Saturday, August 9, 2014

Social Networks: Spotlight on Gather

Originally published at 1st Turning Point
Copyright Gina Robinson, 2013

There’s a lot of hype these days about social networks and the importance of belonging to one or more.  Each network has its own personality and set of rules.  How do you choose which network or networks to join?  To help you out, I’m going to give you the skinny on Gather as I see it.
Entrepreneur Tom Gerace formed Gather in 2005.  I joined in August 2007, just a few months before I made my first sale.  As a networking site, Gather is pretty low stress.  You don’t have to build a fancy member page or decide on a theme.  Every member page has the standard Gather layout.  When you sign up, you get your page, fill out your profile with the information and settings you’d like, upload your icon photo, and you’re off and running.  As an example, you can check out my Gather profile page.
Gerace set up Gather as a site for sharing ideas through articles, photos, and videos, which makes it an ideal place for writers.  You connect with others in several ways-by connecting or becoming “friends,” or by joining groups that interest you.  You can Gather mail your friends or send Gather mail to an entire group.  When you post an article, photo, or video, you can select any friends or groups you wish to be able to view it or post it so that the Gather community at large has viewing privileges.
Gather is the only networking site I know about that provides incentives for sharing.  You earn points toward gift cards or even cash for every article you post or comment you make on another’s article.  Who doesn’t love getting paid to write about your ideas or share your photos?
During 2007 and 2008, Gather co-sponsored at least three novel writing competitions with either or both Simon and Schuster and Borders.  The grand prize in each competition was a book contract and special promotion at Borders stores.  Sheila Deeth joined Gather for the First Chapters contest.  ”It was a turning point for me and encouraged me to keep trying.”
Jamie Chapman won $25,000 in a Gather-sponsored essay contest.  ”I recently signed with a publisher (five book deal) and an excellent agent.  I can honestly say that the bumpy road to publication was greatly smoothed by the writer friends I made on Gather.  I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for them.”
Judi Fennell, author of Wild Blue Under, Sourcebooks November 2009, joined Gather so she could enter the first two novel competitions.  She placed in the top twenty and third respectively.  Although neither was enough to get her a contract, her story caught the eye of final judge Sue Grimshaw, National Buyer for Romance at Borders Books.  Sue gave Judi editing tips to make the story more marketable and then pitched it to editors.  As a result, Judi sold her Mer series to Sourcebooks in a three-book deal.
Judi says, “Because of the contacts I’ve made on Gather, I have friends all across the country who celebrated with me when I sold my series, and helped get the word out by distributing bookmarks to local book stores, chatting it up among their friends, making sure the books were face out as per the co-op, giving me great feedback on upcoming manuscripts to make them as strong as they can be before submitting to my editor, and having great parties when we get together in someone’s hometown.”
Judi and I belong to the same group, The Writing Wombats.  My Gather experience mirrors hers.  My Gather friends were my national, and in some cases, international PR force when my debut novel Spy Candy was released in November 2008.
Fellow Wombat Lisa Brackmann, Rock Paper Tiger, Soho Press June 2010, enjoys the support she gets.  ”…many of us have gone on to agency and publication deals.  I think that being around like-minded, serious and talented writers creates a sort of positive group-think that encourages success-and having a refuge to go to when times are hard, where people understand what you’re going through, is a huge comfort.”
For the published author, Gather provides a convenient, easy, and free way to reach thousands of potential readers by posting book releases, contests, or other news via articles or sending Gather mail to groups.
Rita Kuehn, author of Peripheral View, has garnered a wealth of marketing tips from Gather.  ”From helpful websites (some created by Gather members) to where the best place is to buy bookmarks or other promotional items, you can find it on Gather.”
Published or unpublished, no matter what you’re looking for-support, tips, friends, or PR opportunities—give Gather a try.
Gina Robinson is the author of the award-winning funny romantic suspense Agent Ex series. She also writes historical, contemporary, and new adult romance. She was not a prankster in college, although she knows a good many people who were. They will remain nameless to protect the guilty. She married her college sweetheart and has never forgotten that wonderful feeling of falling in love. Most days she writes while wearing slippers, flip-flops, or tennis shoes, depending on the season. But she loves a great, sexy heel and has a closet full for special occasions.

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