Anne Sowards spoke about acquisition and editing novels to a group of participants and alumni at Jody Lynn Nye’s Writers Intensive workshop on Friday afternoon. An executive editor at Penguin Random House, Sowards acquires and edits fantasy and science fiction for their Ace and Roc imprints.
Sowards said that her office does not accept unrepresented submissions and, therefore, no longer employs slush-pile readers. She said she reads a few chapters before making a decision, and asks other members of the staff to read promising novels. The book is then presented at an editorial meeting and market factors are considered before making a decision to offer for publishing rights. She also speaks to authors before acquiring their work to ensure that a good working relationship can be built.
Ace and Roc, combined, formerly bought twenty or so novels per month, but now acquire a smaller number. Sowards shared that they take a different approach, publishing fewer books but spending more on marketing.
With recent market changes, Sowards says that Ace is transitioning to sell directly to customers instead of primarily to retail outlets. She goes to conventions and has established email lists, interacts with customers and learns their preferences. When asked about the value of a new author establishing a platform, Sowards agreed with the advantages but added “we still buy just great books.”