Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Least You Need To Know: The Acquisitions Meeting

Today's lesson focuses on one of the most diabolical and mysterious events in publishing: the Acquisitions Meeting. The simple definition is that Acquisition Meetings are where publishing houses make decisions about which books to acquire. Read on for details...

The Least You Need To Know: The Acquisitions Meeting

1. Acquisitions meetings may be regularly scheduled or haphazard, depending on the publishing house. Sometimes they don't happen at all, like if someone gets sick or there's a snow day. All of this is designed to keep you on your toes.

2. According to my first editor, attendance at an Acquisitions Meeting is limited to editors, assistants, and "the money people."* "Money people" includes publishers, business-side folks, and marketing departments. Authors are not invited, nor can you influence the outcome of an Acquisitions Meeting with baked goods.

3. At an Acquisitions Meeting, editors present manuscripts about which they are excited. Often, they have already had an Editorial Meeting at which they shared those manuscripts with other editors, to get everyone excited and to mark their territory by saying, "Hey! I have a new zombie princess pop-up book. No zombie princess pop-up books for the rest of you." Sometimes editors pee on manuscripts to mark their territory as well, though this is less effective.

4. At the beginning of an Acquisitions Meeting, everyone present reaffirms his or her commitment to worship of the printed page. The president/grand poobah puts on a fez and announces, "Let the wild rumpus begin!" which means that the floor is now open to editors who wish to present manuscripts.

5. In the middle of an Acquisitions Meeting, editors try to convince everyone the stories they are presenting will re-define literature change the lives of the people who read it sell really well. Some editors do interpretive dances of their manuscripts. Often, there is a bloody battle to the death between the editors and the money people, or between dueling editors. The shorter the discussion about your book, the better; your chances of being acquired go down if a lot of people are opposed to acquiring you.

6. At the end of the meeting, some manuscripts are acquired and are well on their way to being published books. The others are well on their way to the recycling bin.

7. For more accurate information about Acquisitions Meetings, from someone who has actually been to one, try here.

* He really said that.


J. Thorp said...

Do all acquisitions meetings open with, "Let the wild rumpus begin?" -- or is that limited to acquisitions meetings in which the grand poobah is seeing the next "Where The Wild Things Are"?

Do editors "roar their terrible roars, gnash their terrible teeth, roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws"?

Gosh, I'd love to see that ...

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post! I totally thought they peed on manuscripts and now I KNOW they do.

My fingers are crossed for you, even though you keep info from us in order to make us suffer.

Just tell me one thing--is is a Zombie Princess pop-up book?



lizard said...

A couple of editorial comments/observations on your insightful description of the acquisitions meeting.

In item #2, you forgot the subsidiary rights people. They are the ones who say things like, "Tajikistan would just SNAP UP a zombie princess pop-up book!!!" or "Spielberg already did a zombie princess movie -- I can't possibly sell another one!!!"

Note: there are lots of exclamation points and hyperbole in acquisition meetings.)

An amendment to #6: The list of books acquired can bear little resemblance to the outcome of the bloody battle described in #5. Important criteria like "would make a good book jacket" and "easy to write back flap blurb" are also important criteria in the decision-making process.

C.R. Evers said...

Thanks for posting this. It's always nice to know what goes on between the mystical, magical land of publishing!

It's a bummer to hear that baked goods can't determine the outcome, though. ;0)


Diane T said...

Jacqui said: The president/grand poobah puts on a fez and announces, "Let the wild rumpus begin!" which means that the floor is now open to editors who wish to present manuscripts.

I've heard the procedure is different at some houses. At some, the grand poobah shouts, "QUIET DOWN THERE!" and then falls through the dark, out of his clothes, into a vat of P&Ls.*

After putting a sticker over his naughty bits so as to avoid being jinxed by weak-hearted librarians, the editors may then present their prospective projects.

* Profit & Loss statements, for you uninitiated.

Tabitha said...

Great post!

And here's hoping the wait isn't much longer. :)