Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: Social Media


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media


One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author, photographer, and graphic designer, Emilie Haney, as she shares about being genuine on social media!

When I talk to authors, one of the things we usually end up discussing is social media. Often this focuses on Instagram. Whether that’s due to my presence on the app as a content creator, or just the fact that I love books and photography and IG combines both of those loves, it’s always a fun topic. When asked my “secret” to growing and maintaining my following, I’ve come to realize my answer hovers around the same things: being consistent, being creative, being genuine. 

I’ve decided to further boil this down to my heart for social media: being genuine. 

Before we go any further I want to make sure you know this is not a ‘get followers quick’ scheme. It’s not a magic bullet, a recipe for growth, or a way to beat the algorithm. It’s my personal approach to social media that I have found to generate real community.

When I started my Instagram account I didn’t think “how can I get a bunch of followers.” I did it because it was fun and I wanted to connect with other book nerds. As my writing became a constant, I realized I needed an “audience” if I wanted to go into publishing someday. Rather than gather a group of people around the idea of “my book,” I drew them with common interest: books, reading, bookish things, and writing. This not only gained me an audience, but it also helped me connect with that audience. My focus then (as it is now) was one thing: to be myself.

Now, I don’t think you need to share everything to be an honest content creator, but I did come up with two aspects that I think require you to be genuine.

Being genuine in your post content: 

When I say you can be honest without sharing everything I’m talking about finding a balance with your audience. I think it’s important to ask yourself what you are comfortable being vulnerable about on your social media platforms. Your honesty in this will help you connect to others, but that doesn’t mean that you share everything in your personal life online.

I like to ask these questions when thinking about what to post:

What is the purpose for wanting to share this personal thing?

Could this help someone else?

Do I have solutions or helpful tips to share?

If I can see why I want to share something personal, I’m more willing to post it. My goal is not to garner sympathy or draw attention to myself; instead it’s to either help with useful tips or open up a window into my life that can let others know they are not alone.

Being genuine in your presentation:

I don’t believe that you have to post unfiltered photos or messy photos to ‘prove’ that you are human, but I do think it can help to share struggles behind a curated facade. This goes along with the point above, but if you want your social feed to be curated and color-coordinated, great! Do it! I don’t think you have to ‘ruin your aesthetic’ just to appear honest. But I do think it helps to have moments of honesty – perhaps in your caption or in your stories. These moments help your readers (or potential readers) to see you as a person and can often make them more willing to support you and buy your books.

Again, the goal is not to get something from your audience, but it is often the result. 

To condense this—my honest approach to social media is built on the fact that my brand is me. It means posting captions that detail my struggles in addition to my triumphs. I don’t try to sugar coat some of the more difficult aspects of publishing, but instead pair those hard truths with encouragement. I also show my face (not often, but sometimes) via my Instagram stories—no matter my ‘state,’ camera ready or lazy day—in an effort to make a personal connection with those who follow me.

For those of you who may struggle with some of this: keep going. I know that it’s hard to put yourself out there. No matter how many followers I have or how much I may ‘influence’ others, it’s not easy to admit I struggle with feeling accepted or that I often experience fear over putting my writing, artwork, or photography out there. But every time I’ve been honest with my followers about my struggles, I’ve had an overwhelming positive response from them. 

The truth is that we’re all human—writer or reader or whatever—and social media connects us in a way that makes it possible to appear very different than we are. Breaking down those barriers with your genuine interests, appearance, struggles, successes, and quirks can be one of the best ways to ‘market yourself’ in a world filled with feeds. 


One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social Media
Emilie (Hendryx) Haney is a self-employed freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California with her husband. She’s a member of ACFW, writes adult romantic suspense and young adult fiction, and spends more time on Instagram than she probably should. With a degree in music and youth ministry, she has heart for youth and a love of genuine social media connections. She has built a thriving community around her Instagram platform and brand CreateExploreRead, with a focus on bookish merchandise sold on Etsy and Society6.

Connect with Emilie on her website and Instagram

What questions do you have for Emilie about being genuine on social media?
What are some things that have worked for you in building community among your readers?

How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham

 How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham

"The Author and the Reader can be Friends" (or, How to Painlessly Engage Your Readers)

Hi Seekerville! Carrie here. I recently did a call-out for topic ideas in a Facebook group I'm in for folks involved in the Christian fiction industry. Confession: I always have a bit of a panic attack when it comes to what I should write for Seekerville. So I wanted to know what authors want to know from a reader, reviewer, and book marketer. One of the topics that got the most attention was reader engagement. So I turned to my sweet author friend, Pepper Basham, for help with today's post - because Pepper is phenomenal when it comes to engaging her readers. 

PEPPER: Have you ever watched the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma? There's a whole lot of division between the cowman and the farmer, which leads to a song called “The Farmer and the Cowman Can Be Friends". Well, we want to offer some helpful encouragement, in the relationship between the Reader and the Author. We CAN engage as friends (or at least as mutual encouragers), and it doesn’t have to be as complicated or stressful for either party as we too often make it.

CARRIE: Or as Pepper put it (to the above tune), "Bookish folks should stick together. Bookish folks should all be pals. One may string the words together, but the other helps the stories sell.” Connection leads to investment, and if nothing else we can connect over BOOKS! That "binds" us together. (Now I'm humming a hymn) Add Jesus into the mix and it makes the binding even tighter.

PEPPER: Hey, you know I love MUSICALS!! And why not give it a little bookish flair, right? But I love this conversation because I think it’s a whole lot better between an author and a reader to hopefully explain both sides.

Now, I’m not saying Carrie and I have the corner on this conversation. Each reader and author is unique, but there are some things both of us have learned that hopefully could be a help to some of you out there 😊

How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
Sometimes selfies are hard.
CARRIE: Agreed. I have the blessing of calling Pepper Basham a friend, and it started when I had the opportunity to review her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer (which, if you haven’t read her Penned in Time series, you need to). I was drawn immediately to not only her wordsmithing-ness (it's totally a real word!) but also to her warm personality and absolute love of books. That handful of initial conversations has led to a precious friendship…which has also led to me becoming one of her self-professed biggest cheerleaders.

PEPPER: And I am SO thankful for you!! It’s amazing how those few bookish conversations have now turned into this…what is it? 6 year friendship?

CARRIE: I think you’re right. And, authors, you obviously don’t have to become besties with all of your readers. But there are some principles of author-reader engagement that we can pass on, from a book marketer and an author who are both avid readers, too. As I mentioned, Pepper is FABULOUS at engagement so feel free to stalk her on Facebook and see what she does 😊

PEPPER: LOL! I’ve stalked many an author myself, so turn about is fair play, I suppose 😊

I AM also a reader. I mean, I have felt the uncertainty about reaching out to an author to fangirl over their work, but let me just say, I’ve made some of the BEST friendships that way!!

However, from an author’s point of view, here are a few things I’ve realized in this author/reader dynamic.

  • One of the most difficult things about engagement is the typical "difficult" thing about most everything: TIME. Engaging with readers can be very time consuming. As a pastor’s wife, mom, and speech-language pathologist, time is not always something I have in large quantities, but I’ve learned how to sprinkle the time in places that have worked. And I try to always respond to readers who send me a note to let them know I value the time they used to read my book and then send me that note.
  • I've found that reader engagement fuels me much more than it drains me because most good readers recognize that the quality of the touch points an author tries to make is much more important than the frequency. Yes, frequency matters, in part, but quality matters even more.
  • One of the most AMAZING things about engagement is that it's a wonderful connection to folks who encourage and support me in this weird and sometimes isolating world of fiction writing. You really do end up building a community. I LOVE having a group of readers to chat with, bounce ideas off of, and find encouragement. It's remarkable. I really don’t know how I’d manage all of the things I do with marketing and planning without having such an amazing group of readers on the journey with me.

                    Carrie says: COMMUNITY. Remember that. It will come up again in a minute. There                                 won't be a quiz.

  • Authenticity is KEY. I think when readers know you care about them and value their time/encouragement, they want to get involved on your journey as an author.
  • One of the things I LOVE BEST (and my street team can confirm this) is having other people to fangirl over my fictional friends with me. In fact, we’ll fangirl over other authors’ fictional friends together too!!! The JOY of reading, books, and characters is a common connecting denominator. We enjoy good stories and we love the affirmation of others enjoying them too, especially when we've poured so much of our hearts into those stories.

PEPPER: So, Carrie, from a readers perspective what helps you feel like an author is approachable? What can an author do to show they value your companionship on the reading/writing journey? 

