Case Study: Author Greg Dawe on using social media to promote his debut novel Theta Head

Case Study: Author Greg Dawe on using social media to promote his debut novel Theta Head

This case study is in two parts; one from the author's point of view and the second from the publisher Caffeine Nights. This gives an example of how publishers and authors can work together but with different areas of responsibility across the social media strategy. If you would like to provide a case study for, please email me:

Debut author Greg Dawes talks us through his use of social media: 

Theta Head - a neuroscience thriller - is about a young woman’s search for her missing boyfriend and how she uses technology to try and find him. 

Can technology bring people closer to themselves and other people?

In Theta Head I explore the issue of whether technology can bring people closer to their inner selves, as opposed to technology’s more popular use of bringing people closer with others.  As I am now starting to use technology to promote Theta Head, I have been forced to rephrase the question: can technology - in particular social media - bring my writing closer to my potential readers.  And if so, how? 

As someone who has always kept myself to myself, self promotion was never going to be my strong point.  Again, therefore, I rephrased: Am I promoting my writing, or myself?  The online image I can create doesn’t have to reflect my normal, typically reserved and hesitant British self, it can represent my creative writing self.  It would mainly be my writing that would be on show - both my novel and my blog posts, interview answers and so on - so therefore I would have to choose social media platforms which would give my writing as much air time as possible.

Quantum Promotion

The most successful opportunities I’ve had so far for promoting Theta Head have occurred when I have been in the right place at the right time - which was also the case when I managed to secure my publishing contract.  Therefore, I thought, I would need to be in all places at all times.  This, I’d heard from many popular science documentaries, was entirely possible - in fact, it seems to be how the universe really works.  Taking this quantum physics strategy and applying it to the world of book promotion, I decided I would start by building a presence on as many platforms/sites as possible, link it all together and then use a single site (Ping) to feed these other sites my blog posts/press releases/etc.  I would not be able to give as much time and attention to any one particular site, not to begin with, but I could post to all sites and then see which one gave me the most valuable feedback.  I would then be able to reasses which sites to focus more time and attention on. 

Digital Intimacy

A facebook page is a must, though I’ve found it a bit limited in terms of what it can do and how intimate it is.  On the intimacy scale it’s pretty low.  For me it is a mini-base - a place to post to rather than interact directly with people.

You must tweet!  I still haven’t figured out whether Twitter is for me or not; I haven’t spent much time on it.  I haven’t taken to it immediately, partly, I think, because I started off following people who were chosen too randomly.  I am starting to see how much value it has, though, as slowly I establish myself on it and, more importantly, establish my sincerity.  From what I’ve seen, people are willing to re-tweet your tweets, but only once you show a bit of your true self and not your spam self.  I’ve now started to follow a few followers of my favourite writers, which has been much more productive than my earlier randomness.

So far the best way I’ve found of driving traffic to my site has been forums.  These include not only writing forums but ones which I think may be interested in my novel’s theme and style.  One of my favourite TV shows was Lost, for example, and therefore I spent some time on Lost forums - not shamelessly promoting my book, but starting topics relating to the show’s creative aspects, its writers and plot structure etc.  The traffic these forums attract is enormous and so it doesn’t take long to start getting noticed, especially if you show your sincerity.  On some forums I’ve been surprised at the lengths people are willing to go to give a complete stranger help and advice.  The other day I posted to mobileread forums asking for advice on how to promote Theta Head on Kobo books.  I’d done a search and nothing obvious had been googled back at me, and to my surprise when I posted about this I got a long, concise answer from a stranger who is now a digital buddy. 

I’ve also found that there are negative people who use social networking, which was a shock.  In my ignorance I didn’t expect to be rubbished, criticized, laughed at; I thought it was all going to be plain sailing.  I could see how easy it would be to reply to a negative comment in a negative way, and stopping myself from doing that is sometimes difficult.  I am generally a positive person though, and this positivity and openness is often rewarded.  Be yourself, be open, sincere, be positive. 

Author/publisher dynamic

As a hardworking publisher/promoter Caffeine Nights Publishing can do what I cannot.  They can make professional media contacts, both in traditional and online media, local and national, and have the expertise to get the most out of those contacts.  As an author who has researched the topic of his book, in this case an area of neuroscience, I have a good idea about where these contacts can be found.  I then pass this information along to my publisher who will then make a professional approach - whether a review request or interview request.  This relationship is invaluable to me as I wouldn’t know where to begin with the more traditional site of the media spectrum.

Opening up to the Momentum

Although I’m in the very early stages – Theta Head has only been out a week -  on a personal level the establishing of myself as an author using social media has opened me up and shown me something of myself I didn’t realise was there.  It has boosted my confidence, both in my writing and in myself, and has led to new relationships I never would have had otherwise.  It seems that social media technology has indeed shown me that I can connect not only with others, but also with myself.