I have come up with 13 ways for an author to use Google tools that will enhance your productivity and the final product. I first wrote about writers using Google in 2012. But Google’s array of tools has grown and my needs as an author continue to morph, so I realized it was time for a new list. As you read through my list of both obvious and clever ways to put Google to work for you as an author, keep an open mind that you may have 13 additional ideas. Feel free to share!
- Share and Collaborate. Move your working manuscript to Google Drive and then send a simple invitation to select collaborators, editors, and reviewers to give them access to the latest version of your work. You can easily define what permission level they have when they open the document. You can limit reviewers to read-only or give an editor full editing rights. I was recently working on a trade manuscript with an author from another country and got a pleasant surprise. As I went to add a paragraph on a chapter we had discussed via email I was able to watch her computer keystrokes as she edited the same chapter. I thought that was cool.
- Schedule. You can obviously use Google Calendar to schedule your workflow. But Google Calendar and other calendar apps enable you to set up multiple and specialized calendars. A couple of years ago I began the practice of establishing a new calendar to nail down the times, days, weeks, and months of events while writing a novel. That saved me countless hours of editing by keeping me from mixing up the timeline of a tight plot.
- Search. Google Search has competition from Microsoft Bing and other powerful search engines, but Google is still king of finding information, details, images, and history on just about anything and everything you ever wanted or needed to know. How many hours of work in a reference library would it take to find what pops up on page one of a Google Search in seconds?
- Research. Everyone knows about Google Search. But what about Google Research, which employs the Google Books data base? The ubiquitous company has currently scanned and digitized close to 35 million books—with the goal of completing that task with all 130 unique books in the world by the end of the decade. The Google Books program is controversial and debated vigorously by authors, librarians, publishers, literary agents, and intellectual property rights attorneys. But no matter what topic you are writing on—from 16th Century Huguenots to 21st Century Japanese business management—you can use the research feature to find primary and secondary source material from seminal books. Go a level deeper into the Google vault and discover there are specialized search engines for scholarly works, blogs, patents, finance, and more.
- Translate. Want to add some savoire faire to your book with a couple of phrases in Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian or one of the 85 other languages on Google Translate? Don’t worry if you haven’t loaded the alphabet for Mandarin Chinese in your font files. An English transliteration of the word or phrase is provided alongside the indigenous alphabet.
- Blog. I started my blogs on Google Blogger because it was easy to use and free. Blogger doesn’t have nearly as many widgets as Word Press and other site builders, so it isn’t as versatile. Surprisingly, the SEO isn’t rated as high on Blogger as it is on Word Press, which is why I migrated my combination web and blog site to Word Press last year. I’m not positive I am getting that many new visitors to my sites with the improved SEO and there have been more than a few days when I wish Word Press was as easy to adjust and fine tune as Blogger. Google Blogger is not a bad starting point. Click the link above and I outline the pros and cons of migrating.
- Promote. There are many ways to promote yourself and your work online, with plenty of debate and discussion on what works best for building an author platform. You can set up a small budget for a trial run with Google Ads or use the various free platforms Google offers like YouTube and Google Plus.
- Map. Writing a novel set in Chicago (where you used to live) while you are living in Nashville? Yep. That’s one of the things I do. It’s nice to map out scenes and events with up-to-date locations, routes, buildings, and markers using Google Map. Want a bird’s eye view? Get on Google Earth and hover over the setting you are describing in your book. That does sound a little creepy but you don’t have to work for the NSA to see where things are.
- Trends. What is on people’s minds? Google Trends doesn’t claim to practice ESP but Google is the undisputed champion of collecting, sorting, analyzing, and sharing big data. Check into the Google Trends tab for help on blog, posting, and twitter ideas—and maybe even your next book idea. Trends will show you what people are searching for throughout the world, broken down by territory, medium, and categories.
- Ideas. Google Keep helps you save and organize as many ideas as you can think of as a writer and human being. I use Evernote for similar purpose so I haven’t kicked the tires to check the various features and efficacy of Google Keep. If you have or decide to, let me know how it works for you.
- Feedback. Google Forms will build a survey for you for free. I have a Survey Monkey account so I can’t offer firsthand testimony of the advantages or disadvantages of what you can build and broadcast on Google. Again, feedback welcome!
- Monetize. If you put Google AdSense on your blog or website, Google will pay you on the basis of your followers clicking the ads on your site. How many clicks before the money starts rolling in? Let’s just say this needs to be considered a blue-sky income stream that will finally click in after you’ve sold a couple million books and don’t need the advertising revenue anymore! Why not? Adding the code snippet to your site is easy.
- Analyze. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information on who visits your website, where they come from, how long they stay, what they look at, what links they click, and more. If you use your website to promote your books, this is a must to help you shape your messaging around what actually gets a response.
There are a lot more Google tools I’m not getting into. They have a business suite that provides Microsoft equivalents for Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and more—but I like Microsoft productivity tools a lot and can’t commit to trying and learning something that might not have all that I want. As I said up front, my 13 ways for an author to use Google tools might be a jumping off point to help you brainstorm more and better ways.
The point is, Google is a powerful company with powerful tools that can be used by authors, usually for free, to enhance productivity and even the final product. Writing is a hard, time-consuming labor of love (except when we hate it). Make sure you are using the resources that are as close as your fingertips.