A Detailed, Bookish Guide to Instagram

I’ve rounded up some bookish Instagram experts, compiled data, and pulled links together to show everyone a complete picture of Instagram for writers and book lovers. If you’re unsure about whether Instagram is for you try it out and you’ll quickly see why book lovers flock there. Book covers are made to be captured and shared on the platform. Writers can share their WIP adventures or road to publication. Publishers host giveaways.

Plus, many book bloggers now use Instagram to promote their book coverage on their blogs. So not only should writers be on there to build a personal platform, writers should also be on there building a community to help promote their book when the time comes. Below are some tips from book bloggers and “bookstagrammers” that will help explain these concepts.

And, you can follow me on Instagram to get a taste of a visual bookish life: @carlywatters. I try to show what I’m reading for fun with my #cwreads hashtag, promote my clients’ books, and share my personal and professional travels.

How To Grow Your Platform: INTERACT!

Sassy & Dangerous Bookstagrammer Talina says: “If you are looking to build your platform and have your voice heard in the book world then I can’t stress this enough: you need to interact and connect. Don’t be shy in reaching out to fellow authors, readers, bookstagrammers/bloggers. With the new algorithm that Instagram has adopted, it’s harder for smaller accounts to get noticed, unfortunately. So, take matters into your own hands – reach out to others, promote yourself in creative ways, and let your voice be heard in this book world.” (Editor’s note: here’s a blog post with some algorithm-beating tips!)

How To Create a Brand: TRY TO TAKE VISUALLY PLEASING SHOTS!

Swept Away By Books Bookstagrammer Alyssa says: “Some people complain about not having enough, or ‘good’ props for photos, but that’s where spontaneity and creativity come into play.  Take a photo in the location that you’re reading, nestle your book in with your blanket and cup of tea on the couch, show a bit of your every day life in your photo to create a sense of reality; but always ensure it’s pleasing to the eye. Not only will that actually make a user stop and take a closer look, but it will make the chance that they engage on your photo with a like and comment more likely.”

I also recommend using natural light as much as possible! Artificial light can look too warm no matter what filter you use.

What Filter Should I Use? THE SAME ONE ON EVERY PHOTO.

The easiest way to build a visual brand on Instagram is to use the same filter on every image you post. Even if it’s not the best filter for that image you’ll quickly create brand recognition and continuity with the same “look” across the board.

What Is Your Brand? YOURSELF!

Talina sums this up so well: “We all have people or things we look up to. We find inspiration in that person or their work(s), or maybe it’s something else that you find your inspiration in. But at the end of the day the most important thing to remember is to be yourself. If you are passionate with what you do, people will notice it and they will remember that. Bookstagram is probably one of the best places that you can go on and share your love for literature. It’s where you can connect with others that love the same things you do: books. So my advice to you would be to be yourself, be authentic, be passionate and I promise everyone will notice and remember you for that.”

How Do You Build A Community? AUTHENTICITY

Book Baristas creator Natasha (with 114k followers!) told me in an earlier blog post: “Be authentic – your personality and style will make your platforms sing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be original with your words and ideas. Know your audience – every platform will attract different types of readers. Be honest with your content – if you are passionate about your work, it will show and people are more likely to appreciate your honesty! Lastly, remember that if reading and sharing your love of reading with others is something that you adore doing, then you are in the right place! Books are what bind us together in this community – don’t forget that we are all just readers finding our place in this online bookish world.”

How Often Should You Post? MULTIPLE TIMES A WEEK!

I love this advice from Alyssa and I’m trying to incorporate it more into my feed: “You’ll never build an audience by posting one or two times a week. I’m not saying you have to post daily, but make it an effort to post frequently. Over posting can become annoying (2 posts a day max). This goes back to interacting with fellow Instagram users- if they have nothing new to interact with you over, how will they keep coming back?

