An interview with Midnight Ink acquisitions editor Terri Bischoff

Terri B

So, Terri, what is an acquisitions editor, anyway?

Each publishing house works a little bit differently, but my job is to read the submissions and then decide which manuscripts to bring to the acquisitions board. Before I present a title, I do a fair amount of research: like what comparable books are out there, what kind of publishing history the author has, etc. Once it passes the acquisitions board, I make an offer. If the manuscript is part of a planned series, I usually make a three book offer. Once the offer is accepted, I walk the book through the process: title, cover design, approval of all copy written…the only thing I don’t do is line edits. At Midnight Ink, we have production editors who do that. I am currently publishing 36-40 books a year.

How did you become an acquisitions editor?

Not the traditional way, that is for sure! After college, with a degree in political science and minors in sociology and women’s studies, I had no idea what to do with my life. After a couple meaningless jobs, I landed a summer internship at HRC in Washington DC.

HRC! No way! Very cool.

Right? I loved it, but when the summer was done, I had to find another job. I took a bookstore position and it was perfect. I love books and I love to read. While at Kramerbooks, I learned as much as I could. I talked to the buyers about how they bought books and I pulled returns based on sales. I loved my job. But I got homesick and moved back to Wisconsin, where I worked at A Room of One’s Own, a feminist bookstore. It was there that I realized I loved what I did and I wanted to own a bookstore.

I think at some point a lot of us book worms think owning a bookstore would be awesome. But it’s usually never a reality.

No, it’s not. But for me, it really happened. I bought Booked for Murder, a mystery bookstore, and ran that for five years. Along the way my partner and I had a son. He came with me to the bookstore almost every day.

Now that’s one way I would have loved to grow up!

I know! Eventually we decided he needed a sibling. When we found out we were having twins, we put the store up for sale and moved to Minneapolis. I stayed home with the boys for two years but the itch to get back into books was always there. One day while poking around online I saw that the acquisitions position at MI was open. I was hired for my experience in owning a mystery bookstore, not because I could line edit. I dare say it has worked out pretty well.

Loaded question here. Do you acquire LGBTQ mysteries?

Um, yeah. 🙂 Full disclosure – I pubbed the first four of Jessie’s Shay O’Hanlon mysteries. I am currently contracting a series with Jean Redmann. It’s not a lesbian mystery, more mainstream, but I am hoping for some solid LGBTQ characters. I would say that LGBTQ characters don’t matter—that people will buy the book no matter what as long as the writing is solid, but that simply isn’t true. Mainstream publishers can’t seem to find the LGBTQ audience. I don’t understand why. But I am personally committed to bringing diversity to Midnight Ink. I think the best books, mystery or not, are an accurate reflection of our world. And I know that when I came out at 21, I was overjoyed to find lesbian fiction. It was a lifesaver, really. So anything I can do to give back to the community, I will.

Okay. I have to ask. Who are your favorite authors?

Now that question is just unfair. Seriously. It’s like picking a favorite child.

Do it anyway!

I’m going to exclude the authors that I publish because I don’t want a fight breaking out.

Probably a good idea. Watching authors swat at each other with manuscript pages isn’t pretty.

No, it’s not, and I’ve learned how to keep the peace! For lesbian books, Gerri Hill probably tops my list. I read a huge amount of Naiad books, and then Bella books. Claire McNab, Val McDermid, Katherine Forrest. Now it is mostly what I can steal or borrow from Jessie’s library. For straight mysteries or crime fiction, Karin Slaughter is one of my all time favorites. William Kent Krueger is wonderful. Lee Child for when I want a book where the main character kicks everyone’s ass.

What does an acquisitions editor do for fun?

Well, my kids and I just watched the movie Holes after splashing around in the pool all morning.

Good day for a little dip. And I loved that movie!

It’s great! It’s a YA book, made into a film. It was a fantastic movie and I plan on picking up the book for my oldest son. It’s really quite dangerous taking him to a bookstore. Since his first three years was spent in a bookstore, whenever we go hit one, he picks out something like ten books. He thinks he should have them all. And his brothers follow suit and want ten each for themselves. Thank goodness for libraries!

Besides your work, I know that there is something else big going on in your life. Do you care to share?

Ah, yes. Well, I’m in the middle of a fight for my kids. Because we didn’t have gay marriage when my ex and I broke up five years ago, I didn’t have any legal rights to my boys. She is the biological mom. The last five years, co-parenting has been difficult at times, easy at others. But it has always depressed me that I don’t have 50/50 time, nor do I have any assurances if anything would happen to my ex, that my boys would automatically come to me. My ex refuses to work it out between us, so I am now taking my case to the court. And sadly, because I work in publishing, I don’t have any money. (I know you all understand that!) In order to get the $5,000 retainer I needed to begin, I started a gofundme campaign. My lawyer said that if we have to go the whole nine yards in court it could cost between $30,000 and $40,000. It’s terrifying, but something I have to do for both myself and my boys.

If you have the inclination and a few extra bucks, Terri’s gofundme is here!

Any last words, Oh Wise One?

If you are a writer, write your story. Don’t chase trends.

Writing is a job and it’s hard work. Make time for it every single day. Even if you are just reading what you have already written and plotting out your next chapters.

Join a writing or critique group. You need feedback from someone who doesn’t love you.

Don’t ever give up.

Thanks for sharing your story, Terri! And for hanging out with us at Women and Words!

Anytime. Thanks for having me.

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3 thoughts on “An interview with Midnight Ink acquisitions editor Terri Bischoff

  1. Thank you so much for sharing an insight into your job and life..I wish you all the best in your fight for your children..I personally have a 23 year old bookworm son who is my world..Your job sounds amazing..working around books..researching topics..reading books..choosing books..meeting authors..I think the nerd in me needs to go take a cold shower now after that job description..lol

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    1. Cheryll – it is the best job in the world. I used to think owning a bookstore was the best job ever, and it was pretty close. Now instead of interacting with customers, I attended various conferences and have created some amazing new friendships. AND, I can read all day and call it work. 🙂

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