Instagram For Your Author Toolbox

(Non-Business Account Edition)

Let’s get the important thing out of the way first: Instagram is only one of many (So many. Too many. Brain-fogging amounts of many) social media platforms for authors. If you’re already on Twitter, or Facebook, etcetera, et al, and you’re happy with it you don’t have to add Instagram. Really.

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No! GO away social media! I don’t need another account! Don’t chase me with another one! NO!

As for me and my author brand* we like Instagram.

(*haha just kidding. No one would stick around after they saw the iron go into the fire.)

What Does Instagram Have?

Pew Research findings on social media for 2018 say Instagram has:

  • A little over 1/3 of all online (internet using) adults (35%)
  • especially high numbers of young adult users (71% of people who are 18-24 report using Instagram) a good number of 25-29 year olds (50%ish) and a solid number of 30-49 year olds (40%ish). Not very many adults aged 50+
  • 38% of total users are female (26% men)
  • Somewhere around 500 million users
  • Users tend to be “daily active users” which means a high level of engagement

(here are those numbers for 2016, which is where I got the number of users and how many are female/male.)

Great, so What Does That Mean?

That means that if you’re writing books 18-49 year old people (mostly female people) want to read, Instagram is a good choice for you to consider.

Yes, the statistics skew heavily towards YA, but that doesn’t preclude other kinds of books. There are plenty of users on Instagram and they tend to be very active. Speaking from my own experience, once you fall in love with this format you use it constantly and feel loyal to it.

Awesome. So, how do I use it?

The Instagram app is available on smartphones. You can also access it from a computer at instagram.com although you can’t add or edit any pictures that way.

Use your phone number or an email address to sign up for a free account. It’s effortless to incorporate if you already have a smartphone. (If you don’t, consider that Instagram might not be for you.)

  • Username: Create a personal name that people use to find you. This should go without saying, but use the name you want associated with you as an author. Use your pen name if you have one and that’s the name you write under the most.
  • Bio: Instagram limits you to 150 characters and ONE website link per bio. Use it wisely. Make sure your profile is “public” and don’t post personal things on this account. It’s super easy to add another account if you want a private one.
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Here’s my profile as an example

Navigation: The little button that looks like a house will take you to the home screen, where you see posts and videos from the people you follow. The magnifying glass takes you to the search feature. The plus/square is to add your own post. The heart shows you likes or comments on your posts. And the bottom right circle will take you to your profile.

Got your profile set up?

Now you start taking pictures. Open your smartphone camera, focus, and click. Then open up Instagram. Tap on that big square with the plus sign on it (in the bottom middle of my picture, above). The pictures in your phone gallery will appear in the app for you to select one to play around with. Add filters, fade, blur, even color it. Then post it for everyone on Instagram to enjoy.

*Good to know* you can share your picture to multiple social media sites from Instagram. You have the option to either a) automatically post to the sites you select for every picture (this is called syncing) b) select a site to share to on a case-by-case basis or c) not share to any other sites at all. You control this through your settings.

I made dis. It is a pretty picture. Now what?

The best part! Find other Instagram accounts to follow, and collect followers to your account. At first, you will see general Instagram accounts (travel, fashion, food, personal pictures). You’ll want to use the search feature to look for books, your favorite genre, authors you know. Narrow your options down to bookish things, in other words.

Just tap around until something catches your eye. Tap on it, then check out the user profile for the person who put up that picture. If you like what you see, you click “follow”. And you’re off.

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One of my pretties, with likes and caption

No, but SE, how do I use this visual thing, as a Wordy Words Writer Person?

Twitter has a huge, devoted following that exchange verbal thrust and parry all day, accompanied by witty memes. Perfect for writers. Instagram is all about the pictures. At first, it seems counter-intuitive but it turns out pictures are GREAT for books. Observe:

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(I used my own profile to be 100% sure I had permission to use it. Believe me when I say there are MUCH more aesthetically pleasing accounts out there!)

Books! Nothing but books and booky things. Instagram is FULL of users who love, read, celebrate, review, recommend, and promote books. Together, this nerdtopia is affectionately called “bookstagram”.

Here is a beginning list of how you can use Instagram:

  • Post neat pictures of your favorite books.
  • Post pictures of your own published books (but don’t go nuts and spam! One or two posts a day gets you better traffic analytics on Instagram anyway.)
  • Post anything bookish: libraries, pretty bookmarks, literary locations, cozy warm drinks, fandom merchandise, the list is really endless.
  • Write fun captions to encourage interaction. Ask questions, state opinions, include your favorite quotes from the book pictured. Captions are entirely up to you and you have a lot of words to play with!
  • Find and follow bookstagrammers. There are thousands of choices. The best part? Bookstagrammers are always promoting other grammers so you are always finding new, wonderful accounts to follow.
  • Your favorite authors may be on there for you to follow. Go look!
  • Feature the hell out of your gorgeous book covers. That’s why you wanted show-stopping cover art in the first place, to catch eyeballs.
  • Publishers are on Instagram, including the Big 5 of course, promoting new releases, announcing giveaways, featuring their authors, all kinds of good stuff. Follow them and learn from their methods for when it’s your turn to market.
  • Find book merchandise accounts, like FandomFlair Pins (enamel pins for nerds) Canterbury Road Co. (book themed scented candles) or Ink And Wonder Designs (fandom related wooden bookmarks and totes). There are thousands of options here too and if you build up a relationship with a store you could, for example, buy their stuff in bulk for your reader swag.
  • Share little pieces of you: the best part of your city, your cute pets, the great bread you just baked. Let your readers get to know you.
  • Share your process: pictures of what inspired your WIP, tiny excerpts, funny memes about writing, pictures of your books and swag on display.
  • Use hashtags to get found by more people (I’ll do a separate post on this.)
  • Include your followers. Have them vote for a character name, host giveaways, ask for photos themed around your books and then share their amazing entries, basically anything you’re comfortable doing that will make them feel welcome and wanted.
  • Learn how to create and post “stories” (Instagram’s answer to Snapchat that I will do yet another separate post on.)

