Whitley Abell

Whitley Abell

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

My Manuscript Wish List

I am currently building my list and am actively seeking Young Adult, Middle Grade, Commercial Fiction, and select Nonfiction.

In fiction, strong female voices are near and dear to my heart, and I am particularly drawn to dark twists, fresh retellings and reimaginings—especially untold histories, classic films, little-known myths and fairy tales, and classical ballets—and cultures and traditions from parts of the world I’ll likely never see.

I am a big supporter of the rise in diverse voices and stories, and welcome submissions from any and all Own Voice authors!

My wish-list evolves often, and I tweet about it as much as I can.

For my visual manuscript wishlist, please see: pinterest.com/wabell/whitley-abells-visual-mswl/


Commercial Fiction

When it comes to Commercial Fiction, my tastes definitely lean towards stories told through the female lens. I’m especially looking for:

Historical in the vein on Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RIGHTS, Kate Morton’s THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, Jenni L. Walsh’s BECOMING BONNIE, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Thrillers with a literary bent (Megan Abbott’s DARE ME) or a psychological focus (Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS)

Mysteries (both contemporary and historical); I’ll take ‘em quirky with a relatable narrator, and would love to find a true female-driven noir

Clever, compelling upmarket narratives à la Maria Semple and Emma Straub; extra points for humor for today’s women (HOW TO PARTY WITH AN INFANT, CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB)

Commercial women’s fiction for smart girls à la Sophie Kinsella, Rainbow Rowell, and Taylor Jenkins Reid

Stories of young entrepreneurship in “a man’s world” (ex., THE ANIMATORS, Jeannie Van Der Hooven in House of Lies)

Immersive, inventive fantasies on par with THE MAGICIANS and A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d: The Babadook, Bad Moms, Black Swan, Bletchley Circle, Brain Dead, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Friends From College, GLOW, The Good Place, Marvelous Mrs Maisel, The Keepers, Parks & Rec, UnREAL, You Again

* Please note: I am NOT looking for genre romance, sci-fi, or epic fantasy for adult audiences. 

Young Adult

Dark narratives with well-developed antihero/ines (THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES)

Building off that, I am a sucker for dark comedies (Jaw Breakers, Heathers – with the character revisions to JD in the musical adaptation)

Contemporary, realistic young adult with a strong voice and compelling characters (Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Sandhya Menon, E. Lockhart, Emery Lord); extra points for fresh premise, powerful atmosphere, and/or laugh out loud comedy

Magical realism, whether truly literary (WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS) or bordering on thriller (THE WALLS AROUND US)

Gripping mysteries/thrillers (WITH MALICE, ONE OF US IS LYING, Veronica Mars)

Horror, whether straight up scary (The Conjuring, Oculus), or with a healthy helping of kitsch and/or self-awareness (Scream, Scream Queens, Cabin in the Woods)

Fresh, unexpected, and/or epically feminist fantasy. Recent loves have included CARAVEL, THIS SAVAGE SONG/OUR DARK DUET, AND I DARKEN, MY LADY JANE, THE DIVINERS series

Historical fiction with real-life badass female protagonists (CODE NAME VERITY)

  • I’m especially hungry for a fresh retelling — be it historical AU or fairy tale-esque fantasy — of Anastasia… the rumor, the legend, the mystery!

Wildly imaginative literary retellings that look beyond the primary characters (TIGER LILY)

Tangible-yet-gripping speculative/science fiction (The OA, Orphan Black)

Friendship love or break-up story (ie, where the relationship between best friends is the main focus)

  • I’m dying to find this generation’s answer to SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, and I’d love to see either a serious toned YA told in the style of The Last 5 Years, or a humorous, heart-filled story akin to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but for younger readership.

I also really want a good realistic (or, at the very least, realism-based SF/F) Grey-/Demi-/Asexual YA. TASHA HEARTS TOLSTOY is glorious, but does not end the need for representation.

Other movies / TV I’d love to see comp’d: Ashby, Bates Motel, Catch Me If You Can, Dear White People, Easy A, Final Destination, The Final Girls (2015 slasher comedy), I Ship It, Party Down, Teen Witch, To The Bone, Sugar and Spice, When in Rome

* Please no zombies, werewolves, vampires, or dystopian societies.

Middle Grade

Contemporary friendship and coming-of-age stories (BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME, AMINA’S VOICE, COUNTING IN 7S)

A thrilling, geeky adventure, preferably with an awesome female protagonist with a great voice. Heists, P.I.s, and clumsy spies would be in welcome company

Dark and twisted stories blurring the line between reality and fantasy (CORALINE, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, Wednesday Addams)

Fantasy, especially contemporary (THE TAIL OF EMILY WINDSNAP) or with a literary bent (THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, FURTHERMORE)

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d: Community, Inside Out, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, So Weird, The Way Way Back, What We Did On Our Holiday, The Worst Witch

Graphic Novels – YA/MG

I’m looking for the same things as in Young Adult and Middle Grade above in the graphic novel. Strong preference to author-illustrators. 


