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Making a Name for Yourself

March 2, 2009

face-in-the-crowdI have a dirty little secret I’d like to share. I’ve been Googling my name!

At first I beat myself up for being narcissistic but once I got over that, I quickly realised a few things that every writer should be aware of.

It all started about a month ago. I punched my name into Google out of pure curiosity. I’ve done it on other occasions, but I stopped when I realised it gets pretty repetitive and not terribly interesting. The first two pages are stock standard.  My blog comes up as number one (no great surprises with that!) followed by a motley list including links to MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Reclaim Sex After Birth, Blenza (the Mr Linkie host), Type A Mom, Captain Juan and comments made on other blogs.  The interesting stuff, I discovered starts on page three or further on (depending how prolific a commenter you are). You have to search a bit.

During that first search I turned up a blog post that quoted an article that I wrote in early January. Sarah had loved my reflection on who to point the finger at when a woman decides not to continue with breastfeeding. At the time I wrote the article, I felt it was a pretty powerful statement at the end but I knew at the time, that like most of what I write, it would probably just get lost in the ether. To find that someone had agreed with me and then quoted me was a thrill -comparable with selling my first short story.  It gave my confidence a much needed boost and made me feel that what I do and say is worthwhile.

So this week I decided to let go of any pre-exising ideas, told the internal monologue that was sprouting all the reasons why I shouldn’t to shut up, and again googled my name.  It’s a little like sneaking chocolate!

I skipped pretty quickly through the first two pages, knowing that the gems would come on page three.  And I was right.

Page three held a link to my short story Sandals (from the 10th Picture This competition here at Write Anything) posted on Digg. It took a moment for the headline to sink in My Sandals.  Great short story by JODI CLEGHORN and the location – DIGG! Then my heart started beating again.

My story and my name posted by a completed stranger!

I was amazed that someone had liked my story enough to put it on Digg. That honour is usually reserved for me – screaming self promotion into a wilderness that barely hears my cry! And it was a little weird, but good at the same time, to read someone else’s synopsis of my story:

The child has lost her favorite sandals on the beach. Her feet are burning but no one is listening… A must read. Charming child’s point-of-view. Wonderful insights.

I was blushing.  I should put this guy on my pro bono marketing team … but in the interim I know who I will shouting out to on Digg in the future.

But this isn’t all about blowing my own horn. I’m trying to illustrate how easy and necessary it is to keep tabs on our work.  We put our writing out there, into the vast reaches of the universe that is cyberspace, and mostly have no idea where any of it washes up. Who it touches … who it might change … what reactions it evokes. In my opinion it is important to know. Chances are even if your comment boxes are empty something is happening – out there!

And while promoting our work is important (even though it makes most of us cringe), perhaps it’s important to keep in the back of our heads when we’re reading and blogging, to give credit where you believe it is due.  If you read something you really like, fiction or non fiction – take the minute to Digg or Stumble, or link to Facebook (or your other favourite social bookmarking site). Alternatively take a snippet to post on your blog and link back to the original story – especially in the case of fiction (the poor little sister of non fiction on the internet!)  Chances are if you like it – your readers are probably going to like it also. Think of it like writer’s karma – what goes around comes around.

Getting back to Google though. I do understand that doing a search is not easy for everyone. I have a rather unique pairing of my first and last names and not every writer has that luxury. Some share their names with football players, directors, strongmen and the likes.

If you fall into this area, perhaps it is time to consider branding yourself, something that Annie touched on last week.  Is there a way to make your name unique – adding a middle name, initial or something else that makes your name stand out from a crowd of like named individuals.  This will make it easier for people to find your work … and you do want your work to be found, read and enjoyed? This literally about making a name for yourself.

My invitation to you this week is to Google your name – I give you permission, in fact I’m setting it as homework!  Use me as the scapegoat if you’re internal dialogue arcs up asking you questions that make you feel uncomfortable about the process.  My skin is thick enough to deal with your inner critics’ cussing!

How many hits on your name come up? And how many of them are actually you on the first page? Who do you share your name with? What surprises did you find on page three or beyond? Would you consider tweaking your name to enable people to find your work with greater ease on the internet?

Homework in Action: Use your blog, or some other form of link sharing (Facebook, Digg, Stumble On etc) to promote a piece of fiction that you find this week and let the author know what you’ve done!

And Happy Birthday to my darling partner Dave fro today … 21 years young again this year 🙂

Image: Standing out in the crowd (c) Jodi Cleghorn 2009

  1. March 2, 2009 1:10 am

    I tend to do this semi-regularly. I get like 20,900 results, but browsing through the pages the majority are comments left on other blogs because I am quite a prolific commenter.

    I love your second part of the homework. A lot of political blogs do a weekly post linking to an assortment of other blogs from the previous week.

  2. March 2, 2009 4:08 am

    I Google myself frequently, just to get an idea of what kind of presence my websites have.

    Of course, the major problem for me is that I not only have a very common name (“Paul” is a pretty common first name, and “Anderson” quite a common surname), but there are quite a few established people who have that name.

    There are two movie directors, a soccer player, a rugby player, a fiddle player, two journalists, a TV news reporter and a former world’s strongest man, so they all feature quite highly in the list.

    Even adding my middle name into the mix only narrows the results slightly. There is an actor with the same name as me (including middle name), and another fairly famous actor and comedian who’s name is my middle name and surname.

    Even so, I still rank fairly highly in a Google search, although I’ve not yet managed to find people linking to my work by doing a search for my name. Instead, I’ve used Google’s Webmaster tools to find what sites link to me, which can be very interesting to read!

  3. March 2, 2009 6:35 pm

    I Google myself occasionally, and like Paul, it’s to see how my websites are doing.

    If I just search my first and last name I get a mix of me and other Dale Roe’s (including one who died just last week). But when I add my middle name every hit is me for pages and pages.

    A good number of the first ones are links to my blogs or comments I have made on other blogs, but then fairly quickly, the links become almost exclusively about my involvement with the 9/11 memorial site I created a few years ago.

  4. March 5, 2009 1:26 am

    I google my name every once in a while. I share my name with a soccer player and photographer I think. I see links associated with them than with me.

    It’s good to google your name. Some employers won’t hire or will fire you if you don’t have a good online rep. I know I read that somewhere.

  5. March 5, 2009 4:16 pm

    “Some employers won’t hire or will fire you if you don’t have a good online rep. I know I read that somewhere.”

    I read this too and I’m sure I’ve been rejected for many jobs on that basis. Blogging about hating capitalism and bosses isn’t that encouraging for them 😉

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