Today, we’re interviewing Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Thank you so much, Suzie, for being here today!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Suzie: I sort of fell into it. I had just left teaching and was hoping to get into textbook publishing since I really loved curriculum planning. But the economy had just taken a downturn and most companies weren’t hiring so I couldn’t find a job. I took an unpaid internship instead just to get a feel for publishing and ended up at FinePrint Literary Management. Within a week of the internship I knew that I didn’t want to work in textbooks anymore—I wanted to be an agent and work in fiction.
Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?
Suzie: If I don’t connect to the main character I won’t get to page 50—that’s the big one for me. But I have to say that I was on a panel a few years ago with a number of agents and one of them said:
“If you don’t have me hooked in the first line, I won’t read the second line. If the second line doesn’t keep me hooked, I won’t read the third. At any point I’m not invested in wanting to know what comes next, I’ll stop reading.”
It’s stuck with me (I say it on panels now) because it’s so true. I have so much to read so anything that I don’t care about is going to get put aside.
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
Suzie: I’m currently trying to build my adult list. I’m dying for dark well-written and page-turning crime fiction. As well as anything with a romance, especially contemporary (including New Adult!).
I’m also looking for middle grade (especially literary and high concept commercial adventure stories). I get a lot of queries for YA, but I still love the genre. I just want to find something that’s different from what I’ve been seeing a lot of.
Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?
Suzie: I am by nature insanely shy. I’ve put a lot of work and practice into interacting with people because my default setting is silent. I interned just an office away from Joanna Volpe for three months before we ever managed to have a conversation.
Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
Suzie: Hold onto the reason you love to write and the reason you want to be a writer. Publishing is a business and the industry is full of ups and downs. Set goals and focus on the things you can control so you don’t get discouraged.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Suzie: I am open to submission! My guidelines are here: http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/2010/01/submission-guidelines.html