Friday 21 December 2012

11th day of Christmas: Literary Agent Gemma Cooper and Nosy Crow's Kate Wilson

Literary Agent Gemma's best picks ... and a BONUS! Nosy Crow publisher Kate Wilson tells us what she's looking for
Gemma Cooper is a children’s literary agent with The Bent Agency, representing authors here in the UK and in the US. More information about her and how to submit

I’ve read some truly spectacular novels in 2012 and I would love to find some similar manuscripts in my New Year slushpile. Below are a list of my favourite books of the year and what I took from them that I want to see in my inbox.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. A beautifully written, potentially award-winning novel, with surprising twists and turns, all with a main character who springs to life from page one.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead. Realistic characters in a multi-layered mystery, dripping in voice and written with such strong awareness of language. (Rebecca wrote my all time favourite book When You Reach Me – I love her!)

 After by Morris Gleitzman. Rich historical fiction that has a diary feel to it, again with a main character you have to go on a journey with.

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander. Funny, character driven, boy middle grade. Clever concepts and really likable main characters.

Butter by Erin Lange. A book that tackles a big issue, but layers this with realistic characters in realistic situations.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton. Something a little different and quirky, with friendship at the heart of it. I’d love an amazing friendship novel.

Wonder by R.J.Palacio. An heart warming story with real characters that has crossover appeal – I’d love something that could be jacketed as adult or MG/YA

Bad Kitty Gets A Bath by Nick Bruel. Ridiculous fiction for 5+ that has series potential. Author/illustrators sending this into my inbox would be a Christmas miracle.

Also, I’d love to find: A middle grade boy action/adventure. I don’t mind if it’s sci-fi/fantasy/thriller/crime. I just want a pacey, page turning, exhilarating adventure for boys. A middle grade or young adult mystery/crime that has a Poirot feel to it – red herrings, strange clues that make no sense and the gathering everyone in a room for the big reveal. A sexy YA romance that isn’t derivate of others on the market. I love a strong female character, so please don’t send me wet main characters for YA. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share my wish list and favourite books of 2012. Hopefully some of you will find these in your stockings...if you have been good.

Happy Holidays! 

... and here's another publisher for you!

Photo by Dominic Turner

Kate Wilson is the founder and managing director of Nosy Crow, a multi-award-winning, new, independent publishing company whose staff include children’s publishing industry veterans who were looking for a different kind of challenge. Nosy Crow publishes children’s books for babies to 12 year olds and highly-interactive, multimedia apps for children from 2 to 7.

On the first day of Christmas, the slushpile gave to me… the ability to break away from the pattern of these blog posts!

So here, simply, are some of the things the team at Nosy Crow would like to find over the next few months:

Seasonal picture book stories

This year, we published an instant book – The Snowman’s Journey – based on this year’s John Lewis ad: we turned it round in three weeks from idea to delivery to the warehouse, and sold it exclusively to John Lewis and Waitrose. I wrote it in 24 hours, and the book was illustrated with screengrabs from the ad. Read our blog post about it.

This year, we also published Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish, illustrated by Rebecca Harry, but written in house. And last year, we published Just Right for Christmas, which I wrote for Ros Beardshaw to illustrate.

There is a bit of a theme emerging here: we really struggle to find original, appealing Christmas picture book texts, and this pushes us to write them ourselves. But we’d love to receive some really great Christmas writing.

One of the books I am proudest of publishing is The Lion, The Unicorn and Me by Jeanette Winterson, which I published when I was at Scholastic. I read the text in The Times just before Christmas – it was a special Christmas story – and decided that I really wanted to make a picture book out of it, so stalked Jeanette Winterson until she gave in. It was outstanding in its lyricism and originality.

But we’re open to Christmas books that are funny as well as beautiful and moving.

Picture Book texts generally

We have more illustrators we want to work with than we have great texts to pair them with.

Louise Bolongaro started as Head of Picture Books in November, and is keen to find terrific new books, all with that Nosy Crow hallmark that they have real child appeal and a strong sense of who they’re for.

