UK Children’s Literary Agents – 2013 update

It’s a bit late in the year, I know, but I’ve finally completed updating my list of UK children’s literary agents.  And the good news is that it’s not doom and gloom: more agencies are accepting email submissions, more are accepting picture books and some even have a few more authors on their lists than they did last year.  Were some of them us?  If not, maybe they will be this time next year!

Other changes of note:

  • Darley Anderson now has a dedicated children’s agency with 9 authors.
  • Curtis Brown has gone all Star Trek with a fancy electronic submissions ‘portal’ (see my interview with children’s agent Stephanie Thwaites).
  • The Greenhouse has lost Julia Churchill to AM Heath but gained new agent John Cusick.
  • AM Heath has gone paperless and has a special submissions form, if your eyes can cope with the tiny grey text.
  • Andrew Mann has a new website but  I suspect it is still being worked on as several links were broken.

Remember the golden rules of following any submission instructions to the letter, being ultra-professional and only submitting your very best work.  Good luck.

An interview with Stephanie Thwaites, children’s agent at Curtis Brown

Thank you to everyone who suggested a question to put to Curtis Brown‘s Children’s Literary Agent, Stephanie Thwaites.  Here are her responses.  I’ve tried to keep the questions general so they’ll be useful to everyone, and where questions were similar I put them together into one query.  I think you’ll agree there’s some great tips here from Stephanie.

1. What puts you off the most when reading a query letter?

There are a few things! Letters not addressed to anyone in particular or Dear Sir/ Mr. Curtis Brown. This tells me the person submitting hasn’t taken any time to research who would be the best person to represent them and this suggests that they are not serious about writing or treating writing in a professional way. It’s important when approaching an agent to identify who the most appropriate person is within an agency, it’s easy to google and find out, and this will also give new writers the best chance of finding the right match. I find long letters off-putting. The letter should give a taster and make the reader want to move on to the important part –the material itself. For this reason I also prefer a short synopsis rather than a detailed chapter breakdown and a little biographical information but not a full CV or a description of how much the writer’s children love the manuscript. I do like a well structured, carefully considered letter. If a writer can’t express him or herself well in the covering letter then it doesn’t bode well for the book itself.

2. What should you include when pitching a series?

It might depend on the kind of series but the focus should be on the first book initially. While it’s fine to mention ideas for future books it’s important to have a manageable number of titles and to have realistic expectations about how many books a publisher will acquire at once anyway. Multi-book deals for new authors are quite unusual and unless a publisher is commissioning for a series they have initiated, they just wouldn’t buy twelve, or even six, titles all in one go. Often a series will build when the first couple of titles take off – which can be tricky for the author if the plan was just for two books but on the other hand it can be a nice problem to have! I would avoid the word ‘trilogy’ even if you’re writing a trilogy and stick to pitching the first book first – if the idea or character is obvious series material then that will be picked up upon by an agent and editor so you don’t need to pitch it too hard.

3. If a writer has interest from both an editor and an agent, should she give it to the agent first or is it acceptable to send to both at the same time?

It’s usually best to send to the agent first as they may want to submit to several publishers at once and it can confuse matters if one has a head start. An agent might also want to work with an author on a manuscript before submitting to editors. If you have sent your work to an editor and agent simultaneously it doesn’t matter too much but where possible I would suggest agents go first!

4. Several readers have asked if they can send you children’s manuscripts – rather than individually mentioning them I presume anyone is welcome to submit through the new submissions page? Is there anything particularly you’re NOT looking for?

Absolutely and yes please do submit via our site, http://curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/. We’re not taking on new illustrators but otherwise we are open to everything. Do bear in mind that we receive 100 new manuscripts every week so unfortunately we can’t send a personal response to everyone.

5. Is it ok to send more than one story at a time?

I can’t answer for all agents but we prefer to look at one idea at a time and for full length fiction we start with the first three chapters with a synopsis. So it’s best to select your strongest work for submission and if we like the writing but not that particular idea we will sometimes express an interest in seeing other material from that writer.

6. If a writer is already published, would they be better off having an agent or continue to deal with the publisher themselves?

