Making Smart Acquisitions

It’s fall. The book fairs have everyone scrambling to buy rights to the next big book. You, the editor, want to buy something great before yearend, something that will make the publisher think you’re a genius. But before you come running into the boardroom screaming eureka, make sure you have facts to go with that instinct.

A seasoned editor knows that you should look up comp titles on BNC SalesData before going into your acquisition meeting. It is nearly impossible to acquire a title without winning over someone from the sales department. To do that you need to have done your research. You have to know the genre sales history and the author’s track record, even if you plan to make the next one the real breakout book. An informed choice is a smart one.

Of course, numbers are not all that matters; quality content is absolutely the deciding factor. But you want to be aware of past performance before you can make a strong case for a future book. For example:

  • If you get a manuscript for a nonfiction book on hockey or the latest child-narrator novel, it doesn’t make sense to go into the acquisition meeting before looking up previous hockey books or child-narrator novels on SalesData.
  • If you want to acquire a new book by an acclaimed American author, you may want to look at his backlist sales in Canada before you assume international acclaim equals Canadian bestseller and blow the bank.
  • And if you want to buy the second novel from a promising literary talent, you need to be realistic about what to offer and what to expect in order to be taken seriously.

It is the editor’s job to champion the book, and the most useful advocates for books are those who have all the information and make educated decisions.