5 Things Fiction Acquisition Editors NEVER Say with Ramona Richards

 Ramona Richards, fiction acquisitions editor for Abingdon Press, started
making stuff up at 3, writing it down at 7, and selling it at 18. She’s
been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one.
She’s edited more than
400 publications and has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson,
Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and others. She’s the author of 9
books, including the recent
Memory of Murder from Love Inspired. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

1-That’s such a pretty
manuscript, I want to buy it.

I’m not in this business to pay typesetters to write novels.
I don’t care how much experience you have with layout and design; keep your
manuscript simple. There are several reasons for this. 

1) Special fonts are
distracting; I just want to read a good story. If the story isn’t there, all
the fancy layouts in the world aren’t going to make me want to buy it.

Special fonts, artwork, etc. take up space and are likely to trigger spam

Unless your receiving editor tells you something different,
use Word. Double-spaced with one-inch margins. One document with one section. A
running header with your last name, title, and page number is as elaborate as we
need it.

2-Fiction is exactly
like non-fiction; any good editor will do.

I’ve lost track of the people who’ve told me that their
novel has been “professionally edited” by the copy editor at the local
newspaper. Or their English professor. Or the non-fiction writer down the

Editing fiction is NOT like editing an article or a trade
non-fiction book. I hire professional editors who have a successful background
editing a specific genre of fiction. They have a very particular skill set that
includes a knowledge and understanding of plot, character development, and the
expectation of a particular genre. Not all romance editors make good suspense

Save your money and join a good critique group of fiction
authors. Or ask around. There are a number of good fiction editors out there.        

Just remember: No matter what you’ve done to it before it’s
submitted, your manuscript will STILL be edited by the in-house team.

3-Fiction is exactly
like non-fiction; no platform equals no sales.

A fiction author with a platform may be golden, but please
remember one thing:


Type that out and pin it up next to your writing place.
Abingdon publishes several successful authors who seldom do more than online
blog interviews. Platform is far more important for non-fiction folks. A
fabulous story can still find readers. A platform will HELP sell the book to
readers, no doubt. A good platform makes an author more attractive. But I would
never turn down a remarkable book just because the author is not “out there”
This is about trends. Would I like to find the next trend
that will fly out of booksellers’ doors? Of course! Do we publishing Amish
books? Of course! Would I buy a badly written book just because I’m desperate
to publish in a popular trend?


4-It’s Amish, so I want it. 

Just because you’ve written an Amish or historical romance
or whatever’s hot, that doesn’t
mean I’m automatically interested. The craft, the story, the reader engagement
still has to be on the page.

Remember: STORY IS KING. Yes, I said that above.

5-I’ve never seen a
book like this before, so I’m not interested.

Editors often get accused of looking for the same old, same
old. In part, that’s true. My side of the desk is all about finding great stories
that live up to reader expectations. And if readers are still buying and
craving a particular genre, we’re going to keep publishing them. That doesn’t
mean that the unique or “never before” story doesn’t get our attention.
Unfortunately, most of the “never befores” I’ve received are poorly conceived
and executed. But when one stands out, I’m game.

When I received the manuscript for The Dog That Talked to God, it was definitely something we hadn’t
seen before. Likewise, the follow-up book The
Cat That God Sent.
But they were well written, engaging, and they both made
me cry like a baby. They sold to me, and they sold to our readers. So far Dog is one of our best selling books.

Anytime someone gives you a “never” about what editors do or
don’t, take it lightly. We get paid to track this strange sea-change business
of publishing, and we know one thing: What’s true today may be different
But the one thing I’ve not seen change in more than thirty years is
almost every editor’s bottom line: Story is king.