Thursday, September 1, 2011

Please welcome Acquisitions Editor Sunny Frazier

Acquisitions Editor
Independent Press
Salary:  Below Minimum Wage
Qualifications:  Can you read?

Even if I'd seen an ad like that beforehand, I think I would have still applied for the job.

There was no Help Wanted sign at Oak Tree Press. Instead, there was an overworked publisher, a stack of queries and limited staff.

I'm a person with a bad habit of looking at the status quo and asking myself, "How can this be done better?" I'm not sure if that speaks to my leadership skills or just the fact that I can't leave well enough alone.

In the Navy, I was told "Never volunteer". I ignored that sage advice just like I ignored many of the edicts I was taught. Accessing the situation, I told Billie Johnson "How about letting me handle acquisitions?"

Boxes of slush poured in via UPS. To prevent my spare room from becoming a warehouse, I decided to go green. Only electronic queries would be acceptable.

I instituted a timely response to queries. I know authors are taught "The query letter is the most important letter you will write." There are even workshops on the topic. I don't read the query (sorry aspiring writers!) Instead, I look for two things:  genre and word count. If neither apply to our guidelines, I send a rejection letter. I don't believe in generic rejections, just like I don't believe in generic authors. I will tell writers where they missed the mark.

I then google the author. I'm looking for a "Q" rating, the number of times the writer's name appears on the Internet. I'm searching for a website or any attempt to build a platform. Is the author serious about a career? Have they been interacting with cyber/social/professional websites and blogs? Or, do they feel their job is simply to write?

Too many writers tell me they are going to market once their books is contracted. I believe marketing starts the minute you decide you want to write a novel. Name recognition is key. When regularly commenting, contributing and following blogs, peers, and professional notice. This is how to attain future reviews, interviews, and blurbs. I would rather publish a novel with a strong marketeer than a bestseller from an author who has no intention of promoting.

The days of the publicity machine are over. A small press expects an author to be savvy in marketing with skills in place. This is where Oak Tree may be different from other houses. As we grew from 12 titles a year to the current 36, contracted authors started functioning as a "family". We don't market as individuals, but as a group. Loyalty to the house and to each other are key.

In researching for this piece, I discovered that most jobs as acquisition editor expect a masters degree in English; I have a BA in journalism. An acquisition editor at McGraw-Hill is expected to bring 20 books into publication; I've bought in 15 in my first year. On the low end of the pay scale, acqui-editors make $30, 000; I get paid after bills, authors and cover artists are paid.

On the other hand, the perks are phenomenal. I was flown to Puerto Vallarta to speak to a writer's group; traveled to Victoria , BC, to scout for our first Canadian property; spoke at the largest junior college in the US; and my mystery novels are used to teach genre writing in community colleges in NJ and California. Plus, I head up The Posse, possibly the most "novel" force in marketing on the Internet.

All because I saw a need, lent a hand and had a heart.

Oak Tree Press website
Sunny Frazier's website


Melodie Campbell said...

I love this post! Thank you, Sunny, for that hilarious "Wanted" ad, and for telling it like it is.

Jenny Milchman said...

I love the way Oak Tree (and other independent presses) support their authors as families. Thanks for the inside glimpse, Sunny!

Anne R. Allen said...

Fantastic post. Writers are agonizing over the wrong thing. Forget the query if you don't read the guidelines! And blog! Great piece, Sunny. I think I'll quote you at the CC Writers Conference.

Theresa Varela said...

How enlightening! Thanks to your efforts, Sunny, I know more about the realities of the writing world than ever before. Great site too, sweater curse!

Virginia Walton Pilegard said...

Our own Sunny--vanguard in the brave new world of publishing!

Anonymous said...

I had Sunny out to my college last year and the students absolutely loved her. Her advice was great and she was generous to them almost to a fault. I will always listen to her great advice!

--John Brantingham
author of East of Los Angeles

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you, Sunny, for visiting my blog and for attracting all these wonderful commentors. You rock!

Sunny Frazier said...

Thanks, everyone. It was fun, wasn't it? This site is quirky and I like that in a blog. Sweaters and writers, we all gotta keep warm. It's a cold world out there!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Very interesting information. It should give future authors a little key on how to proceed when submitting.

Patricia Gligor said...

I've certainly learned a thing or two about marketing from you, Sunny, since I joined the Posse.
I've read that writers need to wear two hats. We don our "creative" hat when we write and our "sociable" hat when we market and interact with others in the writing community. A writer with only one hat doesn't stand a chance!

marta chausée said...

Sunny, Sunny, Sunny-- You are one of a kind. I am immediately forwarding this post to two brilliant writer friends of mine who do not have a clue about marketing and promoting. Not that I did, either, before you coached and tutored me.

Thank you, Sunny, and thank you, Leanne.

Marta Chausée, author
Resort to Murder, a Maya French mystery

Kat Hinkson said...

I'm learning something new everyday on marketing thanks to Sunny. Having a veried background in the workforce has its benefits, it brought me out of my shell. Love the post Sunny and the site is very fun.

Sunny Frazier said...

Great insight, Patricia! We have a saying heard at many conferences: You're a writer in private, an author in public. I guess another way to put it is like the deodorant commercial: Never let them see you sweat.

Anonymous said...

Sunny, you spread helpful advice wherever you go. Thanks. And moral of this story? Read the guidelines before you submit--anywhere.

Author Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you, Kat. This blog is definately a labour of "fun". : )

Anonymous said...

As one of the newest members of Sunny Frazier's Posse, I can honestly say that I've learned more about publicity and marketing in the last three weeks than in all my years of grad school!

William Doonan

Robert O'Hanneson said...

It's a great piece and reflects your personality. It's time to step up the pace. I'm running like crazy to try and keep up.