Children's Agents

The Best Children's Book Agents 2018 - Recommended by their Writers

Every year I update this post - one of the most popular posts on my blog. I hope it's helpful. If you are a published writer and would like to recommend your agent, please contact me. I'd be delighted to add your agent to the list. 

All the agents on this list are recommended by people in the know - their writers and illustrators. Thank you to all the writers and illustrators who responded to my call out for recommendations. 

WHY DO YOU NEED AN AGENT?

In Ireland we are lucky to have the O’Brien Press whose editors are happy to read unsolicited manuscripts. You can send your book directly to one of their editors.

Little Island are also happy to read unsolicited manuscripts – they have excellent submission guidelines.

Gill Books has recently started publishing children’s fiction, Mercier and Poolbeg also publish children’s books and accept unsolicited manuscripts.

But most UK publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so you will need to submit your work through an agent.

WHAT DOES AN AGENT DO EXACTLY?

1/ An agent can advise you on your manuscript and on how to make it more attractive to a publisher. Some of them will act as unofficial editors to their clients or at the very least can suggest changes or improvements. They are also excellent at coming up with zippy book titles as I’ve discovered.

2/ An agent can find the right editor or publisher for your work – like a book matchmaker. And they can sell your UK, US, digital and foreign rights. They can also look after any film or television rights.

3/ Agents deal with the difficult and technical area of contracts. This is particularly important at the moment as digital rights can be tricky.

4/ Financial back up – they can chase up your royalties and talk to your publishers about outstanding monies owed to you.

These days having potential isn’t enough,  your manuscript must be as perfect as you can make it before it goes anywhere near a publisher. A good agent can play a vital role in this process.

WHO REPRESENTS SOME OF THE BEST CHILDREN'S WRITERS?

Remember to check each agent’s website for submission guidelines before you send anything out. Or ring the agency for details – I know it’s daunting but they are always happy to advise you on how (or if) to submit. Be warned – you may get the agent herself/himself on the phone. Be prepared.

RECOMMENDED CHILDREN’S AGENTS: IRISH WRITERS

Eoin Colfer is represented by Sophie Hicks. Sophie is a very experienced agent and her writers rate her highly. She also represents Oisín McGann. www.sophiehicksagency.com

Lucy Coats adds ‘Sophie Hicks of SHA is, of course, the best agent in the world! Sympathetic and positive in adversity, great sense of humour and fights her authors’ corner like a tigress on speed. Highly recommended.’

Derek Landy is represented by Michelle Kass, who also represents Patrick Ness. www.michellekass.co.uk

Darren Shan is represented by Christopher Little   For general enquiries email: www.christopherlittle.net

Sarah Webb and Chris Judge are represented by the wonderful Philippa Milnes Smith at LAW

Steve McCarthy says: ‘I'll second that for Philippa! I can attest to her kindness, wise-ness and hilarity.’

Contact: All submissions should be sent, in hard copy, by post to: LAW, 14 Vernon Street, London, W14 0RJ www.lawagency.co.uk

Marita Conlon McKenna is represented by Caroline Sheldon www.carolinesheldon.co.uk

Elizabeth Rose Murray recommends her agent, Sallyanne Sweeney of Mulcahy Associates (London). She says she’s ‘supportive, thorough, creative, knowledgeable & really champions her authors. And she really loves children’s/YA literature too – always a bonus!’

Let's hear from some other Irish writers:

Dave Rudden: 'I'm with Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson - can't recommend her enough!'

Clare also represents Olivia Hope.

Shirley McMillan: 'My agent is Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. She is wonderful.'

Jenny also represents Nigel Quinlan.

Sinéad O'Hart is represented by Polly Nolan who is also recommended by Louis Stowell.

Celine Kiernan says: 'I changed agencies late 2015. I am with Sallyanne Sweeney now, of Mulcahy Literary Agency. Have worked with her on two books now and find her wonderful.'

Sheena Wilkinson: ‘Faith O'Grady. Not a children's specialist -- handy as I am writing adult now, but very supportive and approachable. Based in Dublin.’

