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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Art of Social Media—Finding Your Authentic Voice

by Edie Melson

As authors we talk a lot about voice. In fiction, and even non-fiction, it’s defined as that certain something that makes an author unique. In everything—from the rhythm, cadence and flow—to the sentence structure. It conveys the author’s personality and attitude.

Although many may not realize it, there’s an advantage to developing a voice for your social media presence. If you think about it, it’s something that those most successful social media folks have done.

But with social media, it’s not just the words you choose, but it encompasses the images you use to represent yourself and the topics of the updates you post.

Here’s how to develop an authentic social media voice:

1. Be yourself. This may seem obvious, but with any new technology, it’s easy to get sidetracked by all the bells and whistles. Don’t over think the hashtags or lingo of any platform.

2. Write like you talk. Try not to use lingo on social media that you wouldn’t use in conversation. Of course there are exceptions, one notable one is LOL! I don’t really use that in conversation, but I do crack jokes and it’s sort of a shorthand version of that.

3. Consider your community. I don’t necessarily mean your physical neighborhood, but more the people you surround yourself with. What do you talk about? What makes your group unique? What do you stand for?

4. Listen to the conversation around you. What do you have to add without becoming part of the noise? We all approach life from a unique perspective, don’t be afraid to be authentic.

5. Stay consistent. The majority of people out there like to know what to expect. Sure we all like occasional surprises, but when I walk into McDonalds I expect certain things. Your social media presence is like that as well. Develop a strong consistent presence and people will respect what you have to say.

6. Be relevant. There are lots of trivial things around, make sure your social media voice isn’t one of them.

7. Use hashtags with care. To avoid the used car salesman voice, limit yourself to no more than two (or occasionally three) hashtags per update.

8. Don't be an egomaniac. To keep your social media from being me focused, follow Edie’s 5 to 1 rule. For every 5 social media updates, only one can be about you.

9 Keep it positive. Let’s face it, nobody likes a whiner. Social media is no different, so keep the tone upbeat and positive.

10. Avoid lecturing and scolding. This is another no-no. If you wouldn’t like the tone in person, don’t use it on social media.

11. Make sure your avatar (image) reflects your voice. A lot of times, it's the only visual clue that can reinforce who you are. 

Social media voices can be witty, quirky, encouraging, snarky, playful, educational, and hundreds of other things. Make an effort to develop yours into an accurate representation of you. 

Now it's your turn, share what you think your social media personality is. Or if you're not sure, ask some questions and let's figure it out together. 

I'll go first. I think my social media voice is educational and encouraging. If I'm not hitting that, feel free to post what you think it is.

Edie Melson is an author, freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

God’s Gifts are Not For You

By Marcia Lee Laycock

“Did you have a good Christmas? What did you get?”

Those two sentences seem to go hand in hand. I used to hear them a lot in times past, as people chatted with my kids. The girls always gave the same answer, naming a couple of their favorite gifts. As I listened to the exchange, I chuckled to myself. There were a couple of presents given one year that were not really intended for the recipient. One of the girls gave “the family” a large perfumed candle. “To go in the bathroom,” she said, grinning. The rest of us grinned back - we all knew who spent hours in the tub.

You’ve probably been given one or two gifts of that sort at some point, if not at Christmas, perhaps for your birthday. Many wives have received such “useful” presents - a set of pots and pans; a blender; an iron. I remember one my husband gave me many years ago. We were building a house at the time so I suppose it was a practical gift, but a shiny new Spalding saw was not what I had envisioned for my birthday! He grinned a lot when he gave it to me, like my daughter did when we unwrapped that candle. I knew who was going to do the sawing.

Like that candle and that saw, God’s gifts are not just intended for the recipient. He intends to use them Himself. It is up to us to put hands and feet to those intentions by serving others. The prophet Isaiah new this when he said - “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” (Isaiah 50:4) The writer of 1 Corinthians also knew the principle well. He stresses that the gifts God gives are intended, not for the benefit or honor of those employing them, but for the “strengthening of the church.”(1Cor.14:26) The apostle Peter makes this clear when he says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

God’s gifts are intended for others, but we also benefit when we use what we have been given, both spiritual gifts and natural talents, to that end. There is no greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction than that which comes when we have used what we have been given to strengthen others. Whether it is in providing a meal on Christmas day for those in need, teaching Mathematics in grade 2, providing efficient secretarial skills in an office, digging a ditch for a sewer line or a post hole for a fence to keep the cows in, preaching a sermon on Sunday morning or writing a novel that touches the hearts of its readers; if you are using the gifts God gave you, you will be blessed.