How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
CARRIE: Authors, y'all know that some readers have no qualms about contacting an author; unfortunately, these are often the ones who send nasty emails about why they didn’t like your book or the typo they found on page 23. The readers you WANT to contact you – the ones who will encourage you & pray for you & gush over your characters and the way you turn a phrase – are sometimes just as intimidated to reach out to you as you are to reach out to them. They don’t want to be a bother, are too busy fangirling to form coherent words, etc.

From my reader, reviewer, and marketer’s perspectives, here are some easy action steps that even introverted or overwhelmed authors can do to increase authentic reader engagement & at the same time show that they value us as part of their community.

  • Be active in bookish forums. (Facebook is great for this. Or the comment section of popular book blogs.) Readers & authors hang out there, and it provides a safe place to get your feet wet on this whole engagement thing. It’s a comfier place for readers to reach out to authors as well – seeing them ‘in the wild’ so to speak and realizing they love the same books as we do, etc. I personally love it for instance when authors like Carrie Turansky, DeAnna Dodson, and Patricia Bradley comment on my posts about other authors/books on my personal book blog. Erica Vetsch has also done a great job of this, as well, in her FB group for readers & authors of Inspirational Regency Fiction. And Laura Frantz & Pepper Basham have one for Armchair Travelers that also has terrific engagement, just born out of a love for traveling to great destinations on the pages of fave books. 
(From Pepper – WE LOVE to connect on forums! It’s a low stress connection. Kind of like a “drop-in” party 😊)
  • Invest in a blog tour from a reputable publicity company. I especially recommend this for debut or relatively new authors. (Get recommendations on tour companies your author friends have used & loved.) Typical blog tours include Q&As and guest articles along with the reviews & spotlights. Those personalized posts allow readers to connect on a more personal level with the author, and that connection leads to future investment in the author and his/her books. (Or if a professionally-organized blog tour isn’t in your budget and you have a street team you’re comfy with, ask if any of the members would like to host you in a Q&A or guest post on their blog) 
(From Pepper - And they’re so helpful in helping an author branch out to new readers)
  • Approach interacting with your street team as building a community, rather than just something else you have to do. (See? I told you 'community' would show up again) I’ve been part of some street teams where the author only pops in to say “I have a new book coming out. Here you go.” And I’ve been part of street teams with authentic engagement between books too, and I can tell the author truly cares about us as more than free publicity. For example, Toni Shiloh weekly shares her prayer requests & praises with us and asks how she can pray for us, too. Pepper Basham shares little snippets of her life, of her writing progress, of what God’s been teaching her. Shelley Shepard Gray, Dana Mentink, and Becky Wade are really great at this as well - sharing fun things from their life, prayer requests, asking us questions about our lives, etc. Each of these authors is a fave of mine because of their books, but also because they engage with their readers and, in doing so, make us feel a part of their community. Again, that authentic connection leads us to greater investment as readers in those authors. 
(From Pepper - Did I already mention that I LOVE MY STREET TEAM!!!!!)
  • Ask fun questions / start fun conversations on social media. Toni Shiloh asks #tonishilohquestions to correspond with various “National Days” of whatever (National Strawberry Sundae Day, National Jigsaw Puzzles Day, etc.). A simple question is all that’s needed – or throw in an eye-catching graphic too just to grab attention. Pepper Basham often chats about fun romance movies and posts photos of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Biltmore. Janine Rosche posts about her intense dislike of discarded flossers in random places, and over on Instagram she does simple reels where she decides if someone’s TikTok clip is ‘Worthy of a Romance Novel’. Before Facebook got rid of the polls feature on pages, Bethany Turner had a weekly poll that was just way too much fun, on such serious topics as Who’s cuter - George Clooney or Noah Wyle? Which portrayal of Mr. Darcy is the best? Would you rather visit Narnia or Hogwarts? etc You can find tons of icebreaker questions and bookish questions online, so this is something that doesn't require a lot of thought, effort, or time - just do it with some sort of consistency to keep the conversation going.
These are really easy & fun ways to engage with readers without getting too personal or having to be too creative. The bottom line is this: CONNECTION LEADS TO INVESTMENT. It doesn’t have to be complicated or too time-consuming. Build 5 minutes into your day where you make a conscious effort to make an authentic connection with readers over a shared interest or experience. But the lasting benefits of reader engagement are priceless – not just for your book sales, but also in having your own personal cheering squad when life & writing gets tough.


Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with southern Appalachian flair. Both her historical and contemporary novels have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inspys, and ACFW Carol Awards. Her historical romance, The Thorn Healer, was a finalist in the 2018 RT Awards. Her historical romance novels, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge and
How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
The Red Ribbon
, and her contemporary novels, the Mitchell’s Crossroads and Pleasant Gap series, showcase her Appalachian heritage, as well as her love for humor and family. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, Carrie now lives in Georgia with her husband Eric, though her roots range from East Tennessee to northern Illinois. She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 -

Authors, what intimidates you the most about reader engagement?
Readers, what helps you feel like an author is approachable?

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?
by Pam Hillman

Have you ever noticed how some people act like one person online and seem to be totally different in person? I daresay most of us are a different person at our day job, and even another one at church, shopping, or at conferences and/or on a business trip.

And don’t even get me started about vacations where nobody knows your name? You know, taking that old saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," literally.

Seriously, I’m not talking about people with hidden agendas, being two-faced, or some dark and sinister secret that would shock our socks off. Nothing that dramatic. I’m just thinking about how many of us only show readers the fancy photoshopped headshot instead of the real us.

Social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogging, etc.—is changing us. We’re more apt to be open about who we really are. Good thing? Yes, if you have nothing to hide. :)

I’ve always been a fairly private person. I’ve never liked sharing my thoughts, my dreams, my passions, my likes and dislikes overmuch. I don’t know if I’m more confident in being me as I age or if the need to be accessible to readers has made me more relaxed.

Readers love authors to be authentic. But what does that look like?

It starts with being confident in who you are and what you like. Pick five things you’re passionate about. Five things that you enjoy doing. Five things that given time, money, and/or energy, you would do every day. If you could drop everything RIGHT NOW, what passion or project would you pursue? I’m not talking about impossible things, or traveling the world necessarily, I’m talking about real, every day things that make you smile.

So, to get this train rolling, I'll start. Here’s my list.

Health (Food, Exercise, Being Active) - I never thought I’d be that person sharing pictures of my food on the internet. Seriously, who wants to see what I eat? But about three months ago, I started sharing my plated meals on Instagram because I was coaching a friend who was following the same eating plan I was, and she was having trouble coming up with ideas. Amazingly, other friends, family, and readers seemed to embrace the idea. Lately my active posts have been walking with grandkids, but it’s real, down to the messy hair and sweaty clothes. But even my outdoor activities dovetail with some of my other interests.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Grandkids - Yes, I’m of that age where cute grands get a lot of airtime online. Some people choose not to post photos of kids/grandkids online. My children share photos, and they're okay with me doing it as well.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Books (Reading, Writing, Research, Promotions, etc.) - This section is a huge part of my online presence. I post quotes and reviews from my books, my research, sales, new releases, my friends’ books, writerly quotes. I blog about historical tidbits I’ve researched, share photos that I’ve snapped. Again, many of these stem from my life in the country.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Memes - I put this in its own category because memes, photos, staging, inspirational quotes all interest me. Some of those cover a lot of ground, but if we’re being real and honest and showing readers all kinds of fun things that interest us, they'll feel a kinship with us.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Farming, Ranching, Rural Life - I’m a country girl. Farm life is all I’ve ever known. So when I post photos of our cows, the deer or turkeys in our front yard, or helping my husband bale hay, then that’s authentic and real.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

Now, share your list in the comments and then let’s get real about sharing those with your readers on social media. And, remember what I said about impossible dreams? Seriously, if being a world traveller is a passion of yours but hasn't happened yet, there's nothing to stop you from sharing photos, research, and tidbits about the places you long to visit.

Keep it real, keep it fun, and keep it YOU. Your readers will love you for it.

Who Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?

In anticipation of the release of The Crossing at Cypress Creek,
I'm hosting a giveaway at my website.

Click Here To Enter!

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

By Pam Hillman

Last month I shared a blog post titled Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs. This was a refresher on using PicMonkey to create memes and promotional swag for social media mostly on a desktop or laptop computer. But I also promised to bring you a fun post on a cool app that really puts the move on our busy lifestyles.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag
It’s WordSwag.

If you spend a lot of time waiting in line, at doctor’s offices, or waiting on your order to be delivered to your table, then why not get a jumpstart on your online PR with mobile memes directly from your smart phone?

I’m going to use my latest release, The Road to Magnolia Glen, as an example. Also, for the record, I have an iPhone. 

Most of the terms I use should be interchangeable with other devices, but just in case, I thought I’d mention that up front. 