I would argue that an agent can always add value. We can negotiate the best possible terms with an awareness and knowledge of industry standards and norms. We have agreed terms with publishers across such a broad range of authors and have precedents in place which allow us to have more leverage than an individual author will have when negotiating. We have the resources to sell rights internationally, for film and TV, and audio, and with the support of contracts and accounts departments we make sure we protect the rights of authors and chase payments and royalties, check statements and deal with all the paperwork. We really fight on our clients’ behalf and work with them over the course of their career – not through just one book and with one publisher but for the long term. We can step in to advise or help when an author and editor don’t see eye to eye or if other sticky situations emerge. Editors move on, particularly in children’s publishing, but an agent is more of a constant presence in an author’s life, representing their best interests and sticking with them through thick and thin.

7. Is a picture book with a sing-along CD still ‘done’ these days, or have e-books and apps taken over the scene as far as interactive musical activities for children go?

Publishers sometimes produce an audio recording of a picture book text on a CD which is sold together with the book but I’m not aware of any new sing along CDs. It could be the case that they are being produced for bigger brands or, as with many novelty projects, developed in-house by publishers. I think it’s safe to say that it is unlikely that literary agents would be able to place a project if it relied heavily on a musical sing along element.

7. Is it still true that boys will not read YA SF & fantasy written by women, or have recent successes such as the Harry Potter Series, The Hunger Games Trilogy and others changed things?

I think it’s more about the gender of the protagonist than of the author now and while there are exceptions it is harder to encourage boys to read books with a female protagonist while girls are more open to reading about books with a male protagonist. I hope the female perspectives presented in adult fantasy like George R. R. Martin’s GAME OF THRONES, Charlaine Harris’ and Rachel Caine’s titles might mean there has been a shift and we’ll see more feisty heroines in YA fantasy too as in Sarah J Maas’ THRONE OF GLASS. I’m certainly keen to find something in that vein and I would prefer a female protagonist.

8. How important is it for agents and authors to have face to face meetings and how often are these?

I prefer to meet all new clients face to face where possible and I think this is important when you’re first getting to know one another. The number of face to face meetings varies from client to client and a lot can be done over the phone and email but I do think there’s no substitute for face to face contact even if it’s only once or twice a year.

9. Is representation for life?

I’ve touched on this a bit above and the answer is yes in an ideal world, although it doesn’t always work out that way. When I offer representation I am always taking on an author rather than a book and the aim is that it should absolutely be for life. Since I also represent a number of Estates it’s actually life and beyond!

10. For those who write across genres, is it accepted practice to take on representation by several different agents?

I think the nature of the agent/ author relationship means that it just doesn’t work to have more than one or two maximum. Sometimes writers will have different agents for children’s and adult books or for books and TV/ radio/plays but if you’re writing across genre which are not wildly different you should be able to find an agent who can handle both.

11. And finally – can a writer resubmit a manuscript if it has been substantially rewritten?

We usually indicate to authors in our response if we are interested in reading a new draft but unless we specifically mention it we prefer not to see the same material twice, albeit a revised version. This is due to the volume of material we receive and the limited number of hours in the day. If you want to read more about what a literary agent does, and why we can’t read material twice, there’s a great article by writer, Michael Bourne which I blogged about a little while ago that brilliantly sums up the challenges facing agents – and why we’re not terrible, heartless people! The blog post is here: http://childrensliteraryagent.co.uk/2012/08/16/literary-agents-the-devil-in-disguise/

Thank you very much to Stephanie Thwaites for her time and all her helpful advice!

Put your question to Curtis Brown’s children’s literary agent

UK literary agency Curtis Brown has a shiny new submissions portal and is embracing the e-slush pile with open arms!  I will be putting some questions to their children’s agent Stephanie Thwaites in the next week or two, so if you have a question you have always wanted to ask a literary agent, pass it on to me via the comments box below.  I’ll use as many as I can, but if there are too many I’ll select the ones I think will be of most interest to others.

So what would you like to ask Stephanie?