Also, according to Simply Measured, Friday afternoons garner the most comments (meaning the most engagement) specifically from 3-4pm. Other great time are weekday commuting hours (8-10am and 4-6pm), weekday evenings as people scroll before bed (9-11pm), and weekend mornings before people start their days (9-11am).

How Writers Should Engage with Book Bloggers who Bookstagram: PATIENCE!

Natasha also said: “Remember that these bloggers/reviewers are going to be busy reading/reviewing a ton of other books and to be patient with the time that it can take for a review/Instagram feature to go up. Personally, I feel a sense of urgency when a writer will ask me when exactly I plan to put up a review. Blogging can feel insanely overwhelming so I’d just be more aware of that. Also, be prepared for whatever review/rating you get – sometimes a story doesn’t resonate with a reader and that’s okay.”

What Are Instagram Stories? A MORE USER FRIENDLY VERSION OF SNAPCHAT

Instagram stories are like Snapchat (linked photos or video clips that last for 24 hours on the platform) but I find it easier to use than Snapchat. For example, you can use the photos you’ve taken with your camera app (with Snapchat you have to use the camera in the app) from the past 24 hours and open those photos to use in your Instagram Story. For more tips, read this article in The Social Media Examiner and see this Neiman Lab post about visual storytelling.

What Hashtags Should You Use? THESE ONES:

  • #MondayMotivation
  • #WriterWednesday
  • #ThrowbackThursday
  • #FridayReads
  • #Bookstagram
  • #Bookgram
  • #Booklover
  • #Bookworm
  • #Booknerd
  • #VSCObooks
  • #Instareads
  • And don’t forget the hashtags of writers you’re reading, publishers, book titles and locations you’re reading in.

 

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So, go ahead and get started! Be playful and share that bookish life of yours.

In the comments include your Instagram handle so my blog followers can find and follow each other–start building your platform today.

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4 Easy Ways To Streamline Your Author Brand

Every writer has an author brand whether they know it or not. So how can you take control of it? Here are my four easy ways to streamline your author brand across platforms and within platforms.

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR AUTHOR BRAND WITH THESE 4 STEPS:

1. Cross-platform brand consistency

Do you use the same author photo on all your platforms (i.e. Website and Instagram) so followers know they’re in the right place? Do you use the same colour scheme or header image on your platforms (i.e. Facebook and Twitter)? Use visual cues to let readers/followers/fans know they’re in the right place. This creates tone without saying anything and is an easy way to start having a consistent brand across the web.

2. Unique content per platform

If you promote the same links across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, e-newsletter etc. then readers only have to follow you in one place to get the same information. Try creating unique content (but not spamming people about buying your book) for each platform and see how your voice and following can grow in different ways.

3. Engagement

Rule #1 of social media and growing a brand is engaging with comments/readers/followers. Don’t let a single comment go by without replying. Show followers that if they have the time to visit your pages that you have the time to engage with them. Then they’ll keep coming back because they have a personal relationship with you. When it’s time to promote your book they’ll be there to support you.

4. Promote other writers/creators that are consistent with your message/tone/voice

It can be counter-intuitive to promote other people while you’re trying to grow your own following, but believe me–this works! Show the writing community that you’re there for them AND get your name out there by promoting other writers who are comparable to you. This increases your engagement with established authors, shows the marketplace where you belong, and links your name to theirs in google searches.

Try that for a month or two and see how it feels. It will become natural very quickly!

Five Ways to Embrace Marketing Your Book (Guest Post)

Today is guest post day! Client, author (LOSING THE LIGHT, Simon and Schuster/Atria Books 2016), and social media expert Andrea Dunlop is here to talk about how to embrace marketing your book. Don’t panic! She has all the answers. (And if you like what you read she is now taking on clients herself as a consultant.)

