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.

 

Before joining HarperCollins, Jessica completed a Masterís in Literature at Georgetown University, and worked briefly at a literary agency and scouting agency in New York

 

Bio:

 

  1. 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 underpinnings.

 

Upmarket/literary fiction has held a constant place in my life, but I also love a fun, escapist genre read.

 

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?Single spaced or double?

 

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. What 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

 

 

  1. 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?
    1. Voice - Automatic Rejection
    2. Weak Grammar - Revision
    3. Common plot - Automatic Rejection
    4. Poor character development - Automatic Rejection
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religionówhat else?) - Revision (sometimes edgy can be a good thing)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing - Automatic Rejection
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing - Revision
    8. Lacking genre Ėspecific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building - Revision
    9. Pacing is offóplot is too slow - Revision
    10. Story starts in wrong spot - Revision
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory - Revision
    12. Other: Do I have a vision for it - Revision

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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, etc?

 

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.

 

 

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

 

Answer: Common plot, dialogue, and characters.

 

 

  1. What are you addicted to?

 

Answer: Iím a sucker for a beautiful turn of phrase.

 

 

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

 

Answer: Work with authors I believe in and on books Iím passionate about.