getting published in Ireland

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. 


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.


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.


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.


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

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.

Darren Shan is represented by Christopher Little   For general enquiries email:

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

Marita Conlon McKenna is represented by Caroline Sheldon

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. 


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 –

Laura Cecil –

Madeleine Milburn –

Sam Copeland and Claire Wilson at Rogers Coleridge and White –

Good luck with finding a great agent!

Writing Historical Fiction for Children

Going Back in Time by Brian Gallagher

What’s the worst part of writing historical fiction?  That’s easy - facing the blank page each morning.  (Just like it’s the worst part of writing any kind of fiction.)  And what’s the best part?  That’s easy too – the sheer fun of stepping into a time machine every working day, and going back to a point in history that you find fascinating.

Brian Gallagher
Brian Gallagher

How many jobs are there where you get paid to imagine that you’re present as dramatic events from the past unfold?  Not many, I suspect.  But that’s what a writer of historical fiction does.  Which isn’t to say that it’s an easy job – far from it – but it is an interesting one, where no two days are the same.  And few things beat the thrill of sitting down to plan a new book and wondering what exciting period from the past you’re going to pick..

Readers often ask me was I good at history at school, and - shocking admission – I hated history at school.  Looking back now I can see that it  wasn’t actually history that I disliked, but rather the boring way that it was taught back then.  It seemed to be all about learning off lists of dates, whereas now I love history, but regard it as being about people, great and small, and what they did, and why.  And people, unlike lists of dates, are fascinating.

So when I sit down to write a new book the first thing I do is pick an exciting, action- packed period in which to set my story.  But my next priority is to populate the story with interesting, credible characters that the reader can care about.  So when writing about the past I want to know what people really cared about, but also what songs they were singing then, what kind of food they were eating, what were the hit films and books of the day.  I want to immerse myself in that world so that the reader too can travel back in time, and see things through the eyes of my fictional characters.

Writers have always used libraries to do this sort of research in the past, and today we have the internet to check up on all those tricky little facts and figures that can trip up an author.  For me though, the best research source is always people.  If I can find someone who has lived through the era I’m writing about, I know I’m likely to get the kind of telling detail that really brings a story to life.  And so, having done my research, created my characters, and worked out my plot, all that remains is to travel back in time - and start writing the book…

Brian's New Book
Brian's New Book

Why I Love History by Nicola Pierce

Well, I think it is that when I research subjects and events from the past, like the sinking of the Titanic or the most important battle of World War II, or the fearlessness of a walled city stubbornly locking out a king’s army I’m on the lookout for the story within the story. Perhaps I’m actually looking for my story within the story, the history.

Nicola's New Book
Nicola's New Book

For example:

What would I have done on the sinking ship, would I have tried to save anyone or would I have jumped into the first lifeboat available? Why do I think Titanic sank?

Would I have stood up to Nazi soldiers? I believe in peace but Hitler and his followers had to be stopped and there was no other way – was there? Would I have joined the army or would I have simply done my best to exist as quietly as possible?

How important is my religion? Would I have fought for it back in 1689/90? Would it have occurred to me that others should be free to practice the religion of their choice? If I had shut the gates of Derry against King James’ army, would I have continued to stand by my decision when children began to starve to death? Would I have gone for the soft option, anything for a quiet life? What is religion worth to me?

Ultimately, as I read my history books, I am constantly asking myself what I would have done had I been there.

As a subject history has always been my favourite, along with English, because it is crammed with great stories, great characters and lots and lots of gossip.

And I don’t care what year it is, people are people.

For instance when I read about King James, who fought King William at the Battle of the Boyne, I can empathise with the fact that, when he was sixteen, his father, King Charles I, was murdered by an angry mob. That must have been terrifying for a boy who was following in his footsteps to be both his father’s son and a king.

Then, in his later years, James converts to Catholicism, his mother’s religion, and thereby loses the love and respect of his two daughters. In fact William of Orange was his son-in-law so his family was ripped apart when James was obliged to leave England after William was invited by Protestant noblemen to invade. Now, that has got to mess with your head. As far as I’m concerned it explains why James’ heart wasn’t in the fight at the Boyne, he decided to retreat almost as soon as the battle was begun.

The story goes that King William didn’t put up a great chase when James took off back to Dublin. It would appear that William did not want to capture his wife’s father which probably would have proved mortifying for all involved.

And so on and so on. Really – I could go on!

Words of Wisdom from 3 of Ireland’s Top Children’s Editors

Are You the Next Judi Curtin?
Are You the Next Judi Curtin?

This week I invited three editors to speak to my writing class at the Irish Writers’ Centre: Helen Carr from the O’Brien Press, Grainne Clear from Little Island and David Maybury from Penguin and Brown Bag Films. All wonderfully honest and entertaining speakers.

Here are some notes from their talk – I hope you find them useful. All three editors take (and actively encourage) unsolicited manuscripts – check their various publishers’ websites for submission details.

 How They Decide What to Publish

Helen Carr explained that she’s looking for ‘the new Derek Landy’ – great fantasy/action adventure for age 9+, books for girls a la Judi Curtin and Anna Carey, YA books like John Green’s. No pressure then! She keeps a close eye on the newspapers, trade press and social media – to see what’s topical and what people are talking about.

 Writers and Social Media

All editors agreed that having a social media presence is vital for emerging and established writers alike. The first thing they all do when they read a manuscript they are considering is to google the author. A well written blog or website is a bonus; odd things on their Facebook/Twitter feeds is a no no. So keep it relevant and PG, folks if you want to write for children.

 The Cover Letter

They all emphasised the importance of a good cover letter – clear, short and well thought out. Find out the editor’s name and address your submission to them directly. Always type your cover letter. Do no open the letter with ‘Hi! I’m Molly McGolly and I LOVE children.’ Grainne Clear says that she ‘judges people on their cover letter’. David Maybury says to avoid the ‘my mum/class/sister loves this book!’ Don’t put in anything too personal and only include relevant information. The fact that you are a teacher/librarian/bookseller is relevant; the fact that you studied science/accounting/languages at college is not (unless your book is related to this).

 The Importance of a Strong Opening

If the editors like the covering letter, they will read the first 50 or so pages of the book. But no more. If they like your  book after reading 50 pages, they will read on, if they don't they will put it aside and move on to the next manuscript. So make your opening as strong as you can, grip the reader in the opening sentences and don’t let them go.

 The Importance of Dialogue

Helen Carr says good dialogue is timeless. All the editors look for strong, sharply written dialogue. All dislike adverbs (he said longingly, she shouted loudly) and Grainne Clear mentioned the fact that you can’t laugh out a sentence. Avoid ‘It’s a fine mess,’ she laughed. When in doubt, she/he said is the default.

 Digital Road Testing

throne of glass
throne of glass

David Maybury is happy for writers to test out their writing on sites like Wattpad. He says this works especially well for YA novels and for younger writers. He mentioned the success of Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas, which started life on

 Unsolicited Manuscripts

All three editors accept and encourage (good, well written) unsolicited manuscripts. David Maybury from Penguin is sent over 30 Irish manuscripts a week. It takes the editors several months to read manuscripts – so be patient. And be professional at all times. An email or phone call to see where your manuscript is in the process is fine, hassling or stalking is certainly not. You want to come across as a person who is good to work with.

The good news is that all three are actively looking for new voices. Maybe 2014 will be your year. Good luck!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX