J.T. Ellison – Her Story:
J.T. grew up in Colorado and Virginia. After receiving her master’s degree from George Washington University, she worked in the White House and the Department of Commerce. When she moved to Nashville, her passion for writing, forensics and crime resurfaced, and she gave in to her dream of writing stories.
Today, Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Edge of Black and A Deeper Darkness. Her work has been published in over twenty countries, and her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense.
What You Will Love:
- Story: Ellison’s novels are more than great reads – they’re impossible to put down. She backs her imagination with a hefty dose of research (she has worked with Metro PD and the FBI, as well as performing autopsies).
- Knowledge: While her ability to spin a story is nothing short of spectacular, Ellison’s knowledge about all things writing is equally compelling. Her twitter and facebook feeds, as well as her blog, are filled with must-read insights, writing tips, and how-to’s.
- Community: Ellison believes in her local Nashville community. She supports writers, placed her Taylor Jackson series in her hometown, and is a fount of information when it comes writing a city to life.
J.T. Ellison and author River Jordan are so committed to the Nashville community, they started Literary Libations: a monthly gathering of writers and readers at Union Station, every fourth Thursday at 5:30.
About J.T. (in her own words):
I write crime fiction, psychological thrillers with strong female leads and very twisted villains. In a nutshell, I started writing in 2003, after a back injury led to a prolonged recovery surrounded by great books. I was reading John Sandford’s PREY series when the bug bit me. Two years later I had a novel, and agent, and shortly thereafter, a three-book deal with Mira Books. Luck. Pure Luck. I just submitted my thirteenth novel to my editor.
As a best-selling author, it’s easy to imagine you have a built-in skill set for navigating social media and doing so with flair. Did it come easy, or did you have to work hard to learn and utilize Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc?
It’s never been hard, mostly because I never intended for social media to be a “marketing platform” and I still don’t look at it that way. I was on Facebook back when it was a closed network for colleges, and joined Twitter very early on because there was a great comedian, Andy Levy, who was making my husband laugh, and I wanted to follow him. I didn’t even use my real name, a big marketing no-no. I didn’t want to be on there as an author, just as a regular person. So I called myself thrillerchick, and amassed a decent following being rather goofy and opinionated before I was outed.
I started a blog back in 2004, before it was cool to do so. And I spent a lot of time and effort on a group blog called Murderati. From 2006-2011 I was a weekly contributor – I also built and maintained the site. Weekly blogs took a huge chunk of brain energy for me, but it was a great blog, and a great process. When we shut down, I grieved, and continued blogging on my own at Tao of JT.
What social media sites do you most utilize and why?
My Facebook Fan Page is a big draw for me. I love to interact with my readers, and we have a pretty good system. I give them a blog every couple of weeks, ask questions, giveaway books. I want it to be a fun place to visit, and I appreciate each and every one of the friends I have there. My personal Facebook is only for people I know IRL – in real life. I needed someplace I could just be me. Twitter is also a big one for me, though I’m not nearly as active as I used to be. I’ve touched every social network – I have profiles on RedRoom, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, etc., and automate everything through RSS feeds. But Facebook, Twitter and my own blog are my main focus.
You have over 7k twitter followers and almost 9k FB likes. Did you grow your followers organically, and how do you manage your time – answering questions and interacting with your fans?
Organically. Like I mentioned, I had several thousand followers on Twitter before anyone knew it was me. Facebook – my personal page had 5K on it, so two years ago I moved everyone over to the Fan Page and literally spent 6 weeks taking my personal page back to only people I know in real life. People thought I was insane for reducing followers, but I believe in quality interactions, and there is absolutely no way to do that when you’re trying to find your friends in a sea of thousands.
My problem is I can get sucked into the streams and lose precious writing time, so I work hard to limit my time on the networks. Despite my best efforts to keep it otherwise, now it is a marketing tool, so I make sure to touch both my Facebook page and Twitter daily. I am more than willing to give time to my readers. But not all day.
I try to limit my Facebook to one update a day, and Twitter no more than two or three, unless I’m in a conversation with someone. I’m a writer, first and foremost, and I think readers expect writers to, oh, you know, maybe… write?
Are there any tools you use to help with time management on the social sites?
Several, actually. I am a big, big fan of a site called Buffer. I can schedule tweets, send links to Facebook, all in an automated pre-scheduled timeframe. Which is lovely. I like to share links, inspiring articles I’ve read, writing tips, productivity blogs. I feel it’s important to be a value-added author. No one wants to hear me talk about me. So Buffer allows me to share links on my schedule, and also keeps excellent accounting of clicks, retweets, etc. And I feed my blog into multiple networks and websites using Hootsuite Pro.
And each spring, during Lent, I take a social media sabbatical. Six weeks away. It is hugely important to me to be able to have some quiet time unplugged from the constant flow of information.
How important do you consider blogging to be?
You know, there are a lot of blogs out there. So many authors do it, and do it well. I think if you’re a natural blogger, an excellent essayist (think Deanna Raybourn, Delilah S. Dawson, Laura Benedict) you should absolutely do it. If the idea fills you with dread, you shouldn’t. The same goes for all social networking. If you hate it, don’t do it. It shows. If Twitter isn’t your thing, try Facebook, or Google +, or join RedRoom. Find what your comfortable with, join the conversation, and don’t worry about the numbers. I hate to be clichéd, but if you build it, they will come.
Do you have any advice on social networking?
My best advice is to choose one or two things, and do them well. Spreading yourself across every platform and every network just means more work for you, and you aren’t necessarily gaining readers. Find your niche, and grow it. Respect your followers – don’t be hitting them up constantly with buy me buy me buy me updates. Add value to their world. Be kind, don’t get into arguments on social media, and set time limits. I get worried when I see people tweeting all day, every day, or trying to be provocative lightning rods. Just be yourself, and don’t be a jerk. It’s that simple.
J.T. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.
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