Pub Rants

Why Google Alerts Might Be An Author’s Best Friend

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STATUS: Another late night trying to catch up on client and slush pile reading.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Talking Heads

Just as authors are often obsessive about their Amazon numbers (and don’t get me started on Bookscan), some authors are pretty attached to their Google alerts about their books. Folks might think it narcissistic but in reality, Google alerts can be quite a handy tool.

Here are just some reasons why a published author might want to keep the alerts handy.

1. Alerts are a great way of discovering new reviews that have been posted about your book. Editors are good about forwarding them but heck, everyone is busy and things slip through. One author discovered that her young adult book was a Cosmo Girl pick for best beach read. Not even her editor knew. It was a complete surprise but there it was.

2. Google alerts can catch electronic book piracy (which is rampant let me tell you). Most of our authors have been a victim of this at least once and sure enough, the discovery often comes through a Google alert that then hits the chat loops and wings its way back to us. Publishers do go after the sites but often it’s just a matter of time (sometimes only days) before some other piracy site rears its ugly head.

3. Alerts can keep you apprised of any book buzz that might be going on. Bloggers suddenly talking about the book, etc.

4. Alerts can warn an author if a right is being exploited illegally. For example, when Amazon bought Booksurge there was a kerfuffle when this POD entity was offering books available for sale that they no longer held the rights to. Uh, that’s more than an oops. If an author has held audio or electronic rights and then suddenly one of these copies are available and the author hasn’t sold the right, well a Google alert might just be the first time the author “hears” about it.

I imagine there are many other great uses (or misuses for this tool) so feel free to share.

27 Responses

  1. Jill Corcoran said:

    Thanks Kristin. I just created an alert for my name and it was amazing how many places on the web I showed up, especially the mention of a fun music/art/poetry class I teach during school visits.

  2. Jason said:

    I’m a fan of Google Alerts. I have one for the law firm I work at, one for my website, and random ones for big news items that I’m interested in. Good post!

  3. Kimber An said:

    As a blogging book reviewer, I agree whole-heartedly! Google Alerts are an author’s best friend. Get them on the titles of all your books. The author is a part of the magic. If she stops in to comment or answer questions after we review her book, it really adds to the love we’re feeling for it.

  4. Madison McGraw said:

    New Reader here.
    You are on my Google Reader as are many other people/sites I find interesting. I had to remove Gawker though, too many posts.
    I couldn’t agree more with you about the GR but I have to add I’m surprised at the number of authors not taking advantage of all the social media outlets:Twitter, Plurk, Friend Feed,Ping.Fm, Rejaw, etc.
    Such a simple way for authors to keep in touch with fans and yet I find so few doing it.
    Much luck w/ manuvering around town once the DNC hits.

  5. karen wester newton said:

    It’s important to remember that a lot of authors do this. If you mention an author (or their book) by name in your blog, don’t be surprised if he or she leaves a comment the next day. It’s the web, not a neighborhood bar, so be prepared to defend whatever comment you’re making.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Piracy is my library. I wouldn’t have to if you’d just skip the bloody hardcovers I can’t afford and offer the cheap mass market first. I’m not going to wait an extra year because I’m too poor for the hardcover, I’ll pirate the thing. And yes, that means I don’t buy the mass market when it does show up because by then I most likely will have found another book I want more.

    -Bitter anon

  7. Rosemary Carstens said:

    I find google alerts to be highly useful. I have one for my name to keep track of when I’m mentioned, as a part of seeing how my Internet presence is doing. It also shows when you’ve commented on a blog, so adds to results if you are doing that regularly.

