How Authors Can Use Instagram to Promote and Sell Books

As a published author, you can't sit back and expect readers to find you if you hope to sell some books—you must find them. A good place to find potential readers is on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Quite different from Twitter and Facebook, Instagram is a popular, fast-growing social media app for sharing visual content such as photos and video. This platform might seem limited in its ability to communicate, but can provide great exposure for authors, especially those targeting a younger reader. Let's explore how authors can use Instagram, including the benefits, how to get started, and what content to share.

How Instagram benefits authors

Strengthen your brand image/author platform: Instagram is all about imagery. It's one more opportunity for you to share content that captures your brand or platform's essence.

Show some heart: Show your readers your unique personality and emotion that might not necessarily come through in your writing style or subject.

Reach a younger generation: While Facebook is still the most dominant social media platform, younger generations may prefer Instagram as their primary go-to app for social sharing.

Seize opportunity to find new readers: As of June 2018, there were 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram. That's a lot of opportunity for authors to reach new readers.

Instagram for authors: how to get started

1. Create an account

It's free to create an Instagram account. You can set up a personal profile or business profile, which has some additional benefits for authors. For example, with a business profile you gain Insights, which are analytics on your posts and followers. Additionally, you can access the advertising tools directly from your account if you choose to use them.

2. Prepare a posting schedule

Before you get started posting, plan the details of your schedule, including when and how often you'll post. There is information available about when to post on Instagram to get you started. But you should ultimately use your own analytics data to determine when your audience is most active.

3. Craft a style guide

Your Instagram posts should be consistent with your author brand and platform. Think about what will help define and identify your posts to your followers, such as filters, hashtags, colors, and content themes.

4. Research other authors

Explore some author Instagram accounts, especially those in your genre. What content do they post? How often? What hashtags do they use? Who do they follow? Use these successful accounts as inspiration to create your own style and content.

5. Gather backlog material

Create a backlog of content before you get started. You can practice your Instagram style while creating valuable posts to share on days when you are too busy to create content.

How authors can use Instagram

Once you have the research, planning, and practice complete, you are ready to start posting. Here are some ideas about content to post, hashtags to include, and other actions to take on Instagram.

Share a mix of content

Create a schedule so that your posts are balanced and you're not posting only selfies or pictures of your book. Not all content is right for every author, but here are content types and topics to consider:

Photos: You can choose to post photos from your phone’s library, or take and post new photos using the in-app camera function. The Instagram app also includes a variety of photo editing features including filters and effects.

1. Book-focused: Yes, you can post a picture of your book! You can also share quotes from your book, especially when they are motivational or timely.

2. Author-focused: Your followers like you. They want to know more about the writer behind the book. Share glimpses of your personal and professional life, from relaxing at home to working on your next novel.

3. Reader-focused: Post content about your readers, such as pictures with fans or content created by your fans that you have permission to share.

4. Events: Capture photos live from book readings, book signings, field research, and speaking events. You can even share extra pictures after the event and include the hashtag #latergram.

Motivational quotes: People love to feel inspired. Think of quotes that help you through your day and maybe they'll help someone else too. You can use Instagram's Type feature to create simple quote images, or you can use a free website, such as Canva.

Contest/giveaways: People love getting signed copies of books from authors. You can run your own giveaway on Instagram with thoughtful contest planning and promotion.

Stories: Add content to your Instagram Story, which remains visible for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the content disappears. Stories are ideal for spontaneous, short-lived content, while Instagram feed posts are for more planned, quality content.

Video: Although it started as an image-only platform, video is a growing part of Instagram. You have several options when it comes to posting video:

1. Pre-recorded: Upload a pre-recorded video and publish up to 60 seconds.

2. Live: Broadcast live video for up to one hour. Once the broadcast ends, it's no longer available to your followers unless you add it to your Story, which saves it for 24 hours. There are some options to save it longer, such as adding it as a highlight or saving it to your phone to upload elsewhere.

3. IGTV: Instagram's latest video addition, IGTV allows viewers to watch videos up to 60 minutes long (video length can be 15 seconds to 10 minutes for general users, and up to one hour for verified or larger accounts). IGTV is a standalone app, but Instagrammers can watch IGTV from within the Instagram app.

4. Stories: Record videos up to 15 seconds long and add it to your story.

5. Boomerangs: Create a mini video that looks like an animated GIF. The Boomerang feature takes a burst of photos then puts them together in looped video you can share.

It’s important to note that while Instagram does have a website, it is primarily a phone app. You can't take or upload videos to your Instagram account from a desktop computer.

Use hashtags

Hashtags should be a part of your posting strategy on Instagram. Including at least one relevant hashtag can help boost engagement and discoverability of your post. Here are some popular hashtags to consider: #bookstagram, #booklover, #bookworm, #booknerd, #bookstack, #shelfie, and #instabook. Also, look for genre and niche specific hashtags used by your target audience. You can even create your own hashtag.

Engage with others

Set aside time to engage with others on Instagram. Remember, it's not just about broadcasting your message. Respond to comments on your posts and any direct messages you've received. Discover new Instagram accounts to follow. Show some love by liking or commenting on other posts when appropriate. And above all, be genuine.

Advertise

If you set up a business profile on Instagram, you have the ability to post advertisements. This can be done by promoting a post from within the app, or, by using ad creation in Facebook Ads Manager or the ads API. To learn more about advertising on Instagram visit the Ads Help Center.

Analyze results

Instagram Insights (available for business profiles) helps you understand who your audience is and how they react to your posts. Make sure you look at your Insights on a regular basis and listen to what your audience wants. If you do not have a business profile or you want more data, you can use a third-party app for analytics.

Visualize your success

Instagram is a major player in social media and it presents new opportunities for you to build your author brand or platform, give your brand a heart, reach a younger generation, and find new readers. You can use Instagram to market your book when you plan ahead, create a schedule, research other authors, and maintain consistency. Remember to share a mix of content that fits with your image, use hashtags, engage with others, and adjust your posts based on analytics. When you approach Instagram in the right way, you are taking another step in reaching your goals for your book.

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