UK literary agents for children’s books

* UPDATED OCTOBER 2018 *
Following on from my list of children’s publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts, I thought I’d post a list for people who are submitting children’s books to agents, as I’m considering that route for one of my novels and I thought others might find it helpful. Publisher or agent?  There are mixed opinions about which to try first.   As we know, there aren’t many children’s publishers (or indeed adult ones) who accept unagented manuscripts these days, but on the other hand small publishers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown than an agent.  Some people argue that if you approach publishers first then the agent won’t be able to submit to them, but to my mind there are such a small number of publishers you can approach yourself that I don’t think this would be a problem. If you have decided to take the agent route, this list of agents is not exhaustive but will give you a starting point.  (I have left off agencies who do not have a website or who just have a ‘wallpaper’ website with contact details only.)  You can find full listings of UK agents in the Writers and Artists Yearbook or the Writers Handbook. You will find that agents are more likely to respond promptly than publishers as they are always searching for the next breakthrough book.  The turnaround can sometimes even be brutally quick!  You are also more likely to get a standard rejection form, so you need to develop a tough skin and not take the lack of feedback personally – it’s simply a lack of time. If you haven’t approached agents before, take these points into account before submitting:

* Be professional.  Make your submission business-like and to the point.

* Study the agency website thoroughly.  Get a feel for the type of work they like and the authors they represent.

* Links to submissions requirement pages are included on this list.  Make sure you following the guidelines for submitting to the letter or risk the wrath of the reader!  Missing something simple like an SAE (stamped addressed envelope) could cost you a response.  Some agents don’t take email submissions while others are paperless and will recycle any hard copy manuscripts they receive.

* Make a note of whether the agency prefers to be exclusively submitted to.  Some recommend you approach multiple agencies while others discourage it.

* Some agencies don’t accept picture books; others prefer literature for older children or teenagers only.

* Make a list of your favourite agencies and work your way through them.  If your manuscript returns home or to your inbox with a rejection slip, send it straight back out the next day to the next name on your list.  Don’t waste time feeling despondent when your bestseller could be back out there finding a home!  Good luck and if this list helps you in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

Alice Williams  Alice Williams recently set up her own agency after ten years at David Higham and currently represents seven children’s writers and eight illustrators.  Follow the helpful guidelines on the submission page to ensure you include the correct information.  She aims to respond within 6 weeks.

AM Heath This is one of the UK’s leading literary agencies with a huge list of clients.  They only accept electronic submissions; you should use their submissions form and follow the instructions to type or paste in a covering letter and synopsis, and attach your sample chapters.  They suggest you follow up after six weeks if you haven’t heard back from them.

Andlyn A boutique literary agency, Andlyn focuses on nurturing a few select authors across various media.  Agent Davinia Andrew-Lynch is looking for chapter books, middle grade and young adult, including graphic novels but not picture books at present.  Find something that will ‘smack us between the eyes and capture our hearts’ and send it to the email on the submissions page (covering letter, one page synopsis and the first three chapters).

Andrew Mann This London agency has two agents and a variety of clients including children’s authors.   They prefer email submissions if possible with a brief synopsis pasted into the email plus the first three chapters or forty pages as an attachment.  They will reply within eight weeks.  They are not currently looking for picture books.

Andrew Nurnberg This London agency also has a number of overseas offices.  They have over eighty authors on their books including Cornelia Funke.  Send a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters by post or email to the address on the submissions page.  If emailing, the synopsis and chapters should be one document sent as an attachment.  If you do not hear back within three months you can assume you have been unsuccessful.  No picture books please.  Read an interview with children’s and YA agent Jenny Savill at Talltalesandshortstories.blogspot.com.  You can also read about ANA author Keren David.

Anne Clark Literary Agency Anne Clark, previously from Piccadilly Press, has founded an agency specialising in children’s and YA authors and it is growing fast.  Send a covering email attaching a single Word file with the synopsis and first 3000 words.  Picture books can be sent as a complete text.  Anne favours the personal touch with dealing with clients so prefers UK or UK-based authors.

Annette Green Authors Agency This is an independent agency who pride themselves in the personal service they provide between agent and author.  (As a font fan I was also excited to see the rare appearance of courier on their menus!)  They have two agents and over sixty clients.  They accept fiction for older children and teenagers (preferably not science fiction or fantasy), by post or email, and you should send a covering letter or email, a brief synopsis and the first five to ten thousand words.  They aim to respond within four weeks.

Antony Harwood Antony Harwood have a large list of high profile authors writing in many fields including children’s literature.  The amazing Garth Nix is one of their clients.  They accept manuscripts by post or email; you should send a covering letter, brief outline and the opening 50 pages.

