The Anatomy of a Book Deal: Creating an Editor List

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 15 2018
Long-time BookEnds client Heather Webber, who also writes as Heather Blake, suggested a series of blog posts on the Anatomy of a Book Deal that highlights the many steps agents take from the time a client’s book is ready to the time it is sold.
Today’s post will be about how an agent chooses which editors she will submit to. I think too often authors think this is the most important thing an agent does, and while it is important, in the whole of everything an agent does, this doesn’t even come close.
When a manuscript is ready to go out on submission, creating the editor list, at least for me, includes a lot of culling, research, reviewing of notes, and talks with the BookEnds team, because selling a book isn’t just about finding an editor, it’s about finding the right editor–that one person who will connect with the story and the voice in the same way I did. It’s also about finding an editor who I think will work well with my client.
The first time I read a project, even if it’s just a submission, I will keep a notepad by my side and make a list of editors I think would be perfect. In the case of Heather’s most recent sale, it was a list of editors I knew had a passion for Southern fiction, as well as those who were interested in magical realism. More generally, I was looking for people wanting to buy women’s fiction.
From there I might gauge how hungry and attentive an editor is. Does she respond quickly (or at all) to the email I send? When I last met with her did she seem generally enthusiastic about her job, or was she someone who complained a lot or bad-mouthed other books? Has she recently (or ever) actively reached out to do business with me? Has she ever reached out to specifically talk about this client, or another similar client? All of those things give me clues to the type of editor she might be because, in addition to wanting an editor looking for the type of book I’m selling, I want someone who will be enthusiastic and attentive about my client and her work.
Once the list is done, I’m ready to go. At that point, I will work on my pitch (more about that in the next edition of The Anatomy of a Book Deal) and get the submission off to who I hope are exactly the right people for this book.

8 responses to “The Anatomy of a Book Deal: Creating an Editor List”

  1. Avatar Tricia says:

    Thank you for the insight.

  2. Avatar Charlotte says:

    This is a serious question but I see nowhere to send you direct questions. My friend, who is Pakastani, has an MS that is half-finished, it’s a suspense novel that takes place in Pakistan. She wants, however, to get it published here. I told her to look on #MSWL but I don’t know whether to direct her to calls for #ownvoices. Yes, she’s Pakastani, and yes, her characters are Pakastani, but she’s not an immigrant (she lives here temporarily for her husband’s job), and frankly, not remotely disenfranchised. Her characters live in an exclusive boarding school, and have immense wealth – as she does in real life. But #ownvoices seems to have this tinge of “If your skin is a bit brown, you are own voices.” In other words, a Scots person couldn’t use the hashtag for her Scottish mystery. I don’t think. Maybe I’m missing something.


  3. Avatar Nina Ward says:

    thanks for sharing. It gives insight into all the work your job requires.

  4. Avatar Ellen Press says:

    Thank you for taking the time to show us the process on your end. Informative.

  5. Avatar Kay Turner says:

    I really appreciate this article and all the information you willingly share with writers. It’s easy to see that you sincerely want writers to succeed and you’re very active in giving us tools. My deepest appreciation!

  6. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Great insight. Thanks, Jessica.

  7. Oh, my gosh! I would LOVE to know what goes on from the agent’s side of things! This is a FABULOUS post, thank you so much and I’m totally looking forward to more Anatomy posts.