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!


  • Cynthia Franks says:

    I would think is this would not need to be said as I assume any one I send anything to will Google me, but I’ve met writers that seem to think they are the only ones to use Google for this purpose. And writer’s who refuse to use social media for fear of some one stealing their ideas.

    I’ve fairly internet/social media savvy, but I learned something from this article, I didn’t know about Tweetreach and Klout. I’m going to have to explore these.

    I do have a question, what if there is another writer out there with your same name? And she’s not a very good writer but puts out a lot of amateurish self-publised books?

    • That’s a tough one, Cynthia! I’d think that perhaps using a slightly different version of your name as a pen name could work (e.g. adding a middle initial), but it’s not ideal. What options are you considering?

  • Elizabeth McBride says:

    Yes, I think it is website time. Thank you for the fine article. Clearly, I need to make some changes. I write for both the children and adults, so I am wanting to be sure each facet of my online presence supports the other. I need to read your book, Chuck! Your article brought up many questions. I have resisted entering into the social media because I was not sure I could keep it up the way I would like to, and also because I was not sure of how I could keep the content limited to professional topics when s can freely add unrelated messages. I have a great deal to learn!
    Thank you!

  • Andy Rose says:

    Thank you for your informative article.

    I immediately went to my Klout account and authorized it to connect with several cites I had previously neglected.

    Also agree with the request for how to create a marketing plan.

  • Carl Palmer says:

    Along with what you want seen is what you don’t want seen. What you say will be held against you. Digital footprints last forever. “Don’t mess around with Mr. In-Between”

  • Kelly Pierce says:

    An informative (if terrifying) article. It’s only terrifying because while I’m trying to build my platform (I’ve got a blog and Twitter), I find that I run into another far more serious problem. It seems that when my name is Google’d, the first hit is always a porn star. Does anyone have any advice as to how I get around that rather large, and potentially career ending, hiccup?

    • Oh no, Kelly — that’s not good at all! Have you thought about using an initial to differentiate yourself? Maybe other commenters have ideas…

    • Kiki says:

      Perhaps you can use that somehow in a poking fun manner, a porn twist, to differentiate yourself while getting associated attention? Somehow you have to get more traffic to beat her ranking.

  • lori gregory says:

    thanks for the advice. i never considered that agents would rely on GOOGLE to that degree. and i have again been encouraged to start and develop an online presence. wow. this is exciting.

  • Linda Christopher says:

    Great common sense advice for everyone in reality; especially those that want to get noticed on the Internet. As a writer, blogger, or professional of any sort, it’s important to remember your reputation precedes you. I feel confident that as long as one remains true to themselves, their qualities will be apparent to all that seek them out. Here’s to shining bright!

  • Austine Decker says:

    This is really helpful for someone like me, an aspiring author in the early stages. Better to start building a good internet presence now. It’s nice to hear that the agents do their research too as it means both sides are putting in the effort to find a good fit.

    • Heather van der Hoop says:

      Good point, Austine — it’s important that both authors and agents work to find their best fit.

      TWL Assistant Editor

  • Tarah Flicek says:

    Great article! Thank you for posting.

  • Sophia Sasson says:

    Great post. Good reminders.

  • Kathy Marker says:

    Articles like this are just what I need, since I just completed an online course a few weeks ago. I had no idea that people would Google my name to find out more about me; but it makes sense! I was advised, by another business I was involved with a few years ago, to build a site that would benefit others and that would help build your credibility and visibility. So I began the website of positive thoughts and motivation, and have added Facebook posts that I like. I guess I need to build up the viewers more. I decided that I need to learn how to Twitter, and use it, so I am working on that now. This old dog will learn new tricks, thanks to people like you! Thanks.

    • Scarlett J Davenport says:

      I’m in the same boat. I created a Twitter account a few days ago. (@scarlettjdaven) I’m trying to build a good platform before I an agent for my debut novel. I wish you the best of luck with Twitter!

  • Marcia Laycock says:

    Good to know all that work online isn’t for nothing. 🙂

  • anon says:

    What about people who have to hide their real name online because an estranged family member could stalk and harass them otherwise?
    I have a ‘secret identity’ I use for Twitter and so on and will adopt a Pen Name if ever signed by anyone. However, I’ve heard it’s not ‘Kosher’ to query under a fake name. Should I put my handle under my name in the query letter, or my alias?

    • Heather van der Hoop says:

      That’s a tough one, anon! You might want to get in touch with Chuck directly through his blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents.

      TWL Assistant Editor

      • anonimousse says:

        Useful article, thanks!
        Like a few others, though, am disappointed that zero web presence can be a minus.
        Surely there exist many talented and deep writers who choose not to have a web presence, and I’d be very interested in knowing what other actions such writers can take to make up for lack of/distaste for web presence. After all, isn’t it all about the writing, the writing, the writing?

        • Heather van der Hoop says:

          I’m not sure whether a new author would be able to manage without any web presence, but it’s something we’ll add to our list to explore!

          TWL Assistant Editor

          • J.S.Johnson says:

            im not sure that an unpublished or self-published author trying to gain exposure has the luxury of avoiding social media and the Internet at large. It’s the single largest repository of information and ergo exposure available to the modern entrepreneur. There are certainly many edges to this, but I think it’s a necessary engine.

          • Heather van der Hoop says:

            We’re going to address this question in an upcoming post — stay tuned!

  • John Harrison says:

    Wow, very well written and a great resource. I plan on sharing this information with others. Thank you.

  • Regina says:

    Thank you for this encouraging info. I’m reluctant to get involve with social media because of negative backlash. However, I want to be a successful writer long term. I guess I’ll have to step out of my comfort zone and build a brand for myself.

    I did create a blog for my book several months ago. I have followers, but it’s difficult to get them to post comments. I’ll work it on this some more once I complete my novel. I really enjoyed reading what agents do before offering to work with someone. Can’t say I blame them. Everyone should be more careful these days. Thanks again.

  • Ray Dean says:

    I’ve been working on my website and online content for awhile now… I’ve taken the idea of a platform seriously, but I’d love to read the book and make sure I’m in the right direction!

  • Justin says:

    It seems academic – why wouldn’t agents use the most powerful source of information available (the Internet)? But it was sobering to think about the negative effect of a lack of information.

    Maybe those promotions and blog posts aren’t just wasting time after all. You never know who one of those “followers” might be.

  • Mary S. Sentoza says:

    I really like your article. I think this is important for a writer who just completed their book, what they need to do before looking for an agent. The information provided would give a writer a glimpse what they need to do, like being active on the internet so agents would know more about them.

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