Interview: Jessica Wade- Associate Editor, Ace/Roc

Well, it's been a week of excitement here at League Headquarters, what with the launch and all. Now it's time for something new to the blog. Here is the first of many upcoming interviews that the League will be doing with various professionals in the publishing field, professionals too foolhardy not to talk to us. Jessica is smart as a whip and funny to boot. Anything lacking in this first interview is due more to my slow developing interview skills than anything she has to say. On with the show.

Interview: Jessica Wade- Associate Editor, Ace/Roc

Jessica Wade is not just my editor, she was the first to believe that Dead To Me might actually work as one a title for Ace Books and because of that, she rocks. Jessica came to Berkley as an editorial assistant in 2004, and was promoted to Assistant Editor in June 2006. In March 2007 she acquired Dead To Me, which I am sure she considers the high point of her career. In the lull before my Feb 26th, 2008 pub date, her only other accolade to keep her going was her August 2007 promotion to the position of Associate Editor for both Ace and Roc. She has, against her better judgment, agreed to answer several pressing interview questions for me.

1. When not busy reflecting on the awesomeness of my writing, tell me what a typical day constitutes for you as an Associate editor. Well after my morning session of reflection about the brilliance of *ahem* all my writers, there are lots of things that can take up my day. I go to a lot of meetings and talk about books. I look at copy and covers and send out copy-edited manuscripts and page proofs. I answer an average of 57.35 emails. I read submissions and edit books too, but a lot of that happens at home after hours and on weekends...

2. Vampires and things that go bump in the night have not seen such popularity since the days of Vlad the Impaler. Do you think this is simply a trend? If so, what do you think the next big thing will be? I think it's going to be a little robot on robot action, if you know what I mean... Vampires are a trend, but they're certainly a trend with staying power. I think it's great how the initial fascination with vampires ended up buoying this whole trend of urban fantasy, and that's something that's not going away. I think we'll see urban fantasy expanding and exploring new places: both in terms of creatures and new voices. I'd like to seem some historical urban fantasy... that'd be fun.

Also, Anton, regarding the robot-on-robot thing... please see me after class.

3. Clearly you are a woman of superior intelligence, if only for choosing to publish my work. What do you look for when reading a manuscript? What appeals to you?
An original voice telling a story in an original world. A believable, thoroughly built world. Characters that are relatable. A keen sense of language.

You know, the usual.

4. Conversely, when you pick up a manuscript and start reading, what common mistakes or errors make you fling it into the trashcan? Well, I'm not some autocrat who will throw out a submission because my name is spelled wrong (although incidentally, whatever list of editors out there has me as "Jessica Webb," I curse you!), but it is nice to see a well written query letter that clearly states these things: this book is about X, it is X number of words, you could compare it to X. Having glaring spelling or grammar mistakes in a query letter is a bad idea, but the real test is the first page of the manuscript, and the test is whether or not the writing is good. With very rare exceptions, you can tell that from the first page, first paragraph even.

If you want me to be negative, it irritates me to see a letter start "Dear Agent, I am seeking representation for..." And people who start out by saying that their book is a mixture of LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER will generate severe rolling of eyes. Oh, and to people who suggest that we send them a laptop and they'll write us a book-we are on to you.

5. Sci-fi and fantasy both have a lot of common tropes that seem inherent to the genre. What type of cliches make you roll your eyes when you see them in a manuscript? Ha, well obviously eye-rolling is the subject matter du jour. There are lots of cliches, but many cliches work-that's why people use them a lot.

Ok, here's one, but it's kind of irrational and it may not bug anyone else. When SF novels have their characters referring to "vid" and "vid screens." For the love of Pete, the word video has been in use since the 50's. Has anyone ever asked you to come over to their house to "watch a vid"? I didn't think so, because you would probably punch them, right? So why would we call it "vid" in the future?

That said, there are probably many eminent novelists using vid all over town... and no one else cares. Just me... just little old me...

6. Given the volume of material coming into a major publishing house, do you ever get the time to give any constructive criticism to writers who are hopeful but clearly not ready for publication?
Very occasionally. Not as often as I'd like to, but if there's real promise I'd be silly not to let people know that. Even if I don't have time to critique, I'll tell people that I do want to see more from them. That's why having a writers' group that you trust can be really helpful.

7. Let's pretend for a moment that people are coming to the League of Reluctant Adults and actually reading this. Then let's say they're writers. Writers without agents. How would you suggest they go about getting their work read?
Ace and Roc do take unsolicited submissions, and I can think of two authors since I've been here that we bought from unsolicited submissions. The email address is and people can send a query letter and a synopsis and paste the first ten pages of their book.

But trying to find an agent is certainly a good idea. Check out the back of books you love and see if the agent is mentioned. Go find the Literary Marketplace guide and see who represents authors who write things similar to what you write. Write a good query letter, go to conventions, try to get short fiction published.

8. I'm not above a shameless opportunity to plug myself. What's the best reason people should pre-order Dead To Me?
By gum, you are completely shameless. Because it's funny and full of mystery! And because the guy on the cover is so cute.

Thanks, Jessica! Until next time...


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