Charles L.R. Dougherty, author of six books, uses his marketing background to excel as an Indie author in the online venues of social media. With 5,829 followers on Twitter and 489 “Likes” on Facebook, Charles carefully uses social media channels to further his brand. It’s also a practical choice for him, too. Usually, he’s cruising around the islands of the Eastern Caribbean on his sailboat so opportunities for readings and meet and greets aren’t an option. Paid advertising, he notes, is simply an option that Indie authors and small publishers just can’t afford. Besides, he says, “Social media marketing works, and it’s within reach for anyone who is willing to put forth the required effort.”
Marketing Lessons from Author Charles L.R. Dougherty
How do you use Twitter to market your books?
I use Twitter as a means of increasing my visibility and that of my books. I don’t attempt to sell with a tweet; I think there are too many of those for a few more to have any effect. I try to project a consistent image on Twitter and elsewhere; it picture, same tone. I want people to recognize my tweets at a glance. I look at Twitter as a tool to get people to engage with me personally or with one of several sites on the web where I can show them my work. My tweets link to one of my blogs, or to my book or series-specific web pages, or my pages on Amazon, the Independent Author Network, GoodReads, YouTube, etc. I’ve been using this approach for about 10 months.
How long did it take you to attract so many followers and what was your strategy?
I’ve gone from around a hundred followers on Twitter to something over 5,000 in 10 months. I know many folks have far more impressive track records, but gaining followers is a result of an effective strategy, not a goal in itself, the way I look at it. I think that to grow a follower base, you first have to be visible; that means tweeting often. It’s important to have some variety in your tweets and to keep them interesting. I track my followers daily and follow back the new ones, but I weed out the potential spammers. I try to avoid people who are just in the game of collecting followers, too. Beyond that, I try to follow anyone who retweets me, and I add people who retweet me consistently to a private list. When I need a break from writing, I go to that list and retweet the folks who retweet me. I don’t look for or strive for a one-to-one ratio. I figure it works out in the long run. If someone sends me a tweet in reply to one of mine, I try to respond with a personal comment. I don’t like DMs and don’t check them often. There’s too much spam and auto response junk there. I sometimes don’t follow back people who use “TrueTwit validation.” I understand that they don’t want spam, but they’re also restricting their audience, which puzzles me. I’ll follow them back only if I have extra time on my hands.
Which Twitter applications do you use/prefer?
I use Hootsuite to schedule my own tweets. I use TweetDeck for shorter term scheduling of tweets for other people in reciprocal tweet groups. Hootsuite provides some useful statistics as to which of my tweets are getting the most attention. I use it to weed out the ineffective tweets from my list. I use the main Twitter web page for my ‘real time’ Twitter interaction. Person-to-person conversation is my goal in using the scheduling tools; they leave me free to interact with people. I think the Twitter web page is the best place for personal interaction. The applications like TweetDeck and Hootsuite are too cumbersome for carrying on a conversation.
What’s been your overall experience with using Twitter?
It’s been my single most effective marketing tool, and I’ve also connected with some nice folks who have become friends outside of the realm of social media marketing. I think it’s great, in spite of some of the annoying things about it.
Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ to market your books? If so, describe your experiences, favorite applications, and lessons learned. You have quite a few Facebook fans. Did your Facebook fan base grow slowly over time or suddenly?
I use Facebook as my primary adjunct to Twitter, with a similar strategy and similar results. Facebook posts have a residual effect than Tweets, and you aren’t as constrained as to content. I think that’s a temptation to many people to make their posts too long to be effective as marketing communications. A long Facebook post probably won’t be read. I try to keep them to a sentence or two with a book cover in the post and my same old (consistent) profile picture. Again, I want to get people to follow the link to a less distracting venue where they can learn about my book and buy it if they find it appealing. I’m still feeling my way on Google+. I don’t see it as competing with Facebook yet, but it may, and I want to be there growing along with it. I have a lot of the same people in my circles that are friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been on LinkedIn since my days in the consulting business, many years ago. To me, it appears that it could be valuable if you write certain types of nonfiction works, (business, self-help, technical, etc.,) but I haven’t seen much value in terms of marketing what I write.
