Putting the Social in Social Media

by Ralene Burke

Many authors today want to sell their books on social media. They design some great graphics with their book covers, create blurbs in 140 characters or less, and schedule posts with buy links and calls-to-action. Then they sit back and wait for the sales to start rolling in.

But nothing happens.

Then said authors grumble about how social media is a waste of time and how they don’t see a lick of difference in their sales when they post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

These authors got social media all mixed up!

Social media is about being social.

For the most part, it’s not about making sales. It’s about building a following. A tribe. It’s about forging trust and loyalty. It’s about giving readers access to authors on a personal level. How do we do that?

Define Your Target Audience

As authors, we need to define our target audience as early in our process as possible. They will influence what we post, where we post it, and when. What we post for a 17-year-old female who’s just finishing high school would be vastly different from what we post for a 42-year-old married male who’s having a mid-life crisis.

To figure out who our target audience is, we look at various factors. Most experts recommend creating an Ideal Reader Profile. If we were writing to just ONE person, who would that person be? Then answer questions like:

  • Age? Gender? Marital Status? Education?
  • Likes and dislikes? Hobbies and interests?
  • Religious and political affiliations?
  • What do they worry about? What are they afraid of? What makes them happy/excited?
  • What is their greatest need?

Once we’ve defined our target audience, we can better design or accumulate content that will interest and engage them.

Curate Appropriate Content

We’ve defined our target audience. We have a pretty good idea of who they are, what they need. Now we need to know where their needs and our story elements intersect.

For instance, I have a YA fantasy novel coming out in the fall. The main character is struggling with self-worth and accepting her calling. She’s also an orphan and a healer. In the story, she faces trials such as coming to terms with the death of her family, understanding that her worth is not based on her father’s mistakes, realizing that humans are complicated and not always all good/all bad.

These are all aspects that I can use to connect with my audience. I brainstorm ways to use these common elements in my social media. On my blog, I host a weekly “Confessions” post where people write out their confessions—some serious, some silly—and give readers a chance to see they’re not alone.

Because my novels are YA (which means primary audience of 14-21, with a surprising large audience of women in their 20s and 30s), I am on both Facebook and Instagram. I share encouraging posts that are meant to build people up. I share fun posts, like graphics with “choose your favorite ________”, that allow people to connect, not just with me, but with each other. I share a lot about goal-setting just to help my readers reach their dreams a small step at a time.

Sometimes I use quotes and graphics from my novels to show how readers will relate to my stories.

Use the 80/20 Rule

With the 80/20 rule, only 20% of all our posts should be about “selling” our books, blogs, etc. The other 80% of our posts should be devoted to providing value for the readers. That means that for every 10 posts, only 2 should be about selling and the other 8 should be about something that interests your readers.

What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.

Readers want to know us as authors. They want to know that we’re human, that we have lives, that we understand them. Sales may happen as we gain new readers, but that shouldn’t be our end goal. Social media is about being social.

Writing Prompt: Take these four word prompts and begin a story. Orphan, healer, father, evil. Please share in the comments!

Click to tweet: Author friends, “What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.” Ralene Burke #amwriting #socialmedia


Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help people #SHINEBeyond! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and for several freelance clients. Her fantasy novels are available on Amazon.

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at her website.

Research on the Road – the Hideout Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming

By June Foster

My husband and I have traveled in our RV off and on for the last fifteen years. Beginning in 2010, I sensed the Lord calling me to write Christian fiction. I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. Every destination offers a setting for a book—one where I’ve actually walked the streets or roamed the countryside.

Last summer, I had the privilege of experiencing the most intriguing research on the road ever. We parked at Shell Campground in Wyoming at the base of the Big Horn Mountains for the entire summer. And most exciting, a very expensive, upscale guest ranch only a few miles away provided ample information.

So, the setting of my WIP is a Wyoming ranch I call Sunlight Peaks. The book, A Home For Fritz, will be out in May.

The owner of the exclusive guest ranch, The Hideout, was congenial and took me around the entire ranch in his open-air Jeep. (I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for a week’s stay at $3500.) I saw fields where his horses grazed, the barns and corral, the main complex that housed the elegant dining room and ranch offices, and guest quarters. He graciously showed me inside one of the guest rooms where, of course, my heroine stays during her visit.

But my research didn’t end there. I asked permission to interview the wranglers, which the owner granted. Since my hero is a wrangler, the chats were invaluable. I asked questions like: what do you like the most about your job? The least? Does management allow you to fraternize with the guests? Can you have a dog? Lots of others that related to the story.

