As I was waiting for the library doors to open just before 9 a.m. in downtown Nashville Tuesday morning, a distinguished gentleman walked up beside me and asked if I was there for the “Social Media Jam.” Kip Gayden’s first novel is Miscarriage of Justice. When he introduced himself, a woman standing next to me turned around and said, “Judge Gayden?”
“You’re marrying us!”
And this was my first experience in downtown Nashville, which is a beautiful city, by the way.
As about sixteen of us gathered around the tables in one of the library’s conference rooms a few minutes later, organizer and author, River Jordan, welcomed us to the “Social Media Jam and Author’s Dutch Lunch,” an event I was excited about attending. In anticipation, I had friended a couple of the invited guests on Facebook the previous day, including Jolina Petershein, (whom I actually met first on Twitter) and Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched: One Kid’s Journey Towards God Despite a Holy Mess.
Matthew is a big social media guru, with 19 thousand followers on Twitter, and also a huge following on his blog and Facebook. It’s funny that we ended up sitting next to each other during the jam, because of the interaction we had on Facebook Monday. Matthew had been posting lots of “funny pictures of Jesus” and when he posted a detail from an icon of Christ’s baptism, with a caption about his “abs,” I left a comment. Several others joined the thread, which got lively. So today I took Matthew a picture of an icon of Christ that I had painted—one that shows his “abs,”—and reminded him that I was an Orthodox Christian and iconographer, which is why I commented on his post. He responded by saying he’d love to interview me some time, and then he gave me an advance copy of his new book, Hear No Evil. Matthew believes that the social media is more than just a marketing tool. “It’s an extension of who you are… blogging is a lifestyle.” (And he’s got 17 published books. Have no idea where he finds the time to write! His 18th book, Hear No Evil: My Story of Music, Innocence and the Holy Ghost, is due out in February.)
The other panelists who all shared their wisdom with the group on Tuesday included:
JT Ellison has five published books, and a sixth, The Cold Room, coming out in February. She’s also published numerous short stories. When we met I looked at her and said “thrillerchick!” That’s her Twitter name. And she said, “ah, proof the social media works!”
Susan Gregg Gilmore’s debut novel is Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen.
Darnell Aroult teaches creative writing. Her latest novel is Sufficient Grace.
Greg Daniel (right) is a literary agent living in Nashville. Greg spent over ten years in publishing before becoming an agent, so he brought wisdom from both sides of the table to the discussion.
Ken Edwards is a counselor/life coach. River invited Ken to share some advice on dealing with the stress that all this social media involvement brings to the writer’s life.
So, that was the “panel,” although we all sat around the tables together in an open forum kind of way, and then enjoyed lunch together at a nearby restaurant. (Sorry I cut a few folks off in the photo, but there wasn't any more room to back up without crashing into the table behind me!) A few highlights of the wisdom we gained from these industry professionals:
How to Add Value as a member of the Social Community:
1. Retweet good stuff
2. Link to helpful content
3. Listen to other voices; if something they’re doing annoys you, don’t do it
4. Know what you’re best at and use that (Facebook, Twitter, blogging)
5. Small bites are better than big meals—it’s better to be on (FB, Twitter) for 10 minutes at a time, several times a day, than for an hour or more once a day. Why? You catch different readers throughout the day.
6. Don’t use others’ pages to promote yourself
7. Remember it’s about COMMUNITY—be a listener as much as a talker. Talk about and promote others, not just yourself.
8. Search for editors, agents, publishers, booksellers and writers and follow the and INTERACT WITH THEM; don’t just “use” them—don’t jump right in and say, “read my book!”
Tools for using the social media more efficiently:
Tweetadder.com – for $50 you can search for people who tweet certain words and follow them
TweetDeck.com makes it easy to post to Twitter and FB at the same time
Twitterfeed.com will feed your blog posts to Twitter and Facebook
Twitter.grader.com and Klout.com measure your followers
Commoncraft.com has mini-videos that guide you through complex subjects
How to engage the social media in a healthy way: (from Ken Edwards)
MINDSET. Why do you write? There’s something in you that needs to come out—you’re giving birth with your writing. The social media is an opportunity to make an impact, to get your message across. But if you’re an introvert (apparently lots of writers are) too much social media involvement can take you away from your center.
ENERGY—it’s not so much about how much time it takes, but how much energy. Does social media involvement feed your energy or drain it, leaving you empty when it comes to your “real writing” and your personal relationships? Pay attention to your soul—to what feeds you as a person. Most people have no “margin” in their lives. (Ken recommended the book, The Power of Full Engagement, by James Loehr and Tony Schwartz.)
CONGRUENCY—listen and be congruent with who you are in your social media interactions. Be true to yourself—tweet about things in your day that are creative, like putting a beautiful sunrise on a tweetpic attachment—things that are refreshing to others. Build rituals around your social media schedule, just as you do for your other activities each day (exercise, coffee, shower, prayers, etc.)
I was honored to be included in this small group, along with my writing group buddy from Hernando, Mississippi, Herman King, and about 10 other emerging writers, public radio producers, writing interns, book promoters, and songwriters. I’ll be following you on Twitter and I love being friends with you on Facebook☺ I'm thankful that we got to actually meet, face-to-face, and share a little bit of our "real" lives with each other.