Acquisitions editors (sometimes known as acquiring editors) are responsible for obtaining and evaluating manuscripts for a publisher. Their job is divided into four parts. The fourth part is sometimes optional depending on the publisher.
Soliciting manuscripts: Soliciting manuscripts is the job of bringing in submissions. In some cases, acquisitions editors may read unsolicited manuscripts that have been sent in. For the most part though, acquisitions editors deal with agents or authors that they believe produce work in line with their publishing needs. This search may come in the form of formal book proposals, meetings or phone conversations. It is the acquisitions editor’s job to know the field or topic in which they publish and to know the players involved.
Evaluating manuscripts: Acquisitions editors (sometimes with the help of an assistant) read the manuscripts they receive and decide which ones would be good for publication. In general, they have set criteria (such as writing quality, saleability and compatibility of topic) that they judge manuscripts by. The acquisitions editors must then defend their choices to the ultimate decision makers, such as senior editors, the editor-in-chief, the publisher or an editorial board.
Purchasing manuscripts: Once the decision to purchase the rights to a book is made, it is the acquisitions editors who negotiate the deal. They have a set range that they can offer for a particular book and they negotiate the final deal with the agent, author, or author’s legal representative.
Editing manuscripts: In most cases, the acquisitions editor is the main manuscript editor, working with the author to improve the book and get it ready for release. In this part of the process, the editor does what is traditionally considered to be an editor’s job, making manuscript corrections and giving suggestions to the author. For some publishers a separate manuscript editor does the lion’s share of this work instead of the acquisitions editor.
What skills and experience do acquisitions editors need?
Most acquisitions editors work their way up to that position. They may start the field as an editorial assistant or a manuscript editor and move up through promotion. Very few advertised positions are available for those without experience.
An acquisitions editor should have a degree (often an advanced degree) in English, creative writing, or the field in which they are an editor. An acquisitions editor for biology books, for example, often has a degree in biology.
Good acquisitions editors are also proficient copy editors and proofreaders. They are familiar with the process of acquiring book rights and copyrights. They are skilled negotiators. Acquisitions editors tend to have good social skills and like working with people.
Knowledge of the process of digital publishing (audio books, online books, etc.) is also frequently a requirement for acquisitions editors.
Where can you find acquisitions editor jobs?
Major publishing cities such as New York, Boston and Chicago are where the majority of acquisitions editor jobs are located. Other good employment sources for acquisitions editor positions are universities and colleges, which usually have one or more small publishing operations.