OK, I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world. And I always figure that if I know about an online tool or application, everyone else has been using it for eons. But then sometimes I find out that some people I know haven’t even heard of it, let alone used it. So I thought I’d do a little series in the coming weeks or months of 5-10 of the tools I find most useful.
Recently, on a nonfiction list, Google Alerts came up in the conversation, and I was surprised at how many folks in the group hadn’t heard of it.
Google Alerts are a way to track certain phrases used online. You have to have a Google account first. Then, you simply choose the combinations of words you want to track and you choose how often you want to be notified about them. If you choose daily, like I do, then each day you get one email per alert (each alert is for a different phrase) if the selected phrase has been used. I have Google Alerts for my name (both versions–with and without Purdie) and for my new book, Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School. Because of that exclamation point, I have a few different Alerts–one with the exclamation point and a colon after it, and one with just a colon, and one with just an exclamation point. I also have an Alert for Salas Stampede, which tells me anytime a page has new content on it that includes those two words (though it’s amazing that about 60% of the time when I get that particular Alert, it’s NOT about me or my book).
As a writer, I use Google Alerts mainly to learn:
* about new reviews for my book
* when I’m mentioned in a blog or listing of events
But there’s more, too. For instance, yesterday morning, my Google Alert email showed me three ABC books I wrote for Capstone Press as being for sale by a book resaler, in paperback. Now these books aren’t even out yet, and I didn’t think they were due out until next spring. I did a little more digging and found the same three books plus another one already listed on Amazon (entries 3-6 on this results page). Three are listed with December pub dates, and one with August of next year. And they’re all listed as paperbacks, which would be very unusual for new books with the educational market. The publisher doesn’t even list them yet! So this info is good to have ahead of time–I’ll check with my editor to find out what the scoop is, and I might adjust my school visit book sales plans because of it.
And I know of several writers who have learned of really nice honors for their books from Google Alerts, even before their editor contacted them (or sometimes their editor or publicist never actually contacted them). I haven’t had that pleasure yet, but someday, maybe?
Another great use for it is in research. If you’re working on a long-term project, putting in a Google Alert on your topic will help you stay on top of developments in that area or new things being said about the subject of your research.
So, get thee to Google Alerts and set up your phrases/topics.
And if you have a tip about Google Alerts or a good story about how it worked for you, please share it in the comments. Thanks!