Ask the Pro: Assistant Agent Suzie Townsend

Assistant Agent/Executive Assistant Suzie Townsend answers 10 questions to give you a better understanding of what agents want. by Kara Gebhart Uhl
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1. BIGGEST CAREER SURPRISE: How fast it seems to have taken off—a little over a year ago I was teaching high school English and feeling disillusioned with my job. Also, how amazing everyone in the industry is—I had this impression agents would all be demanding, cutthroat and competitive (like Ari Gold on “Entourage”), but my competitors are some of my best friends.

2. TOP THREE FAVORITE BOOKS: Probably The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

3. WORST QUERY: Queries that come with presents or in really outlandish packaging come to mind. I once received a Starbucks cup with a bag of flour inside with a query.

4. BEST QUERY: One of my clients, Rebecca Behrens—her query had such a strong voice right from the start. Creative and witty, it immediately caught my eye. I responded directly: “I HAVE TO READ THIS MANUSCRIPT.”

5. FAVORITE CONVERSATION WITH A CLIENT: I love talking revisions. I tend to be very editorially hands-on, and I like really diving into a project I love and brainstorming ways to make it even more powerful.

6. STRANGEST WRITING CONFERENCE ENCOUNTER: There’s sort of a running joke between agents about writers who will pitch you at a conference while you’re in the bathroom. It’s funny, because no matter how many times you hear about it happening to someone else, you always think, That won’t really happen to me. Then it does.

7. BEST PUBLISHING ADVICE RECEIVED: There’s too much to list here. My desk is in between Peter Rubie’s and Janet Reid’s [queryshark]. They’re invaluable.

8. BIGGEST PET PEEVE: When querying writers call the office and demand to speak to an agent, even after I explain our submission guidelines.

9. PART OF THE JOB I MOST DREAD: I don’t dread anything about it. The thing I love the least is the attitudes some people approach agents with. I understand the frustrations of the industry that writers must deal with, but angry ranting e-mails or phone calls aren’t going to accomplish anything.

10. IMPORTANCE OF AN AGENT: Publishing is a business, but writing is an art form. An agent can take care of the business aspects of a writer’s career and allow them to write, which is probably what authors want to be doing more of anyway.

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