As an author, social media can seem like a major time suck. When you’re busy brainstorming and typing out the next New York Times Bestseller, the last thing you want to do is pay attention to those pesky social media notifications. Let’s be honest, you don’t have to. But be warned, ignoring social media is like leaving money on the table, in the bank, or wherever you see free money lying around. Successful authors are using Instagram to build deep relationships with this increasingly popular App.
Here’s the truth, social media is only a huge time investment if you go about it the wrong way. When you don’t have a plan and you’re spinning your wheels, trying to figure out what to do, you lose both time and energy. I mean, what writer hasn’t gazed at a blank sheet of paper for an hour, trying to figure out what to write?
If you’re a writer and author, one of the best social media platforms for you is Instagram. Why? Back in 2012 I started my Instagram account, and at first I didn’t understand it. What should I post? Pictures from Facebook? The gourmet dinner I made last night? The sunrise during my morning run? While I ended up posting all of those things and more, they didn’t result in any traction or new followers.
In 2015, things changed. My first book was coming out and I was overwhelmed with excitement, especially when I received the paperback proofs in the mail. The first thing I did was FaceTime my mom, and then took several pictures and posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The reaction on Instagram was the most surprising. People commented on the design and how interesting the book looked. Suddenly, book bloggers and reviewers appeared, commenting on the picture and even direct messaging me, asking if I’d already sent out my advance reader copies. I was surprised and awed.
A few days later, I went back to my regular posts on Instagram: the park I went to the other day, what I had for lunch, etc. I heard crickets. But when I posted another photo of my book cover, it was like the universe shouted with glee. I got the hint, posting pictures of my book got the response I wanted, and my Instagram account began to grow. Finally!
Here’s what you can do to tap into the power of Instagram and wow your audience.
Instagram is all about visuals, so you’ll need to pull out your smartphone or camera and start taking photos. Lifestyle photos are popular on Instagram. Although it seems like it can get pretty boring taking pictures of your book over and over, here are a few ways to mix it up.
- Place your book on a coffee table or bookshelf
- Pair your book with other books in the same genre
- Take photos of your book next to a coffee mug, cup of tea or candle
- Capture some photos of your book at the library, while reading it, during a book signing, or even a book festival
Pro Tip: If you want to get a better camera angle, put your book on a table and stand up, or stand on a chair to get the right snapshot.
Need some examples?
Get ideas from my instagram account: www.instagram.com/aford21
Review this popular book blogger account: www.instagram.com/bookish.mel
Check out this editor’s account: www.instagram.com/curiouserediting
If you’re going to do anything, make sure you establish a consistent schedule. It’s best to post daily during one of the following times: first thing in the morning, around 2pm in the afternoon or late at night.
Find the best time for you, and don’t worry about taking a photo every single day. You can spend 1 hour a week taking different photos, and post them daily to Instagram. Remember, you only need 7 good ones. Spontaneous pictures are great as well!
When you’re posting, invite engagement with your posts by asking a question at the end instead of making a generic statement.
Don’t say: “At the library reading this great book!”
Try this instead: “Dropped by the library to pick up some good reads before the weekend. I’m diving into an exciting thriller [insert name of book + author]. What are you reading this weekend?”
Don’t be afraid to promote your own work as well. While Instagram doesn’t allow you to add links to your posts, you can tell people where to go to purchase your book or download a free sample. Say something like this:
Grab a free sample by clicking the link in my bio!
Available on @amazon and #KindleUnlimited
If you’re in Nashville stop by Parnassus Bookstore and pick up your copy
Use popular hashtags
The best way to get visible is to use the hashtags your audience loves. First, you need to do your research. Pick 2-3 of your favorite Instagram accounts and take a look at the hashtags they are using. Make a list of your favorites and add them to the end of every single post. Accounts that are looking to grow use between 11 – 30 hashtags on each post. That may seem like they are overdoing it, but Instagram is the one platform where hashtags rule. Here are some of my favorite bookish hashtags:
Join the Conversation
At this point you may be thinking “that’s great and all, but what about connecting with book bloggers and reviewers?”
Glad you asked! Here’s the part where you want to ensure you’re not wasting your time. Set a timer for 15 minutes and when it goes off, put down your phone and take a break!
After you get done posting your photo, click on a hashtag to see what others are sharing with those hashtags. Likely, it will lead you to a whole list of book accounts. Double tap a photo to like it, read the caption and leave a comment. Make sure you say something more than, “great photo” or “nice” or just an emoji.
Social media is all about the socializing, joining conversations and building relationships. If you’ve just read the book pictured, or have always wanted to, say something about it or ask a question. Your goals to make sure you stand out in these book bloggers eyes.
If there are 3-5 accounts you REALLY want to target, and eventually get them to feature your book, turn on notifications for the selected account so you know when they post. Make sure you like and comment on most of, if not all of their photos. They’ll know you’re stalking them, but that’s a great way to build a relationship where you can later ask for a favor. That favor being: “Will you feature my novel?”
Create your own hashtag
To encourage others to share and repost your image, create your own hashtag. I have a dedicated hashtag for each novel as well as one for the book series. Those are #thefivewarriors for book 1, #theblendedones for book 2 and #TheFourWorldsSeries for the overall series. If I do a search for those hashtags on Instagram, all the photos posted using those hashtags will come up. I often repost images from my readers and fans, just to save time on having to do weekly photo shoots. You can also do a giveaway and encourage others to repost your images using your hashtag.
So, now that you know how to use Instagram, what’s the best way to get reviewers and book bloggers to notice you? Here’s the recap:
- Post beautiful photos.
- Use the hashtags book bloggers and readers are using.
- Join the conversation and show a little personality. Remember, people connect to people, not robots.
- Find out who’s talking about your work by creating a hashtag or hosting a giveaway.
Are you using Instagram to market your books? What tips will you use to get noticed?
Angela J. Ford is the author of the The Four Worlds Series and a Digital Marketing Strategist. She’s passionate about helping authors and bloggers do more work they love by helping them out with marketing. You’re most likely to find her with her nose in a book and a cup of coffee in hand. Connect with her on Instagram @aford21 or visit her website here.