5 Things I’ve Learned as an Acquisitions Editor, by Vicki Keire
I actually never wanted to be a writer when I was growing up. I loved stories, and could never get enough of books. I used to sneak out of bed at night and read by the night light in my hall. To this day, my mother blames this for my poor eyesight. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always told them I wanted to be a professional reader. So for me, a passion for reading predates any aspirations to be a writer. It’s a passion that continues to this day.
So when I got a chance to work with acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press, I jumped at the chance. Reading books as a job? Yes, please! I am happy to say that I have been lucky enough to fulfill my childhood ambition, and have also learned a lot about what makes a book sellable in the meantime. I’ve been fortunate enough to have discovered some real gems, as far as manuscripts go, but then there have also been the inevitable stinkers. Here’s a quick round up of some of what I’ve learned:
It’s Not You, It’s Me
I know it sucks to hear this, whether it’s a break up in a relationship or a rejection letter from a publisher, but a lot of times, a book may just not be a good fit for a publisher’s catalog. You may have written the very best vampire snowboarding adventure ever to grace the printed page, but if a publisher already has four such adventures in the queue for publication, then the odds aren’t really in your favor. This kind of situation has no bearing on the quality of your novel, and is more a reflection of market realities. The other guys simply got there before you, and trust me, if your book is really awesome, then there’s an AE out there kicking herself that she didn’t wait.
“Revise and Resubmit” is a Very Good Thing
I have to seriously love a manuscript for me to even think about doing an R&R. It’s probably triple the work load of a regular rejection or approval. I do not ever ask for them lightly. First I have to read the manuscript and tease out its blind spots, and then I have to see if the author is game to change things. (Because it’s totally the author’s choice, after all.) And then I have to re-read to make sure everything works. Assuming it does, only then can I approach the rest of the team about whether or not to acquire. So when I ask for revisions, it’s because I really believe in a manuscript, and think it’s got a big chance to succeed. If you get a request to revise and resubmit, you can be assured it represents a serious interest in your work.
Polish Your Query
There’s a sad truth when it comes to writing query letters: you can write the best query in the world, and it still won’t guarantee that your novel will get published. So why do we acquisitions editors insist that you write one? Are we just that sadistic? Well, the truth is that while a great one still isn’t a golden ticket, a badly written query will sink you faster than anything else. Your query is the first thing an editor sees that relates to your story, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. And a really well written query will go a long way toward catching an editor’s eye, so it’s essential that you capture interest. There are a ton of sites that will critique your query, and lots of discussion and help for how to write a good one.
Polish Your Pitch
Elmore Leonard once said that if you couldn’t explain the premise of your book in a sentence or less, then you’d probably have a hard time selling it. Now, personally I find that a bit harsh, but there’s no doubt a concise and polished short pitch will go a long way toward making people remember your book. And even if you can’t get it down to a sentence or two, it will still help for you to practice delivering a short but engaging description. Think of it as giving us a snapshot into your novel, and if done well, this can also be used to help promote your book in the form of a blurb, or even swag.
Go Ahead, Nudge Us
We editors get crazy busy. We drag manuscripts with us wherever we go. And the reading load is constant. I’ve read manuscripts on my computer, e-reader, phone, tablet, and of course old fashioned paper. I’ve read them by flashlight in bed, at stop lights, during the school play, and once while scrambling eggs. It’s joyous work, most of the time, but it really takes an inordinate amount of energy and focus. In short, I get swamped, like most people. So I actually appreciate it when a writer emails me politely after some time has elapsed, if they haven’t heard from me yet, to inquire about their manuscript. I can’t always speed things up, but sometimes a nudge does inspire me to try to read faster, and at the very least, I’m always happy to update you on where you stand in the queue.
Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She spent the last decade teaching writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks.
Published works include the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood, Darkness in the Blood, and Blood Redemption, The Chronicles of Nowhere series, and the stand-alone novel Daughter of Glass. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking, and the Primetime anthology with J.R. Rain and Anita Exley.
When not reading and writing about all things paranormal, she enjoys other people’s cooking and keeps vampire hours. She’d rather burn the laundry than fold it, and believes that when an author wins the Newberry, he or she gets a secret lifetime pass to Neverland. She is fond of lost causes and loud music. She currently resides in Central Florida on a lake-front farm full of many furry friends. She loves hearing from readers and can be reached on most social media sites or through her blog (link: http://www.vickikeire.blogspot.com/), of which she is awfully fond.