Thursday, January 27, 2011

Agent Profile - Suzie Townsend

One of the pet peeves I see agents talking about is about writers not doing their homework before querying them. It's in your best interest, as a writer, if you take the time to research the agents you are submitting to. Find the perfect fit. For two reasons. 1. When you finally get that 'YES!' or better yet, multiple yes's, you'll already have a pretty good idea who your top pick is. and 2. If you are targeting your queries carefully, you will have a higher request rate. And the whole point of querying is getting your work in front of the tright agents. Besides - do you really want an agent who represents only Sci Fi trying to represent your romance? The point of having an agent is having someone with the contacts inside the publishing world to get your book in the hands of the right editor. What contacts could the Sci Fi only agent have in the romance world if they only deal with Sci Fi?

So, for my regularly scheduled broadcast, I will be profiling a different agent every other week.  Some of these profiles will include an interview that I have conducted, sometimes it will just be all of the information that I was able to gather on that particular agent. The information is as up-to-date as possible as of the date of the post.

My agent profile for this week is Suzie Townsend!

Suzie is an agent with Fine Print Literary Management in New York City.

I recently conducted an interview with Suzie on being an agent and what she's looking for.
(SW=Shelley Watters ST=Suzie Townsend)

SW: How did you get into agenting?

ST: I was actually teaching high school English and feeling a little disillusioned.  Meanwhile my younger sister graduated college and started working in textbook publishing.  I kept hearing about everything she did and thinking "I would like that."  So I picked up and moved and took an unpaid internship at FinePrint to learn the industry.  And I loved it.  Luckily they loved me too.

SW: What genres do you rep?

ST: I represent children's books - middle grade and YA.  And I'm also representing adult genre fiction - particularly all subgenres of romance, fantasy, science fiction.

SW: A query comes across your in-box that has you jumping out of your seat to request the full ASAP. What is it about?

ST: For me, it's less plot (what it's about) and more character and voice.  I can say I'm reading all YA science fiction, thriller, and horror queries extra closely because I'm really looking for those right now.  And the same with adult paranormal romance and adult urban fantasy.  But I'm first and foremost into character and I request fulls based on pages.  I read the query and then jump down to check out the pages.  There I want a great opening line - something that hooks me and shows voice. 

SW: What are your pet peeves for queries?

ST: When authors tell me about myself. I know me - and it's always frustrating when they say something about me that's wrong. Or when someone sends a query that tells me to go to their website without saying what the book is about.  Then there's the do not mention phrases, it's frustrating to here things like "Oprah will love this!" or "This manuscript will be an awesome movie!" or "By signing me, I'll make you a millionaire!"  It all points to unrealistic expectations or lack or research, and all I really want to know is the book.

SW: The query rocked - so you requested a partial/full. Now you're passing. What happened between query and pages?

ST: A lot of things can happen here. Maybe the plot unraveled somewhere, or character motivations are missing, or the first 50 pages are really polished and then the rest of the ms doesn't feel edited (it happens). Or it's just good.

And this is one of the hardest things about publishing. There really aren't a lot of bad manuscripts. There are some, but mostly what I request and see are manuscripts that are good but just not great. In today's market they need a wow factor or something that doesn't let me forget about the characters and their story long after I've finished reading. The projects I end up signing are the ones that all my colleagues in the office know about because when I finish I'm stuck on those characters for days and I talk about them all the time.

So then the question is how do you give a manuscript the wow aspect, and part of that will always be subjective, but strong characters with strong voices do it every time.

SW: What do you want to see more of in your submission pile?

ST: I would love an upmarket women's fiction manuscript with some kind of unique commercial hook (like Time Traveler's Wife), high concept literary YA and middle grade (like How I Live Now and When You Reach Me), adult paranormal romance or urban fantasy that breaks out of the typical genre tropes, and a dark romantic fantasy (like The Black Jewels Trilogy or The Kushiel Series).

SW: Do any of your clients have books coming out soon?

ST: Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers just came out on September 14th!  Allison Pang's Brush of Darkness comes out January 25th.  Hannah Moskowitz's Invincible Summer is out April 19th, and Arlaina Tibensky's And Then Things Fall Apart is out in June.

Buy it here
Preorder here
Preorder here
SW: What are you currently reading? (Other than fantastic client manuscripts and slush)

ST: Eternal Brush of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

SW: Salty or sweet?

ST: Sweet

SW: If you could give writers querying you one piece of advice, what would it be?

ST: Take. Your. Time.

SW: Do you twitter?

ST: @sztownsend81 and

SW: If you were stranded on a desert island with only one book to read, what is it?

ST: I can't be stranded with my kindle and it's 3G?  If I have to choose, I'm going to be logical and choose the book that I've reread the most The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  (Ender's Game, Time Traveler's Wife, and several manuscripts I've read in the past couple months are close behind though.)  Really I'm just not sure if I could live with only one book.

Thank you Suzie Townsend from Fine Print Literary Management for participating in this interview. If you are interested in querying Suzie please follow her submission guidelines that can be found here.

Before querying Suzie, learn more about her by checking out the following links:

Other info on Suzie:


Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently seeking literary representation. You can find Shelley on her blog at and twitter @Shelley_Watters .


  1. Excellent profile, Shelley! Thank you to Suzie, too!

  2. Great post! Thanks to both of you for sharing ;o) I agree with Suzie, the characters are what do it for me too ;O)

    Fantastic profile!

  3. Super interview! Suzie sounds like an amazing agent! It's great to get to know more about her. Stories with strong characterization will always win out over everything else for me. Great plots are fantastic, but paired with flat characters, it all just falls apart.

    By the way, loving your new blog! Congrats on its launch!

  4. Thanks for posting this excellent interview, Shelley. Suzie sounds like a great agent! :D

  5. Thanks, Carol. We're having a blast with it!!

  6. Fantastic post Shelley! Thanks to you and Suzie for the great interview. :)