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How Agents Choose Editors for Submissions

Pitching and selling a book takes more than simply knowing which houses publish your genre. It means knowing which editors will have a personal interest in the book you’re writing.

Every time I go out on submission I treat it like I’ve never done it before. I analyze my list of editors, scour Publishers Marketplace, and even read and re-read the acknowledgments section of competitive titles.

Even after making a preliminary list of those editors who immediately pop into my head, I do the research to make sure they’re truly the right people for this author and book. I want to make sure I’m not missing someone I might not have thought of in a while.

I also love trying new (and hungry) editors. Those who might not always “pop” into my head.

Making the Cut

Making my submission list takes a lot more than being open to the genre. There are a series of things I consider, seriously consider before sending the book.

  1. Genre is the most obvious connection. If I have a romance I’m going to consider romance editors only. That is my first step in narrowing the list.
  2. Personal Interests–an editor who has told me they are looking for books featuring French cooking will be perfect for my French cooking books. That narrows my list further. It’s also why I love doing Zoom calls with editors or love when editors reach out to me to connect. Those are how I learn the details that make editors special.
  3. Hunger–Hungry editors are buying editors. They are also editors who work hard to make books successful. Editors who are hungry enough to request something from our newsletter, who reach out to tell us they are looking to buy and who are building lists are those I love working with. Remember, once long ago I too was a hungry editor. And I worked hard for those books and authors.
  4. Responsiveness–The bane of all our existences are people who don’t respond. The cousin who never RSVPs, the friend who never returns our calls and, most definitely, the colleague or professional who seemingly ignores emails. I do not want to place an author with an editor who seems to run from conflict or is just too busy to respond to emails. And yes, I test that out with how editors respond to my emails, including my submissions.
  5. Editorial Feedback–Most editors edit, and love to edit. So when considering editors for my client it’s not as much that I’m looking for editors who edit, but looking at how they edit. How much editorial feedback do they give and how collaborative with the author are they.
  6. Editorial Taste–We all have different tastes and an editor’s editorial taste needs to come into consideration. An editor who loves dark books won’t be right for my humorous memoir. Does this editor love atmosphere or character? Fast-moving plots or quieter books? Knowing an editor’s taste is a huge part of my job.
  7. Personality–It’s not really about whether I like the editor, but whether I think their personality will mesh with the author’s. Is one super pushy and the other a pushover? Is one sarcastic and the other doesn’t get sarcasm? This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but if I’m choosing between two editors this will come into play in which one might be the best fit.

There is no perfect science to the work any of us do, but there is a method to an agent’s madness and it’s part of that method that makes an agent worth their commission.

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