—Guest Post by Laura Hartley—
In Part One of this Bookstagram 101 guide, we discussed how to get started on Instagram, so go there first if you missed it. Now let’s get down to strategy. Bookstagram (book-Instagram) can be an incredibly powerful social media tool for authors looking to promote their work. However, there is a certain art to bookstagramming and having some sort of strategy in mind before you get going will prove invaluable for your account’s growth.
Grab Your Camera
Instagram is predominantly a visual platform and that means that beautiful photography is going to help you succeed. If you’re not all that artistically inclined—don’t panic! Your photos don’t have to be complex and you don’t need fancy equipment. If you’ve got a smartphone that will probably do you just fine, but if not, then you may want to consider investing in a cheap digital camera. A decent inexpensive one on Amazon can be had for around $60.00, but it’s worthwhile if you’re serious about Instagram as a marketing tool.
Decide What to Post
Posting photo after photo of your book’s cover isn’t going to cut it. It’s not a good strategy on Instagram or any social platform for that matter. As an indie author, your ultimate aim is obviously going to be to promote your own book. However, you’ll need to mix this content with some non-promotional photos too.
For example, if you would like your account’s focus to be solely on books, you could post a mixture of content about your own books as well as bookstores, other books you’re reading, libraries and more.
Alternatively, you could use your page as a snippet into your life and work. This could give reader’s a behind-the-scenes look into your process and your daily life, which could help forge a more personal connection.
Of course, you’re free to change your account’s direction as you get comfortable with Instagram and see what works, but it’s a good idea to think about your focus before you begin posting.
As you can see on the left below, my account which features a mixture of flat lays, bookshops, libraries, and bookshelves. Author Sabaa Tahir on the right posts a mixture of flat lays, updates on what she’s reading, news about her own works, her personal life and more.
Experiment With Your Photography Style
Now you’ve decided what sort of images you want to post, you need to actually take the pictures. One very easy photo style that I would recommend starting with is the “flat lay”. This is a photo taken from above, offering a bird’s eye view of the scene in front of you on your table/desk/bed etc.
These can be very simple, including just the book and a nice background. Or, you can create more complex compositions with props found around the house—stationery, mug of tea, laptop, glasses—the possibilities are endless! Browse some flat lay inspiration, which there is plenty of on Google Images or Pinterest.
The last step here is simply to practice, practice, practice! The only way you’re going to get good at something is if you experiment. You can read all about my bookstagram journey and how I found my photo style over a number of years on whatshotblog.com.
Write Effective Captions
As writers, you should excel at this bit! Write engaging bookstagram captions to capture your followers’ attention and keep them reading. When inspiration is short, a good bookish quote will do, but if you can write a couple of lines about your photo, you’ll see better results. Inject your personality into your bookstagram captions and write as if you are texting a friend. Instagram is the most “personal” of all the social media channels out there so speak freely, add an emoji or two and just have fun. An excellent way to engage your followers is to ask a question at the end of your caption, which will encourage them to leave you a comment.
Create Your Own Bookstagram Hashtags
Hashtags were introduced in Part 1 of this Bookstagram 101 guide, but now you can go one step further and create your own hashtag. This is very, very simple. Just write out your desired hashtag word and include the ‘#’ sign in front and it becomes a clickable link leading people to all other photos using the same hashtag.
I’d advise you to create a hashtag for your own book or pen name, so people can easily find you and you can easily find mention of your works by other people. For example, if you search for the hashtags #sarahjmaas and “#throneofglass”, you will see lots of photos relating to the book Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. Do the same with your own name and book title so every time someone posts about you, you’ll be able to see it even if they forgot to tag you!
In order to maintain your account and keep your follower number growing, you’ll need to post regularly to Instagram. Every time you crop up on somebody’s Instagram feed you are reminding them that you exist and reminding them of your books. People are always scrolling through Instagram and there are two kinds of posts you can create: static posts that appear on your account page forever unless manually deleted, or Instagram “stories”, which are temporary updates that will automatically disappear after 24 hours (more on this below).
Every time something important comes up in your writing or publishing process, you should share the news via Instagram. If you have upcoming events, appearances or sales coming up then you should inform your bookstagram followers about these on your main feed. This way, even if someone comes to find your account days after you have posted, they will still have access to this information.
On the other hand, you should use Instagram stories to provide daily updates of the process behind your writing and give people a look behind the scenes. This gives you the chance to share your own life and personality here but still focus on your book in your main feed.
How to Post to Instagram Stories
“Instagram stories” function in much the same way as Snapchat. It is an image or video that appears when a user clicks on your account icon, but it is only available for 24 hours. After that period of time, it automatically disappears. As such, these photos are often more “raw”, giving followers a less staged look at what you are up to.
In order to take a photo to add to your Instagram story, press the camera icon in the top left-hand corner of the Instagram feed home page. This should open up your phone’s camera. Now you can take a picture of whatever it is you are doing by pressing the white circle at the bottom of the screen. You can even add text to your image by pressing “Aa” in the top right-hand corner. Add some text to tell your followers what you are up to! Finally, press the ‘+’ in a circle at the bottom of the screen to post to your Instagram story.
Think of Instagram stories as a visual Twitter feed. People are constantly posting to them to show what they’re having for breakfast, what they’re reading, sharing articles they find interesting and more.
When you manage to grow your account to 10,000 followers or more, you can even add links to these stories, directing people to your website or to your book product page.
Engage With Your Readers
Cultivate real reader/author relationships through regular interaction with your followers on Instagram. Arguably you can do this on Twitter too though Instagram is for a younger audience and captions can be long form (not limited to 240 characters). When people comment on your photos, make an effort to reply to each and every one of them. Conversely, you need to be commenting on other people’s photos too. Leave meaningful comments on photos that interest you to create lasting relationships on bookstagram.
A good way to find relevant photos is simply by searching using hashtag #bookstagram. You may even find potential reviewers. Look for popular bookstagrammers who talk about books of your genre and you can contact them directly via Instagram. This is much easier than using Google search or blogging directories to find reviewers, which are often outdated.
Network With Other Writers
There are already many indie authors on Instagram so join the community and network with other self-publishers. One way to find them is to search hashtags such as “#authorsofinstagram” or “#authorslife”. Once you've found an account you wish to connect with, press the big blue follow button and you’ll be kept updated of their posts. If you’d like to get even more personal, you can send them a private message.
Host Bookstagram Giveaways
It couldn’t be easier to host a giveaway on Instagram. This is a great way to encourage people to follow your account and get your book out to interested readers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the easiest method to run a giveaway these days. On Twitter, once your giveaway has exceeded a certain number of entrants, you can no longer see all the accounts that have retweeted or liked the post. If you’re experiencing a high volume of entrants, then you’d have to keep checking back and noting new entries. This can be very time consuming if you don’t have the aid of third-party tools.
This is not an issue on Instagram where you can simply view all the comments underneath your photo at the end of the giveaway period.
But how do people enter?
People enter giveaways by tagging their friend's usernames in the comments section, which sends the friend a notification leading them back to your post. This creates a chain reaction whereby that friend may comment with the name of another friend, which in turn helps get the word out. Be sure to be clear in your post about how people should enter, what’s up for grabs and when the giveaway ends.
This is but a brief introduction to the world of bookstagram and its uses for authors, but it should be more than clear by now that Instagram is a very powerful communication tool. In fact, it is the most powerful social media marketing tool today for selling any product, including books. Implement Part One and Part Two of this guide to get going on #bookstagram and you should gain a wider audience for your works and an increase in sales!
Laura Hartley is a book and travel blogger at What’s Hot Blog. 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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