Having worked with authors for over a decade—first in publicity, now in social media—I know how reluctant many feel about marketing their own work. And as a newly-minted author myself, I can completely empathize. I often see authors with new books out—a time that should be exciting and celebratory—wracked with misery, guilt, and even outright panic. A little of this is expected, just as with any big life event (weddings, births, new jobs) it can be unsettling. But often the level of despair leaves authors unable to enjoy their momentous accomplishment. And it bums me out! In fact, it’s become part of my personal mission to change their (and perhaps your) perspective on what it means to launch a book.

I have some insight in to what’s beneath this misery. For one thing, it’s such hard work to get a book published. For most of us, it takes years and years of polishing work (only to throw it out to write something better), withstanding rejection after rejection, and struggling to hold onto our faith in ourselves. To be then told, after finally having a book published, that this is only the beginning is something like being told upon completing a marathon, that wow, that’s great, but actually the race you’re in is an ultra marathon, so you’ve actually got another forty miles to go. This is not what they trained for. Compounding this is the fact is that publishers—for a whole of host of reasons—are often not as clear as they might be about the whole marketing process.

But I promise you, marketing does not have to be miserable. Here’s how:

  1. Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat: When it comes to marketing your book there is a lot you can do. Which is good because what you do is the only thing you have any control over. And trust me, it will feel better to have control over something once the book is out. So what does that entail? Organizing your contacts and sending books with handwritten notes to anyone influential, learning how to use social media tools and using them strategically, rallying your friends and family for support, paying in person visits to local booksellers to sign stock, connecting with fellow authors to cross-promote, visiting book clubs. The list is endless. And yes, I know that not all (or even any) of the things on that list might be within your comfort zone. Welcome to life in the 27th However, some of that discomfort can be mitigated by point two.
  2. Focus on What’s Fun: Yes, I know, you just want to write your books. I get it. But that’s not the race you’re in my friend. You already sailed past that mile marker. Here’s the thing, there are a million things you can do to promote your book in the modern landscape, and all of them can be effective if used consistently and well. The exercise metaphor is especially apt here. Maybe I already lost you on the long-distance running front (I’m with you there, respect to marathon runners but no thank you); but we all know exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves—and much like marketing, there are a million ways to do it. From yoga to tennis to boxing to dancing: any of it will get you fit, you find what you like to do and use that. Go in with an open mind: don’t assume you’ll hate Twitter if you’ve never used it for more than a day for instance, and don’t assume an idea won’t work because you haven’t seen it done before. Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris built up his original fan base by taking his book to Atlanta beauty salons. Genius! Get creative. Once you figure out something that works, double down.
  3. Have a Plan: One of the quickest routes to misery is trying to market by doing all the things, especially if you started off doing none of the things. This is why you need not only marketing tactics (social media tools, in person promotion, media placement) but a marketing strategy (which tools you’ll use, why and when and how much, who is your target audience) complete with a way to measure what is and is not working. What I often see is authors going about their own piece of the marketing efforts in a completely ad hoc and disorganized way and then quitting in frustration: this is why I often hear things like “Social media doesn’t work/ sell books”. This is like a person who wants to lose weight but refuses to do any meal planning or step on a scale saying “diets don’t work.”
  4. Understand the Roles: this is an area I see authors struggle with a lot. This is not by any fault of theirs. Those of us who’ve worked in publishing for a long time can forget how absolutely byzantine the industry is to outsiders. So authors go in blind: and this often results in not understanding who is taking care of exactly what. I wrote in depth about this here, but a key point is to remember that no one on your team actually works for you but with you. Your publicist, editors, agent, etc. are all working on other books simultaneously and are juggling those competing priorities. Guess who only has one book to worry about? You! Come in with a collaborative attitude (yes, even with your hired guns) and it will go better.
  5. Try to Detach: Your book is not your baby and most it’s most definitely not Sound harsh? It’s said with love, because I know it can feel like both of those things. But it isn’t. The agreement that you enter into the world when you publish a book is necessarily one of letting go. Once you have a book published, it is loose in the world to be judged on its own merits; it’s not yours to defend or protect any longer. The worst misery I’ve seen authors go through is when they take everything that happens to their book personally. They take the reviews personally, the marketing plan personally, and every little piece of criticism or indifference the world has to offer them becomes a critique on their very humanity. Miserable? You bet. And yet authors absolutely cling to this stance as though they somehow become lesser artists if they give up the attachment. But from my perspective it’s for naught: save that energy for the creative process, don’t waste it on the marketing process where it doesn’t belong. The book is already done. Do what you need to protect yourself and your sanity (you choose whether you read reviews or not) so that you can write the next book, and the next after that.

