Okay…we’ve covered some reasons why putting me into the Acquisitions chair at your fiction publisher might constitute Job Match Fail.
But even in a situation where there is no hope of rainbows or unicorns, for every negative I can see about my “savvy” in some areas, the expertise I can offer in others—the wonderful, craft-oriented hands-on areas—goes a long way toward balancing what may be a perceived “weakness.” In short, if you can take my worldview in stride, talk my (clean) language and see “story” from where I sit, there are just as many, if not more, reasons why putting me in that Acquisitions slot would be Job Match Nirvana.
Why do I say this?
1. I love authors and I love a good story! I’m always looking for the story that takes me away. I’m always dreaming of it. When I find it, it’s an unbelievable high—and one that’s completely safe and legal. What’s not to love about that?
2. I’m a great manuscript evaluator. Remember, when I went into the Agent for a Day contest, I was looking at queries. No chapters. Once I start looking at chapters, however, it’s a whole ‘nuther game, one I’m very good at. I’ve picked Golden Heart winners (and written one myself); I’ve judged dozens of contests and critiqued hundreds of samples. People who work with me trust what I tell them to do with a manuscript. They acknowledge me in published books. Even people whose books I’ve panned have revised them and gone back and thanked me for it! Who else on your staff can you point to with that wealth of experience and potential influence?
3. I work hard, I work fast, and I work smart. I can, literally, tell within paragraphs if something’s going to work as a story. I don’t waste time chewing over whether I’m going to hurt an author’s feelings by sending her a form rejection; I know it’s gonna hurt. I try to do it gently, not brutally, but I don’t believe we do authors any favor by coddling them, either…so I don’t. I consistently produce more work, better work, and faster work than most editors in my business can point to; when I work, I work.
4. I have vision for the “big picture” of both an author’s potential and how that author can fit into a catalog slot. I know a lot of authors who are working on specific kinds of books, and I know there are unfilled niches out there that I could—with expertise—help find material to fill for you.
5. Finally…I am obsessive about quality. An old Hanes ad on TV years ago featured a ferocious Quality Control woman on screen whose slogan was: “They don’t say Hanes until I SAY they say Hanes.” That’s me. In a nutshell. I will question an author. I will push her. I will demand that her plot holes are closed, her characters are understandable and believable, and her premises are plausible. People who work with me can tell you my favorite question, when working with story, is “Why?” I believe the more of those “Whys” we answer…the more satisfying a story is. So if you want stories to be as perfect, as clean, as correct, and as complete as possible—you need me shepherding at least some of those stories. Clean, well-written stories with emotional depth and resonance are keepers…and that’s the only kind of book I let out of my shop.
So you’ve seen both sides of the fence, you who are in Editorial Judgment Seats. The next time one of you has an Acquisitions editor run away to the Caribbean and leave no forwarding address…or join the circus…or hit the lottery…look up this blog again and shoot me a line. I’ve got a perfectly good, warm and toasty set of talents just waiting for you to use—if you’re brave enough to hire the best.