A Day in The Life of an Acquisitions Editor

The following is a guest post by Associate Acquisitions Editor William Helms about the ins and outs and ups and downs of a typical work day.

When I was studying at NYU some time ago, I had briefly flirted with the idea of teaching Evolutionary Biology – that is, until I discovered my complete inability to comprehend Calculus, a prerequisite for the major, would probably derail that idea. I also have a very distinct memory of sitting in a large lecture hall with 300 other students, frantically taking notes, when it occurred to me that I didn’t care about the Krebs Cycle or what it meant to an aerobic cell’s survival.

Thankfully, English was one of my favorite subjects when I was in grade school, and I thought I wrote pretty well, so becoming a writer or doing something in publishing seemed like a good idea. I’m sure that there are some readers of our blog who wonder what an average day is like for an Acquisitions Editor – so with that in mind, here’s a random day in my life.

9:15 AM: I’ve never been a morning person and after turning the computer on, I make a beeline to the coffeemaker for the first cup of coffee before I even begin to think about email or anything.

9:20 AM: I see at least 20 unread emails in my inbox and the day hasn’t started yet. About a third of them are internal emails – reminders about a production meeting, an editorial meeting, a memo. If it’s the holiday season, one of my editorial colleagues received a gift of candy or some kind of seasonal food and it’s enough for the entire division to share. Free food is pretty awesome, after all. Other times, there’s a proposal about some business issue that I didn’t know was even a business issue for anyone. But maybe Googling it will reveal something, right?

9:38 AM: I see an email from a prospective author who emailed me a proposal while I was on vacation last week. The prospective author sent me a follow up email, asking me if I had a chance to look at his proposal and if I hadn’t when we’d have a decision on it. Maybe I should file that under “Things That Will Drive an Editor Insane – In Ten Minutes or Less.”

11:12 AM: Now playing Slayer or Megadeth on my iPod – did I mention that I’m not a morning person? – I’m looking through a proposal that seems interesting.

12:11 PM: While doing some prerequisite research before even considering the possibility of pitching it at our editorial meeting, it occurs to me that I have to check in on two authors: one who should be close to finishing a superb manuscript and another who has told me that he should have a draft of a couple of chapters to me soon. I’m also awaiting word from an agent about an offer on a book I hope to land. When there isn’t waiting, there’s checking in on someone or something.

12:36 PM: One of our wonderful Associate Editors in the Production Department hands me a 1st pass mockup of a book cover for a book I signed at least 8 months ago and I have to take a moment to remember what it’s about. And because it’s lunch time, I’m caught in mid chew. Such is life. It’s a rush job so we don’t miss an important deadline.

1:35 PM: I’ve somehow managed to read my email, eat and proofread a cover to the point where my eyes have glazed over. I may have confused a semi-colon with a colon. And everything is starting to look fuzzy . . .

2:00 PM: Back to that proposal I was looking at earlier. Or maybe a bit of the manuscript someone sent. No. That has to wait because I have to proofread a contract, send it to the author and his agent, and prepare a check request for another book. I’ve now switched from Slayer’s Reign of Blood to Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides.

3:32 PM: Contracts are mailed out and the check requests have been sent out and are awaiting approval. I think I can finally get back to that proposal while listening to Everlast’s Whitey Ford Sings the Blues.

4:10 PM: I hear from an agent about a contract I’m negotiating and it’s a done deal. I have to speak to my boss about it and start a draft of a contract. Oh, and I have to get back to preparing some notes for our next editorial meeting.

5:25 PM: How did it get to be 5:25? And why does it feel like I’ve accomplished a lot and yet like I haven’t done anything? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m about to leave and end the day. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish looking at that proposal.

William Helms is an Associate Acquisitions Editor at AMACOM. His acquisitions areas include Education, and Science and Technology. He has also been a freelance music journalist and photographer who has had photos and articles published in New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog, the New York Press, LIC Notes, Glide Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, and others.

Earlier Posts:
Introducing AMACOM… Will
Will on Sales Conference Speeches
AMACOM Reads: Will on Musicians and Modern Fiction


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