Authors and social media: Charlotte Duckworth

Authors and social media - Charlotte Duckworth - header

This is the first of a new, semi-regular series, talking to authors about their relationship with social media. Today I’m featuring Charlotte Duckworth, as I love the way she mixes personal story telling with regular promotion for her book on her social media channels. I also really love her books!

I worked with Charlotte on her first book when I was at Quercus, and have been chatting to her online ever since. As well as writing brilliant psychological suspense novels, Charlotte also creates author websites. You can find out more about her design studio here.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hello! I’m Charlotte and I write psychological suspense novels about parenting, motherhood and the challenges faced by modern families.

My third book, The Perfect Father*, about a stay at home dad who kidnaps his own daughter, came out earlier this year and is a Kindle and USA Today bestseller. I’m currently working on my fourth book, which will be out early next year.

When did you first start using social media in a professional capacity? What made you take the leap to use it to promote your work?

I joined Twitter way back in 2009 when I was still working as a journalist. A lot of my colleagues were joining and I was curious to see what it was all about. I think I joined Facebook a year before, but that was very much used for connecting with friends, rather than having anything to do with my career.

I don’t think I ever made an active choice to use Twitter to promote my work – to start with it was just a few people (lots of writers actually, in the early days) chatting about random stuff. But because I joined quite early I did manage to get a bit of momentum going and when brands and businesses started to take Twitter more seriously, I grew my followers quite quickly.

I then naturally segued into posting less personal stuff, and more about my writing, and now I’d say my balance is about 50/50 – half meaningless chat, half me talking about my writing!

It was different with Instagram. I did make an active choice to join for promotional reasons. I already had a personal Instagram account but when my debut went out as a proof I decided to set up a public one specifically to talk about my books, as I noticed I was getting tagged by bloggers etc. I had shared tons of images of my daughter on my old account so I decided to lock that one and start another.

I’ve always been a great fan of social media and as a naturally techy person I’ve been quite an early adopter of most platforms – I find the digital world endlessly fascinating, and can’t see myself ever leaving social media.

Do you feel like you have a balanced relationship with social media?

Most of the time, yes. But I am definitely addicted to it and I spend more time on social media than I should. I think during lockdown this has intensified too – I miss chatting with people so much, and have found myself turning to Twitter etc to fill that gap. Which of course, it rarely does, in any meaningful way.

I do find myself mindlessly scrolling sometimes, and I know I’m wasting time that could be better spent reading a book, or writing! As a writer, you work alone and it’s a lonely life – for me this is probably one of the mostdifficult things about this job, and I’m still not sure what the answer is, but social media feels like a place to go to be reminded that you’re not actually alone in the world!

Your book, Unfollow Me*, is about an influencer, and three women who are, in one way or another, caught up in her story when she disappears. What made you want to write about the social media / influencer world?

When I was pregnant I got quite swept up with watching mummy vloggers and reading mummy blogs. I really had so little idea of what it was like to be a mum and so I found watching them and hearing their experiences really helpful – and I became very heavily ‘influenced’.

One particular vlogger had her baby about two months before I had mine, and then she announced that she wasn’t going to reveal the gender – I was really annoyed! I thought I had a ‘right’ to this information as I had followed her whole pregnancy journey up until then. But then I realised how messed up this was, and it made me start to look into the whole influencer world even more.

I became fascinated by the ‘uber fans’ who devour everything their influencer posts, and I decided I wanted to write a story about them, and how they would cope if one day their idol just vanished from the online world…

What boundaries do you have around your social media usage, and why are those important to you?

I don’t post much at the weekend, and in the evenings I’m definitely more of a lurker – I might check in to my accounts but I rarely post.

I also rarely share photos of my family online, although I do sometimes tweet funny things my daughter has said.

I don’t have a hard and fast rule about this though – I think everything in moderation is fine, and I’m not obsessed with online privacy. But as my books have sold more inevitably more people are looking at my feeds and I want to keep them relatively professional, and I am aware not everyone is interested in small children!

My biggest boundary really is not using social media to moan, criticise or pour negative energy into the world. It’s not about being a Pollyanna, it’s just that I think everyone has enough of their own shit to deal with, and I don’t want to be a mood hoover.

I sometimes have a bit of a whinge about daft domestic things but I try to keep it quite tongue-in-cheek/humorous and on the whole I try to post positive things. I also never discuss politics or religion! I’m very old-fashioned about that.

Which is your favourite platform (and why)?

Twitter, because I’m a words person through and through! And it’s full of my mates. I also love how you can find out the news before ‘the news’ through it.

Which is your least favourite (and why)?

Facebook – I find it overwhelming, I think the UI is clunky and confusing, and I hate all the ads. I know it’s great for readers though so I feel this is a platform I really need to improve on…

On your website design side, you have a great, regular blog and email – what made you decide to focus on building those in addition to your social media channels?

I’m a huge believer in content marketing and providing valuable, helpful information and advice online – it’s so powerful for your SEO, keeps your website up to date, encouraging people to visit it, and, most importantly of all, your email list is the only database you ‘own’.

I really believe in building an email subscriber list rather than solely focusing on social media – I have heard many horror stories of people being kicked out of their Instagram accounts and losing access to the audience they have carefully and painstakingly built.

Also, content you share on your website or blog is evergreen and will hopefully continue to attract people to your site over months if not years, whereas social media is much more fleeting.

SEO is now the number 1 driver of traffic to my site, ahead of any social media platforms.

What is your best advice for an author who wants to promote themselves online?

Be authentic, provide value, ask questions, have a personality and don’t just post ‘buy my book’. Also, engage with your audience. I try to reply or at least respond to every single post or comment.

I’m definitely not an expert though – this is just my personal philosophy!

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

You can find out more about me on my website, and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too. Thanks very much for having me!

Thank you so much, Charlotte! If you’d like to get simple ideas on how to promote your book online, sign up to my free weekly email series, Simply Content, or come along to my next live workshop for authors.

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