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.”

— Roseanne Wells (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.”

— Gina Panettieri (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.”

— Meredith Barnes (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.”

— Bernadette Baker-Baughman (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.”

— Alyssa Reuben (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.”

— Regina Brooks (Serendipity Literary Agency)

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a freelance editor. If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my editing services. 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.”

— Laurie Abkemeier (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.”

— Stephany Evans (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 Writing Workshop (New Orleans, LA)
  • March 2, 2019: Minnesota Writing Workshop (St. Paul, MN)
  • March 8, 2019: Alabama Writing Workshop (Birmingham, AL)
  • March 9, 2019: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
  • March 9, 2019: Pittsburgh Writing Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • March 29, 2019: St. Louis Writers Conference (St. Louis, MO)
  • March 30, 2019: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
  • April 13, 2019: North Carolina Writing Workshop (Charlotte, NC)
  • April 27, 2019: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
  • May 4, 2019: Michigan Writing Workshop (near Detroit, MI)
  • May 4, 2019: Writing Conference of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • May 11, 2019: San Diego Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA)
  • May 18, 2019: Cincinnati Writing Workshop (Cincinnati, OH)
  • June 8, 2019: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)

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

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  • Lisa Gomley says:

    Great post Chuck! I can’t say that I am surprised that they Google writers, especially since the relationship between agent and author is so important. And since they represent the writer they have a lot at stake.

    When I Google my name it always brings up for Lisa Gormley, an Australian actess, who recently had a bathing suit malfunction.

    But before posting this I Googled myself again and saw something that concerned me. I am not familiar with Klout but after reading this post was going to check it out. Imagine my surprise during my search when there was a link to Klout and when I opened it up there was my picture. I also saw a list of people that have influenced me and I was not sure who most of them were. I have never signed up with them and wonder if agents/editors are aware of that.

  • Julie Anne Wight says:

    Great tips. Definitely an important thing for a writer to have an online presence, but to be sure that presence doesn’t reflect negatively upon the writer.

  • C.N. Levin says:

    Thank you for your very informative post, Chuck!
    Several years ago, I had the privilege of working as a literary assistant in a top agency in Los Angeles. I witnessed first hand that agents are incredibly hard-working and extremely dedicated to their clients. It truly shaped my own work ethic. I learned that professionalism is key and to work as hard as tneeded on any project. In this day and age, being a writer means we write and we build our platform. Hard work and time-consuming? Sure, but so is building any new business. A dedicated agent who works 12 hours a day will surely appreciate a writer who is just as dedicated. Your post reminded me that our online presence is paramount to being a writer these days. Thanks again for your post and look forward to reading your book!

  • Lois Hudson says:

    Thanks for this “boot.” I’ve been lazy about the whole online presence.
    Thanks for the opportunity to win your book.

  • Lisanne Cooper says:

    I’m on Facebook but don’t use other social media. I had a website at one time but didn’t get much traffic so I’m wondering how to go about that.

    Do agents ever consider helping prospective clients who may not be social media savvy but are willing to learn? I know Meredith Barnes mentioned that she knew it would fall to her to teach such a client, but how willing are agents in general to help new authors in this area?

  • Kristin Pitts says:

    I have always told my students to be cautious of What they post on social media sites because of potential employers doing background checks. Now I wish I would have pushed more on the importance of being on it, in a variety of platforms, and showing them the Right Way to create a presence.

  • Ceejae Devine says:

    Thanks for the reminder to do this! I’m happy with what comes up, finding readers/followers is what’s tough. Slow, but steady, is what seems best.

  • Scott Szenasi says:

    Thanks for bringing this up. I am new to following my dream of becoming a writer, and I never realized how intertwined the worlds of literature, Twitter, and blogs were. I’m going to beef up my virtual presence!

  • Natalie Bonilla says:

    I admit that even though I’m a teen, I don’t care much for social networking sites. I would much rather go out and speak to someone face to face. However, the agents responses have made me realize that social networking isn’t just used for gossip, or for wide-spread of rumors. Google, , and can be used as a tool for ones career, and expanding business. Thank you so much Chuck, I greatly appreciate it!

  • Virginia Fair says:

    I first learned about the need for a platform at a writer’s group I used to belong to and immediately started my blog and initiated a Twitter account. And now your great blog posts validates the need. Thank you so much!

  • Jennifer D. Bushroe says:

    Nice to see you here, Mr. Sambuchino! Your posts are always so helpful on the Writer’s Digest website, in whatever stage I’m in (writing, editing, querying, etc.).

    I’ve Googled myself several times over the years just to make sure my name isn’t besmirched, but I know I really need to start a blog and get myself out there! I’ve been putting it off for years, afraid that I’d do more harm than good to my image if no one read it. But I just need to suck it up and give it a try! 🙂

  • Mandy Yates says:

    After reading this article, I will be purchasing this book regardless if I win or not. I knew online presence was important, but obviously it’s very important.

  • Chris Kelly says:

    I have a body of medical writing content on the web, but am wondering if this dates me when querying YA? Looks like most agents are in their 30s, so they would be Goggling links to articles published several years ago. Wonder if this is a prob when querying.

    Great posts here, BTW.

  • Jennifer Eaton says:

    Great article. I’ve always believed this. Nice to hear it right from agents that it is true.

  • J Sidari says:

    Great info. There is so much social media out there it is ghard to know where to put your effort, though. Facebook, Twitter, , goodreads, LinkedIn, etc. And then whether you have a website or not. It can be overwhelming, but its good to hear the effort is worth it.

  • Nicole Zoltack says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing! It’s always great to get inside the minds of agents.

  • Marilyn Luce Robertson says:

    Thanks so much for the constructive information! I’ve just started a blog, and now have a better understanding of the value of my online presence!

  • Lisa Heartman says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I would hope that everyone understands the importance of having an online presence, and the value of a positive attitude but this is a great reminder.

  • Ransom says:

    Wonderful article! I’ve heard many pieces of advice about what to do to be visible, but it is not as common to hear it from the agents as they choose to search for that information.

  • Valerie Norris says:

    Maybe I should Google myself and see what comes up!

  • Natalie Aguirre says:

    So interesting to know that agents are googling prospective clients. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Debbie says:

    Very informative. Thanks!

  • Nancy Christie says:

    Great article! I googled myself and fund that 5 of the links on the first page (including the first one!) were me so that’s a good start. But I really need to be more engaged in terms of social media–a challenge since I spend so much time writing!

  • Season says:

    Thanks for this. It’s a great look into agents’ heads. Now I’m off to google myself. (When did that become a verb?)

  • Linda Koch says:

    Good information to know. Thanks Chuck.

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