout when I grow up. That sounds awesome.

  2. Wendy Garfinkle Oct 25 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Many thanks, Mandy, for your thorough answer of my question! I now have a greater understanding of this role. Sounds to me like a terrific career! 🙂

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