The life of an acquisitions editor

Let’s publish an anthology. About Superheroes. We’ll call it “Caped.”

Step one. A call for Submissions.

This was my first time working on a book in capacity of an acquiring editor. Of course, I had a bit of an idea on what to expect, meaning we asked for short stories about Superheroes up to 5,000 words, so I expected short stories about Superheroes up to 5,000 words. What I didn’t expect… Alien stories. So many alien stories. Blue aliens, telekinetic aliens, and aliens that looked like humans and dressed up as superheroes -I actually liked the idea of that one, but unfortunately in the end there just wasn’t enough superhero for it to work for Caped.

Sending form rejections was new to me. I learned that I’ll likely never smile and rejoice as I hit send on an electronic mail file that will unintentionally slice the ego of a fellow writer… unless it’s the tenth alien submission of the day. If that’s the case, then I might just uncork a bottle of wine, forgo the formal rejection template, and reply with “bibbity bobbity NO NO NO.” But, seriously, it is hard to say no, because truth is most of the submissions I’ve read are close to having everything I need and want, but just miss that mark of an acceptance or a request for a revision. Most of the time it’s subject manner. Like the aliens. It’s just not enough superhero for Caped. Sometimes it’s writing, though overall the writing has mostly been where it needs to be or close. One thing I have noticed is an over abundance of back story. This often leads to long passages of narration that is either the bulk of the story, or irrelevant to what the reader needs to know for the story. This is short fiction, folks. We don’t need to know the protagonist’s entire life story and what their favorite cereal is. We only need to know their current situation and maybe a few fun back story facts carefully sprinkled throughout the present story if they are needed for the protagonist to solve or not solve whatever dilemma they are in. It’s a story, a mini-story, but still needs all the basic elements of a full length novel, just condensed. Give it a nice gentle set up, bring it to a stimulating climax, and slide into the ending.

Revise and resubmit. Rule number one -don’t panic! You have plenty of time. We have decided that there was something special about your story. It may have aliens, but at the end it was still more superhero than alien. Good. It’s likely that there are a couple plot holes or something that’s just not quite jiving, but the premise of the story and/or characters of the story is too interesting to reject… yet. So, here’s another chance. Again, time. I’ve learned that writers rush this process. They revise and resubmit too fast. Just breathe. Read the story, get a couple beta readers, and pay attention to the similar comments they make. Polish it up and send it back. We already know we liked your story, so as long as we get the resubmit before the submission deadline, we are going to highly consider it.

Acceptance. Yay! The stories I say yes to are the ones that grab me on page one and make me forget I have a Facebook account or that I need to go find some chocolate. They are generally well written and get me invested in either the plot or the main character right away. I don’t have to wait a couple pages to figure out what’s going on, because it’s all laid out for me step by step. It’s the author’s world and they have me by the hand, walking me through, guiding me, answering some of my questions the moment I think to ask them and leaving others to pull me deeper into the story. In general, I have found that I know early on when I’m reading a submission I’m going to accept. And my favorite part of this Caped endeavor, what I want to do more than anything else, is read a story that makes me say, “yes.”

Caped is taking form one accepted submission at a time and it’s been a learning experience already. I’m eager to see the final product in its paper and glue form. I love holding the book in my hands and the idea of our accepted authors receiving their copies and eagerly flipping through the pages to see their published stories.