Have you ever put your baby in the hands of a stranger and just hoped beyond all hope that the stranger would love your baby enough to help the baby become something great? That is similar how it might feel for an author when they submit their manuscript for publication.
When an author submits a manuscript, they are taking this project that has taken countless hours, sleepless nights, and buckets of tears to complete, and giving it to a stranger to judge. So how do acquisitions editors actually work? How do they choose from the thousands of manuscripts that are submitted? Hopefully, I can shed a little light on the subject.
Many people (myself included) believe that there is only one way to get a manuscript submitted and selected for publication. According to Emily Watts, managing editor at Deseret Book in Salt Lake City, only one out of one thousand manuscripts will be chosen for publication from the slush pile. (The “slush pile” is the term for the manuscripts that are submitted to a publishing company without being solicited.)
Now, that’s not to say that being chosen never happens, but the odds of any given manuscript being published from the slush pile is not very high. When acquisitions editors go through the slush pile, they will probably have to work more with that author to build a following, to market the book, and to get the book ready for publication. Even after all of those reasons, an acquisitions editor is taking a risk with a new author, simply because they do not know if the book will sell well. All of that is a lot more work than working with an already well-known author.
The second way of finding manuscripts to publish is through returning authors. For first-time authors, this isn’t particularly helpful, but if you are already a published author, this is really good news. This method is popular because of the relationship the publishing company already has with the author. When a publishing company knows the author, they know the author can create the type of content the company wants to publish, and know that the author already has some sort of following and social media presence. This lessens the amount of work the publishing company has to do in order to make the manuscript into a successful book.
The third and final way of finding manuscripts to publish is through soliciting. Publishers will sometimes go to conferences, or will hear about someone who has a specific story that the publishers think the world wants and needs. Publishers will approach these people and ask them to write a manuscript for the publisher to put out and market. These manuscripts often take a lot of work, but the presenter will often come with a ready made following of people who will want to read their book. If you’ve ever seen a book written by a celebrity, this is probably the method used to published that book.
This is how manuscripts are found for publication. If you are an aspiring author, don’t lose heart! Acquisitions editors are always on the lookout for the next best-selling novel. You never know if yours could be chosen. Also, don’t be afraid to market your book or your story. You never know who might want to publish it.
Note. If traditional publishing doesn’t sound like the way you want to go, or the slush pile didn’t work for you, there are plenty of options for self-publishing. One of the most popular self-publishing platforms is Amazon.com. Here is a link to their page on self-publishing if you are curious and wanting more information.
Written by Annie Petersen.