Also, I did find a few online resources that said Word Swag is available for Androids, but if not, you should be able to search for a compatible photo/text app for your phone.

So… get ready, get set, and let’s go. Here are step-by-step instructions to set up your on-the-go meme making office on your phone or iPad.

Step 1: It goes without saying that you need to install the Word Swag app on your iPhone or iPad. It's free! :) Again, if you have an Android, I can’t advise you on which app to try. Possibly someone else can step in and help us out. Done? Okay! On to Step 2...

Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 2: Create an ALBUM on your phone for the project you will be working on. The one we'll be using today is for The Road to Magnolia Glen, which released in June. Save your book cover, reusable templates, and completed memes in this album. You’ll see from the above screenshot several completed memes as well as some blank templates with my Magnolia Glen cover already included for quick reference.

Regarding reusable templates: Generally, book specific backgrounds will be something you've created in PicMonkey where you can create styles and layers. The ones above are a composite of backgrounds from my publisher, my VA, and my own photos.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 3: Next, in the NOTES section of your phone, create a PR folder and then copy/paste notes when you find a cool review, or add some quotes from the book during in the final stages of the final edit. You'll be so glad you did this step when the book releases. You can add photos in the Notes section, but I prefer to keep the photos in the albums and the words (quotes, reviews, links) in the Notes section. And finally, if you’re quick and maybe a bit OCD, you can certainly make these memes right then and there, but I’m not always that organized.

Step 4: Are you done? Okay. Let’s keep going. This next part is the fun part! You should have some background templates on your phone AND you have some quotes and reviews that you’ve gathered for when you’re stuck in traffic or scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, and you realize that you haven’t posted anything in a while.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 5: Either decide which background template you want to use from your ALBUM of choices OR you might want to just use something from Word Swag. That’s your choice. I’m going to use one of my templates with my book cover on it. This can be effective as readers continue to see the same colors and styles over and over with different quotes and/or reviews. Open Word Swag and choose LIBRARY (bottom) if you want to use a photo/jpg from the photos on your phone. Choose FREE PHOTOS (also at the bottom) if you want to use one of Word Swags gazillion choices, which I do quite often. Change the size of your photo or Crop it if you wish, or you can leave it as is. Choose Next.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 6: A white box of text will appear on your beautiful image that says “DOUBLE TAP ME TO CHANGE TEXT”. Go ahead. Tap it. Don’t worry that it’s clunky and too big or too small for you image. We’ll fix that.

Step 7: If you don't know what quote or review you plan to use, leave Word Swag open and go to your PR folder in your Notes. Copy, return to Word Swag and paste in one of your amazing quotes or reviews you’ve been compiling for just the right time. Make sure "AUTO LINE BREAKS" is On, and then click Done to return to the page with your image and words.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 8: At this point, you can play with the Style, Color, Size, and "arrangement" of your text. Have fun until you get the look you want. :) Scroll back and forth to look at the different font options. And use the dice in the lower right-hand corner to let Word Swag show you all the cool options for each different style.

Step 9: Don’t be afraid to use the “Add + Text” option at the top. My first attempt didn’t fit in the space as neatly as I wanted, so I removed the word “Quinn” and thought … uh … outside the box. :) I loved the result (below). Also, if you look closely, I added another “Quinn” in a darker color for a drop shadow. Just because I could. Last, I wanted to give Kav at Best Reads credit, but there just wasn't room inside the small circle. So, I added a third Text box at the bottom. Looking good. :)

Step 10: Save your work and post to ALL your favorite social media sites.

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Tada! My end result for today’s exercise. 

Last, but not least…you don’t have to have templates or quotes from your book or anything to have fun. Pick a photo from Word Swag’s photo library and one of their Custom Quotes. I’ve done this several times and just made fun evergreen memes. The exercise feeds my creative bent.

And that's how you make a meme on the go. :)

Questions? Results? Come on!! It’s easy. Post your work on Instagram or Facebook and let us cheer you on. Use the #Seekerville hashtag. Let’s have some fun.

And... today's post is just in time to let you know that The Road to Magnolia Glen is on sale for $0.99, but it ends soon! So grab your copy now. :)

Let's Go Places with Word Swag
The Road to Magnolia Glen
One Thing That Works For Me with guest Emilie Haney: Being Genuine in Social MediaHow to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper BashamWho Are You? No, Really... Who.Are.You?Let's Go Places with Word Swag

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