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Has the pandemic changed the way that acquisitions editors work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way everyone works, and it is no exception for the publishing industry. One might think that this question is a time-limited one, with pandemic-era restrictions easing, but we will be living with the effects of the pandemic for a very long time. Acquisitions editors at university presses rely on meeting people at conferences, speaking engagements, campus visits, and other in-person events to touch base with their authors and series editors, and to meet prospective authors, to hear about their research and show them the new books from their university press. With the cancellation of conferences since 2020 and the subsequent move for some conferences to a virtual setting, acquisitions editors have had to pivot like everyone else. However, editors remain very eager to keep up with what is happening in the areas in which they acquire, and many have managed to keep up with their appointments over an online meeting platforms such as Zoom or Webex. Please note that even as conferences are returning to in-person venues, your favorite press may not attend, since universities are still limiting travel and on-site work depending on COVID-19 levels in their communities. That doesn’t mean that editors don’t want to hear from you. They still want to talk to you! It just may mean meeting virtually.

A preferred way for editors to meet prospective authors is always going to be face to face, whether that is in person or virtually, though it is also possible for editors to have great relationships with authors they’ve only interacted with via email. For prospective authors, advice for meeting with an acquisitions editor remains the same as before the pandemic, with some caveats. If you are attending a conference in person, reach out ahead of time to the editor, make sure they are attending the conference in person and set up an appointment to meet at the conference. If the editor is not attending, you can always set up a time to speak with them virtually before or after the conference. Email is the best way to reach out—some offices are in a hybrid state or working remotely and a phone message may not be retrieved promptly. Try to have a book proposal or chapters ready to send the editor beforehand so they can read through your material, and come prepared with your own questions. Many conferences will have mask policies since attendees are coming from all over the world, and the states where the conferences are held will also have their own COVID-19 safety rules. At virtual conferences, a great option for meeting with editors is at a virtual book exhibit where there are Zoom “drop in” rooms for a publisher’s virtual book booth. Someone should be staffing the “booth” and can meet with you then. However, it is always best practice to reach out to the attending acquisitions editor before the conference to set a meeting time.

The publishing industry has weathered the worst of the pandemic well. The work of a press can be mostly done very well in a virtual environment, and acquisitions editors were flexible workers even before 2020. While the pandemic might have pushed most meetings and correspondence online, editors remain very excited to meet new authors and to reconnect with friends and colleagues out in the world. They want you to reach out and connect with them!

—Rutgers University Press, September 2022

See also “Has the pandemic changed how first-time book authors can approach editors?”