Agent Confidential: Jodie Hodges

Name: Jodie Hodges 

AKA: The Secret Essex Girl 

Agency: United Agents 

Genres represented: Children’s and YA books – including picture books and illustrators. 

Authors represented: Sophie McKenzie – the Girl, Missing series among others. Rick Riordan (in the UK) – Percy Jackson etc. Sarah McIntyre – illustrator of Oliver & The Seawigs Laura Dockrill – Darcy Burdock series Phil Earle – Being Billy; Saving Daisy; Heroic; The Bubble Wrap Boy Kate Hindley – illustrator of The Great Snortle Hunt and How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth Benjamin Zephaniah – Terror Kid (out in Sept) Peter Bently – author of King Jack & The Dragon; Cats Ahoy; Meet The Parents… Jim Field – illustrator of Oi Frog! Cats Ahoy; Magic Ink… 

Recent deals: Debut author illustrator Rob Biddulph’s three book deal with Harper Collins after a busy auction. First picture book ‘Blown Away’ out in September, with US, France, Germany and Holland already on board. Debut YA author Abbie Rushton’s ‘Unspeakable’ with Atom (Little, Brown). Phil Earle’s move into middle grade with a four book deal, at auction, to Orion. His first ‘Demolition Dad’ out next spring. 

Wish list: I’m open to anything and everything – that’s the beauty of looking after the whole spectrum of children’s writing and illustration. I love to see authors who know their audience and have an idea, however rough, of where there book would sit in the current marketplace. Who have spent time honing their writing so the vocab, dialogue and voice are exactly pitched right for their readers. And writers who are writing about something they know; I don’t often get that feeling from a submission, it often feels forced. In illustration I like to see a well-rounded portfolio – again, too often people do themselves a disservice by submitting too early or not having enough examples of the type of illustration you would generally find in a picture book – toddlers, pirates, dinosaurs, animals, domestic scenes, monsters, aliens…. 

Favourite books: I love Skellig deeply; I Capture The Castle; The Tiger Who Came to Tea; The Virgin Suicides (imagine something like that now – perfect!) As a young child my copy of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark was unbelievably dog-eared, and I read and re-read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech when I was a teenager; it’s a beautiful book but I’ve no idea why it connected with me so much, I adored it.

Agent style: I’m very much led by the client. I think I’m primarily there to facilitate a happy, creative relationship between writer and editor (stepping in if and when things get less happy!) Debut authors will be more editorial at first, but I often step back editorially once the author has a working relationship with an editor (too many cooks!) Some authors like me to see their drafts before delivering to their editor, a lot are happy to work right up to deadline and deliver straight to the publisher. I’m happy whichever works for the writer. 

How to submit: Fiction – synopsis and first three chapters Picture book texts – three separate texts Illustrators – a good selection of JPEGs or PDF of samples. All should have a covering e-mail. To 

Submission tips: Think of it as a job application. You’d personalise your letter for that, so please get my name right! Make sure you’ve followed the specific agents’ guidelines. There aren’t that many of us that this is such an arduous task. 


Twitter: @jodiehodges31 

Events: United Agents sponsors the Writing for Young People MA prize each year, so I’m going to speak to the students soon about that, and more generally about publishing, including taking a workshop on writing for under 10s, which seems to be the most unpopular area to write for, especially on creative writing courses, which is a great shame.

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

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  1. Hi Jodie, thanks for this Agent Confidential - it's very interesting and I share a love of some of your favourite books.

    I have a couple of questions!

    Picking up on the mention of writing for under 10s being unpopular, it seems quite a difficult area to get into as it appears there is a lot of commissioned series fiction for the younger age groups, and educational reading scheme series, also commissioned - is that true - or are publishers on the look out for new books/authors for under 10s?

    And my second question is that as agents are so busy, even if you will work editorially with a new client, is it a good idea for a writer to work with a freelance editor before submission?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Lesley

      I was primarily talking about under-10 writing being unpopular on creative writing courses, rather than more generally, but it's still true that I see more YA submissions than anything else.

      There's a good mix of original and packaged books for the under 10s out there; publishers are always open to seeing new, original ideas and fresh voices for this age-group. Things like Tom Gates, The Secret Diary of Pig, the Claude series, Atticus Claw are all author-originated books and show a good variety of writing for that age-group. It just has to feel like no-one else could've created and written it!

      There's no hard and fast rule about using a freelance editor before submission - if you're particularly concerned about something in your work then it might be a good idea - you should send to an agent when you know you're as happy as you can be with the book at that stage. It's really something the author has to weigh up based on their financial and self-editing abilities.

      Hope that helps a bit. Good luck with the writing.

  2. Hi Jodie, thanks for this useful post. Under 'how to submit', you ask for picture book texts - 3 separate texts. Could you clarify this for me? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Anna

      I ask for three individual picture book texts so that I can see you'll be prolific and varied in your writing. Picture book writing isn't the most immediately financially fruitful part of the market so I'm looking for writers who can write a good number a year and are able to be realistic about the limitations of the market - able to put a text aside if it doesn't sell and write a new one. If you can do this picture book writing can be a brilliant career. My most successful picture book authors have three or more (some, more than six) books published a year.

      Good luck.

  3. Hi Jodie,

    Do you respond to all queries, including when it's a no? And, if so, how long should a hopeful leave it before sending a nudge?


    1. Hi

      Yes, we certainly aim to reply to all submissions, and to do so within 8-10 weeks - often it'll be quicker than this. Sometimes if I'm umming and ahhing about a submission it can take longer because those are the ones that I might want to spend some more time thinking over, or perhaps providing notes for the author to go away and think about - but existing clients have to take priority so finding the time for those notes and that thinking head-space can be harder. A nudge after the time on an agent's submission guidelines is always fine, though.

      All best

  4. Hello Jodie,

    When it comes to picture book wordcount, is it best to stick to a max of 500-600 words, or would you consider longer texts (700-800 words)?

    And, in terms of target age group, do you think there's a distinction between PBs that appeal to 2-4 year olds and those that appeal to 4-6 year olds, or should all PBs be aimed at pre-schoolers?


  5. Hi Jo

    There's certainly now a much greater emphasis on the pre-school picture book than the longer, more narrative books for old picture book readers. It's a shame that there's less room for the longer text, but that's where the market is at the moment, so it's important to bear in mind. It's not to say that longer texts aren't commissioned, just fewer of them. I think a longer, older text would have to be incredibly strong - I look after two successful series which I would place in this bracket (both knights, interestingly!) Sir Charlie Stinkysocks and Sir Scallywag. Perhaps that suggests a focus on a strong character is a good idea. Younger picture books are often more concept-driven - they're about learning something, a first experience, bedtime, family relationships, a toddler fear of some sort, love...etc. Whereas older picture books might be more of a rollicking story with a bit less of a message? I'm really thinking out loud, as what I love about the picture book market is the variety within such narrow boundaries - of course there are hundreds of examples of character-driven, narrative younger picture books!

    That's not very helpful! Sorry - it's a hard one. In summary, lower word count is often more desired but if you've got something super special then it won't matter!

    Best wishes

  6. This is all VERY helpful Jodie! Thank you for giving us your time


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