—Guest Post by Laura Hartley—
If you’re a self-published author trying to get the word out about your work, you should to be on bookstagram. If you're not familiar with bookstagram, sit down and buckle up, you’re about to get acquainted.
Bookstagram is a community of book lovers on Instagram. “Bookstagrammers” (book-Instagrammers) create visually appealing photos of their current reads, new releases and more, to share with their followers.
If you’ve brushed aside the thought of joining Instagram, thinking that it’s a superficial platform suited to fashion and foodie types, think again. Instagram is one of the most powerful marketing tools in today’s world and marketing departments across the globe are allocating more and more of their budget to Instagram promotion with each passing month.
While it’s easy to see how a fashion brand might be able to harness the power of Instagram, it's also a great tool for indie authors trying to market their book. Especially if your book is geared towards a younger demographic, like YA, for instance.
2.3 Million and Growing
The hashtag #bookstagram now has over a whopping 2.3 million posts and that number is steadily growing. Thanks to these eye-pleasing bookish squares, print books have found an eager audience among the bibliophiles who are, and who follow, bookstagrammers. Yummy pictures of books on Instagram are helping to create a surge in book buying among millennials and you may want to hop on the trend ASAP.
Throw the phrase "never judge a book by its cover" out the window, (because that's exactly what prospective readers do). On bookstagram, it’s all about the cover. That’s not to say that the contents don’t matter because, of course, they do. It’s just that if you want to market your book on Instagram the cover must be pretty to look at. (Presumably, you've already taken this into account when creating your book so it woos online shoppers.)
Getting Started on Instagram
Download the App
Instagram is a mobile phone app so the only way to publish a photo is via your phone. While you can view, like, and comment on anyone’s account on the instagram.com website, you can only upload your own content from a mobile device. So, you’ll need to download the app to your smartphone. (Instagram is available in the App Store for iPhones or from Google Play for Android devices.)
Setting Up an Account.
First, you’re going to need to set up an author account. If you’ve already got a personal account and you’re thinking you can just use that to promote your book, scrap that thought immediately. Your account needs to be professional from the get-go and that means no memes or pictures of your cat.
To set up an account, all you need is a valid phone number or email address. Enter your name, set up a safe password and a username will be chosen for you. It’s likely this username will be along the lines of ja.ne.doe so you’ll want to change that immediately to something that’s easier for people to remember.
Choosing a Username
Choosing a good username is essential because this is how bookstagram followers will come to recognize you. You can change your username at any point on Instagram, but this isn’t advisable since once you’ve built up a following with one name, it can be difficult for people to find you in the future if you then change it.
For an author, this should be pretty simple. Just choose your pen name. It could simply be your name, your name + official, your name + author, or something else along those lines. Here are some username examples from four successful authors who use Instagram:
Writing a Killer Bio
Next, you’ll have to write a killer bio, so people know what your page is all about. Your bio is the first thing a person sees when they click through to your profile, so it has got to be catchy enough for people to hit that “follow” button.
While an author like Jojo Moyes can get away with “writer, parent, eejit” and Tahareh Mafi can say nothing but “i write books”, that’s not going to cut it for a self-published author who's new on Instagram.
Make sure to include the name of your publication and any important accolades or dates that fans should be aware of. You can also add in a little something extra about yourself, so your fans get to know your personality. You’ve only got 150 characters though so you’re going to have to keep it short and sweet!
Add Your Website Link and Email
Adding your website to your Instagram profile is easy, simply tap "Edit Profile" and you’ll see where to enter your web address. Depending on what your goals are for your Instagram page, you may choose to add the Amazon link to your book here instead. This link can be changed whenever you want so you can keep updating it to the most relevant link for your current marketing.
Adding your contact email is a little more difficult as you’ll need a business profile. See below for more info.
Get Instagram for Business
By default, the account you’ve just created is a personal profile. To get the most out of your author account, you’ll want to convert this into a business profile. This will give you insights into your followers—where they’re based, what the average age is— when they’re online and more. This is valuable information so don’t miss this step.
To start the process, click “Edit Profile” again. Select the option to "Try Instagram Business Tools" underneath your page information. Choose what your page is about and click through. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to connect your page to Facebook now so you can choose a business page to connect your Instagram page to.
[Note: You must have a Facebook fan page set up for you as an author in order to use Instagram’s business tools. If you already have one, simply click the page you want to connect your account to. If you don’t, Instagram will automatically create a page for you, which you will later be able to claim as your own and edit on Facebook etc.]
Post a Picture
Now that your profile is set up, you can start posting on Instagram as an author. To post your first picture, tap the “+” icon in the middle of the toolbar at the bottom of the app. You can then choose a picture from the photo gallery on your phone or you can take one on the spot. The former is preferred as you can get the perfect photo before you open up the Instagram app. (If you have photos stored on your computer that you want to post to Instagram, you’ll need to transfer them to your mobile device first.)
You can then choose to add a filter to your photo. Instagram filters are a good place to start if you’re a complete newbie, but they’re not the best for photo editing. It is much better to edit your photos in an app such as VSCO (free!) or Lightroom (paid) before you upload them to Instagram.
Now it’s time to write a catchy caption! Describe what’s in the photo, share some news, share a favorite quote, whatever you want—the floor is yours. You can now also add the location your photo was taken in and tag any people in it. Get your feet wet and have fun! You'll get better as you go. Follow popular bookstagrammers to see how they attract followers.
Hashtags help people find your content so don’t forget to add some of these. You can add up to 30 of these either in the caption box or as a separate comment after you have posted your picture. You’ll definitely want to include #bookstagram but the rest are up to you. Browse through Instagram for other book and author related tags such as: #instareads, #ilovereading, #authorsofinstagram, #authorslife
That’s it for now! Look for Part Two of this guide to bookstagram for self-published authors, next month. You'll learn how to make the most of bookstagram to generate hype and book sales.
Laura Hartley is a book and travel blogger at What’s Hot?. You’ll find a diverse range of articles on her site including book reviews, literary travel inspiration, and suggestions for what to read next. There are also hints and tips for book bloggers and bookstagrammers. You can follow her bookish adventures on Instagram here too.
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