The Editorial “Call”

Many authors and agents have written about their experiences with “the call.” That moment when the working relationship truly begins and the author and agent have their first chance to truly get to know each other and figure out if they would make a good team. These stories are always fun to read because there is excitement on both ends. The author starts to feel one step closer to publishing their work and the agent gets a chance to share their love and ideas for the project.

As an editor who receives the 99% of my submissions through agents, I rarely have the opportunity to make a call and say “I want to publish your book!” Nowadays, that call goes to the agent, who then calls the author to say “Jordan wants to publish you book!”

That said, there are times when an editor will speak with an author prior to making an offer or before a deal is closed. I break them down into two kinds of calls.

  1. The Editorial Audition Call: If a book has interest from multiple editors, many times an agent will set up calls between the author and all of the interested editors for the author to have an opportunity to get to know the editor and hear any editorial comments they have on the submission. As a former actor, this is the one moment in my editorial career when I still feel like I’m in the audition room. I’m putting myself out there and basically saying “Pick me! I love your book and here’s why!” I give the author a sense of my editorial process and let them know what I love about the book and how I think we can work together to make it even stronger. If they’ve been published before we’ll talk about how they work (Do they like outlining or are they a pantser? Do they like to get an edit letter, have a talk, and then disappear into edits or do they like to check-in while revising?). I also take the opportunity to get to know them and their contacts. If the author is a librarian with tons of contacts or a previously published author who has had great success with certain indies/conferences that information is always handy to me as I go to my team to discuss the offer. In the end, this phone call gives the author a chance to hear from everyone interested so that they know as much as they can before choosing which editor’s offer they’d like to accept.
  2. The Revise & Resubmit Call: This call is pretty self-explanatory. There are times when I read a submission and think it is great, but after discussing with my editorial team we feel it needs a good deal of work before we can commit. When that happens, I typically call the agent and give them a quick run down of my editorial thoughts and say “If author X is interested in revising, please let me know and I can get on the phone and detail my thoughts.” Depending on where the book is at in the submission process with other editors, sometimes the agent says “Sure, let’s set up a time to talk ASAP” or they wait until they’ve heard back from more editors. When I do actually get a chance to talk to the author, the content of the call is actually very similar to the Editorial Audition Call. I’m still very passionate about the project and believe in it or I would have just passed in the first place. Many times the R&R calls are with debut authors and this step gives me a chance to see how they respond to critique and how they revise. It also lets me get a sense of how we would work together on the book. After the call, I’m always excited to see how the author does with the revision.

These editorial calls don’t happen with every book I offer on, but they are a helpful part of the acquisitions process on both sides of the table.

One Response to The Editorial “Call”

  1. Peter Taylor Nov 25 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Many thanks for this, Jordan, and greetings from Australia. It’s always most interesting to discover how industry professionals work.

    I have been thrilled to receive the acceptance ‘offer’ call a few times, but I do look forward to a ‘let’s talk about this’ call. Some stories have possibilities for being re-written from a changed point of view, to a new theme or at a more appropriate length for a different readership. While the author makes a choice for their submission, they can often see other possible directions for development, and it would be a delight to work with an editor with similar vision in a new exploration.

    I’m currently working on my eighth traditionally published book. All have been improved immensely by editorial and design (and sales team) input to be far better books than I would have conceived and created on my own.

    A horror story from a personal author friend relates how a book distributor, after receiving a proof copy of a work, has influenced editorial processes in a traditional publishing house by refusing to market the picture book for older readers unless the text is changed. I find this alarming. Fortunately, the sales team at the acquisition meeting for my latest picture book ‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’ only insisted on the inclusion of a CD with the text being sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda.

    All best wishes

    Peter Taylor

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