Bell Lomax Moreton This is a large agency with over 70 clients which handles adult fiction and non-fiction as well as children’s books for all ages, including picture books for which there is a dedicated picture book agent, Helen Mackenzie Smith.  To submit, send the first three chapters up to 50 pages (full text with sample pictures, if any, for a picture book), a short synopsis, and a covering letter.  You can email or post material, and response time is 8-12 weeks.

The Ben Illis Agency (BIA) * SUBMISSIONS CURRENTLY ON HIATUS *  No, it’s not the secret service of the literary world (or is it…?) – it’s the young, dynamic literary agency of Ben Illis, previously of AM Heath.  Submit using the form on the submissions page to which you can attach your synopsis and sample pages, and you should hear back within 2 months.  No picture books  You can read an interview with Ben on the Golden Egg Academy website.

Caroline Sheldon This is a leading literary agency who are very selective about their work.  They have two agents and a large list of clients.  Submit by email (although post is acceptable as well) to either Caroline or Felicity Trew (read about them on the site) and attach a synopsis and the first three chapters.  If the children’s book is under ten thousand words you may submit it in its entirety, or up to three picture books.  You should also read their twelve pet hates!  In fact, read them anyway whether or not you are submitting.

Celia Catchpole This is a small agency with two agents and twenty-seven authors, who take on only one or two new authors a year.  They have a very specific way of handling submission: a dedicated email address to which you should send a brief email and a small sample of your work pasted into the  email itself (no attachments).  If they are interested they will ask for more.

Conville & Walsh This large, established agency has six agents for both adults’ and children’s books, and over eighty authors.   Email your covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters to the appropriate agent by visiting their page and using their contact email.  They aim to reply within two months.  They encourage authors to submit to other agencies at the same time, but you should mention if your manuscript has or is being read in full by anyone else.  They are not looking for picture books.


Curtis Brown Curtis Brown are a large, long established agency with a huge number of clients working in literature, TV, film and theatre.  They have a brand new submissions system on their website and no longer accept postal submissions.  Prepare a covering letter, synopsis of no more than 3,000 words and the first 10,000 words of your manuscript and follow the prompts in the link above to submit directly – do not send by email.  The children’s agent is Stephanie Thwaites and you can read my interview with her here.  Curtis Brown aim to reply in six to eight weeks.

Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency A spin off from the main Darley Anderson agency dedicated purely to children’s authors, it has nine of them on its books and accepts submissions by email or post.  Send covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters .  They aim to respond within a month and prefer exclusive submissions.  You are welcome to chase them up politely after 6 weeks.

David Higham This is a huge, long established agency with a large stable of authors.  They ask for postal submissions only for adult work but in the case of children’s manuscripts you should submit by email only to the address given.  The email should take the form of a covering letter to which you should attach a word document consisting of a synopsis and the first two or three chapters plus a CV.  They accept picture books (send the whole manuscript). You can read an interview with client William Hussey and comments from agent Veronique Baxter at the Tale Tales and Short Stories blog.

Eddison Pearson This is a small agency that deals mainly with children’s books.  The website asks you to email them for their latest submissions details.  At present they are not accepting submissions until after 1 October 2013.  When open, they accept email submissions only and should reply in six to ten weeks.

Eve White This small agency has a good number of authors including the brilliant Andy Stanton, author of the Mr Gum books.  About half her authors are children’s writers.  You should submit by email only with one attachment consisting of a brief synopsis, word count and the first three chapters.  She is currently not accepting picture books.  You will receive an automated conformation of receipt and impressively she aims to reply within a week.  See also the FAQs.

Fraser Ross Fraser Ross Associates deal mainly with children’s writers and illustrators.  They have two agents and  nearly seventy clients.  They accept submissions by post or email which should consist of a synopsis, the first three chapters, and a writing CV.  (Read their guidelines for more details about this.)   They warn on their website that a response may take some time.  In my experience they can take a long time to reply but have given valuable feedback to me in the past. Read an interview with Fraser Ross clients  Barry Hutchison and Teresa Flavin and comments from agent Kathryn Ross on the Tall Tales and Short Stories blog.

Greene & Heaton Greene & Heaton specialise in authors “prominent in their field”.  They have seven agents and around 150 authors as well as speakers, presenters and illustrators on their books.  You can submit by post or email including a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters or about fifty pages.  They will try to reply within six weeks to postal submissions with an SAE or email contacct but will not respond to an emailed submission unless they wish to take your submission further.