Tell us the titles of your two most recent books and what compelled you to write each one.
Bluewater Vengeance and Bluewater Voodoo are the second and third books in my Bluewater Thriller series. I was inspired to write Bluewater Killer, the first book in the series, by my years of experience in the yachting world of the Caribbean. People who go to sea for extended periods in small boats are a bit different from the rest of the crowd. To thrive in that environment requires self reliance; all of the safety nets that are provided by modern society are absent – medical, social services, police, fire, tow trucks, and even grocery stores are scarce compared to what we’re used to in the States. How well you live depends directly on how willing you are to step up to new challenges. On the other hand, the people we meet in that environment understand the importance of helping each other, and the satisfaction of meeting their own needs. It occurred to me that a series of thrillers set in such an environment offered interesting possibilities in terms of describing character traits and interactions.
What books have most influenced your life?
My long-time favorites include most of William Faulkner’s and Ernest Hemingway’s works, as well as Mark Twain’s. T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom has a permanent place on my virtual bookshelves, too.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor and why?
I had the good fortune to go to a small military high school run by a man who inspired a love of literature and writing in many of his students. I’m not sure he ever published anything, but 4 years of weekly 300 word themes and a consistent requirement for flawless grammar and punctuation (One mistake in a theme earned an ”F.”) sharpened my writing skills. My lack of tolerance for sloppy editing stems from his focus on the importance of precise usage to convey exactly what the writer intended.
What books are you reading now?
I just finished The Devil of Light, by Gae-Lynn Woods, and I’m well into American Goddesses, by Gary Henry. Both are extraordinarily well written.
Are there any new authors that have caught your attention?
There are too many to name. The explosion of Indie publishing is wonderful for voracious readers. There are many first-rate writers who have come to light in the last couple of years; readers who aren’t shopping the eBook markets are missing some great work. Of course, there are quality issues, but it’s easy to sample the first few pages on line and weed out the wanna be writers who haven’t taken the time and effort to sharpen their skills. Buying traditionally published works is no guarantee of careful editing; I find poor grammar and usage in far too many books, now, regardless of where they’re published. I think the chance of finding a gem among the works of Indie writers is far higher than among the big-budget crowd.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on a psycho-thriller that’s not set in the yachting world of the Caribbean, for a change. I felt the need to stretch my boundaries a bit after the third book in the Bluewater series. It’s fun and challenging to tackle some new characters in an environment about which I’m less accustomed to writing. I’ll go back to the series after that, though. I’m missing some of the characters already.
What has writing taught you?
Most of the things I’ve accomplished in my varied career have been as a direct result of careful writing. Writing teaches me something new every day as I struggle to find just the right way to express my thoughts. The consistent lesson from writing is that nothing clarifies my thoughts quite as well as reducing them to a few carefully chosen words.
What would you say to writers who are reluctant to using social media to promote their books?
I think participating in social media is a natural extension of writing. Nowhere else can you get immediate feedback on the effectiveness of your written work. Marketing and selling via the social media sharpen the ability to write concisely, which is essential to success as a writer. Anyone who is a good writer should be effective at social media marketing; you just have to adjust your writing to the venue.
What do you want your readers to know about you?
Writing is fun, but it’s more fun when I hear from readers and other writers. I’m always interested in what people liked or disliked about my writing; readers’ reactions are critical to my growth as a writer. It’s easy to get in touch with me, thanks to email and the Internet, and I welcome email correspondence.
About the Author: A social media marketer and trainer in Sonoma County, Frances Caballo has 23 years of communications experience. She helps writers, businesses and nonprofits with their social media and public relations needs. Presently, she is the Social Media Editor for Redwood Writers, the largest branch of the California Writers Club, and for the Women’s National Book Association; and the Director of the Sonoma County Book Festival. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. Her book, Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books is available on Amazon.