Navigating Bookstagram for Indie AuthorsNavigating Bookstagram for Indie Authors https://www.readerviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Bookstagram-for-Indie-Authors-2-1024x576.png 1024 576 Reader Views Reader Views https://www.readerviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Bookstagram-for-Indie-Authors-2-1024x576.png
by Award-Winning Author and Poet Rae Scott
Have you ever caught yourself staring at the stacks of books on the #BOOKTOK table at Barnes & Noble, adorning the names Colleen Hoover or Sarah J. Maas, and wondered if your name will ever grace a space on this table amongst the most popular books in the world? I know I have! Social media has revolutionized the publishing industry. With apps like Instagram and Tik Tok, indie authors now have direct access to their audiences right at their fingertips. Joining booktok can seem daunting, especially if you long for the days when a cell phone was just a little flippy device used only to send/receive calls and download ringtones. But bookstagram might be a safer place to start if you’re looking to make an impact on social media. As the name suggests, the term bookstagram refers to the massive book community that lives on the Instagram app.
Though it may seem inferior to booktok, at least to the big bank publishing houses and bookstores, the #bookstagram hashtag has over 85 million posts. By joining bookstragram, indie authors can promote themselves to an expansive book-buying audience without the pressure to learn every new trending dance craze.
Bookstagram was something that I just happened to stumble upon. I began posting photos of my toddler and his books on my personal page but I felt like my family and friends didn’t appreciate my little baby bibliophile, so I created a whole new account specifically for books.
The next thing I knew, people from all over began commenting “Welcome to Bookstagram!” under my posts. It’s literally that easy to begin building your online book community. Open the app, create new page, come up with the perfect username handle, post a picture of your book (caption recommended but not required), and voilà…you’re a bookstagrammer! Now you just have to find your tribe. For anyone trying to sell a product on social media, it’s important to remember that you are building a community of supporters, not a number of followers. Followers are people who click that blue button because they want to engage with your content. As an author, you want to specifically tap into the community of book lovers, book readers, and book buyers, because they are the ones that will support you in this journey. What good is a post with 10,000 likes, if it doesn’t get you a single book sale?
Once you become a bookstagrammer, the next thing you’ll need to do is work on building a potential book-buying audience. It may take some time before you can start selling books, so it’s important to begin building your community long before your next book is ready to be published. The key is consistency. Bookstagrammers are more likely to engage with accounts that are consistently cranking out content. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to post funny reels or professionally staged photographs every day. If you are an avid reader, a good way to stay consistent is to post books you recently read, and share your thoughts on them. If you are a writer, share some of your poetry, short stories, or quotes and use your account to document your writing journey. If you ever feel discouraged that your follower count doesn’t seem to be growing as rapidly as you’d like, remember that you won’t get more than you put in. You can’t expect your follower count to grow if you are not actively following similar accounts, and you can’t expect people to engage with your posts if you are not also engaging.
When you’re ready to publish your next book, consider using a launch team to roll out your new project. Gather a group of supporters and offer them a free copy of your book in exchange for a post or review on platforms including Instagram, Tik Tok, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, or wherever else your book is sold. The goal is to activate as much buzz about your book as possible to increase sales. The more reviews you acquire in the first weeks after publication, the higher the chances of your book being promoted by the companies that sell it. I spoke with self-published children’s book author, Danielle Marietta (@daniellemariettabooks), whose launch team I had the pleasure of joining for her International Award Winning children’s book Mr. Maloof. Armed with a team of 58 bloggers, teachers, librarians, and friends, Danielle succeeded in hitting Amazon’s magic number of 50 reviews, which meant that Mr. Maloof would be advertised by Amazon as “recommended”. Bear in mind that as an independent author, you would be absorbing the cost of this launch team, so it’s important to maintain a budget. The cost of printing, shipping, thank you cards, business cards, customized brand stickers, and return labels added up quickly for Danielle. But if you want to keep costs low, you can start with a much smaller team, let’s say 10, print paperback books as opposed to hardcovers and skip all the customized extras. You can skip the printing and shipping costs altogether by offering electronic copies of your book.
I’ve noticed there’s a disconnect between bookstagrammers and indie authors because bookstagrammers aren’t particularly happy about the way authors have approached them for book review requests. Some have complained about the lack of courtesy from authors who slide in their direct messages demanding a review. I personally have had an author send a message saying “I want you to review my book!” That’s it. No formal greeting, no introduction, not even a synopsis or link to the book. Bookstagrammers are more likely to support you if engage with their content enough for them to become familiar with you BEFORE shooting your shot. Once you establish genuine connections, some may be inclined to support your book without solicitation. You can also try offering a free physical or electronic copy of your book in exchange for a review but it’s important to consider your audience. If your book is about a fantasy wonderland with fire-breathing dragons, make sure you are connecting with bookstagrammers who like that sort of thing. Use hashtags like #fantasybookstagram to narrow your search when looking for accounts to interact with. Finally, keep in mind that most people prefer to discover new books on their own than to be sought after. That’s why it’s important to be consistent in your own content so that you can glide through the algorithm and reach book lovers all over the world.
The best thing to practice when building a book community is patience. Stay consistent and authentic and supporters will find you. Consider bookstagram as a gateway for you to reach a broader audience, and find opportunities to promote your books. Danielle hosts a live show every Thursday night called “Buy That Book!” where she gives each of her author guests 10 minutes to pitch their book to her followers. You can find more opportunities such as this one simply by building connections with fellow book lovers. “Focus more on connecting over the love of books, than trying to sell. If you can connect with someone, they will believe what you put out into the world,” Danielle says.
About the Author
Rae Scott is an avid reader, and award-winning author/poet from Baltimore, MD. Her literary journey began on bookstagram, which she created in 2021 as a way to stay occupied during the height of the pandemic. Rae used connections made through bookstagram to publish her poetry collection about her experience with postpartum depression titled, Through Blood and Becoming, which went on to become an International Book Award and Best Book Award Finalist for Urban Poetry. In July 2022, Rae launched a research survey called The Wombanity Project, which aims to evaluate women’s reproductive experiences. The data collected from this initiative will serve as a reference for her current work in progress which will focus on disparities within the maternal healthcare system.
Rae uses her bookstagram (@poetraebooks) to celebrate Indie Authors and promote literature. She partners with the SOULpreneur community as the book club coordinator and has recently launched The Black Book Club Hub Blog dedicated to helping book clubs elevate conversations and engagement with BIPOC books.
Learn more about Rae Scott and her works at: https://www.poetraebooks.com/
Through Blood & Becoming by Rae Scott
Inspired by the works of Maya Angelou, Tupac Shakur & Langston Hughes, Through Blood & Becoming is a raw, and authentic poetry collection about a woman’s experience with childbirth, postpartum depression, and motherhood. This collection takes you on a journey through fear, sadness, and depression to relief, resilience, and becoming. In this collection, author/poet Rae Scott shares her birth stories and tackles important but unconventional topics such as postpartum depression, miscarriage, and stillbirths from a black woman’s perspective in an effort to advocate for advancements in the maternal health care system.
Melissa C Groeling
Great post, Rae! Thank you – I always tell myself that I need to engage and post more on Instagram and well, all of social media. Here’s to following through!
Thank you, Rae, for sharing this. It truly is something I hadn’t heard about’! I’ll try to use the idea for a hashtag similar to your example, #frugalbookstagram. And so well timed, the second day of the launch of the third edition of my “ The Frugal Editor” with tons of updated editing tricks! See you there! Best, Carolyn
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