Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Publishing as a Second Language—Acquisition Editor, Managing Editor, or Editor-in-Chief?

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

When we enter the publishing world, lots of terms come to the surface. One of the things that can be a little confusing is:
  • When I go to submit a manuscript, to whom do I send it? 
  • Do I send it to the Senior Editor, the Managing Editor, the Editorial Assistant, or one of the other folks that I see listed as part of the staff?

Often when studying the masthead of the magazine (where you see the listing of editors) it seems overwhelming. There are so many names. But as long as you know who to look for, your submission will find its way to the correct person. If you don’t see an Acquisitions Editor listed and the staff is small, an editorial assistant may be your best choice.

Publishing houses have staff listings on their websites. You can find the name of the Acquisitions Editor as well as others who work for the publishing house. If you are submitting, the Acquisitions Editor is probably the person you are looking for. Sometimes when you are submitting online, the Acquisitions Editor will have a form for you to fill out rather than just sending a proposal. Parts of your proposal can probably be pasted into the form to make your submission process easier.

Most likely your first editorial contact will be the Acquisitions Editor. They are the “gatekeepers” of publishing houses and magazines. Their job is to make sure what they acquire fits the mission of the publishing house and is something that will sell well in their markets. Acquisitions Editors know what their publishing houses and periodicals have published recently, the style they prefer, and what they are looking for. 

Writers conferences are a good place to meet Acquisitions Editors. You can make an appointment and sit down face-to-face with them. As you share your verbal pitch, they can feel your passion about the subject you are pitching. Acquisitions Editors are the first “lookers” at your work so before you pitch to them, make sure your work is polished as much as possible. Occasionally the editor may like the idea and request adjustments to certain areas of your idea to make it fit their needs. That is a good thing, especially if their publication or publishing house is one you have dreamed of writing for. If the Acquisitions Editor is not excited enough about it to take it to the pub board, it won’t go any farther in that publishing house or publication.

If your project goes forward and gets to the contract stage, the next person you will encounter is the Managing Editor. He or she will be the person at the publishing house who will manage your project. The Managing Editor does just what his title implies—manages every part of the project. He or she will manage all the personnel who will be working on your book or article. Managing editors will also deal directly with designers, typesetters, and other editors, set deadlines for all aspects of the project, and make sure the project is brought to completion according to the standards of the publication. If there is no Acquisitions Editor, you may have already worked with the Managing Editor or another editor. 

Both the Acquisitions Editor and the Managing Editor would answer to the Editor-in-Chief who would be overseeing the entire operation of the business. As a freelance writer you may never have the opportunity to meet or work with the Editor-in-Chief. But once your article or book is in print, a thank you note to the Editor-in-Chief is always appreciated.

Meetings with Acquisitions Editors and Managing Editors may be the most important minutes of your writing journey. Prepare well for them and make sure your work is the best it can be. Pray for confidence and rapport as you meet. Present your manuscript in a way that editors are compelled to ask you to send it to them so they can champion it on to publication.


Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Linda is the author of 19 books and over 1000 magazine articles. She enjoys every meeting with editors and knowing we are all part of the same team. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!


  1. A very informative article, Linda. So much to learn and ponder.

  2. Yes, indeed - writing and publishing terms can seem like a second language and can be confusing! Thanks for this info, Linda!

  3. Thanks Linda. Sometimes it is good to be reminded. Hope all is well with youl

  4. I love drinking from your "fountain of knowledge" Ms. Linda. So much to learn, I wonder if I'll ever understand all the intricacies of being a writer. Sometimes I think the most difficult part of writing is learning the language. God's blessings ma'am.