When I’m in Starbucks sitting across from an agent, sipping on a hot chocolate like a seven-year-old and trying not to bop my head to the reggae song that’s playing, I’m asked the following questions:
- What are you looking for?
- What’s on your wish list of books?
- Is there one book that you wish you had acquired?
- What kind of manuscript do you NEVER want to see again?
No matter how many times I’m asked these questions, I always have a moment where I think—Crap! What the hell do I want?
It’s hands down one of the hardest questions to answer because it shapes your identity as an editor and can feel like it determines the success you’ll have or won’t have in your career. Often editors will look for books that they like to read. If you’re someone who loves to read fantasy, then you most likely will want to acquire fantasy books. Editors often read a manuscript at least three times in the editing process before it goes into copyediting. How awful would it be to read a manuscript about vampires three times if you hate vampires?!
Picking the kind of books you love and want to read is always fun. But editors also have a responsibility to their company to pick the books they think are going to sell. After all, publishing is a business. If what’s on trend coincides with your tastes, kudos to you! A deep knowledge of what’s working in the market can be a big driving force into deciding which books to pursue, because looking at what’s happening in the world can help predict what books are going to resonate. How many children’s editors knew that the result of the 2016 presidential election would bring a rise of books about activism for young readers? If you’re one of them, you get a gold star!
Personally, when I’m reviewing a submission, I read for character. I love relating to them, rooting for them, or just plain hating them. Give me a good villain any day! Since I edit children’s books, I also love books that speak to those timeless moments in one’s childhood. It can be about being afraid of the dark, or a first crush, or being the target of a mean girl’s attention. So many books helped me get through my growing pains, so those are the qualities I look for when reading manuscripts to potentially publish.
So in conclusion, a soul search of your personal tastes, a touch of psychic ability, and a passion for the words and/or art is all that it takes for an editor to pick a book to publish. Piece of cake! 😉