The Best Search Engines for Novel Writers

Writing fiction isn’t about making things up as we go along. Good fiction writers know their craft. They can easily spend as much time researching their subject matter as they do writing about it. And that can be problematic.

Novel writers may have to research the strangest things. For example, some of my Marina Martindale novels revolve around crime. When it comes to creating a good conflict, few subjects work better. Crime plotlines aren’t limited to mysteries. They work well in other genres too. I write contemporary romance, so having a character become a crime victim, or be accused of a crime he or she didn’t commit, works well for me.

Let’s use my contemporary romance novel, The Deception, as an example. I wanted my story to be believable. This is where research comes in. However, doing a Google search on how many years my antagonist could get for attempted capital murder could potentially raise some red flags. Google records your IP address and your searches. Google also tracks you around the web. And while police officers would probably enjoy a good read as much as anyone else, we don’t anyone getting the wrong idea. After all, that unexpected knock at the door could really ruin your day. This is why we need to do our searches anonymously.

StartPage and DuckDuckGo

There are two search engines which you can use for anonymous web searches. Startpage, and DuckDuckGo. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Startpage works with Google, but doesn’t record your IP address. You also have the option of visiting websites anonymously. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t as not all websites allow anonymous viewing. Nonetheless, it’s a nice option to have. 

Unfortunately, Startpage also has a distinct disadvantage. It only works with Google, and Google has become way too creepy. They’ve been very outspoken in their commitment to weed out websites with points of view they disagree with, which troubles me in many ways. However, I’m going to limit my comments and simply state that as writers, we can, and should, be able to see ALL points of view on a given subject. We’re writers. We can think for ourselves.

Thankfully, there is another anonymous search engine out there. DuckDuckGo. Unlike Startpage, it’s not married to Google. However, it too has also a disadvantage. It doesn’t allow you the option of visiting a website anonymously.

So there you have it. Neither search engine stores your information, nor do they track you. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend using either, or both. 

Gayle Martin

It’s Time to Go Without a Net

© Can Stock Photo / airn

Once upon a time I used to advise other authors and writers that if the .com name they wanted wasn’t available to get the .net extension instead. Dot net websites were fairly common at the time, and whenever I registered a new domain, I’d get both .com and .net. This was to prevent someone else with the same, or similar, name as mine from getting the .net extension and creating confusion.


The Internet, however, is an ever changing landscape. What may have worked five years ago, or even last year, may not apply today, Such is the case with the .net extension. Over time we’ve learned that people will automatically go to .com out of habit, even when .net was clearly posted. It’s sort of like my name, Gayle. Not a bad name, I suppose, but it has the less common spelling. And no matter how many times I spelled it out for people, they still give me the more common, Gail.


So please disregard my earlier advice. From what I’m seeing now, the .net extension is becoming extinct, and you certainly don’t make yourself look dated. If the .com isn’t available, you’ll have to come up with other variations. If you’re an author, try adding, author, writer, or books to your name. By the way, if the .com version of your name is available, I still recommend getting authoryourname.com or yournamebooks.com with it. Domain names usually aren’t that expensive. However, they’re crucial for building your brand and promoting your book. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to grab as much Internet real estate as you possibly can. 


Gayle Martin

Blogs vs Social Media

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000

As authors we’ve all been told, many times, to promote our books on social media. Good advice. Social media is an essential marketing tool. However, just like anything else, it can be overrated, if not overused.

Some authors post nothing but, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” To which I say, “Enough already!” We all want people to buy our books. However, social media was never intended to be a vehicle for free advertising. You’re also missing out on another valuable marketing tool. The blog.

Why I think the blog is still king
  • You Can Engage One on One with Your Readers. Like social media, a blog allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. In fact, a blog is a form of social media, as you can allow comments. Blogger, WordPress and other blog platforms also allow multiple pages. This means you can also use a blogging platform to build your website. That’s a whole lot more than I can do with my Facebook business page.
  • No Trolls Allowed. Unlike other social media, you can eliminate trolls completely with a blog. Simply set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.
  • Not Everyone Uses Social Media. Thanks to censorship and privacy concerns, many people have closed their social media accounts. Others never signed up in the first place. However, anyone with an Internet connection can read your blog. This makes you more accessible to your readers, especially if you include your blog address in your books. 
A word of caution regarding social media

Unfortunately, social media platforms can also be extremely distracting, and they can easily take up too much of your valuable time. Try not to spend more than ten to fifteen minutes per day on any one platform, and don’t feel that you have to post something on social media everyday. Better yet, use Hootsuite, Buffer, or other social sharing services.

Social sharing services allow you to post on multiple social media accounts at once. This saves time and prevents distractions. They also change your blog post URLs, which can be helpful for resharing posts later on.

So there you have it. Social media, when used properly, can certainly help you promote your books. However, in my humble opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

Gayle Martin