What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?

What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?

If you attract an agent’s interest and they want to know more, Google is their next step. An agent typically investigates a client before offering them representation, understandably. If you’re pitching nonfiction and touting a writer platform to help sell books, then a Google peek becomes even more important.

But don’t take my word for it. I asked agents themselves how they use Google, and what they’re looking for when they do. Here are their responses:

“If you provide your website, or say that you are on Twitter or Tumblr, I will look! I always research possible clients, not only to see what they’ve been working on, but also to see if there is a lack of information on the Internet, or potentially controversial or harmful information. An editor will Google the author, and I don’t want to be caught unawares as to what they might find.”

—  (Marianne Strong Literary Agency)

“I do use Google at times to get more information about people who have queried me. I may be looking to verify information in their query or to check on their professional background. I also have a pool of sources who can verify the veracity of someone’s book, no matter what it’s about.”

—  (Talcott Notch Literary Services)

“Yes, definitely. I’m looking for a presence online (managing what pops up when someone Googles your name is very important!). If I see a Twitter/Facebook/blog/website (not necessarily all of those things), it lets me know that the author is engaged online and what kind of savvy they have. A publisher will really want the author to help (a lot) with promo, so if the author isn’t already active in the spaces where that will happen—i.e., social media—then I know it’s going to fall to me to teach them to use social media and harangue them into using it.”

—  (formerly of Lowenstein Associates, Inc.)

“I do Google prospective clients. I want to see how present they are on the web, if any dirt comes up immediately, or if there is anything interesting that the author hasn’t mentioned in their correspondence with me. I often find some bit of information that helps inform my decision—usually in a good way.”

—  (Victoria Sanders & Associates)

Sign with a literary agent

“I always Google prospective clients. I like to see how active they are online and what news outlets have featured them (the more, the better). I also look for their personal website, a blog, how active they are on Twitter, etc. I even use tools like Tweetreach and Klout to see what kind of impact their social networking has. I would expect any editor who receives his or her proposal to do the same.”

(Paradigm Literary)

“I always Google potential authors before signing them up. I need to know how well received they are by the audience they are hoping to write for. Unfortunately you can’t take at face value what people say in proposals. You have to validate information.”

(Serendipity Literary Agency)

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a . If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my . Thanks!

“I always Google. Always. Usually at the query stage. I’m looking for how that person presents him- or herself online. Are sites updated? Are they sloppy or professional? Are they complaining about agents and publishing? (That’s a red flag.) I’m also looking at whether I can find the person at all. Sometimes I can’t, and that’s almost always an instant pass.”

—  (DeFiore and Company)

“Sure — I’m looking for how they present themselves, anything that’s raised my curiosity in the query letter, anything that smacks of excitement around them or their subject. I’m not usually looking for something that may have been swept under the rug, but occasionally I do see something that makes me think, Okay, this is a pass.”

—  (FinePrint Literary Management)

Quick note from Chuck: if you’re looking for a writing conference, perhaps one of these below is in your neck of the woods. I’ll be presenting at the following events in 2019:

  • Feb. 23, 2019: (New Orleans, LA)
  • March 2, 2019: (St. Paul, MN)
  • March 8, 2019: (Birmingham, AL)
  • March 9, 2019: (Atlanta, GA)
  • March 9, 2019: (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • March 29, 2019: (St. Louis, MO)
  • March 30, 2019: (Kansas City, MO)
  • April 13, 2019: (Charlotte, NC)
  • April 27, 2019: (Seattle, WA)
  • May 4, 2019: (near Detroit, MI)
  • May 4, 2019: (Los Angeles, CA)
  • May 11, 2019: (San Diego, CA)
  • May 18, 2019: (Cincinnati, OH)
  • June 8, 2019: (Tampa, FL)

The giveaway for Chuck’s book  is now over. Thanks for all your comments. Congrats to DeiDei Boltz!

