Agent Confidential: Sallyanne Sweeney

Name: Sallyanne Sweeney 


Agency: Mulcahy Associates 

Genres Represented: Every kind of children’s fiction, from picture books to YA/crossover novels, and I’m growing a small but fantastic list of illustrators too. On the adult side, I represent writers of a broad range of literary and commercial fiction (though not usually police procedurals or science fiction/fantasy) and am interested in memoirs and food writing.  

Authors Represented: Published authors/illustrators include Aita Ighodaro, Barbara Fox, Caroline Finnerty, Claire Hennessy, Felicity Everett, Francesca Gambatesa, Jane McLoughlin, Mark Boyle, Nelle Davy, Ruth Frances Long, Sarah Painter, Steven Lenton. 

Recent deals: Jon Walter’s literary debut CLOSE TO THE WIND to David Fickling Books, Kieran Fanning’s middle-grade fantasy adventure SCHOOL OF SHADOWS to Chicken House, Ruth Frances Long’s YA fantasy trilogy A CRACK IN EVERYTHING to O’Brien Press… and a few others that it’s too early to talk about.  

Wish list: I often don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it, but I love when I’m surprised (in a good way!) by a submission. The volume we receive is high, so anything that can make me sit up and pay attention is very exciting – whether that’s because of an interesting concept, unusual setting, or a really fresh, strong voice. I also want to be moved in some way by the writing – my favourite novels are those that make me laugh and cry and I love to find a character (or characters) I can root for. Overall though, I’m open to writing in any genre and age group, and most of my authors have come from unsolicited submissions. 

Favourite books:At the moment they’re HOLES by Louis Sachar, HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff, SKELLIG by David Almond and ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell. Growing up, my all-time favourites were MATILDA, UNDER THE HAWTHORN TREE, GOODNIGHT MR TOM and THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (and LITTLE WOMEN, partly because I’m the eldest of four sisters – but definitely more Jo March than Meg).  

Agent style:I’m a hands-on agent and work with each of my clients according to their needs at the time. I love the editorial process of collaborating with an author to make their manuscript the best it can be, and it’s so satisfying to see a novel strengthened by each round of revisions. I’m also more generally the author and book’s champion, whether that’s in placing the novel with a publisher and securing the best possible deal for the author, in selling translation or dramatic rights, or in working with the author and publisher to ensure the publication process is as smooth and successful as it can be.

How to Submit: The synopsis and first three chapters to Submissions guidelines can be found here:

Submission tips: I think Philip Pullman said “Read like a butterfly, write like a bee”, which I think is great advice. Follow agency guidelines and personalize your query letter – this will get much more attention that if you send a “Dear Agent” email off to every agency. I’d also advise against following trends; write the story only you can write.. 


Twitter: @sallyanne_s 

Events: This year I’ll be at the Writers’ Workshop Getting Published Day on 1st March in Regent’s Park College, the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin on 8th March, Dublin Writers’ Festival on the 17th May, Winchester Writers’ Conference on 20th June and the Festival of Writing in York from 12th-14th September.

Do you have questions for Sally? Leave them here in the comments. You have more than 140 characters!

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  1. Hi Sallyanne, you mention you are growing a small list of illustrators, too. Can you tell us more about what you look for in an illustrator submission and how you like such submissions to be sent?

  2. Hi Anna, I'm happy to hear from illustrators by email at the usual submissions email. I'd like to see samples that give a sense of your range and style so you can either send your portfolio as a PDF or direct me to your website if you have one. Thanks!

  3. This is all fantastic stuff thank you and expect my submission very soon!

  4. Hi Sallyanne, I submitted a women's fiction MS to you this week that we talked about at the York Festival of Writing last year (Playing the Game). I just noticed that the header didn't generate properly so my name and page numbers aren't on each page of the chapters. Can I re-submit?

  5. Hi Sallyanne, do you ever take on writers whose work might primarily appeal in the Irish market (setting/ characterisation)?

    Or do you prefer for books to have a wider appeal?

  6. Hi Sally-Anne,
    How do you approach your slush-pile? Strictly in date order or whatever takes your fancy first?

  7. Hi Sally-Anne,

    As you've recently sold MG and YA fantasy stories, does this mean you already have enough writers of this type on your list, or are you open to more? Thanks.

  8. Rachael - feel free to re-submit if you like but I don't think that will cause a problem. Thanks for checking.

    Gerard - If novels are very 'regional' it does make it difficult for them to travel abroad but I'd absolutely want to take a look as it all depends on the writing. I'm always interested in Irish writing and deal direct with Irish as well as international publishers.

    Antonia - I'll look at everything as soon as it comes in and prioritise recommendations or authors with a good track record or who are SCBWI members / have completed a creative writing MA etc, so make sure to put any relevant information in your author bio. After that I try to stick to date order though as otherwise the pile starts to build up!

    Sarah - I'm always open to new MG and YA fantasy writers.

    Thanks for your questions!

    1. Thanks Sallyanne. Well my novel is in your slushpile somewhere so will keep my fingers crossed! Currently in a 'revise and resubmit' phase with an Irish publisher but still hoping you might want to represent me! Thanks again, Gerard

  9. Hi Sallyanne, I'm an American living in Britain and have written a traditional children's adventure story set in America with a slightly American feel to it. I'm curious as to whether it is best to try and find an agent here or across the pond? Love your favourite books - I read anything by Katherine Paterson I could get my hands on as a child. Thanks, Kelly

  10. Hi Sallyanne, if an agent has rejected an MG novel but the author has had great feedback on picture books from publishers would you recommend the author queries the agent again or would you suggest they try a different agent? Thanks, Lois

  11. Hi Kelly and Lois,

    Kelly - I think it makes sense to have an agent in the same time zone as you, but it's up to you! If you have interest from a UK agent you should ask what their plans are in the US; most agents sell direct or have associate agents based there. If you feel the book is more suited to the American market you could approach US agents first.

    Lois - if that agent represents picture books (some agents only handle MG and older) then there's no harm at all in querying them. Make sure to mention the publisher feedback you've had.

    Thanks and good luck!

  12. Thank you very much, Sallyanne - very helpful answers
    and thank you commenters for some great questions too!


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