Lonely Hearts Club
Editor looking for YA manuscript with GSOH, great plot & strong characterisation, for development & possible long-term relationship.
It can be nerve-wracking to submit your manuscript (aka your HEART AND SOUL) to a publishing house, in the hope that someone will fall in love with its undeniable charm and sparkling brilliance – or at least someone who will treat it nicely and consider it carefully.
Who are these so-called editors, anyway? And what do they even do?
Before being published, a manuscript will go through the hands of a commissioning editor, a structural editor, a copyeditor and a proofreader.* But the role of each editor can be mysterious for first-time authors who haven’t been through the editorial process. So imagine, if you will, that this team of editors is looking for romance rather than a manuscript. We are searching for a heart and soul worth falling for!
THE COMMISSIONING EDITOR: the speed-dater
The commissioning editor dates quickly and widely, which is good because seemingly everyone wants a piece of her.** Writers and agents are constantly pitching themselves at this editor, whether it’s at a family BBQ, over twitter or in the dentist’s chair. Sometimes it gets a little much, and deep down the commissioning ed knows it’s only because she has the power to grant a book deal.
Still, she’s committed to the cause and very discerning. She might have coffee with lots of people, but in her heart of hearts she’s really looking for a little someone special – someone impressive, talented and intelligent that she can go the distance with. And occasionally someone catches her eye. Someone exciting – and ooh, someone with great chemistry. Someone good-looking who makes her laugh and has great potential.
Because the commissioning editor dates a lot, she knows what’s out there in the market. She knows what sells well, what’s been done before and where there are any little gaps in the market that could be filled. She spends her time (work and spare) reading manuscripts, considering whether the story is strong enough, whether it could sell and whether it suits her publishing list. She loves to find diamonds in the rough, too – not every person comes with perfect hair, a developed sense of person style, or an overflowing bookcase. Some people need development. But for the right person, the commissioning editor will go the distance.
When the commissioning editor falls in love with a manuscript, she falls hard. She’ll take it to an acquisitions meeting, where she has to champion the manuscript to the publisher and other departments – sales, marketing, publicity – and convince them to fall in love with it too. A bit like meeting the parents. If they like it, the project is greenlighted and the book can be signed up. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. (More on acquisitions later.)
Next time: the structural editor…
* It’s worth noting that many in-house editors do all kinds of editing – they may be copy editing one manuscript at the same time as doing a structural edit on another.
** Male editors, although something of a rarity in children’s and YA publishing, do exist, and we apologise for the gender generalisation in this article.