The Internet is chock-ful of blogs, websites, Twitter hashtags and applications aimed at helping writers at any stage of their career. It's not my intention to cover all, most, or even several of them, but I do want to cover a very simple tool that lets you know when you, or your work, is mentioned online.
Google is stuffed with handy bits and pieces that can aid a writer, from Documents (which helps enable writers share documents for collaborative pieces), Notebook (where you can jot down your ideas), to Alerts. I'm going to walk you through setting up a Google Alert so you'll be alerted to those instances when you've been mentioned in a blog, or on a web page. Think of Google Alerts has being a service that eavesdrops on the Internet, and gives you a gentle prod when it overhears your name.
With most Google services, you need to have a Google account, but Alerts is an exception. You can just head straight over, and set one up, without tying yourself into Google if you don't want to. If you do have an account, hurrah!
Enter http://www.google.com/alerts in your address bar in your browser of choice. You'll see a very simple screen, allowing you to customise your alerts. Your first box is the 'Search terms' field. Enter what it is that you'd like to be notified about. In this case, maybe your name, the name of your blog, or your novel or serial, if you have one. As an example, mine alerts me to 'Icy Sedgwick'. I'm so cunning.
In the 'Type' dropdown box, you can select Everything, News, Blogs, Realtime, Video, Discussions. I've just got mine set on Everything, since you don't know when or where you're going to pop up.
In the 'How often' dropdown box, you can select once a day, as-it-happens, and once a week. It's entirely up to you what you choose, but for a writer just starting out, 'once a week' is probably enough. If you attain Stephen King status and are desperate for attention, maybe you'll want to see alerts as they happen.
In the 'Volume' dropdown box, you can select Only the best results or All results. I kept getting reports about icy conditions in Sedgwick County in Kansas, so I changed mine to Only the best results!
|A sample Google alert - click to enlarge|
Google will helpfully send you an alert email according to your preferences. It will show you what the alert is for (so whatever you set up - in my case, 'Icy Sedgwick') along with a link to where it found your term. In a lot of cases, this might return your own blog posts, or Twitter feed, but every now and then you might find someone has mentioned you on their own blog.
If you decide you want to tweak the settings, head back to the Alerts page. This is where it becomes handy to have a Google account, as you can just sign in, and click the link "click here to manage your alerts". You can add more alerts (as far as I know, there's no limit on how many things alerts you can set up) which can cover more keywords, you can delete existing alerts, changing the frequency - whatever you want to do!
Have a go at setting one up - you never know what it'll tell you!
|Buy "The First Tale" at Smashwords|
You can get "The First Tale" over at Smashwords. Icy's website is http://www.icysedgwick.com, and you can follow Icy on Twitter as @icypop.
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