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!

5 Things To Do While Your Book is on Submission

Submitting your book to agents is one thing. It’s a writer’s first time putting it all out there and the responses are varied.

However, when your agent submits your book to a publisher that’s a whole other level of stress. It can be exciting! Finally, it’s out there in the world. And it can be worrying…what happens to my project now? You might hear back from editors in a week or a few months. It could be good news or bad. 

Here are 5 things to do while your book is on submission:

  1. Trust your agent. We have your best interests at heart, truly. If you don’t trust your agent then you shouldn’t have signed with them. Let us handle the submissions and worry about the business side. We will consult you on decisions. Pull together with your agent at this time because the bonding will happen.
  2. Vent with other writers, but never online. I hope this goes with out saying, but I do see writers participating in this and I want to warn them off. Tweeting/Blogging/Facebook-ing about your submissions to publishers (or agents for that matter) is not considered appropriate behavior for a number of reasons: privacy, keeping mystery, keeping your cards close to your chest–however you want to see it. But that information is yours and shouldn’t be public.
  3. Work on your platform. Pitch essays, build your online community, and join an organization (RWA, ITW etc). A month before your book comes out is NOT the time to build a platform. The right answer is AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. So there’s no better time than the present when you want to keep your fingers busy typing.
  4. Most importantly…get back to the next project! No matter what you have to keep writing. Whether that book sells or not, your agent needs to know what you’re working on next–either to tell the editors or to coach you through the next steps of submitting again. The right fit is always worth waiting for.
  5. Get used to this feeling. Publishing is about waiting. Learn how to control and manage these feelings. Develop your own strategy for coping because it’s different for everyone. Physical exercise, TV/movies, throwing yourself into your next project (always my advice!), chocolate, glass of wine/coffee–your choice!

Q: What do you YOU do while you wait?

Guest Post: The 4 Platform Elements That Catch an Editor’s Attention

Headshot for Stonesong websiteEditor-turned-Agent Maria Ribas has a guest post for everyone today! It’s a small world in publishing and the story of how Maria and I know each other is a reflection of that. When Maria was an editor at Adams Media I sold her a cookbook called THE WELLNESS KITCHEN. She left Adams Media a couple years ago now and is currently at agent at Stonesong Literary in NYC. Maria represents non fiction and specializes in lifestyle and cookbooks. She has a great post about platform that I think you’ll all learn something from. You can also check out her site for more great information: www.cooksplusbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @maria_ribas.

I started out in publishing as an editor. And about once a week, I would get rejected. Our acquisitions meetings were on Thursday afternoon, and I’d spend much of that morning preparing a pitch for why everyone should get excited about that book I was so excited about.

The meetings would go something like this:

Me: !!!!

Everyone Else: …..

Me: !!!!!!!

Everyone Else: ????

Me: !!!!?

Everyone Else: No.

Having your excitement be met with disinterest is terrible. I know it’s something writers struggle with every day, and it’s a thing agents and editors have to battle through, too. But after some comically sad flops, I finally started figuring out what I needed to say so that people’s ears would immediately perk up.

And what got the most ear “perkage” (that’s not a word, is it?) from acquisitions teams? A platform-savvy author.

Any great agent or editor will tell you that you don’t need a platform to get a book deal as a fiction writer—a wonderful book is all you need. But any great agent or editor will also tell you that you can only avoid these platform-building initiatives for so long. A wonderful book may get you in the door, but only a strong publicity and marketing campaign will get your book back out the door and into readers’ hands.

That’s exactly why coming into the publishing process with those skills and networks in place can make you extremely appealing as an author. I’ve sat in many strategy meetings where an author’s editor, publicist, marketing manager, and agent put all their expertise together to formulate a strong marketing and publicity campaign. Yet the author’s lack of familiarity with the online landscape, and most often, their discomfort with putting themselves out there, crippled their ability to execute the campaign. The worst part is that this makes for a miserable, lie-awake-at-night book launch, because the author is forced to battle the fears and anxieties of platform-building at a time when they can’t afford to stumble.

Don’t let that happen to you! I know I sound like a scare-mongering PSA, but I’ve seen too many incredible books be completely ignored because the author struggled with the foundational skills of publicity and marketing.

If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, here are the 4 platform elements that most stand out to agents, editors, and acquisitions teams:

1. Connections

It’s true that you don’t need to be well-connected to break out in publishing, but it’s even truer that having connections will help you. Editors and agents know how hard it is to get even an ounce of attention for a debut book, so working with an author who has access to the megaphones of tastemakers is a huge advantage.

But remember that this doesn’t mean you need to live in New York City, attend all the right writing programs, or rub elbows with the literati every day. This isn’t necessarily about knowing celebrities, bestselling authors, and high-profile journalists. It’s about forming real connections with the people who are right there with you in the trenches. Get out and meet writers in your neighborhood; join online communities; reach out to that writer you admire just to say hello. Remember that it takes a tribe to launch a book, and it’s a whole lot easier to make real friends when you’re not plying them with information about your book.

2. Press

Similar to connections, press mentions are a way to get attention for a book, and they’re the foundation of a publicity campaign. So when a book comes in to an editor or agent and the author already has press experience ? That’s a big, big plus. Publishers think of it as a two pronged advantage: 1. The author already has a relationship with gatekeepers in other media (reporters, producers, bloggers, etc.) and can call on those connections to get coverage for the book, and 2. The author has already proven that he/she is comfortable with being a public figure and understands that pitching and public speaking skills are essential to the successful promotion of a book. This shows editors that you know how to position yourself and your work in a way that receives favorable attention, and that is always a good thing.

3. Analytics

Ten years ago cold, hard numbers had no place in the acquisitions conversation for a debut author. Today, they can be the #1 reason why an author and agent hears a “yes” rather than a “no” from an editor, particularly in the practical nonfiction world. Again, this is something that’s make-or-break for nonfiction, but still a big plus for fiction writers, too. These numbers are a concrete way of showing editors that you already have a readership—that you’ve spent years building relationships across different online channels, and that those people think what you have to say is worthwhile.

Analytics can be anything from traffic on a website or blog to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media followers.

4. Email List

Yes, you could put this under analytics. But I’m breaking it out for a reason—it’s a breakout number. That means that even if your social media numbers are middling, having a significant email list can get an agent’s or editor’s attention. This is because sending an email is the most direct way to reach potential readers, and it’s also the only way you can (nearly) guarantee that the recipient will see an important announcement. With so many changes to social media algorithms lately, it’s hard to guarantee that important updates (like a launch announcement!) will actually make it to the people who want to know about it. That’s why I preach the gospel of the email list to all my authors—it’s the best thing they can focus on building, because it’s the only channel they can themselves own.

I know platform-building can be overwhelming, fraught with emotional pitfalls, and overall more pleasant to ignore than to face head-on. But the business of publishing, in any genre, always hinges around sales, and the sooner authors can build marketing and publicity skills, the sooner they’ll find their readership. And the less often that their exclamation points will be met with a cold, hard “No.”

Maria Ribas began her career on the editorial side, first at Simon & Schuster and Harlequin Nonfiction, then at Adams Media, where she was an associate editor before moving to the agency side in 2014. At Stonesong, she specializes in practical and narrative nonfiction from authors who understand how a thoughtfully produced, proudly promoted book can grow their brands and their businesses.

She also writes about writing, platform-building, publishing, and cooking her way through books at www.cooksplusbooks.com