Thursday, May 15, 2014

Off to Acquisitions! ~ by Patricia Toht

An editor loves your story? Ice that bottle of champagne!

 But don’t pop the cork just yet…

If you’re working with a larger publishing house, your editor will need to take your story to Acquisitions.
"Nobody Expects a Doodle of the Spanish Inquisition" by Alejandra Ramirez
No, not the Inquisition!

Acquisitions. I know, it sounds so mysterious! But at a recent SCBWI workshop, one session gave interesting insights into the process. But first, let me set things up.

Acquisitions varies among publishers. Some call it the Pub Board. There may be a separate Editorial Meeting. But whatever the name, Acquisitions usually involves one or more editors, the publisher, the art director, and…

Dum da dum dum. Marketing and publicity. The money people.

Photo by

While we all may wish that book decisions be made on literary value alone, that's not reality. As Harold Underdown says in his article here, "The books still matter, but so do the finances."

Your editor will lovingly compile an Acquisitions Proposal for your book. Again, differences abound, but it would likely include a summary of the book, the target audience, and “comp titles” (similar books) along with their sales figures.  (For a great post about researching comp titles, check out this post by Jill Corcoran.)

The Acquisitions Meeting is a chance for all parties to discuss the possibilities for your book and ask any questions or raise concerns they might have.

At the workshop I attended, Erica Finkel, Assistant Editor at Abrams, gave us a peek at three of these discussions and the types of questions raised. Of course, the first thing they look for is good writing. But they also look for:
• What is the author’s sales track? (New authors are riskier.)
• What are the comp titles sales?
• Can they afford the author?
• Is it too similar or different to the publishers other projects?
• Will it be a series or stand-alone?

One surprising thing for me concerned comp titles. It’s actually a plus if there are strong-selling titles out there that are similar to your book – it shows interest. If your book is “something we’ve never seen before,” that can actually work against you because the publisher must take a leap of faith, with moneybags in hand.

In the discussion about a novel, voice came up frequently. Are the voices of multiple characters distinct? Can readers identify with each character? Are there too many characters? Does an adult point of view creep in?

Two picture book discussions elicited a variety of questions. Is the humor and language appropriate for the age group? Is the underlying message clear enough? The story is strong, but does it pull the reader in emotionally? Strengths mentioned were character growth, strong ending, and tapping into a popular subject with a creative twist.

At the end of the Acquisitions Meeting, the editor has an answer:
• Yes! The project moves to offer.
• No. The editor loved it, but just couldn’t drum up enthusiasm.
• Maybe. Back to re-writes.

Hopefully, the answer for you will be YES!
Photo by Andy Price
You can read more about Acquisitions herehere, and here. Or take a peek at the process at Peachtree Publishers.

Artwork in today's post used in agreement with the Creative Commons license.


  1. Thanks for filling us in on the process!

  2. Acquisitions. Ugh. I had a hopeful couple of weeks, and my story crashed in Acquisitions. Bummer.

    1. So sorry to hear that. But the editor also s1aid only 10% of what she reads makes it to Acquistions. Your book must be good Maybe another publisher will give it a go. Good luck!

    2. This is a valuable insight. Thank you. Sorry to hear of your disappointment, Genevieve - I hope another publishing team likes it. Publishers' processes differ. An editor may circulate a ms around the office for feedback prior to taking it to acquisition. In some publishers, three editors may read it just to make sure that no one is having a bad day and rejecting something good, or about to promote something that 'will probably not have legs'. This takes significant time when other tasks also need to be done. At some meetings, a single vote against acquisition means the books is rejected, eg if a sales rep doesn't believe they can sell it. But sales reps can also ensure it's a 'better selling book'. I understand that it was the sales reps who pressed for a CD of the words of my forthcoming picture be sung, recorded and included with the book.

      Best wishes

      Peter Taylor

    3. Thanks, Peter! More great information!

  3. Pat: Your article on Acquisition Proposals for Books is excellent information. Thank you for sharing the links with additional resources. I continue to learn and grow everyday. Cheers to Writing! ~Suzy

    1. Thanks, Suzy! We're all on this road together. :)

  4. Books to compare to the title-in-progress are so important to study for the acqusition process. Thank you, Pat. And as many of your resources that I enjoyed visiting from this post say, it can be that a title with few to compare, can actually be more highly valued, if it is on a hard-to-get non-fiction topic, such as First Peoples/Native American p.b. biographries of leaders, especially women. Thank you for the great links. I felt like a fly on the wall at Peachtree, which has some mighty fine titles.