1. What are some qualities in a manuscript that keep you reading and that make you start to believe you might want a manuscript? What, beyond these qualities, does a manuscript have to have in order to make it one of the select few you choose to acquire?
The one quality that draws me into a manuscript is voice. That trumps everything else for me. If I believe in a character, then I'll go anywhere with him or her. And a dose of humor never hurts with me. If I laugh out loud, it's a good sign. Anything beyond that is usually practical. If the book includes visuals or is unusual in its structure, then I have to consider how it will be published and that can involve other departments.
2. How do you acquire a manuscript? What's the process? You decide you want a manuscript. What happens from that point to the point you make an offer?
I always seek out a second opinion, so I share the manuscript with at least one (if not two) other editor(s). Since each of us have our own tastes and areas of expertise, getting others' thoughts is incredibly useful. And then, of course, it's a matter of getting everything approved by the necessary folks to make an offer.
3. Are there other factors besides the manuscript that enter into the decision to acquire?
I think at Candlewick we generally focus on the manuscript itself, but of course, we do have to pay attention to the book's market and where it fits in our publishing program. I wouldn't say that these factors would ever prevent me from acquiring a book since there's always a place for good writing and good stories.