Agent Interview - SUZIE TOWNSEND (FinePrint Lit)
1) What made you decide to become an agent?
I’m a former English teacher and now an (almost) agent and the executive assistant to the CEO of FinePrint Literary Management.
I’ve always loved to write and I devoted most of free time and my summers off to writing when I was in college and teaching. I started a ton of projects but I never took any steps towards publication. I did join several writing groups, though. I found that I really liked revising and critiquing manuscripts, and that I was actually better at that than my own writing. When the CA budget crisis hit the district where I taught, I started to think about doing something other than teaching and I decided to try to go into publishing. My initial plan was to try to get a job in the editorial department at a publishing house, hopefully in a science fiction, fantasy, or romance imprint. But when I moved to NY, publishing houses were getting hit with a lot of layoffs and job opportunities were pretty sparse. I took an internship (unpaid) with FinePrint and commuted from Philadelphia to Manhattan a few days a week, thinking it would be a good opportunity to learn about the agenting side of the business.
And I loved it.
I spent my days as an intern reading queries and reading manuscripts – that’s it. I loved it so much that I started coming into the office every day and I stayed well beyond the hours I was supposed to be there. I read multiple projects for every agent in the office and did a lot of editorial work on their manuscripts to help out, and I also started re-organizing the database software on our computers. After a few months, they offered me a full time job as an assistant.
As an assistant I had a lot more administrative duties, but I started to learn more about what it means to be an agent – most of their time is actually not spent looking at queries. There’s a lot of work with contracts and royalty statements and managing whatever crisis comes up. I also started helping agents in the office go out on submission with projects and communicated with writers about their projects. Then I got a manuscript that I loved, and I passed it around the office to several other people to read – everyone approved of it but it’s a YA romance, not especially suited to anyone else’s tastes so they gave me the green light to offer representation. So now I’m an almost-agent or junior agent I guess you could say, and I’m going out on submission with the project next week.
2) What are you currently looking for?
I’m interested character-driven YA and adult fiction - fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and romance. I gravitate towards 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, like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Other favorites are Anne Bishop, , Suzanne Collins,Jeaniene Frost, , , and . My pet peeves include diabolical monologues, romance without plot or character development, and damsel in distress protagonists.
3) What kind of query letter catches your interest?
With queries, I’m actually most interested in short and sweet. I want to know as quickly and concisely as possible what the book is about. I’m also a big fan of sarcasm so I like reading queries with sarcastic and witty tone – but of course that only works if it also reflects the tone of the book.
What’s actually most important to me is the first chapter of the work. FinePrint requests that authors paste the first chapter or the first 5-10 pages of the manuscript in the bottom of the email. I’ve read a few queries that weren’t all that strong, but then something about the first chapter – usually the description and/or the voice – has really grabbed me, and I’ve gone ahead and requested the manuscript.
4) What is your idea of a perfect client?
My perfect client is just someone who loves to read and write. I like to review and edit material so I’m looking for a writer who’s receptive to revisions and who wants to build and develop a career as an author. I’m an email junkie – I’m on email all the time, so I’m not opposed to writer’s shooting me an email to ask a question or just to say hi. I want to be a communicative agent, and I don’t clients to be afraid to talk to me.
5) What do you love the most about your job?
There have been so many times in my life when I seriously thought I have a problem, an addiction that’s downright unhealthy at times, and it’s books. I have blown paychecks on books, stayed up until four in the morning to finish a book and then had to wake up and go to work at five (I’ve done this too many times to count). I (a few times) read a book while in traffic (thankfully I’m not driving anymore). I could go on and on and on, but people I’ve met in publishing are the only people I’ve ever met who are like me – and share this kind of passion about books! I love being able to read everything I can get my hands on, discuss books with people I meet in publishing, and help an author’s vision turn into something real.
6) Can you tell us about your client?
My first client - her name is Jennifer Hoffine - doesn't have a website or blog yet, but her project is a YA Romance called Cheater Beaters. Here's a quick description.
When it comes to faithless boyfriends, 16 year old Becca Freeman has been there and busted that. After finding out her latest cheater boyfriend has cheated on her for the second time, she’s determined to get even, for all the girls out there being scammed by cheaters. With the help of her best friend, Becca sets up Cheater Beaters, a P.I. agency to catch cheaters in the act and swears off boyfriends for at least a semester.
Of course, she didn’t count on falling for a bad-boy who straight up won’t commit to help her figure out who she can trust her heart with next.
Combining the detective work of I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You, by with the relationship insights of , CHEATERS BEATERS shows that solving the little mysteries in life can sometimes help you with the big ones.
Thank you for your time, Suzie! Looking forward to seeing your career unfold at the illustrious FinePrint Lit!