An Agent Query Checklist

Thursday, May 02, 2024

I love to write fiction and create deeply-flawed characters along with plot twists. With every page I edit, I become more skilled and learn what works and what doesn’t. That’s why most of us are here—we want to connect with other writers, learn from the experiences of others, find marketing tips and ways we can perfect our craft. 

What I don’t love is what happens when I’m done with a project. The querying process is something that terrifies me. Nothing brings on imposter syndrome like scrolling through the various lists of available agents and looking to see what they want in their submissions. There have been several times where I completed a novel (yes, I've written several), polished it to the best of my ability, and then began to prepare for querying agents. I’ll get through five or six agents on my list, and then grind the process to a screeching halt. 

Every single agent asks for something different. I recently signed up for Query Tracker, a free website (it offers a premium membership upgrade if you choose) that helps you find literary agents in your genre, organize and track your queries, and learn the typical response times and reply rates from agents. This website also shares what agents want to see from prospective writers. 

After randomly selecting five different agents, I’m outlining what I found below when searching the thriller/suspense genre. I will not use any real agent names. For my purposes in this exercise, I’m only looking for agents representing fiction, as the submission process for nonfiction books is different. 

Agent #1 would like you to submit your information through That includes a short biography from you, the writer, a website address, a query letter, a short synopsis of your book, the first three chapters of your book, a one-sentence pitch for your book, and a description of your potential target audience. 

Agent #2 requests you contact them through e-mail. When I go to their website to get more information, it does not specify what they are looking for in this e-mail query. I’m assuming a query letter and synopsis of the book would be the first place to start unless the agent requests more information. 

Agent #3 asks that you submit via e-mail. Going to the agency website for more guidelines, the agent asks for a query letter including the author’s bio, optional synopsis, and the first 10 pages of the book. 

Agent #4 wants authors to submit queries via e-mail. The website submissions guidelines ask for a book synopsis and a brief author biography. 

Agent #5 accepts queries via e-mail. They would like a query letter from the author about the book, including the hook, bio, brief synopsis of the work, and submission information (i.e., is this a simultaneous submission?) 

Aaaaand this is why I’ve previously been intimidated by the submissions process. While you’d think I’d be excited about the prospect of getting my book information out into the world, juggling the various elements of the submissions package dampens that enthusiasm almost immediately. I know I’m not alone in this. However, I’m excited to use Query Tracker because it will help me stay organized and provide a record of who I’ve submitted to and when. But before I get started, my first task is to put together the following: 

• A one-sentence logline of my book. 
• A one-paragraph author bio. 
• A one-page synopsis of the book, using samples I found in the latest edition of The Writer’s Market and Save the Cat Writes a Novel
• A brief description of the potential target audience and other comparative titles to mine. 
• The most polished version of the book, where I can pull the first 10 pages, 25 pages, or 50 pages, depending on what/if the agent wants. 

Wish me luck—I have a feeling I’ll need it! 

Have you been through the submissions process with any of your books? I’d love to hear your experiences and submission methods! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She's currently preparing to shop around a suspense/thriller about, what else? A podcaster trying to solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Wow. You randomly chose 5 agents and only one wants the query through QueryManager? That must be some kind of record.

Using Query Manager I've been asked for:
A one sentence pitch, a one paragraph pitch, and a synopsis (different agents)
A fun fact
and similar books/series

I keep all the info in a single document so I can cut and paste.

And? Good luck on your query trail!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I'm excited to hear you are querying, Renee! It sounds like agents all want something different, and it's great to be prepared. Treat it as a part-time job. :)

I love the Query Tracker site. They have this Success Story feature where they interview an author who recently signed with an agent, and the author shares their actual query letter. It's so inspiring to read. :)

Good luck on your query journey!

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