You hear it all the time – as an indie author, you need to be on social media. There are so many platforms, all with their own quirks and algorithms, and it can seem like just too much hard work to keep up with them all.
It’s true that social media is a powerful tool for reaching your fans and building new ones, and one of my favorite platforms for organic reach is Instagram. If you’ve never tried Instagram before, or if you tried but just couldn’t quite make it work; here are a few ways to make Instagram your most profitable social media channel.
Get Visual for Instagram
As writers, we’re often all about the words. Instagram is all about the pictures. To be successful on Instagram, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to the aesthetics of your post.
Unlike most other platforms, you can’t post an update without an image attached, and the image size needs to be 1080 x 1080 px. When you go to upload an image, you’ll be shown what your picture looks like in those dimensions, and you can choose how to crop it if it’s too large.
Don’t let these image size technicalities put you off, it’s really easy to build an Instagram feed to be proud of.
If you’re not sure what to post then take a look at the accounts of authors in your genre to get a feel for what their followers like to see.
Some ideas of pictures to post:
- Pictures of you! People love to see what their favorite authors look like.
- Pictures of your office or writing space – where the magic happens.
- Pictures of your pets if you have them – people love cute animals!
- Anything you see that you find interesting or beautiful – take a quick snap to share it.
- Stock images that are relevant to your books, with an interesting caption or comment.
If that list still has you wondering how you’d have enough content to post regularly, then don’t worry – they don’t all have to be photographs. You can create amazing visual text posts from your smartphone – there are hundreds of free apps that will let you create beautiful graphics for:
- Quotes – from your own books, or other quotes your audience might enjoy.
- Teasers for your upcoming releases.
- Book cover reveals.
- Polls or interesting questions for your followers.
The best Instagram feeds have a cohesive theme. You’ve probably already got an idea of your author brand, with book covers and fonts that follow certain themes. You can tie in those themes with your posts by choosing fonts and colors that complement your author brand and creating all your posts with those in mind.
To ‘theme’ your photographs, play around with Instagram’s filter options and choose one or two filters to use that you think fit your brand.
Using Instagram for Self-Published Book Cover Reveals
Because it’s just so visual, Instagram is perfect for cover reveals. The square image size makes it look tricky to simply upload a cover image—but using mock-ups or a photograph of a paperback copy of your book are perfect for cover reveals.
A mock-up for a cover reveal is usually an image of a device like a tablet or an e-reader, with a blank screen. You insert your cover image into the screen so that it appears to be shown on the device. They’re really easy to use in Photoshop or even Canva, and they look great.
Another cover reveal strategy is to break up the image into 9 or 12 squares, like a tile puzzle, and post them separately. Once they are all posted, your feed will look like a giant book cover. It’s a very cool effect, and the individual posts can have accompanying ‘teaser’ text to pique your reader’s curiosity – but bear in mind that the grid will fall out of alignment when you post your next image.
Creating Your Instagram Author Bio
Your Instagram bio is a short introduction to who you are. It can include emojis and hashtags, but you only get 150 characters so make them count!
You can put one web link in your bio, so choose wisely. It could be your Amazon author page, your own website, or any page that lists your books and allows people to purchase them.
You can’t include web links in Instagram posts – or at least they won’t be clickable and could reduce your reach – so you’ll be directing people to your bio each time you are asking them to follow a link.
Spend some time getting your bio right, as it’s often the first thing new readers will see if they’ve searched for you on Instagram.
Instagram Stories and IGTV
Instagram stories are a great way to get more visibility and build a connection with your audience with short video clips.
Readers respond best to videos of the actual author. You could talk about the books you’re writing, your favorite characters, books that inspired you to write, anything you like! You can video your pets or what you’re doing that day – readers love to see glimpses of your life.
If you’re camera shy or aren’t comfortable sharing too much, you can get creative and post images of great book reviews, or anything else you want to – but video is generally the most popular medium for Instagram stories.
