Category Archives: acquisitions

Acquisitions: Welcome to Purgatory

…or so it may feel. For a while.

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My brother doing his best “just pressed SEND OMG” face.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “have you read my book yet?” I would love to jump straight to a great sub as soon as I get it, but alas, the cogs don’t always turn that way. This post is a guide to acquisitions process at a smaller house like ours. If you’re waiting on that nail-biting decision from us—or indeed, any other house—then I hope this is of use. In the meantime…be nice to yourself. Catch up on your sleep. Eat chocolate. Go for a run. Drink gin. Don’t get those last two mixed up.

First things first

Your submission hits my inbox (usually a little while after you sent it, unless you’re a roster author and you sub directly to your editor). We invite authors to send their fulls from the beginning, so it’s very much a case of huzzah! Book candy! I usually read a query/cover letter as soon as I open the email, but it may take me a while to read the actual book.

How long is “a while?”

Publishing is slow. We like to think at a smaller house that we can be a bit faster than average, but still…books get in the way of books. I try to read everything I’m sent in two weeks or so, but on occasion, it can take longer. I may have more submissions than usual; I may need to work on a book that wasn’t initially on my schedule; deadlines may have changed for a roster book and so my attentions end up elsewhere. Or occasionally, other things crop up (I ended up in hospital recently for “surprise” surgery. Apparently, making acquisitions on morphine isn’t encouraged. Bah). But rest assured: your book is always on my to-do list, and I’m always looking forward to finding a possible addition to my roster.

So once you’ve read the book…you can tell me what the answer is. Right?

It’s not that simple—but for good reason.

Once I’ve read the book (and have maybe taken a few days to think on my decision), I have to submit a recommendation. Trust me when I tell you that I spent a lot of time thinking through a prospective acquisition—I think about who would buy it, how we’d package it, who would want to review it. I Google the author, too—I like to see a decent platform, and preferably evidence that the author acts with decorum on social media. If extensive revisions are required then it can take hours to write them up in a detailed manner. Getting this stuff absolutely right is part of my job.

My recommendation will be discussed with the executive editor. Ideas may be thrown around; some books need little work, but others need more development and it’s important to ascertain exactly what that would consist of before we take the offer to the author. Then we have to decide how many books the contract will be for or when it might be released. This can add a fair bit of time to the decision making because we’ll be waiting on answers from various parties. But when it’s go, it’s go.

Acceptance! Yay! Or Rejection…Boo

Sending an acceptance is the loveliest feeling in the world. Really quite exciting. Sometimes, if I’m suggesting revisions, I even get a little nervous; I don’t want the writer to think I don’t love the work. If I’m sending any kind of acceptance, I adore it. (I’m very lucky that I get to work with such awesome manuscripts).

Rejections…it’s hard. I think our rejections are very gentle and encouraging, though. If I have the time, I may add a comment or two about why the book is not right for us, depending on whether or not I think it will be of help to the author. (Sometimes, a comment may only be of help if it’s a longer one, and I simply don’t have the time for that).

If you’ve got questions about acquisitions, go ahead and leave them in the comments—I’ll get back to answer them when I can. (Please note that I’m unable to comment on specific submissions).

Acquisitions Update: YA & NA

Apologies for lack of updates…various things have kept me very busy. The good news is that part of the “busy” was the acquisition of these very awesome titles:

ENDURE and EVOKE, a two-book dystopian YA series by Laura Diamond, in which  a teenage boy battles back against a vampiric dictatorship who use humans for both food and reality TV entertainment.

LIVING DEAD GIRL by Janine Pilkington, a New Adult romance that I pitched to our exec ed as a paranormal BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, in which a young mortician falls for a bad boy punk rocker…until she dies, meets her sarcastic British Reaper, and realises love goes beyond the grave in all kinds of ways…

BY FORCE and BY CHOICE, a two-book New Adult fantasy romance series by Sara Hubbard, in which a girl is abducted by a group of domineering savages and travels through lands ruled by fairy magic to meet her rather fey fate.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about these books. Judging by the size of my slushpile, I may be adding to this post quite shortly…

 

Researching Your Novel (or: don’t be a lazybones)

Last weekend, I went to the Natural History Museum in London to research my current novel. And as I ignored my boyfriend (sorry, darling) in front of the very awesome dinosaur skeletons, I got to thinking about researching a novel well.

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Poor Steggy needs a burger. And a manicure.

As an editor, I’m always looking for new and interesting settings when it comes to considering a project–whether this is a scientifically accurate dystopian future or a suffocating mental hospital. One of the most important aspects to nailing this element is research.

It’s my job to question the facts presented within a manuscript. I have to judge each situation; would this happen? Is that logical? Would that be possible? (For one recent manuscript, I ended up speaking to a specialist in the US about accurate police procedure with regards to minors. If you’re writing a novel that deals with this, have you done that?). I don’t want to get excited about a project only to find the premise falls down at the first hurdle–and if the subject is complex, I don’t want this to be pointed out when the book goes out to a particularly well-informed reviewer. Neither, author, do you.

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Inside Hogwar–I mean, ahem. The MUSEUM

Research takes time; in an age where we prize prolific authors, that can put some people off. But if you scrimp: people will notice.

Here are a couple of traps a writer can fall into while researching a new book…

1) Google Is My Friend

Google’s handy. As is Wikipedia. Don’t get me wrong; I use them too. The trick is to check–and double-check–your sources, for everything. Sometimes, Google’s an outdated party pooper or a sarcastic meanie, and you don’t want to fall foul of that.

