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How I met my first textbook acquisitions editor

Math for Health Care ProfessionalsI was introduced to my first acquisitions editor through the recommendation of a colleague.

At the time, our state had added a new course in infection control to our curriculum and none of the instructors had been able to send an acceptable book that included the necessary content for teaching infection control to health care providers. Since I had some experience in this area, I compiled my notes and handouts into a self-published 48-page booklet, which I provided to my students at no cost. A colleague at another college asked if I would make this booklet available for his classes, so I contracted with a local printer to produce the booklets and sold them to the college bookstore.

One day I received a call from an acquisitions editor at a major publisher asking if I would be interested in using this booklet as a foundation and developing a book for this topic that could be used for a variety of allied health fields. Her call came about because my colleague who had ordered the booklets for his classes had told a publisher’s sales representative that there was a market for this type of book and that they should talk to me about filling the need. The sales rep passed the information along to the acquisitions editor, and that led to my first publishing contract.

My experience is not a typical one, so I do wish to share other ideas for introducing yourself to acquisitions editors. In my view, one of the best ways to establish a relationship with a publisher is to volunteer to review books in your field of study. This strategy can help you in a number of ways. First, since publishers are always looking for qualified reviewers, this is a good way to get your foot in the door of that particular publisher. The publisher will typically pay a small fee for your review and will include your name and a liation in the front matter. This leads to the second advantage, which is being able to indicate on your resume or vitae that you have reviewed textbooks. Take these reviews seriously; be sure to read the assigned sections carefully and provide clear feedback about how you would suggest improving the book. By nishing your reviews on time you are building a reputation of being someone who can meet a deadline.

You can also let these editors know if you are interested in doing work-for-hire projects. This is another way to establish a relationship with a publisher, and the work can be quite lucrative. I have written instructor manuals, online content, video scripts, test banks, slide sets, and workbooks for a number of publishers. This experience looks good on a resume and further builds a relationship with one or more editors. In fact, I have had editors in one business unit recommend me to editors in another business unit at the same publisher.

Many acquisitions editors are present at publisher booths at trade shows and conferences, so be sure to visit the booths of companies that publish in your field. Visit the booth when it is not crowded and introduce yourself. It is likely that the booth will be staffed with a combination of sales, marketing, and editorial staff, so let the people in the booth know that you would like information on submitting a proposal for a textbook. It is possible that the person to whom you will submit your proposal is at the conference. Be sure to visit with small publishers also. While their lists are not as long as those of the larger publishers, it is more likely that you will be able to meet higher level editorial staff at shows.

Publishers’ websites are also a source for learning about proposal requirements. When one of my publishers dropped one of the product lines in which I had been working, I went to the websites of publishing leaders in that field of study and found the names and email addresses of acquisitions editors. I sent each a quick email address explaining that my current publisher had closed its Emergency Medical Services product line and that I was an experienced author who was looking to establish a relationship with another publisher in that space. Two of the editors I contacted responded and, within a few weeks, had o ered me projects. I am still working with both of these editors today.

Writing and Developing Your College TextbookThis is excerpted from an “Author to Author” profile from Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide, now available for purchase. This updated and expanded third edition will empower you to undertake textbook development by guiding you through the nuts and bolts of the development process, and providing essential background information on the changing higher education publishing industry, as well as how to choose a publisher, write a textbook proposal, negotiate a publishing contract, and establish good author-publisher relations. Subscribe to our email list and we’ll send you a 17-page sample of the book.