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!

Featured resource

These ready-to-use templates will help you create a Media Kit that wows journalists, bloggers, reviewers, agents, audience members, buyers—even big publishers.

290 comments

  • Raydeen says:

    Social Media is a double edged sword… it’s free… GOOD… it still needs to be tended… or you’ll have issues later… BAD… lots to think about… thanks

  • Great post! I wondered. Authors hear an agent won’t take the time, but I suspected s/he would if there’s interest. I’m looking forward to Chuck Sambuchino’s book. He’s a storehouse of information. I’ve learned a lot from him.

  • Sam says:

    Thank you for a very valuable postM

  • As an editor, I always google a perspective author, at least once they’ve cleared the initial hurdles so that I’m thinking of inviting them to submit the full manuscript. You’d be amazed at the things that turn up that they hadn’t mentioned in their cover letters, such as the manuscript in question has already been published somewhere else…kind of important! Or that they are in a flame war with another publisher — if you’re putting down another editor or publisher, why would I want to risk working with you and having you do that to me? Or their page explains that the book is actually being dictated by their cat. Okay, that last one might not rule out the manuscript if the cat is good, but one thing I’m looking for is whether the author is someone who could interview well or self-promote online…if they are crazy, has to be the right kind of crazy. Mind you, we have signed authors even when we have turned up very negative information on the web…but then there has to be a frank conversation about whatever that is and be convinced that it isn’t going to be an issue for the book. But you can’t hide from it. Mostly, though, I’m looking because I want to know who I am working with. Is this a young author I can develop, or is this someone with 10 books out already? Both of those could be good, but there is no point my explaining something to a veteran they already know, or make the mistake of assuming a new author knows something obvious that isn’t really obvious until later in their career. So if I know who you are, I have a better chance of making the appropriate editorial comments and saving us both a lot of extra work. To take just one example.

    • I totally understand your input on checking out whose work you are editing. This is why I like to check with Chuck.

      This is my recent experience.

      I am a fairly new writer. I recently sent my work… a book of Children’s poem to a publishing company in London. I was sailing along nicely, with high expectations. However, when I received a contract, I was informed that I had to pay two thousand and fifty pounds to have my book published. I was surprised. I had to let it go. It broke me for about a month. I am back on track.

  • Iris Madelyn says:

    Great information! Thanks. I’m not surprised to learn that agents and editors Google potential clients but it is good to be reminded. I’ve worked extensively with the population that would be my target audience when I’m ready to query. My dilemma, however, is a recent name change. I’ve started to use my middle name for art exhibitions and include my full name in written works to be sure some cross-references show up when either name is searched. I hope this helps keep consistency but if folks have suggestions for the best way to handle this situation, I’d love to hear it.

    Thanks again.

    • That was very good information, I have always wondered what king of platform I needed to create, I have a website with NAIWE, and I have started to put sample pages of the two books I have written.
      I look at some listings of Agents, and they are all over the map in what they want, and some of them sound like they only want to get what they specify, so one comment, is make sure what the agent wants and do exactly what he wants.

  • The day I decided I wanted to take my writing to another level, I chose to work on my platform. Yes, it takes time and effort on my part to connect with different people online but since they are potentially my future reader base, why would I NOT want to do this? Besides, I LOVE connecting with people and exchanging ideas so my blog, FB page, Twitter account, Linkedin account and any other social website I am a part of is simply another way for others (agents, editors, etc) to get a taste of the real me…;~)

  • Colin says:

    Very useful information, Chuck. I expect interested agents to check websites/blogs, and not always just at the query stage. I’ve known of agents who will “drop in” on blogs of people who comment on their blogs. It pays to always be ready. The guy who expects his dream-girl to drop by unexpectedly will make sure his home is ready to create a good impression. 🙂

  • Robert says:

    I’ve warned people on my blog that what you do online is out there forever and can hurt your reputation.

    The agents comments echoed that.

    What you say and how you say it is important to how you are perceived by agents and potential readers and clients in a freelance writing business.

    All writing is a business and writers need to conduct themselves accordingly.

  • Hi! Awesome post! That was very interesting to read about how agents Google you. Thanks for that info! (: I love to write about urban fantasies. It helps me as an artist to create art work that is mystical. Or just to escape into the realms of my imagination for a while and think of story lines. I started out with poetry but it soon progressed to writing mini fantasy stories and so on.

  • Kevin Loud says:

    It’s always great to get incite from the experts. Thanks for sharing their experiences.

  • Greg Lara says:

    According to Google, I am a nutritionist, own a day spa (that’s D. A. I. Y. E.), graduated from an art institute in California, and am a CFO. I’d say things are looking good!! 😛

    *types speedily, completing MS in just a few last keystrokes*

    *submits*

  • As always, another fabulous post! Great advice!

  • Nicolia says:

    Great advice! It makes perfect sense now that I’ve read it, but I never really considered that agents will actively research your online presence. It’s almost like a background check/reviewing references for a job.

  • Allie says:

    Great article! It’s amazing how prominent the internet has become in our lives and careers. There was a time when we didn’t have to think about things like this. It’s refreshing to read something that centers around this kind of thing. A lot of people don’t think about “What is Google going to bring up about me while I’m trying to get my book published?” (Or even if you’re trying to get a job or anything else like that.)

  • Sharon Greene says:

    Excellent article! I’m off to google myself now. I’d really like a copy of your book.

  • Nicky Moxey says:

    This sounds like an argument against having a pen name?

  • Very informative! I’m glad that I am establishing a social media presence, and that I maintain my professionalism in my posts. Confirmation that I’m on the right track!

  • karan abrari says:

    Thanks for the article. My first impression was, OMG there is another stage added to the query turmoil which is to try to persuade her to google you!

  • sarah duarte says:

    So helpful.

  • Seth McLane says:

    This is helpful and eye opening. Fortunately, I don’t have any closeted skeletons…because my closet’s empty. I’ve got to become more active online.

  • Adrienne May says:

    Thanks for sharing this post Chuck. I think your points about internet presence, social media and background verification with respect to agents and editors are also true for children’s book illustrators.

  • Janet W says:

    This may be one of the most important posts ever! 🙂 I have googled myself to see what comes up. I have tried to keep my public profile as separate from my private one as possible. If we use a pen name will they search both?

  • I started building a web presence years ago, long before I ever heard the term. I was on the web for fun and for work. One thing we all need to remember, though, a web presence is of little use if we don’t have completed manuscripts to pitch. Sometimes I wish I had spent less time on the web and more time writing!

  • Lindsay Curry says:

    Thanks for this article! It’s helpful to know how important our online presence is.

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