7 Ways Instagram helps authors find readers

My cat Leaf on Instagram

I’m an author who writes mysteries about a rookie deputy named Pegasus Quincy living in Arizona. So what does my cat Leaf smart-mouthing on a kitchen counter have to do with using Instagram in my writing career? Stay tuned!

I view marketing, whether we are Indie or Trad authors, as a sum-zero game. We’ve got X amount of time, nobody really likes to market–we’ve rather be writing, and it is TOTALLY necessary.

Enter this thing called Instagram. It is easy to set up: Most smart phones already have it installed, and you can easily download an app to your computer. It can be synced to Facebook, because Facebook has owned the platform since 2012. It’s like Twitter, only easier to use, in my humble opinion. It gives you immediate access to your readers in a very real, very personal way.

And Instagram is fun to use. As Sierra Godfrey Fong suggests in that great writers’ resource, Writers in the Storm, “Instagram is a visual snapshot of your head.”

Here are seven practical ways Instagram can help writers reach their audience:

1. Instagram is big, and getting bigger:

Statista estimates that Instagram has grown by 200 million viewers from 2016 to 2017 alone. That translates to some 800 million total users, evenly split between men and women. That’s a lot of people. And because it is a relatively new media platform, that growth curve is still heading upward.

Joanna Penn says, “If your reader demographic is between the ages of 18 and 49, Instagram can be a strategic application for you.”

I would go even further. If, for example, your preferred demographic is ages 50 to 64+, 11% of them ALSO are on Instagram. That translates to about 88 million people, many of whom also read books. Wholly cow!

2. Instagram is easy to use:

 I’m not a computer nerd by any stretch, but I was up and running in an afternoon.

Some things to remember: it is geared to your smart phone, not to your computer. So be alert to pictures of your local neighborhood–especially if they are representative of what your book is about.

If you are doing any book signings or author conferences, take some pictures.

If your book is in a library or book store, stage the cover strategically and take that shot.

3. The shape and orientation of your photograph can be changed:

The preferred format of Instagram is square, so that’s what you are aiming for. But the resolution has increased to a nice 1080 px x 1080 px, and there are all sorts of neat filters and aftereffects that are built in to Instagram.

In addition, Instagram now gives you the ability to upload vertical or horizontal aspects by clicking on the brackets shown in the left lower corner of your preview shot. The picture of my cat Leaf, above, uses the horizontal view. Have camera, will travel gives you an excellent step-by-step of how to do this.

4. Instagram encourages the use of hashtags–but only in certain places:

Like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags. And they are always changing. Current policy from Instagram states that hashtags in the comments section will not be read. Better to include them in the description, and limit to about five or so. See a good rundown on this in the Pigeon Letters.

Store the lists of hashtags you might want to use in your phone memo app so that you can do a quick cut-and-paste.

Some great suggestions of hashtag lists to consider are given in 130 of the best hashtags for authors on Instagram. Rachel Amphlett has a great Cheat sheet for Authors on Instagram in which she suggests specific ways books can be photographed as well as offering lists of hashtags separated by type and genre.

And the list goes on. Google is your friend here.

5. Instagram is immediate:

One way is to combine YOUR BOOK with various backgrounds:

You drink coffee? How about a shot of YB with your favorite coffee mug, or a pic of YB on the table of your favorite coffee shop.

You a yoga fan? Guess what. YB looks gorgeous against that turquoise yoga mat.

I haven’t been able to get mine to cooperate yet, but I hear that YB next to a sleeping kitten or puppy is click bait. (And you don’t even have to pay a modeling fee.)

Be alert to the seasons and holidays: YB with a Christmas tree behind. YB in front of Halloween pumpkins. YB displayed in front of winter snow or a summer lawn mower. YB on the beach towel with the blue waters of the Caribbean behind it. (Just dreaming!)

Consider the visuals in your writing process: Shots of a hand-written manuscript, or a picture of a page of rough draft notes, or your wastebasket filled with crumpled first attempts connects you with your reader. What about the white board chaos of sticky notes that you use for plotting, or the desk or dining room table where you write your masterpiece-in-progress.

The nice thing is that you can either use a photograph you just took (easiest) or those you manipulate on your computer and then upload to your phone picture gallery. These can include text, for example, or quotations–always popular.

6. Instagram is a way to connect with other authors

We are all in this big splashy pond together, so any way you can connect with others can make you feel better. And happy writers are more productive writers!

Belinda Pollard wrote a funny and inspiration post on Instagram for Authors–my first six months. DIYAuthor has a great list of 25 authors using Instagram to give you some ideas about what others are doing. Even the editing program Grammarly gets in the act with their suggestions of professional writers to follow on Instagram.

Facebook groups are a great way for writers to connect with other authors, and yes, there are groups specifically for Instagram. Check out Instagram4Authors, for example.

And finally,

7. Instagram is a great way to play

Writing can be hard work, there’s no getting around it.

And when you are in the midst of a rational-brain deadline, one of those I’ve-got-to-get-this-proofread-right-now modes, the creative side can get a bit sulky. Instagram is one way to take a break and just play.

Think in terms of personal, color, and people (that includes fur-babies) to maximize the visual.

In other words, the Instagram venue gives your creative side another way to interact.

Keeping your muse happy and occupied brings her back for more!

Let me hear from you.
How do YOU use Instagram?