The Greenhouse This US-based young agency also accepts submissions from the UK.  They have two agents and over fifty clients.  They prefer to be a paperless office and you can email them with a short synopsis, a few details about yourself and the first chapter or first five pages, whichever is shorter.  This must all be pasted into the body of an email – no attachments are accepted.  They aim to reply within six weeks and in my experience are very prompt.

Johnson & Alcock This London agency has four agents and a large number of clients.  You can submit by post or email and should send a covering letter (or email), a synopsis and the first three chapters or first fifty pages.  If sending by email you will not hear back unless your submission is taken further.  They do not accept picture books. LAW Lucas Alexander Whitley or LAW is a small London agency representing large list of bestselling authors internationally.  The link takes you to a pdf giving submissions guidelines; their main site is here.  Submissions – a covering letter, short synopsis and the first three chapters or first thirty pages if shorter – should be sent by post only and they aim to reply within eight to twelve weeks.  Send an SAE if you want your work returned; otherwise send a small envelope or email address for a reply.  They also accept picture books.

Lindsay This one woman agency is keen to develop new talent and currently represents thirteen authors  You can submit by post or email.  If emailing include the first three chapters and the synopsis as two seperate Word documents.  A covering letter or email should introduce yourself and your work.  They accept picture books.

Luigi Bonomi This fairly young agency is keen to develop new authors.   They have four agents and a large number of clients.  You should send them a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters by post only.  If you don’t want your work returned, include an email address for the response.

Madeleine Milburn A large London agency actively looking for new children’s authors.  They have 35 authors on their books and also handle TV and film rights.  Submit by email only attaching a short synopsis and the first three chapters only.  Also check out the very useful advice section before submitting.

Marjacq Scripts This is a book, film and TV rights company.  They have four agents and over thirty authors as well as directors, screenwriters and software developers.  They accept book submissions by post or email which should consist of a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters.  If sending by email, use attachments rather than pasting work into the email itself.

MBA MBA represent writers in all media.  They have seven agents and a large number of authors including fourteen children’s writers.  They prefer email submissions but will accept postal ones too; send a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters.  They aim to reply within eight weeks.

Miles Stott Children’s Literary Agency has four agents and represents both authors and illustrators.  They focus on children’s writing only, from board book up to young adult and including non fiction, and are happy to hear from both debut and mid-career authors.  Submission is by email only and response time is 4-6 weeks.  If submitting picture books, send up to three.

Pickled Ink  This wonderfully monikered agency began as an illustration agency but now represents authors and author-illustrators as well.  They have two agents, one for illustrators and one for authors.  Pickled Ink are looking for chapter books, middle grade and young adult books in particular but also represent picture books, of which you should send three or more.  Email only and expect a response between 6-8 weeks.

Pollinger This London agency has around eighty authors on its books including screenwriters and illustrators and only takes on a few each year.  Submit to them by post only including a covering letter, a cv, a synopsis and the first three chapters.   They aim to respond within two months.

Skylark Literary Agency  A boutique children’s literary agency run by two industry experts.  Looking for anything from chapter book to young adult.  Send the full manuscript with one page synopsis and covering email.  Lots of useful information on the site, including guidance as to what to put in your covering letter.  They confirm receipt and respond in a month.

The Bent Agency (TBA) The Bent Agency is a large agency with a boutique ethos, and two offices on either side of the Atlantic.  They deal with both adult and chldren’s literature and non fiction plus memoir, lifestyle, history – you name it.  UK-based agent Molly Ker Hawn is actively looking for new children’s and young adult authors, but not picture books.  Read the submissions guidelines on how to structure your query, which involves pasting a sample of the work into your email.  Response time for requesting further material is one month.

United Agents United Agents are a large literary and talent agency with interests in many fields.  Twenty-six of their many authors are children’s writers including Anthony Horowitz, Ali Sparkes, Rick Riordan and Ian Whybrow.  They are happy to receive submissions by email to their children’s agent consisting of a covering email with a synopsis and the first three chapters as Word documents.  Picture book authors can send three picture books.  If you do send material by post, include an email address for a response.  Expect a response within eight to ten weeks.

Watson, Little Watson, Little handle a wide range of writers and have three agents keen on developing the long term careers of their writers.  They ask for a covering letter, synopsis and sample chapters but do not say if they accept by email or not; however if you do not include an SAE they will respond by email.