The best part about the site is how interactive and supportive the accounts are.

It’s a very organic process that builds off of relationships. I’m still genuinely amazed and grateful when other users tag me and then come find my answers to their fun tag. As an introvert, this platform is easy and non-threatening for me. People are generous with their time, comments, tags, and follows. Trolls are honestly pretty minimal (and you are totally able to block users, which is nice). Here you can find your bookish niche, dig in, and bloom. If you’re already a very visual, artistic person, Instagram will be a natural platform for you.

If all of that sounds too haphazard and random and vague for you (eat me, I’m organic!) that’s fine. The beauty of social media is that there’s a site for everyone.

On the other hand, if wandering down exciting footpaths with other feral bookworms sounds like your thing, come join, and let me know so I can follow you!

 

[This is an Author Toolbox blog hop post. To find other great articles and add to your tools, head over here to host Raimey Gallant’s website. Come join us!]

25 thoughts on “Instagram For Your Author Toolbox

  1. Thanks for the tips. I have an instagram account but have to confess I don’t use it much. I keep thinking I should, but I seem to go at in spurts.

    1. Perhaps it will pick up a bit. Chris Fey was right to remind me how awesome the photo challenges are to get you started!

  2. This is a great introduction to Instagram! And I love your pictures. I love all the pretty pictures … And now I’m following you 🙂

    I was a bit slow getting onto Instagram, but I love it now I’m there. Lots of pretty pictures, and I find it easier to use than, say, Pinterest. I’m not yet published so I mostly post book quotes, nature pictures (e.g. local places), and the occasional coffee pic. I also post a weekly Bookish Question,and find that gets engagement because the question invites comments.

  3. Your Instagram feed is amazing. Makes me want to pick up real books instead of the digital ones I end up buying. I just don’t think pictures of my phone, iPad, or Kindle for each new purchase will have the same effect. Lol. Though, I need to be more active on it. I take a slew of pictures, forget to post them, then feel weird about posting them significantly after taking them. I need to just get over myself, I know. And now I need to start following a bunch of bookish-fun bookstagram people to live vicariously through their lovely real book pictures.

    1. I’ve found a few accounts that use their kindle as their book for photos and it actually looks pretty great! Bookstagram is a little scary, too. Before I was like “multiple editions? Why?” and now I’m more like “give me EVERY edition of The Hobbit, ever. Especially the pretty ones, for photos.” LOL!

  4. I love Instagram! It’s quickly becoming my favorite social media as Facebook is just too exhausting and annoying–I only have to look at pretty pictures on Instagram, without all the talk included. I think it’s a great platform.

    1. That’s a good point, I do enjoy the quicker captions and pretty pictures. It’s much easier to ‘like’ photos, too.

  5. Your photos are so pretty! I’m obsessed with Litsy, and so Instagram should be right up my alley, but still I delay. I really need to do it. Why not? I’m creating square-shaped images for Litsy, I could use virtually the same blurbs I’m writing for over there. I think it’s the hashtags that scare me, as well as trying to build a following. It’s so much easier to build a following on newer social media sites. I just keep getting farther and farther behind the eight ball with Instagram. Scheduling this for a Facebook post now!

    1. I admit, I often just use the exact same picture for both. It seems silly to re-do every picture twice! I need to get a bit more serious about Litsy 🙂

  6. I love Instagram! It’s one of my favorite platforms, probably because I also love photography. For anyone just starting out, they can look for monthly photo challenges. There are a lot of challenges for bookstagrammers and sometimes ones specifically for authors. #bookstagramchallenge and #bookstagrammonthly are good places to check for upcoming or current challenges.

    1. How could I forget the challenges? Thank you for the reminder! They’re an awesome way to find other bookish accounts 🙂

  7. Thanks for the suggestions. I tend to forget my book promotions on instagram and instead focus on showing followers a ‘writer’s life’. Not sure anyone’s interested 😉

  8. Good info. I’m a novice on Instagram, but then, most social media is a mystery to me. I tried Instagram for the first time when I joined Raimey’s blog hop. You bring up good points about the demographics of different sites. I got feel Instagram was a younger and more feminine site, and your stats support this. It’s hard to be everywhere, so I’m trying to figure out where to I need to be.

    1. Good luck with that! I don’t personally know, but I’ve heard that Twitter is great for literary fiction/horror/fiction/sci fi authors. If you’re already navigating Twitter like a pro, that might be your perfect media place 🙂

  9. I adore instagram. At first I was a bit hesitant because you can only use it via a smartphone and I hate being blown up with notifications, but sharing pictures and looking at everyone else’s is great fun. I’m not as active as I should be, but I’d love to connect 🙂
    My user is: louise.dragonspireuk

    1. I’ll look forward to finding you on Instagram when you’re ready for it 🙂 Thanks for leaving your post link!

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