I am also open to both narrative and prescriptive nonfiction from seasoned writers with strong platforms in the following areas of interest: current affairs, history, humor, pop culture, pop science/psychology, social history, true crime, women’s issues, and off-beat, quirky, or geektastic topics explored through an academic lens. 

Nonfiction For Young Readers

I am particularly looking for MG/YA nonfiction in the following areas:

  • Historical non-fiction around figures/events not typically discussed—the real-life heroines and heroes, the game changers
  • Memoirs, narrative stories, and books on intriguing topics teen can see themselves in.

Preference to feminist/diverse subjects.

Please Note: I am NOT looking for memoirs for adult audiences at the time.

Miscellaneous MSWL notes:

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really into books exploring geek culture and feminism, and that encourage activism, involvement, and resistance.

I was terrible at science in school, but am fascinated by string theory, quantum physics, and parallel/alternate universes, and really want a book that takes these physics theories and warps them into a wickedly smart (and preferably pro-females in STEM) book.

I get my love of history from my grandpa and my constant diet of classic literature growing up, so you can always grab my attention with ancient civilizations, the Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian eras, and the 1920s-1940s. I’m not particularly interested in Medieval England, which is what I see in my inbox mostly, but I would love a book set in the British Iron Age or in a part of the world or a time we don’t much see (i.e., not Western Europe or the U.S.). I’m also a sucker for the ‘80s.

If someone, someday, could make a realistic YA novel feel like a musical—complete with high energy and soliloquies that never feel out of place—I want to be their agent.

My love for Kristen Bell’s many roles is fairly well documented at this point. Let’s just say, if she’s starred in it, and it’s a comp title for your manuscript, then you should probably query me.

Other random interests I find oddly fascinating and love seeing in submissions:

  • Cults / Stockholm Syndrome
  • Victorian Spiritualism / Occult
  • Serial killers
  • The Slenderman
  • Cyber Psychology
  • … ok, pretty much anything that delves into twisted psychology

Submission Guidelines

Please submit your query letter, a 1-2 page synopsis, and first 5 pages to http://QueryMe.Online/jdlit_whitley. For graphic novel submissions ONLY, please use the artwork link at the bottom to upload appropriate sample(s) in lieu of pages. If the artwork is too large to upload via this platform, please link via Google Drive and provide the link at the bottom of your query.

PLEASE NOTE: I only accept Query Manager submissions; any queries sent by email or regular mail will not be considered.

Guidelines & Details

Vital Info

Fiction: Action/Adventure, Children's, Commercial, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Humor, Literary, Middle Grade, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
Non-Fiction: History, Humor, Journalism, LGBTQ, Pop Culture, Psychology, Science, True Crime

Favorite sub-genres:
I’d like the next…

Commercial Fiction:

  • The American Girl
  • And Then There Were None
  • Attachments
  • In the Woods
  • Landline
  • Mrs. Poe
  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism
  • Pretty Girls
  • Room
  • The Royal We
  • Twenties Girl
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • The Witches of New York

Young Adult:

  • The Accident Season
  • All the Truth That’s In Me
  • Bone Gap
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
  • Fangirl
  • Glitter
  • A Great & Terrible Beauty
  • The Hazel Wood
  • Heist Society
  • Imaginary Girls
  • Kill the Boy Band
  • More Happy Than Not
  • Moxie
  • The Square Root of Summer
  • There’s Someone Inside Your House
  • The Thousandth Floor
  • When Dimple Met Rishi

Middle Grade:

  • Better Nate Than Ever
  • A Crooked Kind of Perfect
  • Dani Noir
  • Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
  • From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
  • Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Liar and Spy
  • The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox
  • Princess Academy
  • A Snicker of Magic
  • The Truth About Jellyfish

Graphic Novels

  • Awkward
  • Ghosts
  • In Real Life
  • Nimona
  • Roller Girl
  • The Witch Boy
  • This One Summer


  • All the Single Ladies
  • The Confidence Game
  • Rise of the Rocket Girls
  • Of Mess and Moxie
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman
  • Soldier Girls
  • We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe
  • The Witch of Lime City

Nonfiction for Young Readers

  • Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Fannie Never Flinched
  • Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
  • I Will Always Write Back
  • In the Shadow of Liberty
  • Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
  • Positive: A Memoir
  • Queer, There, and Everywhere
  • Some Assembly Required
  • Ten Days a Madwoman

My favorites include…


  • The Bourne series
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • the Harry Potter series
  • Leap Year
  • Love Actually
  • Newsies
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Princess Bride
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Star Wars (IV-VIII, Rogue One)
  • Wonder Woman

TV Shows:

  • Agent Carter
  • Broadchurch
  • Brooklyn 99
  • Chuck
  • Community
  • Doctor Who
  • Game of Thrones
  • iZombie
  • Jessica Jones
  • New Girl
  • Orphan Black
  • Parks & Rec
  • The Great British Baking Show
  • Veronica Mars

My Upcoming Events: