Instagram is a massive and growing social media platform, and it is full of book lovers. There are many book-focused Instagrams with tens of thousands of followers, whose moderators feature books in appealing images that are widely liked and often reposted. As of this publication, users have posted over 29 million pictures with the hashtag #bookstagram. For many authors, Instagram has become a strong platform to attract new readers and engage with existing fans. However, the image-based social media service remains confusing to others, and many authors don’t even have a profile.
To help demystify Instagram, we asked popular bookstagrammers and authors with large followings to share their tips for creating stronger profiles, taking better pictures, attracting new followers, and getting popular bookstagrammers to feature their books. These strategies can be used by anyone, from beginners to experienced Instagrammers, to help grow, develop, and improve their presence on the platform. We hope this guide will help authors and others in the literary world attract new readers and engage more with their fans on Instagram.
1. What to post
Posting the right type of content on your Instagram feed can make your profile more attractive and engaging to followers. Drawing from the recommendations of authors and bookstagrammers, we narrowed the content types we’ll discuss down to three categories that have performed well on Instagram. These are: pictures showing your life as an author, sneak peaks and previews of your work, and pictures of books (including reposts of bookstagrams). These are great starting points for a creating a strong feed.
I. Pictures of your life as an author
This type of content includes photos that offer behind-the-scenes glimpses into your life as an author and reader. A photo of you on a book tour or interacting with readers at a book signing are two great examples. You can also consider sharing what inspires you and what you enjoy to read. Fans often find these insights engaging on bookstagrammers’ and authors’ pages.
Sara from @fictionmatters elaborated on what she enjoys from authors she follows, and what she has found to be the case with her own followers.
Readers want to know what you’re reading, what bookstores you’re going to, where you write, and what inspires you. Definitely showcase your own book as well, but content that shows us who you are as a bibliophile is engaging and eye-catching. And feature book stacks! People love a good book stack. – Sara, @fictionmatters
In this high-performing post, she shared some of the books she read in January, detailing what she “enjoyed,” “loved,” and what she considers a “must read.” Of course, she arranged the titles in a stack.
Author R.S. Grey agrees, saying she likes following people on Instagram when she’s “awarded glimpses into their lives” that she can’t find elsewhere. She also emphasized that she thinks photographs “outperform graphics/teasers nine times out of ten.”
Dig deep. Share a part of yourself. Anyone can post a quote about your book, but only you know the details about how those words came to be and what makes them extra special. Did you write them while listening to music? At your favorite coffee shop? Let your readers know! – R.S. Grey
Grey posted this photo for New Years, and in the caption she shared her concerns and excitement for 2019, giving followers a behind-the-scenes look into her life as an author, mother, and partner. Note that she still features and promotes her books in these posts (and check out that book stack!). Find her entire feed here.
II. Sneak peeks and previews
Sharing a sneak peek into the writing process or a preview of a new book are common social media tactics well-suited for Instagram. Consider sharing a bit of a new novel, an image of a completed or in-progress manuscript, or a picture of you working on your next book.
Helen Hoang shared this video of her beginning chapter one of a new novel. The hashtag #amstaring is a humorous play on #amwriting. It excited her followers and performed well relative to her other posts.
III. Reposts of Bookstagrams
Reposting the photos of bookstagrammers is a great way to get free, appealing content. If you stumble upon a photo you find especially appealing or relevant, you can post it on your profile. Instagram doesn’t have a built-in ‘repost’ feature like sharing on Facebook or retweeting on Twitter, so be sure to credit the page that first posted the picture in the image or the caption. The app Repost makes it easy to copy others’ photos while still crediting the original poster. You can also take your own bookstagrams, which we explain how to do later in this post.
Most of author Calvin Demmer’s recent posts are reposted images, yet he still has over 5k followers and drives engagement in his comments. Demmer marks reposts and credits the original poster in the bottom left of each repost, as you can see on his page.
BookBub’s page often reposts popular bookstagrammers, like this one from @lazhotelparis. These images receive high numbers of favorites and strong engagement. BookBub always credits the original photographer or poster in the comments.
Authors and bookstagrammers don’t need to limit the content in their Instagram posts to these three categories, but hopefully they provide a strong starting point for authors who aren’t sure what to post to their feeds.
While the type of content you post is important, creating an appealing and aesthetically pleasing page can also attract followers. To make an appealing Instagram page, try to maintain visual similarities post-to-post to make your feed appear pleasingly uniform. This can help you create a recognizable Instagram “brand” aesthetic.
Jenna from @jennareadsbooks recommended sticking to a color scheme for an aesthetically strong feed. Using similar colors and the same filter on all of your photos can create cohesion, she explained. Her photos feature dark wood and soft natural lighting to create a theme in her feed.
Charlotte of @booksandteacups uses white bedding and other textiles with bright light and splashes of strong colors.
It takes a lot of time to discover your own photography style, so I think it’s important to experiment a lot and choose the style you like most! If you want your Instagram feed to match, you can for instance, use the same background color in all your photos (for example, white, which I use). Other than that it’s just experimenting a lot and you’ll discover your own style soon enough! – Charlotte, @booksandteacups
While starting with one consistent background color can help you establish your own style, consider changing color schemes over time. In her recent photos, R.S. Grey has used red as a dominant color, but she’s leaned toward pink, tan, blue, and other colors in the past. In the top row below, from early 2019, she favored rose. In the bottom row, from late 2018, she favored amber and similar colors. Note how they match the cover of the books she promotes.
Author Dan Brown went in a slightly more dramatic direction. His pictures merge together to form larger, mysterious looking images on his page. Each of these posts includes a second photo from his personal life or promoting one of his books. This is an example of an author forming a creative and cohesive feed that reflects his writing while still giving fans an enjoyable view into his personal life. The post on the top left of this screenshot includes a second picture, featuring his dog and cat, Winston and Zeus. The second image in the top middle post features a quote from his novel Origin.
2. How to take better photos
Not sure how to take an appealing bookstagram photo? Here are some strategies to take great photos. While practice makes perfect, we hope these tips can help you get started!
I. Feature a single book with a complimentary background
Evelyn, who runs BookBub’s own Instagram page, offers these simple tips for taking a good bookstagram photo of a single book.
If you’re not sure where to begin, try taking a picture of a single book against a simple, complimentary (but not overpowering) background. And put the book you’re featuring in the best light — literally! Find a soft, natural light, and focus sharply on the book to highlight the cover. – Evelyn, @bookbub
Charlotte of @booksandteacups offered this tip for creating a bookstagram: “I suggest placing that particular book in the center of the photo and decorate it with some small items, for example a candle, a bookmark and a blanket.” Combine it with natural light and easy colors, and you can create your own appealing bookstagram.
In this photo, Charlotte placed An Enchantment of Ravens on a bed with a sweater, hot drink with marshmallows, and glasses. The neutral, light colors of the sweater, drink, and bedding, and glasses compliment each other and allow the book cover to stand out. It got over 1,600 likes.
II. Use natural light and filters
Popular bookstagrams frequently feature books in well lit, comfortable spots. For complimentary lighting, bookstagrammers recommended taking pictures in sunlight, even when inside. For uniformity, they recommended sticking with a single filter.
Elena from the @thebibliotheque agrees.
Taking a photo under natural light makes all the difference. That ultimately translates to less editing and higher quality. And when you get to the point where you are taking/posting photos regularly, this has the potential to set your feed apart from others… combine the natural lightning with the right props to set the perfect cozy and bookish mood. Bonus tip: use those filters! Pick your fave and stick to that one. That will give homogeneity to a feed. – Elena, @thebibliotheque
In this picture, she used sunlight and simple props (tea, a blanket, her laptop, her bed) to create a cozy, well-lit picture of Queen of Air and Darkness.
III. Focus on the background
Another bright idea for a simple yet effective bookstagram: an open book in a pretty place. @bookbaristas took this photo in Miami, and has taken other pretty pictures at beaches, parks, and with other atmospheric backgrounds. The words of the book aren’t legible and the cover isn’t visible, yet it’s still captivating.
Faroukh of @theguywiththebook often posts images of a book against a background of a place he’s travelling to.
IV. Feature bookstacks
Want to feature multiple books? As Sara from @fictionmatters mentioned earlier, book stacks often perform well. Set them against a complimentary background, as you would for a single book, to make them pop.
This picture from @lottelikesbooks of a stack of new releases is a good example. She sets the books on white table with a white background, and adds a literary coffee cup. Consider doing something similar with your books or books you’ve read. Here are a couple more examples for inspiration.
If you’re not sure where to begin, look for inspiration! #bookstagram is full of ideas — see what other book bloggers are doing, what style of blog speaks to you, and then add your own unique twist, whether that’s a specific book genre, a theme for picture-taking, or even pairing your favorite books with your favorite foods. – Evelyn, @BookBub
Extra tip: bookstagrammers often include themselves or another person in their picture, without including their faces. These images often get strong responses, perhaps because people can more easily imagine themselves in the picture.
For more on taking strong Instagram pictures, check out these resources:
- Technical tips for photographing. Includes information on balancing pictures, correct exposure, framing your subject, and more.
- Tips for taking strong social media photos on an iPhone.
3. How to get more followers
Posting impressive pictures can attract new followers to an Instagram page, yet there are also other strategies that even the most inexperienced Instagrammers can use to grow their following. Posting frequently, interacting with your followers, linking to your Instagram on your website and newsletter, and using proper hashtags on your images are among the methods bookstagrammers and authors suggest for gaining followers.
I. Link to your Instagram on other platforms
Put links to your Instagram page on your website, other social media pages, and newsletter, if you have them.
Bestselling author Julia Quinn added links to her Instagram on her website, mentioned it in her email newsletter, and advertised it in this post on her Facebook page. She also saw huge increases in followers when her publishers announced to their own followers that Julia had joined Instagram.
Don’t have a publisher? Consider asking an author you know, and whose fans may enjoy your genre, to share your Instagram page in exchange for sharing theirs.
II. Post regularly
Author R.S. Grey and other popular bookstagrammers found that posting regularly, engaging with followers, and engaging with other pages were important for growing their followings.
I think the best way forward is to treat Instagram as a part of your job, rather than a marketing tool. Get invested. Post often and consistently. Take ten minutes out of your day and snap a few photos. They don’t have to be perfect, but consider simple techniques: natural lighting, bright colors, compelling subject matter. – R.S. Grey
Sara from @fictionmatters agrees, saying that she noticed the “first major uptick in my account when I started posting daily.”
III. Engage with followers and other accounts
Sara also emphasized the importance of engagement.
Engagement is crucial to growth. Find accounts you love (whether they’re publishers, bookstagrammers, or other authors) and leave thoughtful, personal, and specific comments on their posts. Responding to comments on your own posts and in your direct messages is essential too. Not only do individuals reward this with their follows, Instagram rewards this by more visibly featuring your posts on their feed. – @fictionmatters, Sara
Elena from @thebibliotheque echoed Sara’s thoughts on interacting, adding that:
People often forget that interaction is a two way road. Answering comments or messages is as important as getting them. Getting out there and taking the first step to connect with other accounts is as important as having the funniest, most amazing captions or the best photoshop skills. – @thebibliotheque, Elena
IV. Write thoughtful captions
Captions are a place to showcase your personality, tell stories, and interact more with your followers.
When it comes to captions, the world is divided in two groups. The ones that prefer short captions and who start sweating and scroll down past it when they see a lengthy one, and those who want to read as much as you want to give them. My trick is trying to catch the attention of the reader/follower with my first few lines. Then, I expand myself on the topic. – Elena, @thebibliotheque
V. Use hashtags
Hashtags can get you exposure to Instagrammers who search for images using hashtags. To find relevant hashtags, find a bookstagram account that you like and look at the hashtags at the end of their captions or in their comments. If you find hashtags that pertain to a book you’re posting a picture of, use them!
Jenna of @jennareadsbooks recommends clicking on one hashtag in the app and seeing what other similar hashtags come up.
Some common bookstagramming hashtags include: #bookstagrams, #bookish, #bookworm, #amreading, #bookaholic, #readersofinstagram, #booklover, #currentread, #bookaddict, #booksofinstagram, and #bookishfeatures.
4. How to get bookstagrammers to feature your books
Bookstagrammers often feature new books on their pages. If they feature yours, you can be exposed to a new and engaged audience.
I. Find relevant accounts
Want to up your chances of getting featured? Bookstagrammers recommend finding accounts that focus on your genre(s) and reaching out. You can find them by searching genre-specific hashtags, like #fantasybooks or #romancebooks, searching for books that are similar to yours, and perusing #bookstagrams for relevant pages.
II. Interact with bookstagrammers
Sara from @fictionmatters mentioned that many bookstagrammers don’t accept books straight from authors, so she recommends having a publishing or marketing team or assistant reach out on your behalf, if you have one. If you don’t, she suggests trying to build a relationship with a few bookstagrammers whose pages you enjoy.
Comment on their photos or discuss shared favorite books. Once you’ve interacted a bit, send a DM or email asking if the bookstagrammer they have the time and interest in reading your book. Ask them about reading it rather than featuring it! Bookstagrammers are readers first, advertisers second. Additionally, focus on bookstagrammers who feature books that are similar in content and genre to your own rather than just seeking out those with the biggest follower count. A bookstagrammer with 2K followers who loves paranormal romance is going to do your paranormal romance a lot more good than an account with 40K who mostly features historical fiction. – @fictionmatters, Sara
III. Offer free copies or compensation
If you want to have a bookstagrammer post a photo of your book, you can offer to send them a free copy, but that may not be enough. Large accounts may get a lot of requests so to stand out, offer to pay them! Sponsored and ad posts are very common these days but it seems like the book community is behind on compensating its influencers. Offer payment for a bookstagrammers work! – @jennareadsbook, Jenna
Do you have any Instagramming advice or favorite bookstagram pages we should check out for inspiration? Let us know in the comments!
Click to Tweet: Here’s an author’s guide for reaching new readers on Instagram, a massive platform filled with book lovers: https://bit.ly/2Chs8c3 #pubtip
Click to Tweet: Did you know that there’s a whole community of book lovers on Instagram? @BookBubPartners has a great article about using Instagram as an author: https://bit.ly/2Chs8c3 #bookmarketing #pubtib