Alas, there is always too much acquisition work to get a firm grip upon, and my work in that arena is never done. (To be so, quite honestly, would to be out of business.)
Usually when good manuscripts slip through the cracks I don't see them again until they are announced in a competitor's catalog or I spot it already published somewhere. Sometimes it works out otherwise.
A couple years ago a Gettysburg-based independent film named Brad Graham sent me a manuscript query called "The Antietam Effect." It was not a history of Antietam. Rather, it was a series of meaty essays on a wide variety of subjects, all of which commented uniquely on the human element and dimension of action and reaction, etc, and the impact rations, weather, exhaustion, and so forth had on decision-making. (That might not be precisely how Brad would describe it, but it is early Sunday morning and I have only had one cup of coffee, and I don't have his book handy; the description is close enough for horseshoes--which I played the other night and lost. Again.)
I replied back that I had some interest, and he shot back most or all of the manuscript. I read one of the digital essays, loved it, and then . . . forgot about it. Too much on the plate, too many submissions, too many books, new employees, and life in general eased this through the cracks and into the slush pile of oblivion.
Fast forward a year or so. One day Yvette plopped a book down on my desk. "This looks interesting," she added. The Antietam Effect. Hmm. That sounded familiar. Brad Graham. I know that name, I thought. I glanced more carefully at the jacket and saw that it boasted a Foreword by D. Scott Hartwig, one of Gettysburg's premier historians. Inside the book was a nice letter from Brad and it the book itself was inscribed to me.
"Ah, no," I said aloud. It all came back to me.
Now, a few authors whose books I had ignored or turned down had sent me finished copies--usually in the form of a sharp stick in the eye: "See! Someone else knew this was good, so SB can go to H---." Like that.
Not Brad. His letter was gracious, his book kindly inscribed. I took The Antietam Effect home that evening and began reading it. I could not put it down. It was fascinating--a very different way of looking at otherwise well-known events. I emailed Brad the next day to congratulate him and apologize for not accepting his book. His reply: "I sent it to you because I really still want Savas Beatie to publish it. I only printed a very small number of copies."
The result after a few more emails and telephone calls is a signed contract, a new Savas Beatie author, a wonderful manuscript in development with Thomas Schott, one of our developmental editors (a former T. Harry Williams graduate student), and a slot for a Spring 2014 release of an SB-driven The Antietam Effect.
Oh, and Brad's view is unique and insightful enough that he has taken his eye and pen a bit north to Gettysburg, where he has done the same thing for Day 1. I had never viewed Heth's approach that morning in that manner . . . and when Lee . . . well, you have to wait a bit longer for that one.