How to Build Your Agent List

SAMSUNGYou’ve finally done it! You finished your novel.

And then you revised it, and revised it again. Then you gave it out to first readers to get feedback. And then revised it again. You did a final-final spit-and-polish. And now you’re ready.

You are ready to start submitting queries to agents.

But how do you know who to submit to?

Building an agent list is the first step. Here’s how you do it…

List Your Must-Have’s
Must-haves include only the deal-breakers. “Accepts queries” is a must-have, for instance, because not all agents are accepting queries at all times. If an agent isn’t open to unsolicited queries, it’s obviously pointless to send them one. Another must-have is that the agent represents your category. If you’re shopping around a paranormal romance novel, don’t waste time on agents looking only for literary fiction.

List Your Nice-to-Have’s
This one will take a little more thinking on your part. Do you want an agent new to the field who’s aggressively building their client list? Or someone who’s got years of experience under their belt? Do you care if they’re male or female? Or where they are located? The relationship you’ll have with your agent is going to be a partnership. Ask yourself just as many questions about what you want as you would if you were looking for someone to date.

Add Anything that Gives You an Edge
Anything quirky, unusual or unconventional about your book should go on this list. If you’re writing experimental prose, for instance. Or if your novel is aimed at an LGBTQ audience. Or you’re the first person to do something amazing and you’ve written a memoir about it. Anything off-the-beaten path can be an advantage so make sure you get it on your list.

Now, using these criteria, you’re going to make these three lists:


Every agent that interests you will go on one of these lists.

Here’s how you know where they go:

A-List Agents meet:
All Must-Have’s
Most Nice-to-Have’s
If they are also looking for your particular quirky trait, they get an A-PLUS rating

B-List Agents meet:
All Must-Have’s
Some Nice-to-Have’s

C-List Agents meet:
All Must-Have criteria

Brainstorming your criteria and making your lists take time. However, once you have it all in place, it’s not that hard to add agents here and there as you do your research. When you start the querying process, you’ll really roll with your list on hand. And for those days when you’re feeling discouraged about looking for an agent, the list will take most of the work out of it for you. All you’ll have to do is send off the letter.

Make sure you know your category. Write an outstanding query letter. And then get started on researching agents and putting them into your lists. AgentQuery is particularly helpful in this process. Looking for an agent can be long and frustrating, but stay the course.

You will get there.

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