Interview with Agent Suzie Townsend - Win a Critique!


Today we're excited to welcome Agent Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary to the blog!  Suzie has kindly given her time to answer some of our burning questions and has also donated a query or 5-pg. critique as one of the prizes!  So without further adieu...

Suzie is actively looking for fiction and non-fiction: specifically Middle Grade and YA novels (all subgenres, but particularly literary projects), adult romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy).


Recent sales include Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers (Tor, September 2010), All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (FSG, winter 2012), Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulsen(Harper, winter 2012), Sea Rose Red by Cat Hellisen (FSG, spring 2012), Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz (Roaring Brook, fall 2011), andTempest by Julie Cross (St. Martin’s Press, forthcoming).

She’s interested in strong characters and voice driven stories: she’s particularly keen on strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre.  Some of her favorites are When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushielseries.

She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in Brooklyn with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not.
Suzie keeps a blog at and can be found on twitter @sztownsend81.



What would you like to see more of in your query inbox?  And on the flipside, what are you tired of seeing?
This is also tough because I’m a little torn.  I love YA.  And I love paranormal YA.  But…I’m seeing so much of it that a lot of it seems to sound the same.  (And by so much, I mean probably over 90% of my queries are paranormal YA).  But I am still requesting paranormal YA if it sounds different and unique enough (like Ingrid Paulson’s forthcoming Valkyrie Rising). 
But I’d love to see contemporary literary YA (like Arlaina Tibensky’s forthcoming Bell Jar Summer) and literary YA with a speculative twist (like Before I Fall, How I Live Now, and Sarah Wylie’s forthcoming All These Lives).  I taught rhetoric before I got into publishing, so I love when I read something where I can get lost in the story and later think to myself “wow, the way he/she used language to write that story” (I’m a nerd, I know). 
I’d also love to see more YA science fiction projects (the science fiction elements have to be accessible though like in Julie’s forthcoming novel Tempest) with a romance.  And I love YA fantasies like Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock and Cat Hellisen’s forthcoming Sea Rose Red.
And I would love love love to find a YA set in a historical time period – steampunk, magical realism, more time travel, just straight up historical.  But I love Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series.
Then outside of YA, I’d love to see more literary Middle Grade projects that have a great commercial premise but have a depth and complexity to them (like When You Reach Me and Hannah Moskowitz’s forthcoming Zombie Tag).
And I’m also looking to expand into the world of adult fiction.  I’d really love to find an urban fantasy series, a paranormal romance series (J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series is akin to crack for me) and a dark romantic fantasy series (I love Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series).
And if anyone has a thriller like Patrick Lee’s The Breach, I’d love to find that too.

Since I also have a lot of romance writers who read this blog--and because I'm self-serving and want to know for myself ;) -- what subgenres of romance are you open to representing?
I love all things romance.  So really, I want to see it all.  Paranormal, historical, contemporary, fantasy.  I’m a sucker for romance.

Different agents have different opinions on what a writer should do before entering the query phase—i.e. find critique partners, finish a second novel before querying the first, go to a writing conference, etc.  What do you recommend a writer do before taking that step? 
For most writers, I have to say that critique partners are invaluable and a vital step in the process before querying.  (I do know a few writers, who don’t have critique partners, but they’re usually the brilliant exceptions).  It also helps if writers familiarize themselves with the industry before they start querying – either through research online or going to a conference or networking with other writers.  It’s important to understand how the business works before diving in.

How important is it, if at all, for a writer to have an online presence before having a book deal or agent?  Do you find it’s more important for a YA writer vs. another genre?
An online presence isn’t make or break at any stage.  The most important thing is writing a good book.  But before the book comes out, it will help if a writer develops an online presence and networks in order to get their name out there.  It’s especially important for YA writers since so much of their readership is also online, exploring social media.

We hear the horror stories about writers following agents into bathrooms to pitch their stories or sending weird things with their queries.  So, tell us, what’s the strangest method someone has used to try to query/pitch you?
I have gotten a bathroom pitch.  But the strangest method is the query I got in a Starbucks cup.  Yes – someone sent a Starbucks cup through the US Postal Service (I hadn’t realized that was possible until that moment), and inside there was the query and a bag of flour.


Thanks so much to Suzie for the great information and don't forget to click over to Julie's blog to see the rest of the interview including what makes a manuscript stand out from the rest!

And below is the daily Twitter bonus entry.  Remember, you have to have to have filled out the main contest form (link at top of page) before you can qualify for bonus entries.