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.

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
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


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
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

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.
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.
always did tend to wear rose-colored glasses.
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.
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.
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!

Evaluate, Update and Recommit to Your Blog for the New Year

by Edie Melson
This time between
Christmas and New Year’s Day is often a no-man’s land of lethargy and
laziness…at least for me. Part of it has to do with the surfeit of calories and
gatherings. The rest seems to stem from re-evaluation.
I can’t seem to
help it. The approach of New Year’s, with its focus on resolutions, pulls me
into a period of introspection. Actually, it’s a good thing. It gives me a
chance to look back over the past year and decide what worked and what didn’t.
It also gives me a push toward trying something different.
Today I’d like to
invite you to join me in one aspect of this journey and take a look at your own
blogging aspirations. Click on your own site and look at it with these thoughts
in mind. Here’s the checklist I use to evaluate my sites. Don’t hesitate to
tweak it to fit your needs.
  • Make sure
    your site hasn’t become too cluttered in the sidebar area. Clean out any old
    links and add any you’ve been considering.
  • Recheck your
    default font. Sometimes you’ll find you’ve drifted into a different one.
    Whatever font you use, make certain it’s easily readable…on all screens.
  • Update your about
    section on your site. Include the things that have happened over the
    past year in regard to publication, job changes, awards, and anything else
  • If you have
    a calendar with your speaking engagements, update it as well.
  • Also be sure
    to update any lists you have of other sites, like those for writers,
    photographers or others.
  • Now take out
    your mobile device (cell phone, tablet, eReader, whatever) and make certain
    your site is optimized for mobile viewing. This is vital because at least two-thirds of all visitors to your site will be looking at it from a mobile device
    and that number will continue to increase!
  • Reassess what
    action you want your reader to take after viewing your blog. Maybe you want
    them to share your site with their friends/readers. Perhaps you’re selling a
    book. Even if it’s only to follow you on Twitter, make sure it’s easy for them
    to see what you want and then execute it!

This is also a
good time to look at your blog posting schedule and evaluate the popularity and
efficiency of your different topics. You can do this by utilizing the stats
section of your blogger dashboard or of your specific blogging platform.
  • First, look
    at the most popular posts of the past year. Do they fall into a specific
    category or theme? If this isn’t the main focus of your blog consider making it
    a bigger part of your posting schedule.
  • Next look at
    the day of the week when you get your most hits. Does it correspond to your
    posting date or is it the following day? You may need to tweak when your email
    notification is sent out.
  • Finally,
    Google the subject of those popular posts. Don’t plug in the exact title of
    those blogs, instead try a more generic subject search. The purpose of this is
    to see where within that search your blog entry is falling.
We all benefit
from a yearly checkup and our blog is no different. I’d love to hear how you
use this time to get ready for the New Year ahead!
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. Her popular blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands of writers each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Her bestselling ebook on social media has just been updated and re-released as Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy and the social media director for Southern Writers Magazine. You can connect with Edie through Twitter and Facebook.