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290 comments

  • Donna McDine says:

    This does not come as a shock to me at all. With all the research we have at our fingertips we must use it to our advantage. I do appreciate the agents saying why they use Google to search a perspective client, it’s always important to get their viewpoint from the shoes the agent is walking in. Thanks!

  • Great article Chuck, thank you for the information!

    ~ Olivia J Herrell

  • Briana says:

    This is very interesting. It makes sense to me that agents would look at web and social media presence for nonfiction proposals, but I’m wondering if those things (especially follower numbers) hold the same weight for fiction. I’m also somewhat surprised that there are so many passes on prospective authors who aren’t online. I know many people–not all aspiring authors!–who aren’t on social media, and not for nefarious reasons or because they’re unfamiliar with or even “against” social media. I think many people would be willing to use it professionally who don’t see a need to use it personally.

  • VictoriaRose says:

    Interesting that they’ll pass if they can find zip. Some people don’t want the personal exposure and would rather use a pen name and thus would not use their own media anyway to promote their work. Also there are some professions where it is strongly discouraged to have an online presence (teacher, police, etc) that is very public.

    I suppose creating a blog / / other social media under the false name and directing the agent to those may be wise – but would the fact that your OWN name has nothing out there still have a negative impact?

  • Stacy Fileccia says:

    This sort of screening makes a lot of sense. If you expect an agent to invest time and effort in your work, the least you can do as an author is to present yourself professionally wherever you can be noticed.

  • Scarlett J Davenport says:

    I really need this book! My Google relationship could definitely use improvement. This book offers priceless advice! If I don’t get chosen for the giveaway, I will still buy it!
    Thank you for the chance!
    -Scarlett J Davenport

  • ranndino says:

    This all makes very good sense and I’m actually rather surprised that someone needs to be told that in 2015. One thing, however, that strikes me a bit strange is agents looking to see if there’s anything “potentially controversial” online connected to the author. I’m of the opinion that if there isn’t anything controversial or even potentially controversial this is most likely not much of a writer. Intellectuals who can write are by definition controversial. They like to challenge people’s established views about the world.

  • Jeannie Chambers says:

    Thank You so much for this valued article. It make perfect sense for agents to google. I’d just thought about it before now; I’m not sure why, because I look them up too. The Internet is like a glass house with very thin sheers.

  • It’s interesting that a writer now needs to have an online presence. As a start-up novelist, this is something I haven’t really considered. Alongside nurturing my manuscript to completion, I now know that I need to ensure my personality and perspective are present through my blog, and Twitter. It’s definitely worthwhile. Thanks for the heads up!

  • another useful post. thanks chuck.

  • I hope they do check! I make sure I have lots of information on my links to let them know I am not one dimensional. Thanks for this post, Chuck! I always suspected they snooped!

  • I am writing my first novel, however, I am a recording artist with a strong website, YouTube videos. I also have an extensive page of quotes with graphics on my website. I would think that would count for something. Davidaldermanmusic.com

  • Hi,

    My second novel, genre historical fiction, is ready for submission and publication. I am looking for a literary agent. Would you give me some advice or could you recommend me some agent (s)? I appreciate your help.

    The first novel is entitled “Miserere Nobis (have mercy on us”), published in 2011.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Kindest regards,

    Claude Pierre-Jerome
    email: [email protected]
    Tel: (+1) 404-362.7113

  • Shei Jini says:

    Hello ,
    I appreciae your work very much and I need your help. I have written books and articles for years, many of which are well appreciated but it ends in my laptop.

    My mind is crowded with so much information on how to rise above the waters in this field of writing. But right now, I need direct help. I believe it is possilbe and it is you I need.

    To be a marketer and a writer at the same time is not given to everyone. Help me.

    Thanks

    on the web as to getting

  • Prof. PP. Healings says:

    You made my day, Chucks. I have been wondering whether the literary agents have a way of knowing more of the authors–your lecture leaves me without further doubt–I must participate more positive on media presence.

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