Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is an Acquisitions Editor?

We acquisitions editors (AEs) essentially “find and sign” authors. I try to find the right author for the right book at the right time for the right market and in the right format (the 5 Rights in publishing). After I find them, I sign them to contracts with F.A. Davis.

AEs are responsible for knowing all about their markets, including what they are, how they work, what they need, and how they’ll respond to products we create. I handle the following markets:

  • Medical assisting

  • Medicine

  • Physician Assistant

  • Health Information Technology

  • Medical Billing and Coding


I visit schools and attend conferences throughout the year in these disciplines, meeting people and learning about trends, curricula, books in use, and many other matters. I base decisions about which publishing projects to pursue and which to let go on my knowledge of the market, as well as many other factors. I also build the company’s publishing plan for each market. A publishing plan explains explain in detail what the market is and how we should address it for optimal results.

Beyond the 5 Rights of publishing, AEs are also responsible for guiding the overall vision for a book and making sure that once the vision is clear and mutually agreed to by the author, that vision is followed throughout the entire publishing process.

The AE's functions include:

  • filtering all unsolicited proposals, deciding which are worth publishing, which are worth at least investigating, and which are headed for the rejection pile.

  • developing a publishing plan, a strategy for a particular line of books (or other products, but let's talk books here). That strategy may, and generally does, involve ways to grow the line, increase revenue, or expand the publisher's presence in a particular market. It may also, though, involve letting a line go. Maybe it's because the market doesn't produce enough revenue. Maybe the market's focus has changed, so the need for the line no longer exists. There could be many reasons, none of which relates to your book.

  • gathering market feedback to identify needs which might be filled by the right product, and market contacts to identify potential authors to develop books to meet those needs.


Author-related functions
The AE also works intimately with every author to:

  • craft a winning proposal

  • fine-tune the overall vision of a book

  • reach compromises between the ideal and the real

  • say and do the sometimes difficult things that need to said and done


After the proposal
Once a proposal is accepted by the company, the AE serves as:

  • leader of the development and production team

  • consistent voice for you and the product

  • final (usually) arbiter of developmental and production-related issues

  • cheerleader, butt-kicker, compromiser, penny-pincher, visionary, grammar cop, and overall guide for your book from the first word you write to the final binding of the spine to the pages.


The AE is, in effect, the captain of a ship. Authors supply the cargo for that ship, and the Captain guides it through the many possible hazards at “sea.” The Captain is also responsible for working with the Authors even before the cargo is created, making sure it will fit the needs of the people who’ll eventually use it.