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

  • J.M. Surra says:

    Talk about an eye-opener. I decided to Google myself, and before long, I found a comment I made a few years ago, shooting off my mouth, talking about about how agents and publishers were the past and indie publishing is the future. I’ve learned how untrue that really is since then. It’s interesting to look back and see how much we learn as we go. It’s also painful to note how few of those rash, heat-of-the-moment comments can be removed. The statements from the agents show how much damage they can do to your writing career.
    Thanks for this article, Chuck.

  • Such a great post. I have such a hard time getting this across to new authors. Your query can be fantastic, your book can be literary gold, but if you’re not Googleable, you’re going to get a form rejection.

    How come no Google+ share button? I’d like to spread the word!

  • allergicvegetarian says:

    I’ve been trying to get noticed in the world where Food allergies are concerned, as I hope to one day create a cookbook for those with odd ball food allergy combinations, as well as create recipes for those on a more normal diet. Another part of me wants to write a Children’s series. I’ve started it, but just need to keep working on rewrites.

    Yes, I would find it helpful to read your book, and do hope I win. Why? Creativity is something that I need to harness. Anyone can sit down and write dribble, but it takes harnessing those creative juices to make that dribble sing on the page.

  • Jess says:

    Great post. I’ve warned my writer buds over and over that agents/editors use Google, but I don’t think they believed me. If we writers use it, only stands to reason agents and editors would too. I have a friend who got her agent early one morning and lost her that afternoon because of something she put on her blog.

    Don’t put my name in the hat for your book. I’ve bought it! 🙂 I appreciate you, Chuck. Thanks for all you share.

  • WordsofAthena says:

    This article provides a conundrum to people like me, who have significant experience managing other people’s social media, or garnering attention under a few different handles, but try to keep our own personal footprint minuscule! That’s why I’ve turned to building up my pen name. This article reinforces how important having something to look at is. The give-away tied to commenting on this article is also very clever and effective–a technique I will tuck away for a rainy day.

  • Thank you for this post Chuck! It’s a good reminder to keep our websites very up-to-date!

  • Great food for thought, Thanks Chuck.

  • Christina says:

    Great info Chuck! I always enjoy your articles and this confirms that my currently unpaid social media efforts actually do pay off in the end.

  • Good reminders! And last weekend I heard an agent (on a panel) say she’d search for a writer who’d queried her and found him dissing her on a forum — not good! Be nice, and if you can’t be nice, be polite. 🙂

  • Megan and Jeanette made reference to sharing their names with or having similar names to other people. I have that same dilemma. Angelica Bella is a porn star. Her name sometimes gets misspelled as mine. Should I mention that in my query letters? Because mentioning porn stars when you’re a Christian author seems like a bad idea. I’m pretty sure my picture makes it clear that I’m a demure lady, but you never know.

  • Sally Nutter says:

    I am so happy to have this information! I love my social network sites and have fun with them, but I hadn’t realized they could help my writing career. That makes them even more fun.

    I have so much to say, and now, I have all the more reason to go ahead and say it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Mick says:

    It’s an excellent read. It is frank and informative about writers’ need to think and strategize in order to polish their profiles and think like marketers as well.

  • Thanks for the info…I found on-the-spot feedback from targeted readers at a rally to be an excellent way to find out what they want, too. It seems as though many of my biker friends prefer audio books…hmmm, gotta work on that!

  • lorie bowman says:

    I found this article extremely interesting and helpful. I have a Facebook account (one of the agents mentioned checking for those). I, however, have mine set to private as I am employed within a public school. I have been putting off starting a blog, but now see that it is a good idea to kick myself into gear and get it going. Thanks for the article!!

  • Carol Neumann says:

    Thanks for the great post. I will google myself to see what I find, but I have a very common name and wonder how they will know if they found the right one.

  • Trish says:

    Well, there’s finally an upside to my Facebook addiction… 🙂

  • Jeanette says:

    Great post. Thank you.

  • Allen Taylor says:

    Managing your reputation online is absolutely essential. That looks like a good book, by the way.

  • Thanks Chuck. I always wondered if I am wasting my time, obviously not!

  • Debbie says:

    What an interesting subject matter for an article! I really never thought about it before and now that I read your article it worries me: I subscribe to a “privacy” company that removes a lot of personal information about me, for obvious reasons. However, now that I read where agents may not even consider your query if they can’t find you online, I’m really concerned. How do you strike a balance?

  • Lauren says:

    It makes perfect sense. When I’m researching agents, I Google them. I’d be surprised if an agent didn’t Google a prospective client.

    I wouldn’t want to be represented by an agent who doesn’t do their due diligence.

    Interesting post. You put into words what many of us already suspected.

  • I knew that employers Googled prospective employees and colleges do likewise for prospective students so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that editors and agents looked up writers online.

    That said, I hadn’t thought to look myself up in a while so thank you for the reminder, Chuck! I was gratified to see that I have a pretty nice record. I’ve been using the Internet since the beginning and my clean and good record of involvement has paid off. 🙂

  • Fabulous post. And I’m looking forward to reading the book!

  • Clarissa Kae says:

    Good to know – especially since I’ve queried three of these agents!

  • Thanks for this article. I was amazed to find that without fail they all checked out clients online. And to think, I was once dragged kicking into my own webpage. I appreciate your articles and blog.

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