Observations of an Acquiring Editor

//Observations of an Acquiring Editor

Observations of an Acquiring Editor

As president, CEO, head chef and chief bottle washer at Local Hero Press, I wear a lot of different hats on a daily basis (which is one reason I chose not to continue as an officer for PCS). Most recently, I’ve been wearing my Editorial Hat a lot (it’s red and has a pompom on the tip), as I have been reading submissions for the upcoming Caped anthology (open submissions close on Aug. 31 if you want to squeak something in under the wire). I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve learned in this role, as you may find them useful in your own writing. In no particular order:

  • We’re running just under a ten percent acceptance and a slightly lower revise-and-resubmit rate. Those are just the numbers.
  • Biggest reason for rejection is starting the story strong and then diving into a huge chunk of backstory that kills all momentum (and editorial interest). The takeaway from this? Trust your readers when you are writing a superhero story. You don’t have to explain everything. They know they’re reading a superhero tale, which means they can accept certain things at face value.
  • Second biggest reason for rejection is poor writing/mechanics. Please, people, take your time and edit your work, and have other people help you proofread, edit. If I can’t get past the first page because you have nineteen exclamation points, or use too many adverbs or poor comma control, I’m never going to get to the really cool part you have on page 3.
  • Don’t start your story before your story starts. This might seem like it’s self-evident, but a lot of writers tend to need a few paragraphs to get rolling. This is why you need editing: those paragraphs (or pages!) need to be cut so you start at the right moment in your tale.
  • There’s a place for aliens and magic in superhero stories. I ought to know, because I’ve devoted an entire novel to one and will be devoting two novels to another. That being said, if your short story doesn’t read as superhero with those aspects, it’s going to get the ol’ form rejection. Make sure if you’re submitting to a specific-genre project that your story matches the genre close enough for consideration.
  • Two things not to do that make you look unprofessional: 1. Don’t send a brand new submission two days after your previous submission is rejected. If you have more than one story, why aren’t you sending your best one first? If you’re cranking out a new tale in two days, it’s likely that it hasn’t been polished (and in this particular case that was very evident). 2. Don’t send two stories at the same time. It feels like you’re throwing a big pile of crap against the wall to see what sticks.
  • You don’t need to reply to a form rejection. And for the luvva Pete, please don’t argue with us about one. We refuse to take that bait.

Caped will be released early in December in print and ebook. I hope even if you don’t have a story in it, you’ll pick up a copy to help support other writers.

By | 2015-08-22T13:49:58+00:00 August 22nd, 2015|Ian Thomas Healy|2 Comments

About the Author:

Ian Thomas Healy is a prolific writer who dabbles in many different speculative genres. He’s a ten-time participant and winner of National Novel Writing Month where he’s tackled such diverse subjects as sentient alien farts, competitive forklift racing, a religion-powered rabbit-themed superhero, cyberpunk mercenaries, cowboy elves, and an unlikely combination of vampires with minor league hockey. His popular superhero fiction series, the Just Cause Universe, is ever-expanding, as is his western fantasy epic The Pariah of Verigo. He is also the creator of the Writing Better Action Through Cinematic Techniques workshop, which helps writers to improve their action scenes.Ian also created the longest-running superhero webcomic done in LEGO, The Adventures of the S-Team, which ran from 2006-2012.When not writing, which is rare, he enjoys watching hockey, reading comic books (and serious books, too), and living in the great state of Colorado, which he shares with his wife, children, house-pets, and approximately five million other people. Check out his exclusive publishing imprint, Local Hero Press.


  1. Chad August 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Are you really the Chief Bottle-Washer at Local Hero Press? Are there actually bottles being washed there? This seems strange to me. ^_^

  2. Farmerbob1 August 23, 2015 at 12:59 am

    Indeed. Arguing with a form letter is silly, especially if the form letter has absolutely no feedback at all. Because there’s nothing useful. There’s nothing to argue *with.* There’s no way to improve the story to put it in better condition for acceptance if you don’t know why it was refused.

    At the same time, as the editor with a limited base of applicants in a small genre, if you make an open call for submissions in a small community of writers, I don’t see where it would do any harm to at least provide some minimal guidance. If it’s so bad that you have to tell them to go read books on grammar, or ask them not to submit a story in orange crayon, well, you still told them something.

    Perhaps that author’s next submission would be more acceptable if they knew why their story was rejected.

    That said, the chief bottle washer gets to make the choices. The rest of us can only offer our observations.

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