We’ve picture books like Pip and Posy that are for the youngest of picture book readers (18 months and older, say), and picture books like Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble that children in the first years of school could comfortably enjoy. We’re looking for originality (particularly new takes on popular themes, like Penny Dale’s mash-up of dinosaurs and construction vehicles in Dinosaur Dig!), humour and/or “heart” – something that is touching.

Great new illustrators

While there are lots of illustrators we work with regularly, we have room on our picture book list for new talents too. We are looking for artwork with individuality and the ability to draw expressive characters with sufficient context to make them meaningful. We want people who are illustrators, rather than “decorators”. One of our great finds this year is Stephen Lenton, who’s debut picture book, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, is out in May of next year.

Girl-skewed fantasy fiction

We have been extraordinarily lucky, and have found some terrific “real world” girl fiction, including Helen Peters' debut, The Secret Hen House Theatre. We’ve also found some terrific young fantasy fiction, including Paula Harrison’s Rescue Princesses series.

We’re keen to find highly original fantasy story for readers of 9+, possibly with a girl central character, and possibly more than one novel long, that introduces readers to a fully-imagined (and again, highly-original) world. We are particularly looking for something that has international appeal.


  1. I know a certain SCBWI_BI critique group (come on, Picture Book Too!) who will be very excited to learn that Nosy Crow is looking for new picture book texts!
    Two very interesting wish-lists - thanks.

  2. Wow, what a fabulous double-helping! Thanks Gemma and Kate.

  3. Kate's contribution reminded me of a constant water cooler discussion we used to have back when I was a journalist. Are we simply FOLLOWING the twists and turns of the news with our coverage? Or are we LEADING it by seeking opportunities, plugging gaps in reporting, venturing where it hasn't occurred to other news organizations to go?

    Thanks to Gemma and Kate - lots of food for thought.

    1. What's just given me food for thought is a Christmas book request from a teen ('not one of those teen books that's all about romance'), SO I wondered if NFTS could do a 'What The Readers Want' on *next year's seasonal post list?

      *Assuming the Mayans were wrong.

  4. Would it be ridiculous to send Kate something today? So close to Christmas? But if I wait then it won't be in her stocking. Hm.
    Thanks to both Kate and Gemma. And the request for a mystery is there again - there's even a SCBWI Bulletin article on the subject in the Nov/Dec issue

    1. Three books sent. Kissy Wissy, There's No Such Thing as a Monster and Wolf! Merry Christmas to all at Nosy Crow.

  5. Thanks for a great post. I'm really interested in the kinds of picture books that Kate's looking for. And it was good to have mention of The Secret Hen House Theatre, which my nine-year-old and I finished reading last Sunday (and she had to take over at the points where I was crying too much to read). She absolutely loved it and is writing a review of it this weekend. And my six year old loves The Rescue Princesses. A lot. I told her there was a new one coming out in February (I hope I'm right!) -and she's very excited. Thanks to Kate and Gemma and happy Christmas/holidays to everyone. Clare.

    1. The Secret Hen House Theatre is all those wonderful classics we read as children (Little Women, The Secret Garden) all rolled into a modern tale. Love it.

    2. Aw, thank you so much, Clare and Candy. So glad your daughter enjoyed it, Clare - and please thank her in advance for the review!

      This series of posts has been great - so interesting and inspiring to discover what editors and agents are looking for and how passionate they all are about finding books they can fall in love with.

  6. Doesn't Gemma say it all when she says: 'A character that springs to life on page one'.

  7. Gemma - your choices are all fictiony ... no picture books then? if so, can you tell us why?

    1. Of course, David. I love picture books, but am taking a little break from representing them at the moment, so didn't want to confuse people! Favourites this year are My Grandpa by Marta Altes, Red Cat Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond, Oliver by Birgitta Sif and Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon. All wonderful stories with beautiful illustrations.

  8. Check out today's Nosy Crow Blog too, more wishlists!

    1. Oops, meant to add the link

  9. I agree with Gemma. Maggot Moon is my tip for next years Carnegie. Totaaly amazing. Really hope to find the time to read it again over the holidays.


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