It’s official. I’ve converted to the Dark Side. Once upon a time, I was just a lowly author.
A short time after signing my book deal with Fantasy Works Publishing, I was given a job there as well. After several back and forth conversations with owner, Jen Leigh, in which she would hand me a potential acquisition and ask me to evaluate it to see whether or not our interests lined up, I suddenly found myself working with her in acquisitions. Instead of the rejected, I have become the REJECTOR. And I feel the need to talk about it a bit, because it’s a huge difference, looking at it from the inside. And possibly because I need a little talk therapy.
Here’s what I’ve learned from working in acquisitions through two pitch sessions.
- It is a SLOG. I used to be very annoyed at how long it took agents and publishers to turn manuscripts around when you sent them in, but I was wrong. Reading through that many submissions can be a lot of work, especially when you consider the fact that we have other duties in acquisitions, like sending out contracts or rejections (more on both, later). And that isn’t even factoring in the fact that in small publishing you can wear many hats. Also, for me, specifically, I have a day job, a writing career, and a family. We try to keep your manuscripts for less than a month before we say something, and that’s mostly due to Jen, who reads so much faster than me. But in small publishing, all it takes is one minor business hiccup to mean we can’t read acquisitions for the rest of the day until we get it straightened out. Because putting out fires with the authors you have takes precedent.
- It is a JOY. People are creative. REALLY creative. And a whole lot of fun. Even if something doesn’t fit our particular vision for our company, we usually fall in love with something about every manuscript we read.
- It can be disappointing. There are few things that hurt worse than discovering a manuscript that you fall in love with, and having that author decide not to sign with your company. You invest a lot of time when you read a manuscript from cover to cover, and a lot of emotion as well. And when you fall in love, you fall hard. So it’s sad. But it’s also important that you are both on the same page, business-wise. So just like you have to make the best choice for your manuscript, we have to make the best choice for our company. The only thing I would suggest is that you only submit to a small publishing company if you would be interested in publishing with them. If you are relatively sure you are looking for an agent, it wastes everybody’s time for you to submit. It happens far more than you would think.
- We know, very quickly, if we want to sign you. Nobody wants to hear this, and nobody wants to say this, but it’s true. I often know by page 5 or 6 of whatever you send me, if I’m going to want to read further. If I fear a no, I’ll still read the entire packet you send, hoping you’ll prove me wrong, but I have yet to have that happen. Taste is subjective, and that doesn’t mean that the same will be true for the same writer any other place. By no means does this mean you have to be perfect, but when I pick up a manuscript, I have to be captivated by something (your writing style, a character, voice, plot) by the end of the first several pages, or you’ll be hard pressed to win me over.
- We hate rejections. If Jen tells me she has grabbed a pint of ice cream, I know it’s time to send out rejections. We hate every single email we send, because we don’t want to crush anybody’s dream. We’d much rather say yes, because…
- We love to make a dream come true. Jen has said this to me time and again, but it wasn’t until just recently, when I was given the chance to make a call on a manuscript by myself, that I understood the power of selecting a novel for publication. That book became my baby. I’d worked on books in their nascent stages before – mine, my husband’s, my good friend, Louis’ – and you become emotionally invested in them. Their success becomes just as important as your own. But never, had I read the work of a complete stranger (though, thankfully, not anymore) and had that same magic happen to me. And then it did.
And this is why I wanted to do this. This is why I added Acquisitions Editor to the many pieces of my puzzle. Because the writers we have chosen deserve to have a voice, deserve to have their day. And I’m enjoying every chance I get to make that happen.