A Detailed, Bookish Guide to Instagram

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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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“The Call” Reversed: What agents like to know about potential authors

contract signingAuthors are usually busy studying up for “the call” (an agent reaching out via phone to offer representation) when they know it’s on the horizon. It’s an exciting time for authors and agents! Resources are everywhere and there are many great guides to “the call” including these:

However, what about the flip side? What do agents like to know about writers when we offer?

What agents like to know about potential fiction authors:

  • What are you working on next?
  • How long does it take you to write a draft?
  • Who are some of your favorite authors?
  • What kind of support are you looking for?
  • What has been your path to publishing? Agented before? Published before?
  • How do you workshop your work? Critique group?
  • Where do your ideas come from?
  • What is your day job? And what does your writing schedule look like?
  • What are some of your career goals and expectations?
  • How many other agents are looking at the manuscript?
  • Do my editorial notes match your vision for the book?
  • How do you feel about social media?

Why I want to know these things:

This is a sample of some of the questions I like to know answers to when I’m getting to know a potential author. Some of the most important things are that we share the same vision for this book and your career, and that we have similar taste in books we read for fun. I like to know that writers have a strong work ethic and a writing group they work with so I’m not the sole provider of feedback. I want to know about your publishing history even if it’s not clean and tidy–often it isn’t. I like to know your patterns like how fast you write and when you write, plus the best time to get in contact with you.

Is it about the answers?

You don’t need “perfect” answers to these questions. It’s nothing you can study for. At the end of the day we want to work with writers who we get along with, whose work we love and feel passionate about, who have a career path that we feel we can assist in, and who trust us.

That call is about both of us deciding we’re a fit. Just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it. 

Q: What have you been asked on “the call” or hope to be asked?

Further reading:

7 ways to make yourself an easy author to work with

The Break-up: How to Leave Your Agent

I’m a believer in positive thinking and I try to keep things inspiring on my blog, but from time to time we have to get real and talk about tough things. What happens when you want to leave your agent? How should you do it? What’s the order of things?

Every scenario is different and this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but here are some tips and suggestions to make a healthy and professional break. 

Leave your agent first. It’s always better to leave once you know things aren’t working. And no agent wants an email from an industry colleague saying “your client is querying and aren’t you still representing them?” It’s a bad scenario for everyone. Make a plan, part ways and then get back to your query letter.

Querying again might not be so hard. It’s up to you whether you want to say “previously represented and have amicably parted ways with my old agent” or whether you want to query with a blank slate. But if you got an agent once, you can do it again. Don’t let the slush pile keep you from leaving a partnership that’s not working.

Get your information: sales figures, submission lists etc. As soon as you’re querying again agents will be asking about these things. So as you’re parting ways make sure to ask for all the ammunition you might need. It’s better to get it right away than track down a former agent months later.

Remember it’s a small industry. Bad mouthing anyone or keeping secrets isn’t going to fly. Agents want to work with people they get along with, whether they’ve had another agent before or not. So push the trash talk away, and focus on what didn’t work, why, and how you can prevent your new partnership from falling into that old pattern.

Keep it professional, not personal. When it’s time to say goodbye it’s okay to do it by email. You don’t need to pick up the phone if you don’t want to. Either way, keep it classy.

If you want to, make sure you did everything you could. There’s no point putting your head in the sand the minute things don’t go your way. When you sign with an agent in the first place you should feel a sense of whether you can work with this person when things are great and when things are tough. (However, we all know situations change and people change.) Before you leave make sure you let your agent know when you’re having trouble in case your issues are resolvable and you don’t have to leave after all.

Don’t…

  • Write a blog post about your experiences. Some things you need to keep to yourself.
  • Keep secrets. If you’re not happy speak up before the relationship unravels. Or keep secrets from your new agent.
  • Start your new query letter with the negative. Avoid telling new agents how your old relationship went sour. Save that tidy line “amicably parted ways” for your author bio.

Managing your career is about knowing what’s best for you and your work. Sometimes even the best intentioned partnerships don’t work out in the long term and that’s okay. A well-built writing career is a long one.

Why Writers Must Be Readers

ImageI often get asked, how does someone become a better writer? My answer is always to read more, more, more.

Here are the reasons why writers must be voracious readers:

  • Attention to detail – People who read a lot learn grammar, spelling, dialogue and more from books.
  • Knowing what’s going on in your genre – Over 200,000 books are traditionally published in the U.S. in any given year. Do you know what’s out there in yours?
  • Comparison titles – When it comes time to get an agent can you compare and contrast your writing within your own genre? What types of books should yours be placed beside in a bookstore?
  • Gaps in the marketContinue reading Why Writers Must Be Readers