Really exhilarating was the opportunity to visit the Big Horn Mountains. The entrance was only a five mile drive from the campground. In one of the mountain ranges is what the locals call the eye of the needle. It’s an opening in the rock which if you are at the pull-off on the mountain road at sunset, you have an exquisite view. Thus, I called my guest ranch Sunlight Peaks Guest Ranch. My hero and heroine fall in love as they witness the eye at sunset.

While in Wyoming, we attended a church in Greybull and got to know many of the locals. This was research in the sense that I based some of the characters on these delightful people. Not to mention the owners of the Shell Campground where we stayed.

The bottom line is: research on the road is the best, most effective type for an author. I lived the Wyoming life for three amazing months in 2017.

Click to tweet: June Foster: I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. #research #romance

Writing Prompt: Jed kicked at the dirt clod by his boot. Crazy woman. She’d be his or…


An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. Her characters find themselves in tough situations but overcome through God’s power and the Word.

She writes edgy topics wrapped in a good story. To date, she’s seen sixteen contemporary romances and several short stories published. Find June online at junefoster.com.


June’s newest novel, A Home For Fritz, won’t release until May so she agreed to share with us a few of her newer books. 🙂

Letting Go

When Pastor Zack Lawrence loses his wife and unborn child, he can’t find the motivation to minister at his church in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Though Ell Russell has loved Zack since they were kids, she must abandon any hope for a life with him. Can Zack find love again or will he shred Ella’s heart once more?

Buy link: http://tinyurl.com/ybqmnc2v

 

Prescription for Romance

Though Scott Townsend made a commitment to the Lord, he can’t relinquish bitterness toward his younger brother after he squanders their parents’ money. When a beautiful, young pharmacist seeks affirmation and challenges Scott’s values, he must uphold his upbringing.   

Buy link:  http://tinyurl.com/y8jtqvuw 

For Such a Time as This: Write to Inspire

by Tracy Ruckman

When Betty invited me to write a post for this month, I was going through yet another challenging time in our lives, and I originally wrote a post that was pure pity party. I even had the gall to send it to Betty, and she graciously scheduled it.

But that night, the Lord convicted me. My own challenges pale in comparison (more like they’re invisible in comparison) to the world’s current challenges. Most of the people I know can only bear to watch or listen to the news in short spells – every moment seems to be fraught with horrific details of disasters, evil acts, hate-filled opinions. The images burn into our brains, and the fear and doubt mounts.

So I decided to rewrite this post, and Betty has allowed me to get rid of the pity party and offer these words of encouragement instead.

The last 20 years have been filled with so many changes, so much horror and destruction. What do we do with all this news? What do we do as we watch friends suffer through floods and fires or become victims to the latest maniac bombing or shooting spree? What do we do as we watch politicians play war games with our countries like we’re all pawns in a child’s board game? What do we do when loved ones go through one health crisis after another? Or when our child suffers from mental illness?

Many of us pray and give, and somehow manage to get through each day, yet we long to do something more.

I’m going to assume that most of you reading this blog are writers, so my following comments are directed specifically to the writers, but even if you’re not one, I hope my comments will encourage and inspire you just the same.

Writers – we have a task in the midst of all this turmoil and tragedy! We are WRITERS. We must record these events, write about them.

No, we’re not all reporters, and we’re not all on the front lines. But we can still write from our own perspective.

I’m not saying we all need to start shouting our opinions to the world. There’s too much of that going on now, and I honestly feel like that aspect leads to our overwhelmed feelings at times.

The kind of writing I’m talking about now is this: our words, our stories, our experiences MATTER, because we can be a light in the darkness. We can offer hope and encouragement, we can offer sympathy and comfort, right when the world needs it most. Our words, our attitudes, our actions, our beliefs can point people to Jesus when they’re desperately seeking a lifeline.

Even if you don’t have a blog or Facebook page, you can still use your writing. Keep a journal. It will not only help you process everything, it could serve as an encouragement or inspiration to the next generation of your family (or as a good reminder for you later in life.)

Send letters, or even short notes, to friends, loved ones, even the local news editor or a politician. Offer words of encouragement, or special insights the Lord has given you about these times.

If you do have a blog, website, or Facebook page, could you use them in some way to offer hope or encouragement specifically for these trying times? What have you experienced that has strengthened your faith? Was there some event in your life that brought you to Jesus? Think on those things and figure out a way to convey your story to the world.

Don’t worry about the audience for your writing. Let God handle that. Just pray, then write the story God lays on your heart. He’ll put your words in front of the person who needs them most, and you may never know it.

If you have a blog, website, and Facebook page, and are already using them for this purpose, is it time for you to write a book? Or the next book? Your story matters. Your words matter.

