5 tips to use Google to the benefit--rather than the detriment--of your writing career

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They’re great, they’re covert, and they’ll bring heaven, hell, and everything in between right to your digital doorstep—Google Alerts. After a lunchtime conversation with another editor about a recent Google Alert adventure, I rooted around and dug up a short piece I ran in WD magazine last year on the subject. A prompt follows—happy Wednesday!

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You’re a wired and proactive writer, and thus you’ve gone and set up Google Alerts (google.com/alerts)—automatic e-mail notifications that pop into your inbox every time someone drops your name or your book’s title on the Web. The good news and bad news is that everyone else has them, too, including your editors and potential employers. Here are five quick tips to help you use Google Alerts to your advantage—rather than the detriment of your career.

1. Expect instant gratification—any time you’re mentioned in a favorable light, you’ll know. Namedrop back or respond on the website for bonus props, or to strike up a relationship and potentially expand your reach or flex your platform. At the very least, when you mention someone you’re a fan of, you can rest assured he’ll probably read it. Brown-nosing, or at least paying a well-earned compliment, has reached new levels.

2. You’ll also know whenever you’re bad-mouthed, so be the bigger writer and fight the urge to reply to mindless slams. If there’s an opportunity to reply without sinking to your antagonist’s level, do so constructively and cautiously.

3. Be very, very careful. Don’t sign into your blog and badmouth the editor who rejected your writing, because she’ll probably find out. And nothing kills your potential to land a future assignment or book deal like a 9 a.m. Google Alert notifying an editor that you just called her “the poison in the Random House stew.”

4. Know where your writing has ended up the minute it, well, ends up. Has someone posted your material on a website without your permission? Tackle the problem the instant it hits the Web.

5.
Get to know and monitor your Googlegängers—your digital doppelgängers with the same name. It could come in handy when your editor asks why you’re always blogging about long-cancelled TV shows, and why you never mentioned the cameo you made in that ’70s rollerskating movie.

(This piece rain in our July/August 2009 magazine -- click here to check out the rest of the issue, which also features interviews with Anne Tyler and Rick Steves, and a survival guide to publishing.)

Image: Google.com

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WRITING PROMPT: On the Alert

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Your e-mail pings—it’s a Google Alert notification about your name. You click the link, and end up on an unexpected family member’s website.