What Does an Acquisitions Editor Do?

An acquisitions editor recruits authors, develops books, and promotes published works.
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An acquisitions editor does much more than plow through pounds of manuscript. In fact, as an acquisitions editor, you may not find yourself behind a desk much at all. Today's editor is often out in the field, conducting market research, recruiting author talent, developing award-winning products and promoting published works. Whether you work in trade publishing, scholarly publishing, higher education or K-12, this on-the-go career requires a sales-savvy attitude, as well as an eye for trends.

Market Research

    Before a book is signed, acquisitions editors must learn what readers will buy. Are there subjects that are hot? Do certain genres top the best-seller list each week? Who is emerging as a leading voice in a field? Researching topics and people is just part of the puzzle. As "Publisher's Weekly" reports in its 2012 industry overview, e-books and digital formats are fast eroding print sales. With hardcover, paperback, e-book, and digital options available, today's publishing professional must research which book format will appeal to the target audience and how each format will affect sales.

Author Recruitment

    Finding best-selling authors, rather than uncovering well-written manuscripts, is one key to editorial success. Editors find authors by attending academic conferences, following national news stories, and monitoring social media sites. Editors look for authors with an established following, a captivating story, or a name in the field. Recruiting authors can be a competitive business. "The New York Times" reports that a standard publishing contract gives an author an advance and pays royalties in the range of 7 to 12 percent for print. Larger royalties accompany digital sales, with standards at 25 percent of sales.

Product Development

    Contract negotiations and author signings eventually lead to finished manuscripts. This path from proposal to print can be long and may take months or even years. Acquisition editors team with developmental editors, copy editors, ghost writers, and authors to create tangible chapters that can be sent out for review. During the review process, the editor analyzes feedback from focus groups, peers, and target audiences. These candid opinions are then used to adjust and guide the project to completion.

Publicity and Promotion

    The AEs job is not done until the book starts to sell. These road warriors travel to trade shows, conferences, book stores and schools. They accompany authors to book signings, presentations, speeches and workshops. With each stop they retell why the book was signed. They recount the author's credentials, reviews and story. With each stop, they look in the audience for the next best-selling author.

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