    Two other very helpful uses for me with google alerts are for research and images. When I’m doing book research for myself or a client I create an alert for the topic or for a specific individual and often discover some new sources that way. If you need images,they will often come up with an alert too and you can pursue permissions. Hooray for google alerts!
    Rosemary Carstens –

  8. ORION said:

    Oh I’m so relieved that there’s a good reason for my obsessive googling lol!
    Seriously tho I’ve found google alerts to be a great way to find out if book clubs at libraries are discussing Lottery – I send an email and offer to participate via speaker phone- They always say yes- it’s been great-
    The problem I have is you know how many alerts I get with the word LOTTERY in them??!!
    Kristin I got that umbrella drink ready…

  9. JES said:

    Google Alerts: great.

    Alas, but there’s no book buzz (yet) for me to foster, let alone keep tabs on. But if your writing requires you to stay on top of current events, technology, etc., yeah — a REAL easy way to do so.

    Also, a little tip of the Google-nerd sort: don’t just use the news alerts; use Google’s “blog search” feature for the same purposes. And although I guess vanity is frowned upon, you can also search for posts on other blogs which link to posts on yours (especially handy when they’re not using any of the automatic notification tools, like trackbacks). To do this, just enter: “link:[]” in the search field. (No quotation marks, and replace “[]” with, say, “”.

    Once you’ve done that, you can click the Blogs Alerts link (or Atom, or RSS) at the left to create an automatic notification feed.

  10. C. Leigh Purtill said:

    I love Google alerts. I’ve met lots of great readers that way when I discover they’ve posted about my books. Sometimes I’ll go to their sites and post my thanks for the shout-out and have actually become friends with some of them that way.

  11. Lisa Iriarte said:

    I just think it’s cool to see you use a word like “kerfuffle”. That’s a great word! I think I’ll teach it to my students.

    Lisa Iriarte

  12. Kerry said:

    actually, *do* get started on bookscan! I’m working on some research for a dissertation and both me and my institution have been trying to get them to talk to us (or even let us subscribe!) and they won’t! do agents get access to bookscan? publishing houses? is there a secret handshake? if I drove to denver, could you show me?

  13. Keri Ford said:

    An unpub writer can use Google Alerts to monitor a pen name they’d like to use. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t end up using a name someone else has on the web and is making an unfavorable presence with.

  14. Kim Stagliano said:

    I admit it. I have a Google alert on myself. It has been a great way to see how far and wide my HuffPo posts have traveled. And everyone should learn if you blog, use valuable words in your headlines so you get picked up on lots of sites.

    Fortunately, the one alert that read, “Kim Stagliano’s writing is pathetic” by an angry person within the autism community has finally disappeared!

  15. Kim Stagliano said:

    Oh, here’s another Google alert bonus! I blogged that I’d had terrible service from the Land’s End sales person at SEARS. I was just venting away on my blog. I got an email from Land’s End offering me a free $50 gift card! And they sent it to me. Smart businesses monitor Google. Of course, I wrote another piece extolling the virtues of Land’s Ends’ customer service. And we were both happy. Not sure my kids liked the geeky chino shorts, but at least they were long enough to cover their bums!

  16. GM said:

    For those who wanted to know how to set it up, go to Google Alerts. Put in the keywords you want to search on, for e.g. your name or your book’s title, supply your email id and you’re done!

  17. JulieLeto said:

    I don’t mean to be sarcastic (well, maybe a little…) but for all of you asking how to find Google Alerts…um, google it? Seriously, though…it comes up in the #1 spot.

    And though I am loathe to feed the troll, Bitter Anon: Gas is too expensive, too. Are you stealing that as well?

  18. jeanoram said:

    For jnantz:

    To set up a google alert, go to this URL: Then set up what you would like to keep tabs on. You can make alerts for more than one thing and only takes seconds. I’d never heard of google alerts before this post, but now I’m on it! Igoogle is really good too. You can create a homepage in your Internet browser that will grab feeds from your favorite blogs, the weather, a couple of games, etc. It puts them all on one page for you with links. I even get a word of the day.

    Have fun!

  19. Michael said:

    You should also check out — it can track keywords / phrases in podcasts, videos, blog posts, news articles, (new) books, etc. Plus it can find local events matching your keywords. You can track your output (results) on the site or via RSS feeds.

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