Interview with Jessica Williams
Date: Jessica Williams is an Assistant Editor at William
Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She edits a wide range of
nonfiction and fiction projects and is most interested in upmarket/literary fiction; psychological
suspense; smart, character-driven thrillers; well-written speculative fiction
and fantasy; and narrative
nonfiction/memoir with cultural and/or scientific underpinnings.
HarperCollins, Jessica completed a Masterís in Literature at Georgetown
University, and worked briefly at a literary agency and scouting agency in New
- Which categories do you currently acquire/
represent?† Which category has a
special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: Upmarket/literary fiction;
psychological suspense; smart, character-driven thrillers; well-written
speculative fiction and fantasy; and narrative nonfiction/memoir with cultural and/or scientific
Upmarket/literary fiction has held
a constant place in my life, but I also love a fun, escapist genre read.
- What length synopsis do you prefer to
see with a partial?† Single spaced
Answer: It really depends on the
subject for me. For nonfiction, I prefer a thorough proposal with a writing
sample. For fiction, I tend to avoid partials unless the writer has a proven
track record. As an unknown or new writer, itís better to have a complete
manuscript ready when submitting fiction for consideration.
- In terms of submissions, what are you
sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: Iím rather tired of the
more standard commercial thrillers that, in the past, would have been published
as mass market originals. The market for these types of books is increasingly
shifting towards e-books. I would love to see more upmarket or high-concept
suspense novels with strong, female heroines.
are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
†read?†† What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: A great concept, well-paced, and a distinct voice and characters
- For you, in general, which elements in
a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections
and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a
talented author is willing to accept your advice? †
- Voice - Automatic Rejection
- Weak Grammar - Revision
- Common plot - Automatic Rejection
- Poor character development - Automatic
- Story is too controversial (ie rape,
politics, religionówhat else?) - Revision (sometimes edgy can be a
- Mediocre / uninspired writing - Automatic
- Excessive use of violence or cursing -
- Lacking genre Ėspecific requirements
like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building - Revision
- Pacing is offóplot is too slow - Revision
- Story starts in wrong spot - Revision
- Ending is unsatisfactory - Revision
- Other: Do I have a vision for it -
- Does meeting an author face-to-face at
a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission
process, or the rejection process (ie. Form
letter vs a few sentences of advice)?
Answer: Yes, meeting an author
makes a difference. But my interest in the concept or an author makes the
biggest difference. If I admire something or have a vision for it, even if I
donít acquire it, Iím more apt to give the author editorial advice.
- Besides the writing, the story and the
talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author,
ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations
to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability,
Answer: Publication history and
credentials, a great platform, knowledge and understanding of the book market
today and social media, along with the ability to edit themselves or
re-envision their own work.
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Common plot, dialogue, and
- What are you addicted to?
Answer: Iím a sucker for a
beautiful turn of phrase.
- What have you always wanted to do?
Answer: Work with authors I believe
in and on books Iím passionate about.