Need help with your social media? Email me. Follow me on Twitter.

Author Brands: Which Type of Influencer Are You?

Brand. Platform. Influencer.

Do these words scare you? If so, they shouldn’t because the fact that you’re online and interacting with this post means you understand a couple, if not all of them. Part of my brand is sharing useful information with writers, so you come here to gain knowledge from my platform.

Your personal or author brand is simply the way you conduct yourself and interact with the world. Online, your brand is everything from the color choice of your Twitter header which can evoke a certain mood, to the specific tone of articles you choose share on Facebook (uplifting? funny? motivational?). Developing a brand is just owning who you are, deciding what you want to say to the world with your work, and strategizing the best way to communicate it that reflects your brand (also known as a marketing-version of your identity). And lastly, and most important, being consistent with it.

Platform can mean two things: the type of social media site you like to use (i.e. Twitter is a platform) OR it can mean an “author platform” which is your network and ability to reach potential book buyers (i.e. 20,000 e-newsletter subscribers, a podcast, a column in a newspaper). Who knows you are? And why do they care what you have to say? Your brand is the angle and the platform is the way you share it.

Now, let’s talk influencers and check out this matrix from social media curator Klout. Look at the words across the top and the category names in the boxes. Start to think about where you fit into this.

klout-influence-matrix.jpg

WHO DOES WHAT?

In this matrix, I’m a “Specialist.” I post highly focused content about a specific industry. Mike Shatzkin of The Idealog is a “Thought Leader.” Media Diversified is an “Activist.” And as you start to think about where you get your information from, and from whom, you start to see the value in being certain types of influencers.

Think of some of your favorite authors: how active are they are social media? What square do they fit into? Which authors do you admire on social media? What are they doing that you’re not?

THINKING ABOUT HIDING OUT? THINK AGAIN.

You’ll notice that there is a listening corner for “Observers” however these people are inconsistent and do more watching than interacting–many new writers sit here. However, be careful not to stay here or fall into this category when you’re leading into book promotion time. Think about getting yourself into another square. You know why it’s important. Making time for interaction and engagement shouldn’t be on the bottom of your to-do list.

HOW DO YOU PIVOT?

To move between squares, look at the side bar to see what you need to improve. “Observers” should be moving towards “Curator” or “Networker” in order to increase their following. In order to do that they need to increase their usage (get more consistent!) and increase participation (If you agree with someone, tell them! If you read an interesting article, share it with us! If you want other people to promote your book launch, try promoting other writers’ launches!).

Once you reflect on how you’re interacting with others online you can work with your strengths to increase your engagement: expanding your brand. How can you share your world-view with more people? The more people in your circles who like what you have to say means that when it comes time to publicize your book they’ll be right there with you promoting you too.

That’s why writers get themselves stuck in a corner when they blog about writing. It’s best to use social media instead of a blog if you don’t have another topic to write about. That way if you want to talk about writing you can post links instead which will give you an influencer category more in the “Sharing/Creating” spectrum like “Feeder,” “Curator,” or “Tastemaker.”

I hope this is a helpful tool to help writers move out of their comfort zones and into higher engagement. Because higher engagement means more followers and more potential for book sales! Therefore, happy agent and happy publisher.

Q: So! Have you solved the puzzle? Which type of influencer are you? …and–if you want to pivot–what square do you want to move into?