2) Google Is All I Need

It is not.

If you’re writing about a a drug trial, for example, you need to dig around a little further than a few Wiki articles. You might want to:

–study how drugs are named so you name your drug accurately (there’s a specific procedure)

–talk to people who’ve participated in drug trials

–study ethics in relation to drug trials so you know what would feasibly go on. This will keep your plot realistic.

–find out exactly how your “drug” might work on a molecular level. This will prevent someone pointing out that the heroine’s birth control pills will render it useless at a later date (which is pesky).

With regards to settings especially, think about visiting your location and studying its culture (at worst, look it up on Google Street Maps and read a heap of Trip Advisor reviews). One of my most common complaints is an under-used or poorly described setting; it’s always annoying to see a book set in Barcelona when for all the detail given, it might as well be in Birmingham. Make the most of your setting and think about how it affects all the senses–smell, taste, touch, sight, sound. Try to get as many of those sensory experiences yourself; eat the food from your location, smell the local plants, listen to its music or the sounds of the busy streets, visit a museum to see artifacts. When you’re in that city, touch the beautiful buildings and feel the stone beneath your fingers. Absorb, and be inspired.

3) This Is My Job. I Know What I’m Doing

Write what you know, they say. And they may well be right–if you’ve been a doctor for the past ten years then you may be well placed to write a story set in a hospital. But be very aware of the fact–especially if you’ve been out of your job for a while–that your knowledge may be out of date. Check everything.

(This also applies to adults writing for teens. In order to write a teen character convincingly, it’s wise to observe specimens in their natural habitat. There may be strange new customs–don’t be alarmed. Adapt. Also, please don’t set your novel in the timeframe you were a teen unless it is absolutely essential to the plot).

4) But I’m Writing Fantasy!

Writers are allowed a little poetic license, and it’s true that if you write fantasy well, readers will suspend their belief for all sorts of things. People who magically turn into dragons? No problem. Werewolves? Heck, why not? But remember that even in fantasy, all of your scenarios must be plausible; just because I believe that vampires could exist in your mythology, doesn’t mean I’ll believe the heroine will buy that the first time she’s exposed to them. You’ve got to convince her before you convince me, and that takes time.

The same goes for all of your contemporary scenarios within fantasy; if your werewolves are fighting a court case, we should see realistic and accurate court procedure.

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We finish with a giant animatronic t-rex!

Research As A Marketing Tool

There are benefits to researching your novel well. If your premise is cool, you’ll have a lot of interesting photographs and info snippets to share. Use these to your advantage. I see a lot of successful authors posting about their research visits and sharing photos on social networking sites; I find this endelessly fascinating, and it also tells me how much they love what they do. Seeing how engrossed these authors are in their subjects also makes me trust them; I feel, as a reader, that they really know what they’re talking about. So as you research your manuscript, keep your materials–when your release day nears, they’ll come in handy.

I hope, as always, this has been of some help. Now go forth and give your novel that extra dimension.

Hunting STRAIGHTJACKET

There’s an interesting story behind the acquisition of Meredith Towbin‘s debut novel, STRAIGHTJACKET. Since it was released yesterday (Feb 15th), it seems like a good time to share.

I began my publishing career a couple of years ago as an editorial intern. A few months into that position, I read Meredith’s manuscript (which had a very different title, back then) and fell in love with Anna and Caleb. I was sold.

As is the nature of the (publishing) beast, not all good books are offered contracts. Meredith and her agent moved on; I bravely soldiered on through the slush (it was rough at times, but it was also a job I could do in my pyjamas. I shouldn’t complain. Ahem).

A year or so later, I moved to Etopia Press to work exclusively with YA fiction  and to build my own roster. I acquired my first few authors the usual way–they approached us with their manuscripts, we loved them, and we offered contracts.  I still thought of Meredith’s novel sometimes; Anna and Caleb had stuck with me as complex, original characters always do. One might say they even haunted me a little. A Google search showed no deal reports for the manuscript and so I decided to email the agent and see if it was still available.

Then…I waited.

A week, maybe two weeks passed. I assumed the manuscript was off the table.

And then the agent replied. A few weeks of negotiation later and we had a deal for the novel that became STRAIGHTJACKET. This, readers, is a narrative so poignant that it hung around my brain until I was in a position to hunt it down and offer on it myself.

To writers: sometimes, it happens. Rejection is not always The End. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer to get the pot of gold at The End of the rainbow, and then it looks like this:

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Eighteen-year-old Anna has lived her whole life in shame, losing herself in books to cope with crippling panic attacks triggered by her abusive parents. Forced into a psychiatric hospital, she can’t imagine a future that’s anything but bleak—until she meets Caleb, a gifted, 19-year-old artist who insists he’s an angel.

He swears his mission is to help Anna break free from her parents’ control and fulfill a destiny she can only dream of. The doctors, however, are convinced that Caleb is delusional.

Anna doesn’t want to be that girl who’s in love with the guy “with issues,” but when she sees his stunning portraits of her and the way he risks everything to keep her safe, she can’t help but imagine a new future for the two of them, filled with hope. Then just as it seems they’ve created heaven on earth, Caleb’s past emerges full force, threatening to destroy their tiny, blissful world. And Anna has to decide if she should follow her heart, or if Caleb’s really as troubled as his doctors say…

Amazon         B&N       Kobo

STRAIGHTJACKET will be released in print on March 15th 2013