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Profile Summary

John Berlyne founded Zeno in 2008 with literary agent John Parker. He is now sole Director of the agency, following Parker's departure in 2012. Berlyne has a background in literary consultancy and genre criticism and is an authority on the Steampunk author Tim Powers.

The agency website gives a good view of his tastes and preferences:

* You can submit horror, thrillers, crime and historical fiction and all species of fantasy and Sci-Fi.
* Note, Urban Fantasy authors will be entering a very competitive field and Berlyne has previously said that he is not easily impressed by submissions in this sub-genre.
* Mixed genre submissions are welcomed.
* Manuscripts must be plot driven. For Berlyne, 'good fiction is about forward momentum'.
* He likes monsters and magic and is a big fan of Neil Gaiman.
* Originality is highly prized; homages to Gaiman and Tolkein will be swiftly rejected.
* Avoid whimsy and political writing.

Zeno's high profile authors include the Steampunk genre writers, James P Blaylock and Tim Powers and the successful fantasy author Ben Aaronovitch. This agency is also worth considering if you are writing non-fiction with a scientific or historical bent as they have previously published writers like Andrew Hodges, author of 'Alan Turing: the Enigma'. Zeno represent a small number of literary estates and a range of non-European authors in the UK. Cyberpunk novelist Peter V Brett and supernatural best-seller Charlaine Harris are among the US and Canadian authors on the books. Our researchers have contacted Zeno to ask for more information about their individual agents' client lists and interests and we will update this profile as soon as we hear back from them.

Detailed data

Zeno Agency
Agent since:
Short biography:

John Berlyne lives in London and is the Director of the Zeno Agency, which was founded in 2008. He was previously a freelance literary agent and a genre critic. John is also the author of the World Fantasy Award nominated Powers: Secret Histories (PS Publishing, 2009) and is acknowledged as the leading expert on the works of Tim Powers.

Client list status:
List largely complete
Genres this agent is interested in:
Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal romance, Science fiction
Authors & books liked:

Essentially I'm a sucker for a good old plot-driven narrative. To break this down further, I like books in which things happen to people (or monsters, or aliens or whatever) in which a character is faced with a problem and in which the meat of the novel is about them solving that problem. For me, good fiction is about forward momentum and the plot is the engine that should drive a story onwards. There are infinite variations and riffs on this classic approach and seeing them reinvented time and again is one of the great pleasures of reading.

Other loves & passions:

I'll read Urban Fantasy, but note that I'm not the ideal target demographic for this kind of stuff so I'm only looking for the highest quality material. Given the level of competition, anything less than exceptional will be bounced back to you. I'll gladly read YA stuff, if you can ignite my sense of wonder, lost so long ago, buried beneath a black mountain of cynicism, then I'll get the drinks in! And I'll read space opera, horror, and thrillers and crime and historical fiction and combinations of all of the above, surprise me!

How to make a submission:
Agency Standard
Other advice and background:

I'll happily consider all kinds of fantasy and SF -- but anodyne Tolkien derivatives will be given short shrift and I can spot 'em a mile off! I like cool monsters and heavy magic and I like books in which magic seeps into contemporary life. Neil Gaiman does this kind of thing beautifully but please don't send me Gaiman derivatives either -- be inspired by brilliant writers, but don't try to replicate their work.

And if it helps you further to target your submission, don't send me political treatise disguised as fiction, or anything too whimsical or stuff that purports to be funny but isn't. And read our submission guidelines!

Attends Festival of Writing or other WW events?
Follow on Twitter:
Interesting links:
Ed Cox, Ben Aaronovitch, James P Blaylock, Aliette de Bodard, Justina Robson, Lavie Tidhar
Full client list:
Email address:

Agents of: Zeno Agency

Agency details

About the agency:
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Address for submissions:
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Office address:
Email Submissions only
Email address:
Phone number:
Number of agents:
Accepts email submissions:
Submission type:
Standard (Letter + Synopsis + First three chapters)
Further submission info:
We are currently open for submissions. Please ensure that you read this message in its entirety before contacting us. We are unable to consider any submissions that do not follow these guidelines. At the moment we are only looking for completed works of fiction over 75,000 words in the following categories: Crossover fiction: especially thrillers with a sci-fi, fantasy or horror twist. Horror: both adult and YA so long as it's about the characters Accessible science fiction : no tech-heavy, military or hard SF Thrillers Epic fantasy If your novel fits this brief, please email us the first three chapters (or an equivalent segment of around 50 double-spaced pages), a synopsis, and a covering letter. If you've already sent your novel to Zeno and we did not take it further, please do not send it in again. The chapters should be sent in .doc or .rtf format, in a legible font (no smaller than 12pt), double spaced, and with the pages numbered. Please ensure your name, email address, and a contact number are on the title page. The synopsis should not be cover copy, but rather a simple explanation of the story, from chapter one to the end. This shouldn't run over two pages. The covering letter should include an �elevator pitch� and a few lines about yourself and your writing career to date. Be sure to mention if you have sent another novel to Zeno before. We will get back to you, but do ask for your patience. Please note that it is not possible for us to critique or offer any editorial advice on submissions. Zeno does not accept submissions by post. Please be sure to put �SUBMISSION [title of novel] by [name]� in the subject line, then email it to info [at] zenoagency [dot] com Our turnaround time is anything up to eight weeks, longer if we�re busy with things like the London Book Fair or the World Fantasy Convention, so we ask for your patience. If we wish to see a full manuscript, we�ll ask for it. If we decide that your submission is not for us, we�ll say so � but do please note that we�re not obliged to offer you any explanation. It�s simply not possible for us to critique or offer editorial advice on everything we receive.
More info on this agency:
Zeno Agency Ltd is a London-based literary agency specialising in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror. We represent a top-drawer range of genre authors, both as primary agent and in association with a number of well-known agencies abroad. Our list comprises major brand-names, high profile award winners, talented debut authors and prestigious literary estates. Founded in 2008, Zeno was originally a partnership between literary agent John Parker and freelance literary consultant and genre critic, John Berlyne. John Parker left in 2012 and the company is now solely run by John Berlyne. In 2014 former commissioning editor John Wordsworth joined the company as an agent. Zeno is a member of the Association of Author's Agents and an affiliate member of SFWA.
Average response time:
Refer to Agency Website days
Agency Transparency Index:
Member of the AAA:
Overseas offices:
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Accepts overseas writers:
Follow on Twitter:
Latest news:
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More about the agency:
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