Sheena Dempsey says:  ‘Felicity Trew is absolutely brilliant, a determined bulldog but with a lovely manner and thorough to the last where contracts are concerned. Incredibly supportive where editorial and art direction are concerned. Always pushes for better terms. Top marks.’

Marianne Gunn O'Connor represents Shane Hegarty and Cecelia Ahern. 

OTHER RECOMMENDED AGENTS - UK AND INTERNATIONAL WRITERS

Cathy Cassidy is represented by Darley Anderson and highly recommends him.

Eve Ainsworth:  'I'm with Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown, she's fab.'

Russell Sanderson and Lu Hersey recommend their agent, Ben Illis.

Zana Fraillon recommends her agent, Claire Wilson.

Julia Churchill at A M Heath who says 'my speciality is checking if people need to go to loo before meetings.' I have met Julia and she is a funny and smart woman who knows her onions. Well worth sending your manuscript to. Nikki Sheehan says Julia 'would win against 100 horse sized ducks.' 

Jo Nadin says: ‘I love Julia Churchill without reservation. She’s quietly kickass, clever, kind, and, best of all, listens.’

Mark Burgess: 'Im represented by excellent & wonderful Nancy Miles of Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency. She also represents Gill Lewis & Frances Hardinge.'

Sarah McIntyre: ‘ I'm represented by Jodie Hodges at United Agents, she's brilliant! I couldn't do without her, she keeps my life in order.’

Catherine MacPhail says: ‘Caroline Sheldon. Always keeps in touch. Great agent.’

Cathy Brett says ‘And Felicity Trew, Caroline's co-agent. A little terrier!’

Mary Hoffman: ‘ It was Pat White and, since her retirement, is now Claire Wilson, both of Rogers, Coleridge and White.’

Eve White, Eve White Literary Agency

Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan

Robert Kirby at United Agents

Jodie Hodges at United Agents (recommended by William Bee); Catherine Mary Summerhayes, Jo Unwin and Clare Conville at United Agents

Hilary Delamere at The Agency

Lindsey Fraser at Fraser Ross

Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency

Penny Holroyde at Holroyde Cartey

Elizabeth Roy – www.elizabethroy.co.uk

Laura Cecil – www.lauracecil.co.uk

Madeleine Milburn – www.madeleinemilburn.co.uk

Sam Copeland and Claire Wilson at Rogers Coleridge and White – www.rcwlitagency.com

Good luck with finding a great agent!

How To Get Published by Breakthrough YA Author, Louise O’Neill

Louise O'Neill
Louise O'Neill

Louise will be appearing at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival on 13th September (details below)

Upon hearing that I’ve written a novel, some people want to know where I get my ideas from, as if there’s an idea-shop you can just pop in to on your way home from work. Lidl will probably start offering ‘Idee’s’ soon. They’re basically the same thing as ideas but far cheaper.  Others ask about the storyline. ‘It’s a dystopian tale exploring the contemporary obsession with the female body. Think The Handmaid’s Tale for teenagers.’  I answer, watching as every man in a two mile radius backs away. No wonder I’m still single. And then, of course, there are the frustrated writers, lips tightening with barely concealed envy when they hear my good news. I know these people. I was one of them, poring over a newspaper article about some child of fifteen who has sold their first novel for half a million euro, trying to ignore the hatred threatening to suck me under, as greedy as a slurry pit. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing someone else realising your dreams.

So, here are my top tips on how to finally write that novel.

  • Read voraciously. Stephen King said ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write.’ A badly written book will demonstrate what not to do and a well written book will inspire you. Be warned, a masterpiece will merely leave you with a general sense of hopelessness as your novel will never be anywhere as good. I had to take to my bed for a few days after finishing ‘Cloud Atlas’ like a Victorian maiden with a case of the vapours.
  • Think of your writing skills as a muscle. The more you use them, the stronger they will become. The thought of completing an entire manuscript can seem so insurmountable we find ourselves unable to take the first step. Set yourself smaller tasks to begin with. Write an article for your local newspaper. Write a short story. Write five hundred words on your first holy communion. Julia Cameron, in her excellent book The Artist’s Way, recommends ‘morning pages’ and I’ve found freehand writing to be an effective tool of unblocking creativity.
  • When you do decide to start your novel, make sure you’re passionate about your idea. This might sound obvious but you’ll be working on this project for the next nine to twelve months, or more. There will be days when you hate your book, you hate your brain for generating the original idea and you hate your laptop for having the audacity to record all these stupid words. If you don’t adore the idea at the beginning, you will likely ever reach the end.
  • Set yourself a deadline. When I first moved back to Ireland from New York on September 1st, 2011, I decided to take a year out to work on the novel that I had spent the last ten years threatening to write. I finished the first draft on August 31st, 2012.
  • I remember phoning my father from New York, complaining that my job in fashion ‘didn’t make my heart sing.’ I know. Oprah has a lot to answer for. He told me if I wanted to write so badly I should take any opportunity that I had to do so. Bring a notebook with you and write on the subway, he advised, unaware that I spent my subway journey gawking surreptitiously at barefoot crack heads or avoiding eye contact with anyone I might feel compelled to offer my seat to. (Apologies to that pregnant lady on crutches. My bad.) Once back in Clonakilty, I made myself sit at my desk from 7am to noon every day, whether I felt like it or not. Some days, the words came. Other days, I sat there, staring at the blank page. It didn’t matter. I still sat at my desk at the same time every day. Of course, I was lucky enough to have parents who provided a room ‘of one’s own’ and, more importantly, a new laptop to put in that room.  I don’t have children or a tyrannical boss or a crippling mortgage to pay and I’m aware that these must feel like truly impossible obstacles. But you owe to yourself to at least try to carve out some time every week that you can use to write.
  • Social media, while beneficial for ‘research’, is really only a method of distraction. When asked how one of the authors on his roster managed to maintain such a prolific work rate, Jonny Geller, an agent with Curtis Brown, replied ‘He doesn’t have twitter.’ Until novels come in a 140 character size, it’s not helping you.
  • Be prepared to make sacrifices. In my case, the first casualty was an active social life. Jodi Picoult describes writing as ‘successful schizophrenia’ and I found it very difficult at times to interact normally with other people when all I could think about was this world I had created in my head. Personal aesthetic standards also suffered. When I worked in fashion, I didn’t own any items of clothing that could ever be described as ‘practical’. Or, indeed, anyway comfortable. Things are so bad that when I wash my hair, my father asks if I’m going anywhere special and my mother claps her hands in glee, like I’m a toddler learning to use the potty.
  • Some authors edit their work as they go along but I saved all my editing for the end, like the crappy pink and brown Roses at the bottom of the tin that no one wants at Christmas. There is a peculiar type of shame in reading ‘Slowly, she walked slowly down the corridor slowly.’ In case you don’t comprehend the subtlety of my brilliance, I was trying to convey that the character was very, very, very slow.
  •  Once you finish the first draft, edit, edit and then edit some more. As Faulkner said, ‘...kill all your darlings.’ You’re just showing off anyway. Ask a friend who is an avid reader to take a look at your manuscript. Choose someone you trust to be both honest and gentle with you.
  • When you have a finished manuscript in fairly good nick, you need to find an agent. An agent will take a proportion of your earnings (generally around 15%) but they are essential, as most publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. When submitting to an agency, they usually want to see the first three chapters, a covering letter and your CV but check their websites for individual guidelines. Choose an agent that has authors you admire on their roster or who represents authors who are writing in similar genre to you. Make your covering letter engaging. If you’re someone’s love child, now is the time to mention it. Unless it’s someone embarrassing, like Mick Hucknell. Keep that to yourself. Forever.
  • Be prepared for rejection and don’t take it personally. JK Rowling famously received twelve rejection letters and I think she’s managing to pay her electricity bill these days. You want your agent to fight for your book when they’re trying to sell it to a publisher. If they don’t ‘get’ it, then they’re not the right agent for you anyway.

Going Too Far? Panel Discussion on YA Fiction with CBI

Venue: dlr Lexicon, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin

Date: Sat 13th Sept @ 4.30-6.30pm

Price: e8/e5 students

Age: Students and adults

only ever yours
only ever yours

Booking: www.mountainstosea.ie or 01 2312929