There’s so much you can do through Google – you can write, email, create spreadsheets, socialise, create adverts and search for long lost answers to questions that randomly pop into your head for no reason.
Did you know you can also ask Google to email you with news stories?
Yup, Google Alerts searches the internet for you and emails you anything that contains your keywords. It saves time and, if your writer, basically sends information directly to your inbox from across the world.
So how can Google Alerts help you as a writer? Let’s see.
Depending on what you write, the most inspiring news stories can’t always be found on the big websites, like the Guardian, BBC or Metro. Often, it’s the little guys that tell the best stories. At least, that’s the case in my experience.
My new novel (that I started writing today. Hurrah!) features a team of paranormal investigators. I’m hoping to make it into a series. But I also want to write more short ghost stories. So I need lots of inspiration. I get this from all over the place, as I’m sure you do. But I’ve also set up a Google Alert for the word ‘ghost’. So every now and then I get an email like this in my inbox.
Now, more often than not it’s something boring. A new band called Ghost, the ‘ghosts’ in a new piece of technology, or some political story. But sometimes you find an actual, reported ghost story with photos and everything. Those are the ones to click on, read and save for future plotting.
So when you set up your Google Alerts, try out different keywords for your latest work in progress or genre. I also have an alert for ‘Paranormal’, which isn’t as successful as ‘Ghost’ but still brings up some interesting stuff.
For fiction writers, this is similar to the above explanation. Because, yes, I find inspiration in the ghost stories that ping into my inbox, but I also find out about how ghosts are uncovered. Another alert for ‘Paranormal Investigators’, which I’ve coincidentally just set up, may bring even more information.
As a writer putting your work out into the world, you won’t just be researching your latest project. As part of your marketing plan, you’ll need to research yourself. As it were.
Finding out if you’ve been mentioned anywhere is a great way to keep track of your publicity and promotion once your book has launched.
Yes, I’m suggesting that you create a Google Alert for yourself once you publish. Don’t worry, this isn’t a lame vanity thing. This is something that all businesses should do. It’s part of evaluating your marketing. If someone mentions you or promotes your book, you want to push that on your own social media and thank them for their kind words.
Maybe you’re a freelancer writing in a specific niche. Set up an alert with your keywords for your niche and find out what other writers are talking about and what’s trending so you can figure out your next pitch.
Again, this crosses over with the above topic of research. When you hit publish, you want to keep track of any news articles about you and your book.
You can also use Google Alerts to stay on top of the publishing world. Use alerts for ‘Amazon KDP’, ‘Ebooks’ or ‘self-publishing’ or you publisher’s name, for example, to make sure you don’t miss anything vital to the success of your book.
As a freelancer writer, you can set up an alert for writing jobs, new markets and new publications. Stay on top of your particular market without having to spend hours searching.
If you’re on the lookout for an agent or want to be with a specific publisher, you could also set up an alert for their name. This means you’ll get an alert if they become open for submissions or if there’s anything in the news about them (like they’ve closed to submissions!).
See? Google Alerts can provide a wealth of information and are so easy to set up.
How to set up Google Alerts
Step 1: Go to https://www.google.co.uk/alerts (or Google it – seriously). You need a Google account, so if you don’t have one, set one up. It takes less than five minutes.
Step 2: Once you’ve signed in, you’ll get this page. See the search bar near the top? This is where you put in your alert.
If you want Google to find exact words or phrases for you then wrap the word/phrase in inverted commas. For example, ‘Ghost’.
Once you’ve typed in the alert, Google will automatically find examples across the web. This way you can see if you need to change the wording at all.
(Check it out! An ancient Greek statue showing a laptop! Cue X-Files music.)
Step 3: Once you’re happy, hit the ‘Create alert’ button.
Step 4: Ta da! You’ve created an alert. You can edit the alert by clicking on the little pen edit symbol to the right of your new alert. See, I’ve highlighted it.
Under the edit option, you can change how often you receive the emails, where the emails go, how many you get, where the results should come from and what language you want them in.
Once you’re done, click ‘update alert’.
Step 5: If you ever want to delete an alert, click on the little bin icon next to it. Or you can unsubscribe from the emails you get.
See, it’s that easy! So next time you’re feeling a bit bored, go have a play.
Happy last day of February – may your extra leap year day be filled with wonderment. And happy playing…with Google Alerts…obviously.