Do you google yourself? It might sound like something you really shouldn’t admit to at all, but let me assure you it’s a vital part of maintaining your online presence.
If you’re a new author, google your name before you even think about publishing. See how many other people share your name and what they do for a living. Promoting yourself as Jane Doe, Children’s Author will be a lot harder if Jane Doe, Mistress of The Seductive Arts hogs all of the front page of a google search! You might want to think about changing your name, writing under a less common pen-name, or just adding an initial to stand out from the crowd.
Debbie Bennett is my real married name. I’ve always been me online, with a real picture (the pros and cons of this are for another time and blog, maybe). I was Debbie Louie for the first 26 years of my life – at least that was unique. Certainly in the UK as I was growing up, most of the Louies in the pre-internet phone book were my relations. Louie is phonetic Cantonese – how immigration wrote down my grandfather’s name when he landed in Liverpool with the Chinese navy at the start of the 20th century.
Bennett is a very common name. Maybe I should have written under my maiden name? But it didn’t have the right ring to it and I didn’t want to be in the middle of the alphabet on a bookshelf (I was optimistic back then …).
I’ve been online a long time. I had an email address back in the 1980s and was participating in forums even then (anybody remember CIX?). I did a lot of online stuff for the British Fantasy Society in the 1990s, editing their publications for more than 10 years and handling memberships for more than 15, so gradually my name got known, with the result that I’m currently number 1 on google for Debbie Bennett, as well as several other hits on the first few pages.
The ebook retail sites aren’t quite so organised though. Apple insists on listing my books on the same “page” as Debbie Bennett, the Christian singer. It doesn’t really affect me much, but I’m sure her audience doesn’t appreciate some of the stuff I write about – if I was her, I’d be googling more often and trying to do something about it.
There are several Debbie Bennett teachers and scientists, and a couple of dancers around the world, I think. But the most entertaining was Debbie Bennett PR agency, whose email was so close to my domain name that I used to get a lot of her messages and one or two invitations to celebrity bashes. I found out the correct email and forwarded them on – and eventually found her phone number and rang her up for a chat!
There are ways to get yourself on the front pages of google. I don’t pretend to understand Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but if you google the term, you can find out how to increase your chances of getting hits when somebody googles your name.
Other things you should set up include Google Alerts. Here, you type in your book title, or a unique phrase from your book, and google will report back periodically on where it’s found this search term. Great for finding pirate copies of your stuff, or reviews you’d forgotten you’d asked for or just for listening to see who is discussing your work and where.
So don’t be embarrassed about looking for yourself online. Happy googling!