If you’re not camera-shy, Instagram has recently launched IGTV where you can post longer videos. It’s a great opportunity to get onto a platform while it’s relatively new, and you can create videos about anything you want. You could discuss the art of writing, the challenges of self-publishing, give a glimpse into your character’s backstory… The only limit is your imagination.
Engagement and Interaction
It’s not enough to just post and forget. Even spending just 15 minutes a day engaging with readers, bloggers and fellow authors will go a long way towards building your engagement and your follower count. Reply to every comment on your posts and build a dialogue with readers to turn them from fans into superfans who one-click your new releases and share your books with their like-minded friends.
Comment on posts from bloggers, readers, and fellow authors. They’ll appreciate the support and engagement and will be likely to reciprocate. Your comments can be seen by their followers too, who may click to see your posts and follow you.
Your own posts should encourage and invite engagement from your followers. Ask interesting or funny questions, post an interesting image and ask them to caption it, or ask for votes on two different cover options.
Your posts should be designed to be appealing and interesting to your readers. Most people find that their reach on Instagram is better than Facebook, in terms of the percentage of their followers that actually see their posts.
With that in mind, it makes sense to post your promotional material to Instagram, but don’t just flood your reader’s feed with your posts selling your books. You want them to enjoy your posts and not feel harassed to buy your books, so keep a good balance of at least 80% non-promotional and 20% promotional posts.
One of the hardest things about starting a new account can be growing the follower count. Or if you’ve got an old account that you’re giving a new lease of life, you can meet the same struggles. Gaining followers on Instagram doesn’t have to be difficult.
The first thing to do is to tap into your existing group of readers – ask your newsletter subscribers to follow you and include your social media links at the end of each email. Put your Instagram links on your blog and website if you have one.
Make sure you follow Instagram accounts of book blogs that review and promote books in your genre. Interact with their posts, and comment on them. Don’t push your own books, just interact and engage in a natural way.
Follow and engage in a similar way with fellow authors, and readers of your genre. You can find readers by looking at who follows and comments on the accounts of book bloggers.
Finally, Hashtags are a great way to increase visibility and gain new followers. If you rank highly on a hashtag, you’ll be seen by a lot more people. Hashtags are easy to use, but make sure that you do a little research and avoid common hashtag pitfalls.
- Look up posts by similar authors with great engagement and study the hashtags they use. How many search results are there for each hashtag? Which hashtags seem to get the most engagement?
- Keep a list of ‘good’ hashtags and rotate them regularly. You want a mix of hashtags that are very popular, and some less popular ones. The reason for using less popular ones is that you will feature for longer on the search page, and not get pushed down very quickly by other posts.
- Choose a couple of relevant hashtags and include them in your bio so that your profile ranks on searches.
- Use as many hashtags as are relevant – up to 30 – on each post.
- Just throw in the maximum thirty hashtags onto each post without researching, or use the same ones on every single post
- Use hashtags that aren’t relevant to the specific image you are posting.
- Forget to check the spelling on your hashtags.
Instagram doesn’t have to be difficult. Ideally, you would post 1-3 times a day, and some people have great success with up to 10 posts per day.
Don’t let those numbers put you off if you don’t have time to keep up with that many posts. Forget the ideals and commit to a posting schedule that fits for you, and most importantly doesn’t detract from your writing time too much.
Consistency is key – so do try and post regularly even if that is only 3-5 times a week. If those posts are quality content that resonates with your readers, then that’s plenty to help build a following.
It’s worth knowing that Instagram has a big international user base – 75% of their users are outside of the U.S. If you have your books translated by a Babelcube translator, see if they can promote your translated book on their own account.
Babelcube offers authors and publishers the opportunity to sell their books in additional languages with a simple process and no upfront cost or financial risk.
Most books are only in one language due to the upfront cost of translation, struggles to find a translator and complexities of working with retailers in different countries. Babelcube removes these barriers. Translators are paid via a share of royalties—creating a true partnership.
Babelcube is the easiest way to translate and sell a book in multiple languages. Book publishers and self-published authors team up with translators. The translated books are sold through 100s of retailers.
Check it out at Babelcube.