In the past two years, the importance of Instagram for marketing books has grown exponentially. Readers, book reviewers, and now even publishers have adopted this new social media platform for marketing new releases. As of April 2017, there are more than 700 million users. And it is extremely popular with the millennials. If your audience is under age 35 or college educated, consider joining Instagram.
You don’t need to adopt every new social media platform, but being strategic in your use of it is critical to your success in the business of being an author.
Perhaps the most important platform is Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers who share their reviews and ratings of books they’ve read. Goodreads Giveaways is a fabulous marketing tool for authors to garner early reviews. This is a great place for booklovers if you already know what you are looking for but not the best if you’re browsing for something new and different. Facebook and Twitter remain dominant in the mix of social media authors use to connect with readers, do marketing research, or expand their reach. LinkedIn remains important for nonfiction writers whose subject-area specialty lends itself to interest groups where you can post about your book, author events, and guest speaking engagements with others who are professionally invested in the topic.
But what about the photo-sharing network, Instagram? Books are print-oriented. Instagram focuses on pictures. It may seem counterintuitive to consider becoming a Bookstagrammer. But think again. Pictures are powerful!
Have you noticed status updates unaccompanied by an image garner little attention? When readers look at their computer screens or mobile phones, they engage more with images than when reading the pages of a book they hold in their hands.
Images are the new headlines. They capture your attention so you’ll read the words which accompany the image. I’m not talking about click bait. In this era of aggressive marketing, readers are hungry for something authentic. A photo of you opening the box of Advance Review Copies, or signing books, or giving a reading, or your cat sprawled across your keyboard.
On Instagram, you create an online community with people who care about each other and have interesting yet short interactions regarding things they care about passionately. Like Twitter, you can use hashtags. Owned by Facebook, on Instagram you can “like” other people’s posts or leave a comment. People are busier than ever and this is a quick way to provide recommendations and receive good word of mouth recommendations in return. [Click on the photos here to take you to the Instagram accounts of some of our authors.]
Instagram is perfect for providing a quick snapshot of what your book is about. And readers who want to connect with authors also like to see what you are reading, what bookstores you frequent, the coffee shop where you sit and write daily pages.
In recent years there are fewer newspapers and magazines which cover the book beat. Lots of newspapers slashed their budgets for pages devoted to book reviews. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is the rare exception in that they expanded their coverage and devote an entire section on Wednesdays to the subject. There are fewer book review venues in publication today than ten years ago. Even online book bloggers have begun to disappear as they often fund their reading habits out of pocket and reviewing as a labor of love. Readership for blogs has dropped precipitously in recent years. Now bookstagrammers have begun to replace old school book reviews.
Readers need to see a book several times before they will buy it. This is why book covers are so important. They offer a visual representations of what’s inside. Seeing a book in the hands of a friend, or on the shelf of a bookstore you visit, or reviewed in a newspaper or magazine you read, becomes persuasive evidence you need to read it.
When readers see the same book pop up multiple times in their social media news feeds, it appears the book is in high demand. Everybody wants to read the book everyone else is reading. That’s why they call it “book buzz.”
Word-of-mouth advertising is still what sell books best. Instagram is the closest thing to word-of-mouth out of all the social media platforms. And it might be one of the safest places in the cybersphere these days to avoid the news and political rancor dominating most other social media platforms.
If you’re on Instagram, please connect with swenbooks_ and let us see what you’re reading.
Six or seven years ago my advice to aspiring authors of nonfiction books was to build an audience platform by blogging. An example of how critical blogging could be to securing a publishing contract can be found in the case of Ann Marie Ackermann, author of Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee. After an initial assessment of her manuscript, I had recommended she start a historical true-crime blog, and she did. In fact, the editor of the ideal book series at Kent State University Press became a fan ofRead more…