We’re right here, right now, for a reason. For such a time as this. Ask the Lord to use you for His purposes, and you’ll be amazed at how He will change your perspective. You’ll still be burdened for the world, but from His viewpoint, not your own.

Here’s a great song to remind us:

Click to Tweet: Writers have a task in the midst of turmoil and tragedy. #Write to #Inspire.


Tracy Ruckman owns TMP Books, a subsidy press, and is currently accepting new clients. TMP publishes fiction and nonfiction, and children’s books.

 

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911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World

By Steve Connolly

It began like any other Tuesday morning for me. A casual drive to work. Fall colors dancing in the trees. Crisp cold air with no frost. It was the perfect day. Arriving at the office, I’d planned an early morning conference call with the west coast to update a current project. The meeting started on time and was running smoothly. Suddenly, a west coast co-worker said we needed to end the meeting because a jet plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. At the time, it didn’t make sense. I thought it must have been a small plane. I looked at my watch. 9:50 AM.

Walking back into my department, I mentioned to a manager a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. She gave me a look which reflected how I felt. Someone must have gotten the event confused. We had another conference room in the front of the building equipped with a TV. When I turned on the set, a breaking news banner appeared. What I had been told by my west coast colleagues was true. The newscasters looked as if they were trying to decide what was happening. As I watched the screen, another plane crashed into the South Tower of the Trade Center. It was hard to comprehend. Just a few months earlier, on a business trip, I’d switched planes in NYC. I remembered seeing the World Trade buildings and thinking how massive they were.

Throughout the morning, acts of terror continued to advance. Next, a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and then another plane was forced to crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. Later, both towers of the trade center collapsed. Buildings were burning and parts of the city were evacuated. It was surreal. Never to be forgotten.

The result of the terrorist acts caught everyone off guard.  Regular travel was paralyzed and all US air traffic grounded. My boss was stranded in Los Angeles. My cousin and her mother had an unplanned extended stay in Las Vegas. A co-worker in Florida was forced to take a train home.  Everyone I talked to became hesitant to fly as we wondered what would happen next.

Was the terror over?

As the week went on, I kept close track of the news broadcasts. I watched as rescue personnel and volunteers combed through the rubble searching for survivors. The fires at the sites continued burning. I learned that my younger brother, Frank, a fireman from Miami Beach, volunteered to help in the search and rescue. This caused me to worry because my brother has a tender heart, and I wondered how this would impact his life.

Before I knew it, an opportunity opened for me to go to New York City. Our church was sending a group to hand out water and offer support to the people. This was not my thing, but thinking of my brother in the thick of the rescue effort, I figured I could do something to help. Once there, I found myself surrounded by New Yorkers who wanted to be comforted, either to talk or have prayer. I hugged many people that weekend.

Everywhere you looked there were flyers of the many loved ones still missing and unaccounted for from the towers. It was a sad time. At one point, we could walk down toward Battery Park. The route we took was several streets over from where the trade center buildings had stood. I was shocked by the destruction. The storefronts, several blocks away, were filled with ash.  Seeing glimpses of the tower’s rubble made it a challenge to grasp the reality of the terror. Fires continued burning filling the air with the smell of destruction. I was thankful I could be there to help, even if it was just a little.

So many changes were precipitated by the events of 9/11. The United States entered into war, attacking Iraq and sending forces into Afghanistan (the longest running war with US involvement). Today, we still have troops in both locations.  Many Americans have sacrificed their lives in these two countries. New words and phrases became part of our everyday vocabulary. ISIS, al-Qaida, Taliban, and Ground-Zero just to name a few.

The Department of Homeland Security was created, and the Patriot Act was implemented. The TSA was created (Transportation Security Administration) and assigned strict screening at all US airports. Only ticketed customers could go through security checkpoints to board flights. Airplanes were fitted with security cockpit doors.  So many changes, too many to list.

One day of events drastically changed our lives. The repercussions of that day continue to shape and change the daily routine of America. We cannot become complacent and let such a time of terror repeat itself.

Click to tweet: 911: A Tuesday Morning That Would Change Our World. #911 #NYC 

Writing prompt: It was two weeks after 9/11. I was on the street handing out water to those working in the rubble. I reached out to give the fireman approaching me a bottle of water. As I did he embraced me in a bear hug and whispered in my ear…

A Third Grandmother

By Darcy Fornier

For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.

When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.

I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.

I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.

In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.

Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.

In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.

Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.

I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.

In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.

A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.

But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.

Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.

I still miss her. So much.

Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.

Click to tweet: Grandma Ada Mae had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. #Family #InspiredPrompt

Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.


Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.

When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.

Readers can find me at my blog:

https://peculiarmissdarcy.wordpress.com

And on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DarcyFornierWriter