Author Self-Searching on the Web

by Hazel Edwards
The Internet Writing Journal, September 2002
Yesterday I discovered I was dead, twice. Two obituaries exist in my name on the www.google.com search engine site. Neither is me, as far as I can tell, but the passing of two Hazel Edwards has been noted cyberwise.

A single letter I wrote to another author (Mem Fox) ten years ago requesting a few bio lines has been listed in her papers, which have been filed in a national library, and now I'm cross-referenced globally on the Internet under her correspondents.

Frankly, I don't keep all correspondence nor all draft manuscripts and wonder at those who considered decades ago that their data would be of global significance. Ego or paper mania now converted to electronic tracing because authors who hand over all their papers to libraries get a tax deduction?

I'll be very careful who I write to in future. But that's difficult for an author who gets e-fanmail. That's okay. It's flattering to find heart warming reviews by kids or enthusiastic librarians. And there's been the odd critic. Fair enough. But it's odd to get twenty years worth in one evening of trawling the Internet.

Why did I search www.google.com? I was looking for the address of the Blutenburg castle in Munich which houses a peace collection of children's books, including some of mine, or so I'd been told by my publishers. That site I found, in German, which I have had translated.

By typing Hazel+ Edwards in the search box, thousands of entries appeared. Some related to reviews about my books which I'd never seen before. One was in the Times Educational Supplement. I haven't had time to check the others yet.

Some entries relate to talks I've given, others reveal book reviews in other languages, or even listings on the Spanish Embassy site as an Australian author (with my old web address), a Labour Party site which recommends our Difficult Personalities (Choice) book because many "toxic personalities" exist in the party and my autographed secondhand books being listed in an "Orphanage" for books.

Last night I learnt my picture book Snail Mail (Collins) had been collected by the Mollusc Society and matched elsewhere with a puppet. A Hippo-Collector has linked my author site because of my There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake books. A study methods tape (Clarke Learning Associates) turned up on post-graduate required reading and an audio interview with children's author Colin Thiele appeared amidst a magnificent bibliography created by a university as a tribute to that fine writer.

But I also found, in Finnish, a review of one of my Finnish translated novels from about twenty years ago, about a pop group, which appears to be listed on a top hits site, but since I don't read Finnish I'm not absolutely sure. I'd love to read what the reviewer thought, but I can't. I'm also impressed that a book I wrote in the 1970s still has a long life in Finland, and globally.

My author website is updated monthly, but I found that many library and institution links haven't checked on my website address which changed five years ago. Who checks?

Mis-information which is perpetuated is a worry. I didn't write the Chelsea Heights history, (Kath Ensor did) I just launched it. That error has been repeated from a local newspaper photo caption. So I have an inadvertent credit in cyber space. How many others exist?

Actually I have published 146 books, but some have been reprinted with new publishers and often the earlier information on central departmental listings have never been corrected because the cyber-apprentice librarian moved on, and the webpage was forgotten, but it's still there and can be accessed...and the details are wrong!

I've written for electronic writers journals such as www.writerswrite.com or www.suite101.com or done ABC radio interviews on Antarctica or Difficult Personalities (Choice Books). Those pieces have far greater Internet exposure than print journal articles. For smaller literary publications, if there is an energetic information technologist, the backlist of "ideas" go up on the web. If not, they languish.

Misrepresentation seems possible. I heard of an author who "stacked" five-star reviews on various online bookstores, which made his titles appear to be selling more, thus reaching a "bestselling list" which became self perpetuating.

How soon before a pseudo-author is created by feeding cross-referenced links?

The Dead Persons' Society has booked me for a Writing a Non Boring Family History talk. How might that appear in cyber space?

Hazel Edwards **Hazel Edwards is the award-winning author of over 100 children's books, including There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake (Hodder Headline UK), Stalker, Duty Free (Lothian) and Fake ID (Lothian). A frequent public speaker, Edwards also writes adult non-fiction, teacher educational material, junior and adolescent fiction and scripts. Her work has been translated into Finnish, Braille, Japanese and Chinese. She lives in Australia.

Just in Case...You Visit the Children's Court created with Michael Salmon is a new venture into factual cartoon style books. In 2000, Hazel was the writer-in-residence in Antarctica at Australia's Casey Station. You can visit her website at hazeledwards.com.

More from Writers Write