Today, Vicki Merkiel is helping me “pull back the curtain” on an important role in the publishing world: Acquisitions Editor. In her own words, Vicki shares her role and responsibilities in looking for new talent and manuscripts for publisher, Curiosity Quills. As you will see, this is not work for the faint of heart. Not only must you love reading, but have a keen sense of what will stand out in the marketplace.
Many thanks to Vicki for sharing her insights today…
A Day in the Life of An Acquisitions Editor
By Vicki Merkiel
It was in November 2013 that I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills for CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. As a debut author, I didn’t know what to expect from a publishing house. But their entire team blew me away; they fight so hard to ensure every author reaches his/her potential. So, I knew that if I wanted to continue a career in the publishing industry (outside of writing books), Curiosity Quills would be a great place to start.
Since then, I’ve taken on a few different roles within the CQ family. I started in March 2014 as a copyeditor, then moved into an editor role, and then began beta reading for their acquisitions team. Finally, at the end of December 2014, I took on my current role an acquisitions editor.
With a month of experience under my belt now, I can definitely say the position has been all I’d hoped it would be—yet not as glamorous. Being an acquisitions editor is hard work. We sift through the queries that come in, finding those manuscripts that have potential based off their first few pages, and then when the authors/agents send in the full manuscripts, we have to dedicate time to reading them. And not only do I read the manuscripts that come directly to my inbox; I’m also sent manuscripts from our general inbox when my bosses feel it’s something I might enjoy. It’s a good thing I love to read, because the AE position is every time consuming!
I, personally, split my full submissions into three groups: (1) Manuscripts where I know I won’t ask for an R&R; (2) Manuscripts where there’s enough potential for an R&R; (3) Manuscripts I feel are ready for publication (or will be ready after a strong round of editing).
For any manuscript that falls into category #3, I draft a pitch and approach my bosses about acquiring. If they agree that it’s right for our current catalog, they will send me a contract for that book. I then reach out to the author/agent with the contract and negotiate the deal. If the author decides to sign, yay! If they want changes, I talk with my bosses. If my bosses agree to the changes, we then send a revised contract. If they don’t agree, then it’s a lot of back and forth with the author/agent to determine whether a relationship would be beneficial for both sides. And if the author decides not to sign, then we make sad faces.
If any manuscript falls into category #2, I will send the author a request for an R&R only if I feel I can pitch the manuscript to my bosses after a significant rewrite. In these cases, if the author is willing to do an R&R, I typically go through the manuscript and leave in-depth notes about what I feel needs to change. I then send the manuscript back to the author, with my notes, and wait to see the revised version. If the revised version is strong, I move them to category #3 and reach out for approval to acquire. But if the revised version still isn’t strong enough, I, unfortunately, have to pass.
Finally, it doesn’t take me long to tell if a manuscript falls into category #1. Those manuscripts are the ones that I feel need so much editing that the author would benefit from more practice, in general. In these cases, I can usually tell by page fifty, and I rarely finish these manuscripts. (I have so many other things I have to read!) With the books that fall into category #1, I will send a kind email to the author, suggesting how I think they can improve, and request they send new material in the future.
So far, I’ve acquired one manuscript, have requested to acquire two more, have requested three R&Rs, and have passed on several. I make a point every day to check my email for new queries that come in and respond to each, and then I dive into reading the manuscript submissions. I prioritize based on: when the submission came in, whether they’re agented, and if I have any other deadlines to meet (ex: editing a contracted manuscript). I do give myself two days off every week to unravel my brain (those days vary), and my working days are typically eight hours long.
But though my job is very time-consuming, it’s always a thrill when I read a really great manuscript. Finding those gems is so worth the time spent looking for them, and I especially like making authors’ dreams come true. And when I think about all the readers who will enjoy the books I discover…yeah, all the effort I expend is so totally worth it.
Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Merkiel grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. She writes Young Adult novels under her pen name, Vicki Leigh, and if she couldn’t work with novels, she would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Her YA debut, Catch Me When I Fall, released October 23, 2014.