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5 Ways to Think Like an Editor

What are book editors looking for? It’s a recurring question we receive as agents.

The answer will differ across genres. But there are several common factors an editor at a publishing house is assessing when deciding whether to take a chance on your work. 

If we were to enter the mind of that editor, the top 5 things they might focus on when reviewing your submission would be: 

  1. An email’s subject line and book title. Does it pique intrigue and curiosity? Or does it sound tried and familiar? Is the email from an agent they trust or a name they recognize? 
  2. A bio that offers a sense of your relevant experience and accomplishments, especially if you’re unknown. A photo, video, or winning personal detail can go a long way! When receiving your submission, if you’ve elicited any degree of curiosity, an editor will Google you. Will they find ample results to suggest public recognition? In what kinds of online outlets? When visiting your social media pages, will they see a massive following? Or, if not that, then smart, quality content that engages an audience of some kind? If you’ve published a book previously, will your Amazon reviews point to thoughtful writing and a product of value?
  3. Content. It’s best to put forth a chapter that is not only representative of the whole, but contains some of its most dramatic elements. Whether that’s leaving your reader with a cliffhanger for fiction, or including your most revelatory claim or data for nonfiction, leave them wanting more. Remember that editors are swimming in material—today’s marketplace favors the bold and the timely.
  4. Presentation. This is more than how your idea appears on paper, because readers consider more than just the aesthetics of your product when making a purchasing decision! If an editor is interested, they may look at a video clip of you on YouTube, or potentially listen to you on a podcast interview. Are you eloquently and persuasively selling your idea? Furthermore, are you eloquent and persuasive as a spokesperson generally?
  5. “Comps.” A publisher evaluating your material must have a few comparable titles in mind—books that resemble yours and have sold thousands of copies. This has long been the case in publishing, but it’s more true now than ever before. An editor should come away able to categorize your book on “the shelf” and see its commercial promise in a way that will resonate with his or her colleagues and publisher.

When reviewing your overall package, it’s therefore critical to ask yourself objectively, or get a trusted opinion if unsure…

  • Does my email subject line or book title excite, or elicit immediate intrigue?
  • What will my online presence reveal about who I am, or who my audience is?
  • Have I presented my material and myself in the best and most authoritative light possible?

Give editors every reason to say yes.

Our Letter Better Advanced program launches August 13th at 8:00 pm EST, and there’s just one spot left! Join Lucinda and an intimate group of writers from our community in an 8-week program to workshop your material, receive consistent, interactive feedback, and keep your publishing goals on track. Join today!