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

  • Amanda W says:

    Great article! I know I’ve been trying to increase my social media presence for a while. Any thoughts on the differences between marketing yourself for fiction versus non-fiction authors?

  • I wonder if having multiple blogs for different “audiences” would help or hurt? I have three blogs, only one of which is related in any way to writing.

  • Kelly Saderholm says:

    Chuck, I attended you talk on platform at SOKY last spring. I borrowed a copy of your book and took it on vacation- now I want my own copy/ It is a terrific book. I’m just now beginning to build a platform (I write fiction) but I am so glad that this resourse is available to get me started. This is a great article. Thanks!

  • D'Ann Renner says:

    This as really a good incentive for me. I have a FB author page I’ve been MEANING to update, and I KNOW I need to post blogs more frequently on my website. This will encourage me to do so. I also plan to print this and pass it out in a week, when our writer’s group meets to discuss promotion.

  • Jody Worsham says:

    That’s only fair. I google agents to see how successful they are, number of clients, who are their clients, types of books they represent, and if they are legitimate before I send out a query.

  • It’s only fair they google me. I’ve googled them thoroughly before sending that query.

  • Stephanie says:

    Great post. It was very informative. I’m so glad I already have a few websites, accounts, and s that go towards my books to help promote them. I never knew literary agents would look these things up.

  • Ken Boehs says:

    Dear Chuck,
    I feel I made a big mistake. I did everything but social media and was rejected by 20 agents. I then stepped back to work on my platform. I hired some professionals and now have an active Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Goodreads accounts. I also made a promo video which has gained some traction through Facebook and my personal website I use MailChimp to communicate by email. I’ve been reviewed by a few bloggers and am working on more reviews. I’ve done a radio show and book signing.

    Building the platform was a huge task. I can see why agents want to know they that an author is capable of creating a platform before considering working with them.

    Here’s my question
    Can I resubmit to my top agent choices?

  • Thank you for this article. It confirms what I had already assumed.
    It goes both ways, right? Before sending a query, we writers Google agents to find out as much about them as well, to be sure we would be a good match. So it’s only normal agents and editors Google us in return.

  • GREAT POST!!! I had heard it was essential for aspiring writers to develop an online presence, even if they had not yet begun the submission process. For this reason I started a website and blog several months ago and try very hard to update it regularly. I also try to stress to my fellow writing friends how important social media is these days, and this article just confirms that importance! Thanks so much for the info, I will be passing this along! 🙂

  • Tereasa says:

    Great article. I’m going to google myself & see what I find

  • ” . . . I know it’s going to fall to me to teach them to use social media and harangue them into using it” What a useful comment! I feel highly motivated to keep working on my online presence so no one will feel they have to harangue me. (Teaching is another matter.)

  • This piece provides great insight into the reality of how agents research prospective clients. Helps us writers to prepare ourselves that much more. Thanks, Chuck!

  • Great information! I think everyone needs to be aware of their internet footprint.

  • I’ve been more or less dragged kicking and screaming into the internet social media, and I still do not understand it or its possibilities very well, but reading your blog made me aware of how important it must be. I need a class or something to help me be cognizant of the basics. But I can see you’ve done a lot of work here to bring us the straight information. Thank you for stating it plainly and clearly. I’m going to go find out how Googling works.

  • This is a great article. The sole reason I started a blog was for online presence. A couple of years ago, a published author told me that agents and publishers google all prospective clients. He went on to say that a well-maintained blog or website should be mentioned in every query.
    Here is additional advice that I’d like to pass along. The first thing a serious writer should do is google their own name. No matter how unique you think your name is, it is already out there. I regret not using an initial or middle name . It would alleviate a lot of identification confusion and give a better google presence.

  • Gloria Oren says:

    Chuck, thanks for such a great post. I’m querying my adoption memoir and though I’ve Googled myself from time to time, I wasn’t aware that agents take the time in their busy schedule to Google us, too, when we submit a query. Thanks for the insight. I think it is time to Google myself again and do some updates on profiles, check that all is in place, and see what comes up where. Is it only Google they check, or do some Bling it as well?

    Gloria

  • John says:

    I changed the format of my name; it has a twist on an irish lit theme so that if I google jonoboyle it comes in the first three links the others being my fb page for it and linked in. Snap up all the google spots when you set out, I can also go to any social event and tell someone to save my name or google it there increasing exposure easily and racking up hits….still not published yet, will get there by the end of this year.

    jonoboyle jonoboyle jonoboyle xxx

  • Michele says:

    Glad that I have an online presence.

  • Sharon Greene says:

    Having a very common name, googling myself made me seem like a woman of many newsworthy talents, most of which I can’t take credit for. I sure would love a copy of your book.

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