Interview with Literary Agent Suzie Townsend

“My favorite books are ones that keep me up all night with characters that I can’t stop thinking about long after I’ve finished.”

After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend started her career in publishing at FinePrint Literary Management in January 2009. Now an agent at Nancy Coffey Literary, Suzie is actively looking to build her list. She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI.

Suzie is specifically looking for adult romance (historical and paranormal) and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy).

In childrens’ books she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

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 favorite novels (that she doesn’t represent) are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Jeaniene Frost’s Vampire Huntress series, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

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.


1. What is the best part of being a literary agent?

I read for a living. There’s nothing better than that.

2. How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy?

What do you expect from an agent-author relationship? I like to edit and really make sure the manuscript is the best it can be before sending it out to editors so it’s important that any author I work with likes to brainstorm and revise. I also think communication is really important for both parties so I always want to hear from my authors, even if it’s just a quick email to touch base.

3. What’s something coming out now/soon that you’ve represented and are excited about?

A BRUSH OF DARKNESS by Allison Pang came out January 25th, and I’m really excited because it’s one of the best urban fantasies I’ve read in a long time. And Lisa Desrochers’ sequel to PERSONAL DEMONS came out July 2011 called ORIGINAL SIN and it’s fabulous.

4. What are the primary mistakes you see writers make in query process?

The biggest mistakes I see all come back to lack of research. Everything from writers who call and try to phone query, or writers who don’t realize their word count is really off for their genre, or writers who write a query that doesn’t once explain what their book is about–all those issues are fixed if that writer does some research before they query.

But for the writers who have done their research, I see a lot of queries that are bogged down with too many details and/or too many characters. Queries should be short, concise, and intriguing.

5. With fiction partials, what makes you stop reading and start skimming—or stop reading altogether?

I heard an agent say once that the voice had to grab him on the first sentence and not ever let go. I think that’s true of most agents. I’m drawn first and foremost to characters. If they don’t have a voice or they start to feel bland or uninteresting, it’s hard for me to keep investing in them.

6. You said that you would like to work on more fantasy and science fiction, can you elaborate more on fantasy subgenres that you are drawn to?

I really like it all. I loved Lord of the Rings and epic fantasy has always been a favorite subgenre of mine. I also like urban fantasy and paranormal and accessible science fiction. I like space operas (I’m a huge BSG fan) and I love aspects of fringe science (Fringe is my favorite TV show right now), but I can’t feel like I’m reading a science textbook. But I’m also a romantic at heart, so anything with a swoonworthy love story underneath the plot is huge.

7. When accepting young adult, what subgenres do you lean toward?

Again, pretty much everything. I like contemporary, speculative, paranormal, fantasy, and I’m really looking for horror or thriller.

8. Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where people can meet/pitch you?

In January I’ll be at the Writers Digest Pitch Slam in NY and I keep my calendar on my blog at

9. What’s the best way to contact you?

Our submission guidelines are listed here:

10. Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?

Write another book. Seriously, writers shouldn’t ever attach themselves too much to one book. They should write another book while they’re querying or on submission and keep moving forward.