A lot of writers have had agents suggesting that they create an author account to market their work and some have been apprehensive. More accounts to keep on top of? More algorithms and rules to follow? Or could it be where your real audience is? Instagram is a great platform for sharing pictures and connecting with an audience in more than a limited character tweet, more than the random algorithm timelines of Facebook, and with much less time and effort than making YouTube videos. But like any social media you choose to put your valuable time into, it takes effort and willingness to ‘make it work’. Learning a new social media is like learning a new language – what are the features, what works and what doesn’t, how does it differ from other platforms? And having one that is an extension of your writing or business is different to having a personal account. Here are some tips and break downs to getting started on Bookstagram and see whether it’s an effort you are willing to make.
What is Bookstagram?
Bookstagram is the name given to Instagram accounts that center mainly around books and writing. These can be accounts from readers, reviewers, bloggers, writers and even people who are just great at taking pictures. These accounts are linked through hashstags and can be entirely based on one subject or whatever takes the persons fancy. My account is a mixture of my writing, reading, blogging, and some personal stuff – mainly pictures of dogs.
Why have an author/writing account
Bookstagram is for anyone who loves books, funnily enough. If you are a reader you’ll find places to discuss books and get recommendations, if you are a writer you’ll find all the readers, reviewers, and beta-readers you can handle. Instagram is a great way to get your book out there and in people’s minds. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought from seeing them reviewed or even just being read on Instagram posts. Covers do sell books and if you can get that cover in someone’s head – the right someone – they will buy it. Not being a published author (yet!) I use my own account to share my books reviews and blog posts, pictures of my latest reads, snaps of book launches and events I go to, and parts of my own writing process – anything book or writing related.
What makes Instagram different?
If you are familiar with Facebook already, you are off to a good start. The ‘story’ option on Facebook was actually taken from Instagram when they bought the app, but it’s far more popular on Instagram. Other than that, the main aim of Instagram is the sharing of pictures. There are some features of the app that confused me at first but don’t have to be the huge obstacles they seem.
-No Links- You may have noticed that you can’t post links on Instagram. This is because they want to do everything they can to keep you on the app as long as possible. Similarly on Facebook if you put a link in a post, that post will reach significantly less followers and explains why so many people write posts about something they want to link to and add (LINK IN COMMENTS BELOW) If they didn’t do this, no one would see it in the first place. On Instagram you can’t even add links to comments, you can however, have links in your profile description eg. (LINK IN BIO)
-Caption Formatting- It took me a while to stop being annoyed at the run on lines of Instagram post captions. It wasn’t until someone suggested first writing the comments in my notes app and then copying it over to Instagram. This ensures your post makes sense and doesn’t hurt to read. And on the subject of captions, it seems to be that longer is better. It seems counter productive as we all hate endless Facebook posts, but with a well written long caption people seem more likely to interact.
-Reposting- It confused me in the beginning that you couldn’t share from other people’s accounts, but it turns out you can! You just need another app. The one I use is called ‘Repost‘ and the instructions are simple. It’s an easy way to take part in sharing competitions and follow loops as well, linking back to the original poster. Slightly more complicated than other sites, but not impossible to get the hang of.
How to gain followers?
Just like any other platform, followers is something you either care about or you don’t. There’s plenty of tips out there about cheating algorithms and whatnot to get more followers, but I’ve found that these are mostly just incredibly time consuming and fruitless – you don’t want any followers, you want followers that will stay. You can also ignore all the emails telling you if you pay someone twenty quid they can get you ‘real’ followers, it’s not going to work and you will lose your money. Gaining followers is all about attracting the right people, and you do that by putting out the face you want people to see and following accounts that closely resemble yours or use the same hashtags as your account.
But, for those who do want to gain some traction with followers, interaction and regular posting is the best way to go. I’ve had my Instagram for just over a year now and I’m currently at 550 followers. It’s not the thousands I could have had if I spent more time on it, but I’m pretty happy with the ones I do have. If you make your account a business one, you get access to ‘Insights’ that can tell you when, where, and who are liking your posts. I’m sure this will interest some people, but I tend not to look at them too much these days. The golden rules are follow back accounts you like, always reply to comments, and support and share other writers and readers in your circle.
What to post?
Post whatever is authentically you. Of course there’s always some sense of performance online but it’s up to you how much performance goes into your profile.
It may seem like a great idea to post about your book and get it out there, but people follow authors for more than just ads, in fact ads will actually put a lot of followers off, even if they are fans of your work. You need to decide in your description what you want your page to be and for the most part, stick to that. If you want to present as more than an author, pick one or two things in your description and give regular updates on those things. There’s some debate on whether posting on too many separate subjects can make your profile look messy and put followers off, while others say that accounts who post identical pictures with the same filter on each one become too repetitive. Nothing should ever be identical in my opinion, but being too scattered and all over the place can also be a mistake. Curating the right image for you is something that may take a little time at the beginning, but is worth some thought. And no matter how private you want to make it, one or two pictures that include your face help followers to connect better with who they are following.
Instagram is, for better or worse, about great pictures and aesthetic. You don’t need to be a photographer or have fancy equipment – any smart phone will do – but there are also plenty of apps outside of Instagram’s own filters that can help if you need it. Canva is a great app to create promotional material for all social media sites and can give you a professional look with no editing skills needed. With some research you can also find plenty of apps that help with personalized filters as well if you want to create your own unique aesthetic.
A major fail for pictures is blurriness, nothing hurts the eyes more, its worse than bad composition or terrible lighting even. Always make sure that whatever you take a picture of, make sure it is in focus.
At the end of the day it is up to you how you choose to market your book, blog, or writing. It may seem like a good idea to set up something on every platform but with this you run the risk of spending so much time on social media, you never get any actual work done. Authenticity is what ‘sells’ the most and nothing is more obvious and off putting than someone who clearly dislikes or doesn’t enjoy what they are doing. For some people it’s better to have no online presence at all rather than a negative one. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.