In honor of Katie Alender, whose first novel, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE (which I totally, totally loved!), landed in stores just days ago, I offer you the wisdom of my own experiences and those of my other author friends who shall remain nameless or they will sue me, because we have all spent far more time than we would care to admit being very, very idiotic those first few months (or maybe whole year) after our debut novels came out, and even though I could write fifteen essays about all the ways in which we drove ourselves insane and made mistakes we hope never to repeat, I’ll cover just one of them today: the madness that is the self-Google.
Because be honest: Who among us can resist? There’s this tool out there, it pays attention every single time someone mentions us or our books or something clever we said on our own blogs, and all we have to do is sign up for something called Google Alerts, and we get daily updates about how much everyone loves us. Or maybe doesn’t love us, but at least is talking about us behind our backs, and sometimes that feels like love.
LOOK. AWAY. This is the top, top reason why authors today are a mess of narcissism and self-consciousness. Self-Googling is a horrible, nasty, addictive habit, and you can easily waste multiple hours every day (not exaggerating here) checking and rechecking to see if you’re on there. Because even though you’ve signed up for Google Alerts, you don’t trust the spiderbots or whatever they are to catch every mention of your name that’s out there–and who wants to wait until they do anyway–and so you check and recheck it yourself. Hourly. Or more often. And then even twice as frequently as that.
Same goes for Goodreads and Amazon and all those other sites where people post reviews.
The problem is, you’re cruising along, reading, “Love it . . . love it . . . four stars . . . five stars—“ and then suddenly you hit two stars. Or a complaint. Like, “The sister [best friend, love interest, cat] isn’t believable.” Or “Yes, I could put it down.” Or “Snarky, snarky, zing!” And now there your heart is, completely in tatters, and even if the next hundred reviews and comments you read are loving and complimentary, you’ll never forget the meanness of that one bad review.
But I’m not going to try to tell you not to check. That would be futile. Plus it would be totally hypocritical, since I’m only at the ARC stage on my next novel, and I already self-Google forty-three times a day. Whatever! Don’t judge me!
But I will offer a few hints to maybe make the system work a little better for you:
- Ask one of your friends to sign up for Google Alerts for you. This is actually brilliant. I’ve performed this service for at least one author friend of mine, and that way I get to act as the initial filter. I check all the mentions and reviews, and if they’re great, I send them on. If they’re not so great, this author never knows. Unless he or she is self-Googling behind my back, which he or she probably is, the sneaky bastard or wench.
- Designate Saturdays as your Beer and Google Night. Or wine or chocolate chip cookies or whatever you need. Then fully go through the whole list, even rereading items you’ve already seen before but still love, and just gorge on the whole thing. While drinking or eating and listening to great music and maybe petting a puppy or something to calm yourself down. And then when you’ve gone through the whole list, put it aside until the following Saturday. This takes incredible discipline, but it might work for you. If so, you are made of metal.
- For those of us who can’t imagine going a whole week between hits, why not at least wait until a designated time every afternoon? It’ll be like that scene at the end of Terms of Endearment, when Shirley MacLaine is screaming at the nurses to give her daughter the morphine. “It’s three o’clock! SHE ONLY HAS TO WAIT UNTIL THREE O’CLOCK!” Then Debra Winger smiles wanly and says something like, “That’s okay, Mama,” and then she dies anyway. So maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all.
I could offer you more advice, like about not spending so much time staring off into space thinking, “I have a book out!” that you forget to write your next book and then are a full year behind schedule when you finally turn it in, which means it won’t come out until two years after your first one—whoops!; or about all those helpful e-mails you keep sending to your publisher’s publicity department asking things like, “Shouldn’t we send a copy to Starbucks? I mention them a lot in the book. Maybe they’ll put it in their stores;” or about how you probably shouldn’t spend a large chunk of your advance doing things like throwing your own book launch party and busing people in for it, and printing thousands of book marks and postcards with your book cover on them, and now you still have thousands left and you’ve already moved on to the next book—all those kinds of experiences are yours for the taking, and many of us are cursed by only being able to learn by making our own damn mistakes. I pity you. And I am your sister in that.
So let me just leave you with one last thought: If you were stranded on a desert island, or busy hiking up Mount Everest or saving a child from a tornado or otherwise living your incredibly exotic and satisfying life, would you really care whether someone said your novel was “funny and perfect in a way I can’t describe”?
I mean, ‘cause I would. No question. That’s worth a self-Google right there, even if I have to rush back down to Base Camp to get it.
But maybe you’re a better person than I. I’m sure you are. Have fun on your Saturday Beer and Google Night.
Visit her on the web at RobinBrande.com