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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  • Thanks for passing along these quotes, Chuck. It’s always good to hear what agents are thinking. It’s great that you’re making it possible for us to get their perspective.


  • You’ve given me a lot to think about. Better get to work creating a bigger footprint on the Internet. Thanks, Chuck.

  • Helen Fields says:

    Thanks for the article, Chuck.

    I would expect agents to use Google; it’s a valuable tool. Good to know just how much impact a solid online presence has.

  • lisa says:

    This is great encouragement. I would love to read this book. Two years ago when you googled my name… nothing. Now my writing is there, I’m heading in the right direction. I love connecting with people, it’s was so much less painful that I had imagined.

  • Angela Buchanan says:

    Definitely want that awesome online presence. In editing mode of my first book. And trying to get that online presence going. Very interested to read your book.

  • JLOakley says:

    Chuck, I especially appreciate the quotes by the agents in the post. I’ve been going around and making sure my website, Google+ site, just plain Google is up to date and easily accessed.

  • Candace Wellman says:

    Last week I was at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and many agents and editors from New York were there to hear pitches and teach. Over and over we heard that we need to know what Google has “to say” about us when our name is searched. And they all said they Google everyone and want to find a presence of some kind and no embarrassments.

  • Great post regarding Google and social media presence in general. I notice I get a more streamlined search result when I add author after my name. (ie – Linda Rawlins author)

  • Heather Rose Walters says:

    Thanks so much for sharing such an insigtful article. It’s a great reminder!

  • Lynn Rogalsky says:

    Thank you for this insightful article reminding us our words have power either to the good or bad. Also, thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of your new book, “Create Your Writer Platform.”

  • This is new information to me, and although as enlightening as it is, it puts an extra weight on my shoulders as to what is expected from me as an aspiring author. The whole publishing business feels too tiresome to me, yet I believe it is the only way for true glory. Self-publishing is only a pacifier, and rarely, very rarely indeed, founds a career path for the author.

    • Lynn Swayze says:

      “The whole publishing business feels too tiresome to me, yet I believe it is the only way for true glory. Self-publishing is only a pacifier, and rarely, very rarely indeed, founds a career path for the author.”

      Why are you doing it, then? Why not find an art form that actually speaks to you? Photography, painting, film making, blogging?

      Reply to the original post:

      This is precisely why I use my maiden name (Swayze) and not my married name (Wilson) as my writing name. It’s MUCH easier to find me online. 🙂

      • I was talking about publishing not writing Lynne. I have always written and I believe I always will. The publishing stage though requires extra-curricular activitis by the writer, that’s where things get hard. I am not alone in my opinion, and I don’t mind if I were, established authors like philippa Gregory said when she was asked if there was anything that she didn’t like about writing, that she liked everything about writing, it is the editing and the publishing stage that she struggles with.
        Every thing has its pros and cons Lynne, if dates were not so sweet no one would have climbed so high to get them.

        • Haythem, the traditional publishing route is not a guaranteed path to a writing career either, and it’s not the only way to “true glory.” There are living, breathing examples that self-publishers can make it in the business. So it doesn’t help anyone to make such broad, negative statements as you made. If self-publishing is not for you, then it’s fine to say so, but to make statements that imply its not appropriate for anyone who wants a writing career is being disrespectful to those who have made it in self-publishing and who will make it in the future, despite your negativity and that of many others like you.

          • Michael, everyone is entitled to his opinion and if you find mine negative then so be it, and attacking with such words will not change a thing. However, if you read my comment carefully you will realize that I didn’t completely rule out self publishing as an option as I said it very rarely leads somewhere. I believe the traditional route is more likely to establish the author’s career, how many Hemingways, or Steinbecks were self published? If all what you are thinking about is earning a living through self-publishing then it’s a different story.

          • Hi, Haythem. I was referring to the negativity of implying that self-publishing cannot lead to true glory, and your statement that self-publishing is only a pacifier. I consider these as negative statements against self-publishing. You have every right to make these statements, but I do not see what purpose they serve in a community of writers, some of whom are going the self-publishing route. They discourage rather than encourage.

            It takes determination and talent to succeed whether one goes the traditional route or the self-published route. Granted, the self-published route opens doors for many not-so-determined and not-so-talented people to make an attempt at a writing career, but those who are serious about it will go the extra mile, doing everything that a traditional publisher would have done for them, getting beta readers, paying for professional editors, paying for professional cover art, etc. To say that self-publishing is a pacifier (your word) is disrespectful to those authors who are putting in the time and effort required to make a difference in the book world. Hemingway and Steinbeck attained true glory because they wrote truly great fiction. That is still the requirement for true glory today, whether you go the traditional route or the self-published route. If your writing is atrocious, you won’t find true glory no matter what route you choose, its just that the traditional publishing route will stop you at the door, whereas the self-publishing route won’t. The failures of the many, however, should not be used to discourage others who are more talented from following whatever path they choose.

  • This information about what agents look for online is very helpful. Thank you.

  • Erin Lale says:

    When I was running for office, I googled myself obsessively to see what people were saying about me. I’m still in the habit of checking occasionally to see what comes up, but it’s harder now to see what someone else using google would see because of the new algorithms that show you what it thinks you’re interested in. Now I occasionally have to get one of my friends to google me to see what comes up on a computer that google doesn’t know is being operated by me.

  • Wow, I knew agents and editors would Google a client, but didn’t realize it was in the querying stage as well. It looks like I’m doing everything right, but I think I’ll Google myself just to be sure. Thanks for the fabulous information!

  • Robert Grede says:

    This is true for both fiction and non-fiction writers, but platform seems far more important to the non-fiction writer. My agent tells me if I don’t have over 1,000 followers, an editor [non-fiction] won’t even look at me.

    For fiction, it’s more about literary awards, short-story publication, et al. But those can usually be found through a Google search, too.

  • Are people using Google + much? I do Facebook and some tweeting, but now I’m hearing Google + is the new, latest thing to be on.

  • Rita Pierrottie says:

    I’m just now finishing up my first book and have so much to learn. Your book would surely help.

  • Jen says:

    You’ve got to be consistent across all your platforms and make sure you’re not putting anything out there that could be detrimental. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier said than done. Good advice to remember.

  • Great post, Chuck. Thanks! I Google agents, so I guess I not only expect them to Google me…I can’t wait for them to Google me! One thing your readers need to know is that building a platform can be a long, slow process. Don’t expect to launch a web site start a blog, get on Twitter, and have a zillion followers overnight (unless your name happens to be Bieber). Social networking takes lots of time and commitment. I’m always amazed by the people who are Twittering all day. How do they get any work done?

  • Alison Law says:

    This seems like a great tool for writers who wish to be published. You must always treat your book like a business.

  • Donitta says:

    Good info! It was especially interesting to learn that having NO internet presence is a bad thing; sort of like have no credit can be worse than bad credit!

  • Great tips! I wonder how what agents are looking for varies between nonfiction and fiction queries.

  • Arlene says:

    I always make sure to google my images as well as doing a regular search! With Facebook, Instagram, , etc., you can be tagged by others in photos you may not want to be out for all to see- in photos you might not have even posted!

    ….maintaining a professional image online is important no matter what your line of work.

  • Anne B. says:

    This is really great information. I always Google myself when I want to make sure I exist, and I am always astounded at how many times my name appears.

    It makes complete sense that, in this day of platform building and trying to stand out in the crowd, that agents would google a prospective client.
    Thanks again for the article!

  • Good information! Especially for an author who’s getting her feet wet in the promotion business side of writing. Thanks for the editors’ advice.


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