ME AND MY AGENT Nick Cross and Heather Cashman

Writer/illustrator Nick Cross and literary agent Heather Cashman have a transatlantic working relationship, with Nick located in Oxford, UK, and Heather in Kansas, USA. But how do geography and time zones affect the way they work and communicate?

Nick says:
I signed with Heather Cashman six months ago, and we’ve packed in a lot since then. We’ve made structural and line edits to one manuscript, then completely reworked the illustration package and submitted the project to publishers. After that, Heather and I started revising a couple of my previously unpublished novels, while also collaborating on a blog about comparison titles that became Notes from the Slushpile’s most popular post of 2019!

So, here we are blogging for Words & Pictures, hoping that lightning will strike twice :-)

Heather says:
Signing with Nick Cross was a highlight of 2019! I love his writing style, illustrations, and enthusiasm for his manuscripts. He’s been wonderful to work with.

I enjoy being a creative partner with my clients, so there’s always at least a little bit of editing. To have a career as an author, there always needs to be another book in the pipeline, so I encourage my authors to always be working on their next projects as soon as their first novel goes out on submission. It also helps with managing the waiting game and keeps an author positive and hopeful if they’re passionate about their next project.

That means we have to have consistent communication.

Kansas is six hours behind the UK, which actually works well for me, because I have a full-time day job in publishing. As a result, much of my communication with Heather happens in the late afternoon and evening UK time. I really try not to be one of those insecure authors who constantly pesters their agent, just to remind them that they still exist! When I do email Heather though, she always responds within a few hours. Oh well, apart from that time she went to Alaska for three weeks immediately after signing me...

I’d never forget Nick Cross exists! (He’s one of my heroes.) But I do love to travel, so my clients have to deal with me being occasionally off the grid. I encourage them to do the same!

Whether I’m travelling or at the office, it’s important in the agent/client relationship to keep abreast of what each of us is working on, so Nick and I use a combination of Dropbox, a Trello board, the occasional Zoom chat and email to make sure we know what books are on submission, which ones are in the editing process and which ones are in the queue.

Dropbox helps us keep all of our files accessible, from media files to contracts to manuscripts - even the editor submission list is always available to every one of my clients. We even collaborated on this article using a shared Dropbox file. <3

Trello helps us assign tasks and keep on top of them by setting due dates and getting reminders. Since we share the board, we can both see things as they’re accomplished and updated.

A peek at Nick and Heather's Trello Board

Of course, I love using Skype or Zoom video conferencing to see my lovely clients’ beautiful faces! But it’s also helpful to interact face to face, when you’re brainstorming or chatting about anything book-related. It helps me know when Nick is thinking…and when he does or doesn’t like my ideas. Heh.

Clearly, I need to work on my poker face ;-)

Heather, you mentioned how you maintain a submissions file in our shared Dropbox, listing the publishing house, the name of the editor who has the manuscript and even the editors’ responses. When I told some of my seasoned writer friends about how you share this information, they were scandalised! Their agents rarely tell them any of these details. Why did you want to do things differently?

Yikes! I never meant to be scandalous! Though I might like it ... just a little ;-)

In the same way that my clients are collaborative with me creatively, I feel it’s important to collaborate in the business side of publishing as well. Teaching my authors about the process of submissions and letting them know where things are helps us both. It saves a lot of emails (and anxiety) if the author can go check on what’s happening with their manuscript. It also gives them valuable feedback on the positive aspects of their novel as well as why an editor rejected the manuscript.

I also believe transparency is key to having a successful, long-term relationship.

Amen to that. And in the spirit of transparency, I feel I should reveal that Heather is also a writer herself. If we’re very nice to her, maybe she’ll open up about the sorts of things she writes...

Well... You have been pretty nice.

Since I have a degree in Biochemistry, everything I write has a Science Fiction twist. I’ve written an epic fantasy-type trilogy, a novel about the daughter of a tech genius who’s learned to snatch the spirit from the jaws of death, and my most recent novel is about a girl living in an AI controlled government who has illegal preferences for oranges, cellos and a certain boy.

Coincidentally, one of the novels I’m revising at the moment has an AI element, so clearly we are a good fit! And I think Heather being a writer is hugely beneficial to her outlook as an agent. She understands the creative worries that authors have, and there’s plenty of give and take in her approach to edits. We have an atmosphere of mutual respect, which I hope will keep creative jealousy at bay!

What I write is completely for me. If I happen someday to get published myself, that would be wonderful. But my career has wandered along many paths (professional editing, Pitch Wars, interning for agents and becoming an agent) that have stopped me from being as prolific as I could’ve been. But I’m happy with the path I’ve chosen, because I love reading too! And I love working with authors and helping them realize their dreams of being published.

The wonderful thing about publishing is that there’s always another book to read, another book to write and another success story just around the corner!

Talking of success, it’s interesting having a US agent - author friends keep congratulating me on having managed to crack the American market, despite the fact I haven’t sold anything yet! But there’s a lot of luck involved in finding an agent, and I feel like I’ve been especially lucky to find Heather. Creatively, she knows when to hold back and give me space to work, but also when I need to be pushed. I’ve dreamed of writing and illustrating a full-on graphic novel for years, but I’ve always been scared of the huge amount of drawing involved. However, when Heather and I were chatting last month, she gave me a gentle push in that direction, and I’m really enjoying the challenge.

We haven’t sold your books yet, Nick, but we’ve just gotten started! In publishing, you have to celebrate every single win, and our partnership has been a big win for me.
Thanks so much to you and Words & Pictures for inviting me to do this post!

Thank you too, Heather, for accompanying me on the crazy hero’s journey that is children’s publishing!

Nick Cross is an Undiscovered Voices winner who both writes and illustrates for children. In 2015, he was honours winner of the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for fiction. Nick is Words & Pictures' Blog Network Editor and also blogs for Notes from the Slushpile.

Heather Cashman has worn many hats in the publishing industry. She began as Managing Director for Pitch Wars and an editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, worked as agent and editor intern for The Bent Agency and Entangled, and is now an Associate Literary Agent for Storm Literary Agency—and she’s loved it all!

Heather is currently accepting submissions for Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction and non-fiction. Check out her Manuscript Wishlist Page for full details.


  1. What a great conversation. I felt like I was sitting in a room, listening to the two of you bantering away. Very interesting to see the process underlying an author/agent relationship.

    1. Thanks, Candy. I wish we could be in a room bantering away, but sadly geography prevents that!

  2. Great post! We lived in Hong Kong years ago, and the Fax machine was our go-to communication tool back then.
    It's awesome how technology reminds us just how big and small the world can be! Nice inside look into how you two make it work so well!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.