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 2017:

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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286 comments

  • Donna L Sadd says:

    Great post, Chuck. It’s interesting to read how the agents above use Google in vetting potential clients, which is why it’s imperative to always present oneself in a professional manner everywhere on the Internet.

    • Karen Lewis says:

      This is quite an interesting post, Chuck. I really appreciate the behind-the-agents’ door peek. I have been putting off website creation because my first ever book is still getting shopped around, but I’m now going to rethink that position. Thank you so very much!

    • Elana says:

      Agreed completely! I have asked I have had men ask me why I don’t post more revealing photos of myself on my blog well it’s because I’ve always taken myself and my writing very seriously and even though I’ve never made any money as a writer I do consider myself a writer!! I had started on a book a few years back but the very Circumstances that I wihed to document, became too much of an obstacle. so I had planned on keeping many things off the block and saving them for the book but when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to write my own story my own autobiography I just went ahead and put nearly everything on the blog

  • This is really great advice. I’ve read varying authors’ opinions on how soon to start building your platform and I think if you’re just starting out writing, it’s a bit too early but you should definitely have started building by the time you’re at the querying stage. With tools like Blogger or WordPress, you can have a web presence within minutes. It’s the building traffic part that can be tricky. Finding your voice. Being original. (There’s always more to learn!).

    I know about Chuck from WD and any book he’s written on the writing process is going to be invaluable to folks like you (and me) who want to learn. This is a giveaway it would behoove you to enter.

    For another great resource on platform building by a WD-related author, check out Robert Lee Brewer’s blog. In 2012, he did an “April Platform Challenge” that is worth reviewing. It helped me tremendously.

    God bless!

  • Elaine Milner says:

    Excellent article. I promptly googled my name and found I am one of 11 people by the same name. Most of the results pointed to someone else, including an obituary notice! There are 9 of us on LinkedIn and I’ve been thinking lately that I ought to get active on it. I found myself listed on JacketFlap saying I haven’t provided my bio (which is true). There was reference to comments I’d made on workwithflow.com and writerunboxed.com but those were on pages 10 and 14. I’d better get busy!

  • Thanks for the comments, Donna and Lauren. I’m excited to be moving forward as part of TWL team!

  • Ash Krafton says:

    I always considered my Google search results as a reflection of my social presence–and I do my best to keep it a reflection worth having. That means being careful in blog comments, as well–because they are visible to searches.

    It became apparent that I had the right idea back when I was querying agents…an agent wrote me and said he Googled me and read my blog post on having signed with another agent. I remember being a little stunned that someone thought I was worth a search!

    It also really made me realize the value of keeping my digital nose clean for the Google searches to come.

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • I often wondered if agents/editors Googled prospective authors.
    More reason to be diligent about keeping our info current.

  • I’m curious how the agent determines if the google search result is actually the person who queried them. A few years back when I googled myself, the results led to a writer for the Huffington Post. Today, all but one of the links on page 1 lead directly to me. But I have a relatively unusual name and I use a variety of social media — what about the poor soul who shares their name with every other Hayden/Caden/Jaden of their generation?

  • In today’s digital age it’s no surprise that agents would use Google on querying writers, but it is a nice confirmation from the horses’ mouth. One thought when Googling yourself, make sure to log out of your Google accounts to get an idea of what others are seeing. There is a slight variance.

  • Felicia Ruiz says:

    Glad to know I’m on the right track!

  • Meredith Rund says:

    Thanks for the valuable insight, Chuck. I appreciate the candor of the quoted agents/editors. Now, I must Google Tweetreach and Klout. Not familiar with either of these tools or what kind of information they provide.

  • Kurt Bubna says:

    Love it. Now I’m going to go google Chuck Sambuchino just for fun.
    Thank you!

  • I’ve wondered about this! Thanks for the info!

  • Seana Graham says:

    Funny–we were just talking about platforms in a small circle that has grown out of a Writer’s Digest boot camp we recently attended. I haven’t really considered web presence in quite such a serious way before, and I’m glad that I don’t have anything out there that will be a negative surprise for anyone researching me as a potential client. At least I hope I don’t!

  • I’m in the process of querying (fiction) and it’s very helpful to read specific quotes from agents about what they look for/avoid in online information about authors. Thank you!

  • Very interesting and informative. Made me realize how many hats agents wear.

    Thanks

  • It’s because I realized that others might Google me that I decided five years ago to use my middle initial in all social media contexts and in my byline. You might think that Michael Eidson would be relatively distinct (note the last name is not the same as that of the famous inventor), but Google shows plenty Michael Eidson results that aren’t related to me.

    I’m not surprised that agents and editors search Google for info on prospective authors. I’d be more surprised if they didn’t.

    • Kate Thompson says:

      I’ve thought of using my middle initial, too, but I wonder if it works or is okay once you’ve been published without the initial. Does anyone have thoughts about that?

  • I am amazed by what surfaces on Google (and Bing) – WordPress posts and Goodreads comments seem to rise to the top so those are important to keep sane and positive. I also make it a point to comment whenever I have something to add to any conversation online as Ash says above – they are visible too.

    I’ve also made it a point to start early, not wait until I have a success or book published, but create content slowly and methodically on a couple blogs, so when I do “break” (fingers crossed) my new fans will have something more to pour over. 😉
    Thanks, Chuck.

  • I’m often surprised when I Google myself. I forget how much of my life and work is online (I worked for the state library and had to comment on legislation, post to lists, etc.). Also articles have been reprinted in odd newspapers and such (I found an interview that was re-published in Jamaica). Also even with a somewhat less common name, I have to remind people I am NOT the Jeanette Larson who was a Playboy Playmate (get that image out of your mind!).

  • Susan Spann says:

    It’s truly interesting to see how the world has changed since I wrote my first manuscript over a decade ago. Back then, agents were just starting to accept submissions by email (and many still did not). I think the improved online interaction is great for publishing, as well as authors and readers, and I’m glad to see that agents are utilizing the technology to help find authors who want to be engaged in the new media age. As an author, I love the opportunity the Internet offers to connect with readers and other writers, and as a reader I love the authors who respond directly online.

  • I’m not surprised that agents use social media to check on potential clients. Employers in other sectors use it too. It makes sense, especially sense we are talking about a business relationship. Think how disheartening it would be to sign with somebody (one either end) just to find out you can’t work together. On the opposite end, I hope that agents still consider the work presented to them and not pass on a potentially great author just because their media presence is lacking. Maybe they just need to be taught (like I did!) the importance of it.

  • Larry French says:

    Nice article. I like how it mentions in the comments by those reviewed that they are not looking soley at one source but in some cases what ever forms of your social media that they can find. That’s important because a writer’s platform needs to be varied and yet connected in it’s several applications.

  • M Sue Blount says:

    Chuck – Thank you for providing another avenue for newbies seeking information. Have a great ‘hump’ day. I will google myself and work on being interesting.

    Thank you,

  • Rosie Pova says:

    Good to know. Thanks, Chuck.

  • Neil says:

    A strong social media presence? Me? Major bummer. I was having a pretty decent day until I read this. Oh well. Guess I can keep on with my other interest…

  • This is a great piece of advice, and also beneficial for people who have an agent and are now shopping a book to publishers.

    When I first got my agent, I had very little online presence, but now when I Google myself—my blog posts, Twitter feeds etc., cover most of the entire Google search page. Hopefully, every little bit helps in the process.

    Thanks for the great post!

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