SWW: 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.
SWW: 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.
SWW: 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.
SWW: 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.
SWW: 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.
SWW: 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).
SWW: 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|
SWW: What are you currently reading? (Other than fantastic client manuscripts and slush)
ST: Eternal Brush of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost
SWW: Salty or sweet?
SWW: If you could give writers querying you one piece of advice, what would it be?
ST: Take. Your. Time.
SWW: Do you twitter?
ST: @sztownsend81 and confessionsofawanderingheart.
SWW: 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.