Name: Emily Talbot 

Agency: United Agents LLP 

Genres represented: fiction and nonfiction for children
from picture books up to YA. I also represent illustrators. 

Authors you represent and recent deals: 
Andy Sagar’s debut middle grade fantasy novel, Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, will be published by Hachette Children’s in March 2022. It was sold in a six figure pre-empt and we’re all very excited about it. Abigail Balfe’s A Different Sort of Normal is an illustrated memoir that charts her journey growing up autistic and the challenges which she faced in the 'normal' world. PRH published it in July this year and there’s great excitement for Abi as an author. She’s also got a picture book on the way and I’ve just recently signed her up for more books. On the picture book side, I’ve got Barry Timms whose This Is Not a Unicorn (published by Nosy Crow and illustrated by Ged Adamson) has seen some impressive sales figures and great support from Waterstones. He’s penned a sequel and we’re in discussions about a third. Finally, I’ve just taken on a fantastic new author/illustrator called Jake Alexander. He’s just illustrated Black and British, a stunning visual journey through Black British history for younger readers which is by David Olusoga. He’s very much in demand already so I look forward to signing him up with some interesting new projects. 

What’s on your wishlist #MSWL? 
I’d love to find a funny, heartfelt middle grade with a strong voice, something along the lines of Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson or even Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series. I’m always keen to work with authors and illustrators from underrepresented backgrounds, and, in fact, the agency has started up an initiative called 100x100, inviting those authors to submit, with guaranteed feedback, so that we can access these submissions more efficiently. I never have a specific wish list for picture books other than a need for the author to have a real understanding of the format alongside an ability to write good characters. Ultimately, everything comes back to character for me!

What is your working style with clients (eg how editorial are you)? 
I find editing to be one of the great pleasures of the job, so I do tend to get stuck in, especially if the author feels that they need that guidance. Saying that, I don’t edit work just for the sake of it. If something feels ready to go out without much tweaking, then it’s ready. So, it’s very dependent on the author and the project, but I certainly won’t shy away if the book demands it! 

Do you choose books with head or heart? 
I know the classic answer to this question is heart, but I’m going to slightly lean in favour of head. You have to love the work/artwork of course, but, ultimately, we are a business and we constantly look at the market to see what it needs. Without having that analytical approach I don’t think we’d be as successful as we are and, for me, it’s the key. Passion and belief in a particular author or illustrator often start the process, but, without that market knowledge or a sense of what makes a balanced list, I don’t think you’d get very far. 

Which book or character has stayed with you since childhood? 
The books from my childhood that resonate the most vividly will always be picture books. I loved the classics and I still do – The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Funny Bones and, in particular, Not Now Bernard. I would read it over and over again and implore the parents in the story to notice that it’s not Bernard! It’s a monster! I strive to find these kinds of classic stories now and it would be wonderful to discover a book that sticks and goes on to find success 20 years or more after it's first published. 

Which house would the sorting hat put you in? 
I already know, most likely from a Buzzfeed quiz no doubt, that I’m Hufflepuff. I’m not sure how I feel about that really. For obvious reasons I’d prefer Gryffindor, but at least it means that I’m hardworking! A great quality for an agent I think 😊. 

How to submit to you: 
Details on how to submit can be found on our website – just search United Agents LLP and the website will clearly lead you to a list of agents where my name can be found. In brief though, I ask for three stories and a cover letter for picture books; three chapters and a cover letter for fiction; and a proposal and a cover for nonfiction, all to be sent over email. Illustrators can send portfolio work or link to their website, or both. Format really doesn’t matter, though, it can be word or PDF so don’t worry too much about that. 

Submission tips: 
We get lots of submissions, so my main tip would be to try to be brief in your cover letter. Work out what the important information is and communicate in a succinct way. I find it daunting when I’m wading through swathes of information for each submission, and, ultimately, the writing/artwork will speak for itself, so you don’t need to say too much. 

 Twitter: @EmilyKTalbot

Kate Walker is a feature writer for Words & Pictures. She mainly writes MG fantasy as well as dabbling in picture books whenever a character grabs her imagination. Kate lives in Kent with her two children who are addicted to stories just as much as she is. Twitter: @KatakusM
Suzanne Dore is a graphic designer, illustrator and writer. She has illustrated for the National Trust and the University of Oxford as well as for many private commissions. 

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