Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Zabé Ellor of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

Literary agent Zabé Ellor joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in August 2018, after previously interning at the agency and at Inklings Literary, and serving as a Publications Assistant at IOP Publishing. He graduated from Cornell University in 2016 with a dual degree in biology and English. An avid reader and writer, his non-literary interests include running, travel, and finding the perfect dim sum in his home city of Washington D. C.

He is seeking:

Middle Grade: “I’m now open to MG and excited to find clients writing exciting, adventurous, hilarious books for preteens! My favorite middle grade books weave voice, whimsy, and heart together to meet young readers where they are, instead of talking down or patronizing. I love all things speculative, from wild new worlds to small hints of magic, and my dream would be to find something that innovates at world building how Gregor the Overlander does. I also love stories grounded in the contemporary world, but prefer humorous tones to the very serious. Projects with graphic elements always welcome. I’m especially interested in seeing submissions from diverse voices.”

Young Adult: “I love all genres of YA: swoonworthy romances, electrifying thrillers and mysteries, heartbreaking contemporaries, and sci-fi/fantasy that sweeps me off to a new world. Whatever you’re writing, give me flawed characters who struggle with the complexities of growing up and tangled networks of relationships binding them together. Books with messy, real, and consuming emotions are my kryptonite; recent favorites include Three Dark Crowns, Burning Glass, The Astonishing Color of After, When Dimple Met Rishi, Eliza and her Monsters, When the Moon was Ours, and The Love Interest.”

Adult Fiction: “My first love is adult SFF, in which I’m drawn to expansive worlds inhabited by unforgettable characters. Favorites of mine include the Emberverse series, The Broken Earth trilogy, An Unkindness of Ghosts, and Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels. I’m also looking for commercial and upmarket contemporary fiction, especially projects that contain elements of literary mystery and thriller, or voice-driven projects that would make a fun beach—think Little Fires Everywhere, Crazy Rich Asians, or Big Little Lies. Any project that involves rich people, secrets, and tragicomic misbehavior is quick to catch my eye!”

Graphic novels: “I’m interested in graphic novel projects for all age groups. Give me children’s projects that will make me laugh, cry, or both: think The Prince and the Dressmaker, The Witch Boy, or anything by Dav Pilkey. Give me adult projects that can ONLY be told in graphic novel format—stories like Saga and Low where the art creates the world. Author/illustrators strongly preferred.”

Nonfiction: “In nonfiction, I want proposals for books about science and history that teach and entertain in equal measure. If you want to dive deeply into an intriguing quirk of our world—and can do so with voice, wit, and an eye for the human—I want to see your proposal! As a former evolutionary biology/Renaissance literature major, my interests are wide, but I’ll always be interested in projects about fossils. Show me your platform and your passion for the subject.”

“Diversity is incredibly important to me. I strongly encourage marginalized authors to self-identify, if they are comfortable, especially if their identity is related to their project.”

Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Jared Johnson of Olswanger Literary

Jared Johnson is a literary agent with Olswanger Literary.

Jared is a recovering academic. After several years of academic research in the humanities and teaching writing and history, he turned his efforts toward pursuing a career in publishing. In 2021 he joined Olswanger Literary as a Literary Associate.

Most of his time is spent reading good books, editing, and trying to claw his way out from under a mountain of emails. In his downtime, he can be found outdoors with his dogs, building a fantasy team for the Overwatch League, or playing Magic: The Gathering with his nephews.

“In addition to mystery and thriller, and sci-fi and fantasy, I am actively seeking upmarket fiction, particularly horror. I am also currently working on some historical fiction. In addition to fiction, I am also looking for trade nonfiction, especially books on popular cultural and academic topics.”

My manuscript wishlist:

  • I am interested in science fiction, fantasy (high, historical, or contemporary), magical realism and speculative fiction, mystery, and thriller. I’m also hoping to add some thought-provoking upmarket horror to my list.
  • In nonfiction, I am looking for narrative-driven books, and I am drawn to accessible scholarship that engages with current social issues. In particular, I am interested in works that challenge long-held cultural narratives.
  • With both, I am actively searching for writers who identify as being from marginalized communities.

What I like:

“In fiction, I love encountering new, vibrant worlds that feel like they extend beyond the borders of the page. I am drawn into a story by parent/child relationships, themes of reconciliation and redemption, strong non-romance relationships (especially where you would expect romance), and misunderstood rivals. Really, I am taken in by stories that push characters to find out who they are in relation to themselves and to one another. Also heists… I want to read all the heists.

​”In nonfiction, I love books that address the origins of cultural values, especially in matters of race, religion, and language. I am always on the search for books that call into question cultural myths or the continuity of ideas. I want to read works that make me view an old concept in a new way. More recently, I find myself being drawn strongly to narratives about people who have caused a positive impact or left a positive legacy in the world or their community.”

What I don’t want:

“While I love reading YA, I do not represent it. I would love to include it in my list, but I don’t have infinite free time, and there are other agents who will be much better champions of your YA works. (This also includes NA and MG.)

​”Scripts, poetry collections, and cookbooks. While I think they’re each wonderful forms of writing, I would have no idea what to do with them.

“Stories centered around sexual violence. I will very seldom respond favorably to stories that incorporate rape or sexual assault into narratives, especially if those sorts of inclusions are simply meant to “heighten the stakes” or show how villainous an individual is.

​”Fiction that employs violence against women characters for the sake of moving a plot or to propel male character arcs. (Looking at you, Wheel of Time adaptation.)

​”Fiction that tokenizes marginalized characters.

​”Nonfiction that sides with neo-conservative or alt-right viewpoints.