What kind of manuscripts would make you sit up and take notice? Humor? Emotional impact? Character driven novels? Unusual situations? All of the above? Anything you are tired of seeing and want writers to avoid?Editors get this sort of question all the time, and it's like a mom asking what color hair we'd prefer her son to have?—how tall should he be?—would we like him to have an accent?
Looking for the right manuscript is like dating.
And just like in dating, there's love and then there's attraction. There's a difference between the manuscript I want for a best friend and confidante and the manuscript I want to spend the next year and a half in bed with.
But what inspires both love and attraction is personal, no matter which editor you talk to. Take a guess at how many different kinds of books there are—that's approximately how many different kinds of editors there are. So are you seriously going to make your son shave his head if I tell you I'm most attracted to bald men?
The first person who has to love what you create is you. After that, you have to raise your manuscript right and teach it good manners. It should know how to play nicely with others. It should be strong, but unafraid to be human. It should know how to offer the best of itself to the people it loves.
Of course (as we've seen) there are a number of manuscripts in slush that only a mother could love. (And there are a thin few that are the literary equivalent of circus freaks.) There are many that are never published, but which would make wonderful matches for many people. But if you can give your manuscript the qualities it needs to be a heartthrob, then it may indeed win the love and adoration of thousands.