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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Robin BrandeSo 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.

(Robin Brande’s first novel, EVOLUTION, ME AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE, was published in 2007. Her new novel, FAT CAT, comes out October, 2009. She’ll be freely Googling until and well after then.)

Visit her on the web at

28 Replies to “PLEASE HELP. I CAN’T STOP SELF-GOOGLING, by Guest Author Robin Brande”

  1. Robin–this is too funny! And so true. As debut authors, we have no idea what to expect and so we do ridiculous things, because, hey, we have a book out and we’re wondering why Oprah hasn’t called yet. It’s so important to surround ourselves with other writers who give good advice (like you!) and listen to us when we have panic attacks. Thank you for the sage advice.

  2. Meredith, if I told you even a fraction of the dumbass stuff I’ve done, you’d wonder why I even show my face in public.

    Glad to help where I can, though. I may have to offer an continuing series to the Debs: What Not To Do, part 896.

  3. Robin, are you sure we weren’t separated at birth or something? This is exactly what I’ve gone through with my book debut! Especially the part about the late manuscript. Whoops. Seriously, thanks for being our guest today. This was funny and helpful! Solidarity! Now I just need to take a deep breath, center myself, and step away from “the Google” (as McCain would put it).

  4. Oh, gosh, have you been peeking in on me and my laptop? Checking my “history”? because this is me. And, um, do the rest of you google all the permutations of your name? Do you use quotation marks around elect phrases?

    Or perhaps I’m sharing too much.

    Is it too early for wine?

  5. I’ll go buy the 6 pack and will see you tonight.

    Great post, yoda-Robin. And have I told you lately how much I adored EVOLUTION, ME AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE? ’cause I did. A lot.

  6. Judy, maybe I shouldn’t answer those questions because I’m only enabling you, but yes, I have several different versions of my Google Alerts–some with quotation marks, some spelling the titles of my first book differently (“and” versus “&”), etc. Because I am psycho. I have my book names alone, my book names in quotes with my name in quotes next to them–really, why are we talking about this? Look away.

    Tiffany, solidarity to you, too, my friend. Now go get your work done! Aack!

  7. Maybe he wants you to be “Mrs. Google Alerts”! Since you already show such adeptness at it. 😉

    Thanks so much for being our guest today, Robin! I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else to cap off my launch week… even if you did spill my dirty little secret. (Although I do trust Google Alerts, so I don’t ever actually Google myself. There aren’t enough hours in my day!)

    My thing is the Amazon ranking. Here’s how that goes: Wake up. Check Amazon ranking. Shower. Check Amazon ranking. Work for two, maybe three hours. Check Amazon ranking. Eat lunch. Check Amazon ranking.

    And so on. And somehow, I’ve still managed to convince myself that this isn’t the frequency that qualifies me as “addicted”. Like there’s somebody out there hitting refresh every forty-five seconds.

    My name is Katie, and I am addicted to checking my Amazon ranking.

  8. “Maybe he wants you to be ‘Mrs. Google Alerts’!” Katie, that made me laugh HARD.

    Ooh, the Amazon Ranking-Checking Disorder. That’s a really, really bad one. Because unlike with The Google, which reports things that have actually been said, Amazon rankings seem to fluctuate based on changes in air pressure and the number of spotted mackerel located in tributaries no larger than–hell, I forgot the formula. In any case, your Amazon ranking is a total fiction, and you should be spending that valuable time refreshing your @Katie Alender button on Twitter to see whether anyone has said anything about you there in the last 45 seconds.

    Happy to help.

  9. This really is hilarious. Amazing guset post. I have a feeling if I was an author, I’d do the same…I’d hate to see bad comments but it’s hard to NOT see any of the other stuff that people write. You’d just keep wanting to know. 🙂


  10. My 6 pack of Red Stripe is chilling and I await the party!

    Great blog Robin!

    I’m pretty lucky in that my debut got ripped a snarky new one first thing, so I learned to not care much about reviews. But 2 weeks ago, I finally had to turn off my Google Alert. I dreaded reading them, because they’d distract me–even the good ones. I agree that Google Alerts don’t actually pick everything up. So, it’s best to self-Google to catch everything–but I only get around to doing that about once a month. Though the idea of doing it with friends is really awesome. There’s nothing like sharing funny bad reviews (gross & repeaty reviews, even) with good friends.

    Katie–congrats on your release! Can’t wait to read it!

  11. Katie, please don’t think Lauren, who is very sophisticated and elegant, made that comment about the scab on her head. That had to be me.

    A.S. King, I did respond to you, but my comment got singled out as spam (and I didn’t even talk about scabs in that one!), so just suffice to say it was really hilarious and smart, but I can’t remember what I said. I think it was, “See you at Google and Beer Night tonight.” Which I’m taking a break from right now to write this!

    Larramie, I think in the old days the town gossip had to come to the writer’s house and say, “Goody Parsons just spaketh of you! She sayeth your book is the work of the devil!” And then that one review ruined everything.

  12. I was away all weekend and can’t believe the fun I’ve missed. Robin, you are a riot and so wise! I’ve been a debut author for a whole 10 days now and I’ve already learned the pain and pitfalls of the Amazon rating addiction – I don’t check anymore (okay, maybe only ONCE a day) because it feels so BAD when you go down (but, oh it’s soooo GOOD when you go up!!!) and I actually dread the google alerts because, yes, a thousand people can say something good but it’s that one snarky comment that will totally undo me AND I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT!!!!

  13. Eve, I think Amazon rankings are an example of that principle in quantum physics that the scientist’s observation itself can affect the behavior of quantum particles.

    In other words, a watched Amazon ranking goes crazy dipsy-doodle simply because you looked at it. So it’s time to go find some other, more constructive, nervous habit like chewing the ends of your hair or biting your nails.

    Always here to help,

  14. OK, I admit it…I check the Amazon blather every day to see what they say about MY daughter’s wonderful book. I vote helpful on the good ones, and ignore the bad ones. Now I will have to check on all the other debs too…that is unless my boss catches me playing around on the computer.

    And I’ll be damned, I can not find the Nat Geo mag anywhere.

  15. Late to the party! OK, I’m addicted to the Google alerts already, and because my name is uncommon (not many Riggles out there, yanno) it’s nearly always me. Which is not always a good thing…

    (The Monday Debutante)

  16. Hey, Eve’s Mom, you bring up an excellent point: From what I understand, it is a worthwhile thing to vote “helpful” on the good reviews–it pushes them closer to the top when someone is looking at the title. So good on you. I’m forwarding this to my mother, because obviously she’s a slacker.

    Kristina, welcome to the addiction club. Be sure and bring a dessert to our meetings.

  17. This is brilliant. I am a first-time author whose book came out a year ago. Googling remains an ever-present, time-wasting temptation for all authors. It’s a hard habit to break but you’veconvinced me to stop. Many thanks,dw

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