The gatekeepers to academic book publishing are acquisitions editors that work at university and academic trade presses. Acquisitions editors are the people to whom you send your book proposal once you have completed it. In this post, I explain how to contact and find acquisitions editors.
Once you have decided whereyou would like to publish your book, the next step is to contact the acquisitions editors – the people who work at presses that decide whether or not your manuscript is appropriate for their press. There are three primary ways you can use to contact these acquisitions editors: websites, conferences, and personal contacts.
WebsitesThe first way to find acquisitions editors is through websites. Most presses list the acquisitions editors on their website. For example, the University of Minnesota Press has specific guidelines for proposal submission on their website as well as a list of their acquisitions editors. The acquisition editors specialize by discipline and subfield, so read the list carefully to choose which editor’s work is closest to your own. If you don’t see any specialization that sounds like yours, then that press may not be the right one for you.
ConferencesAnother common way to contact acquisition editors is at conferences. Acquisition editors frequently attend conferences such as the Latin American Studies Annual Meeting, the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, and any other major conference that has a book exhibit. If you have a proposal ready, you can contact acquisition editors prior to the conference and ask them if they would be willing to meet with you to discuss your work. You also can peruse the book exhibit with your proposal in hand and give it to acquisition editors or their assistants who seem interested. Additionally, you can approach editors even if you do not have a prospectus ready in order to gauge their interest. This process can be intimidating, so be prepared with one-minute and five-minute descriptions of your book and its contribution.
Published AuthorsA third way to contact acquisition editors is through personal contacts. If you know someone well who has published with a particular press, and who knows your work well, you can ask them to recommend your work to an acquisitions editor. Many published authors are happy to share the contact information of their editors with prospective book authors, especially if they feel your work has promise. The crucial thing here is to be sure that the author you ask is a fan of your work so that they will feel comfortable recommending you to a publisher.
Once you find an acquisitions editor that is willing to work with you, you will be embarking on a long relationship with that editor. Thus, it is important to start off on the right foot as well as to be sure that you have a good working relationship with the editor. For these reasons, it is a good idea to contact the acquisitions editor before sending all of your materials to them.