So. Did you have a good Christmas? What did you get?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Marcia's second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia’s website

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Need Extra Writing Income? Self-publish an Off-Brand Novel

by Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."®  The winner of numerous awards, Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002. When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences.

Need Extra Writing Income? Self-publish an Off-Brand Novel

Last year, after finishing the first Seatbelt Suspense® of a new three-book contract, I decided to do something totally different. As a traditionally published author of over 25 books, I’d never self-published. But the time had come for me to give it a try. I made this decision as a way to make extra income and test the waters of self-publishing. For those who are considering a similar move, I have a few suggestions and precautions.

1. Don’t let the thought of self-publishing logistics scare you. I knew nothing about how to convert my manuscripts for digital, do the layout for print, etc. But it was so easy. I followed the instructions on Amazon’s Createspace for the print version. For digital conversion I hired a smart tech guy who did all the work for a very reasonable price. There are lots of people like him out there.

2. Plan to write outside of your regular genre. Most of the time you’ll need to do this, so your self-pubbed novel won’t be “in competition” with your contracted novels. I chose to write a Southern contemporary, a genre I’d written in before, in the early days of my career.

3. Talk to your agent and publisher before proceeding.  With a plan in mind, I went to my agent first to make sure there was nothing in my contract that would preclude me from self-publishing an off-brand book. When he gave me clearance, I turned to the editor at my publishing house and asked her permission.

Being under contract, I viewed the folks at my publishing house and myself as part of a team. I did not want to upset the good working relationship of that team. I had a strong feeling my editor would say yes, which she did. If she had said no, I would not have proceeded. I perhaps would have written the book but waited to release it when between contracts.

4. Allow yourself the leeway to write a shorter book. Squeezing in a book between contracted novels is hard. I chose to write a novella length of about 45,000 words. Much easier and less time, but still plenty of words to tell a good story.

5. Make it very clear to your readers that this book will be off-brand. First, have a good cover created that adequately depicts this new genre. I chose a picture of a Yorkshire Terrier for the cover of my novel, That Dog Won’t Hunt. The Yorkie looks just like the precocious dog in my book, and the cute cover is an immediate notice—This is not a suspense.

Also, I talked about my new venture and upcoming release in social media and in newsletters to my subscribers, always explaining it was a very different kind of book for me. I know this all sounds like—well, duh. But you’d be surprised how readers can miss things. Expectation is everything, especially after a decade of my being highly branded under my trademarked Seatbelt Suspense®. I needed to fully prepare my readers for a humorous yet poignant look at a loud, loving family in Mississippi.

That Dog Won’t Hunt released around April. I’ve enjoyed extra income from it ever since—and my readers have enjoyed the story. (I’m now writing a second book in the series, Pitchin’ a Fit.) The great thing about self-publishing is that you can track your sales daily and are paid monthly.

Little did I know in 2012 that this year I’d turn to self-publishing full time. Why I made that huge decision is another blog post entirely. (And it’s certainly not the right decision for everyone.) For today I want to leave you traditionally published authors with the intriguing thought that perhaps you can have your contract—and eat some cake, too. 

That Dog Won’t Hunt

Meet the Dearings, a crazy, loving, boisterous family in small-town Mississippi. There’s mom and dad, three daughters and their families, and the youngest—twenty-five-year-old Ben. Oh, and the family dog, a Yorkie who thinks she’s royalty.

“This one’s perfect,” Ben says about his new fiancée, Christina, when he brings her home for a family reunion. Ben is just sure everyone will love Christina, and she’ll fit right in.

He always did tend to wear rose-colored glasses.

Christina loves Ben but secretly fears their relationship will never work. They’ve only known each other ten weeks. She hasn’t told him about her horrific past as an only child—the beatings, the neglect, and verbal abuse. Christina doesn’t know how to trust or be honest about her feelings. Being thrust into the middle of a tight-knit family like the Dearings is sure to send her over the edge.

With poignancy and humor, That Dog Won’t Hunt explores the complexities of relationships and the inner strength needed to overcome a difficult childhood. The Dearings are no perfect family, but they know how to love—if only Christina will accept it.

NR: I read That Dog Won't Hunt and gave it a Novel Rocket endorsement: Brandilyn Collins is such a masterful writer, her suspense scares the fire out of me. I've been waiting for a book like this from her and it's here. Filled with all the things she's known for - great characters, plot twists, and suck-you-into-the-story writing - That Dog Won't Hunt is a great read! Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a must read!