Bio: Editor Tessa Woodward has been at HarperCollins for 8 years. She edits a wide array of romance, women's fiction, and mystery as well as selected creative non-fiction titles. On the romance side, she edits authors across all genres, including the New York Times bestsellers Tessa Dare, Karen Ranney, Jennifer McQuiston, and C. L. Wilson. She's the final judge for The Sandy's romance category and is looking to acquire all genres of romance! Tessa was kind enough to answer these questions, but won't be able to answer any questions.
- Which categories do you currently acquire/
represent? Which category has a
special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: I acquire all genres of romance as well as erotica and New Adult. Historicals are my first love but I’m also a huge contemporary fan.
- What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?
Answer: Whatever is needed to explain the book. A couple of pages usually does it. And it makes no difference if it’s single or double-spaced.
- In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?
Answer: Honestly, right now I’m not seeing a bunch of the same things over and over again. There’s a ton of variety out there! I’m probably not looking for Vampires right now. And I’m definitely trying to find the next big thing in erotica. I also love anything with governesses.
are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: Voice, voice, voice, voice, voice. I want your writing can grab me right from the start.
- 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 – Voice is the most important thing. If it’s not there, it’s not worth it.
- Weak Grammar – always fixable!
- Common plot – sometimes fixable depending on the writing.
- Poor character development – this is usually a deal breaker for me.
- Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)- If the writing holds up, and it makes sense in the context of the story, I’m fine with controversy.
- Mediocre / uninspired writing – huge problem.
- Excessive use of violence or cursing – doesn’t bother me unless it interferes with the story development.
- Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – if there’s not enough tension, suspense, or world building, it’s probably not for me.
- Pacing is off—plot is too slow – if the writing is amazing, this is fixable
- Story starts in wrong spot – this happens all the time! Totally fixable.
- Ending is unsatisfactory – as long as the author agrees to make changes, this is fixable.
- 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: Not really. I try to be as specific as possible for any submission I personally receive.
- 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: As long as the writing is there and the author and I have spoken and can agree on a vision for the book and her/his career, I don’t need anything else.
- Do you have any pet peeves?
Answer: Not actually telling me what happens in the story in your query letter.