-Original post published September of 2015-
Interacting with Readers on Instagram
#1. First things first, make a username that is easy for your readers to find.
There are a lot of fake accounts out there, so you want to make sure that YOUR account is easy to find. My username, for example, is @thesarahperlmutter. Simple, easy.
#2. Again, because there are many fake accounts out there (maybe not for an indie author like me, but for others, definitely), you want to make sure that you are using the exact same headshot you use for all your other social media sites.
Not using the same one for all of them?
It’s important to use the same headshot across the board to make it clear for readers (and agents) that you are you, and you have a presence online.
You may recognize my old headshot from all of my accounts before, and you’ll see now they are all replaced with my new headshot.
The point is, before you even begin posting on Instagram, make sure you have an easily searchable username and a consistent headshot.
3. Take pictures of your writing space.
I don’t know about you, but I follow all my favorite authors. I LOVE seeing their writing spaces, their coffee mugs, their open laptops, and all the things surrounding them. It helps me realize that they are real people, and that’s really what’s at the heart of Instagram: Breaking down the barrier between you and your readers to showcase your commonalities and build relationships based on them.
Your readers are going to want to see your writing space to see what inspires you.
#4. Take pictures of you writing.
Nothing excites me more than knowing that my favorite writer has something new up their sleeve for me. Give that excitement back to your fans. Writing seems to be this elusive, magical process that many people don’t understand, making writers seem like unflappable gods of words. We’re not. Our first drafts are likely all big messes. We’ve all worked long hours to make it so you read the best possible version of our mess.
Instagram helps make that clear to readers, which in turn inspires them to have the confidence to the same thing: Write without fear. Inspire your readers by showing them the heart of your process.
#5. Pose questions to your readers so they feel more inspired to comment.
I love having my voice heard and if a writer I admire asks for my input on something, you know I’m commenting! So pose questions or polls to your readers for them to respond to in the comments, and when they do, try to respond to as many as possible. I don’t know about you, but I freak out every time someone I admire responds to anything I post online (even if it’s just a favorite or retweet on Twitter).
Obviously authors like Sarah Dessan (who does a phenomenal job on Instagram, check her out! She is my social media use icon) cannot respond to all the comments, but interaction can be key to building your fan base, all of you writers like me who are just starting out or whose books don’t reach as wide a group as Dessan’s yet.
#6. Show love to your fans.
If you are lucky enough to have fans as amazing as mine, chances are they are going to Instagram pictures with your book, fan art, or even quotes from your book. When you see this, repost those pictures to show your fans some love.
Everyone loves to be recognized, so recognize those who are supporting you and your characters.
#7. Show that you are a reader and a supporter of other authors.
½ of being a writer is also being a reader, and ½ of being a writer on social media is supporting your fellow writers. Nothing is more satisfying that making a friend with another author and sharing your successes, challenges, and internet space. I learned this lesson through being active on Wattpad and from participating in events like #PitchWars.
Besides, people love to share what they’re reading, and when you see authors reading other authors’ works, it inspires you to read that much more.
I also really get a kick out of author friendships like Siobvan Vivian and Jenny Han have and what Wattpad authors Rebecca Sky and E. Latimer have. It inspires me to work with others and collaborate like they have. (Go SciKick!)
If you are lucky enough to have fans follow you on Instagram, share that love with other writers. They will do the same, but more importantly, they will be more inclined to reach out and become your writer friend.
A common misconception about writers is that all of us are competing with each other. We’re not. We can’t survive like that. We have to work together, and it starts online.
#8. Show that you are your own #1 fan as well.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one is going to be excited about your writing if you aren’t first. You are your own best cheerleader. So cheer on!
Instagram pictures that remind you of your books or would remind readers of your works. It will help you take more pride in the work you’re doing, and it will get your readers excited to see those little references to the books they love so much.
#9. Share your hobbies, pets, and anything else you feel comfortable with the world knowing.
By now, all of my Instagram followers should be familiar with my nonsense cat, Fluffhead. Recently I was asked about her in an interview, which, I think, showed that not only are readers connecting with me on a personal level now (through my nonsense cat) but also that my presence on Instagram is working. I’m sharing you I am with people, and they are taking notice and wanting to learn more. That’s huge, because that shows me I’ve made a connection with that reader as a person.
If I personally like an author, I’m way more inclined to purchase a book by them. There are so many authors who I either haven’t had the opportunity to read yet or haven’t necessarily loved their work, but I still buy their books every time they release a new one. Why? Because I like them as people, and because I want to see them succeed.
Make that connection with your readers. Obviously, don’t overshare or share anything too personal, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. But your pets are fair game (I see SO many author pets on Instagram), your favorite food (any loyal follow of Sarah Dessan is familiar with Peccadillo Carrboro, am I right?), your favorite hobbies (how about Sarah Dessan and yoga? See, Sarah Dessan really is an Instagram Queen), and your favorite fandoms.
#10. Host giveaways and contests.
You have no idea how many times I see giveaways to celebrate X amount of followers, and you know what? I enter every single time. Why? Because I want free stuff! You know who else wants free stuff? EVERYONE.
Giveaways are a fantastic way to get your name out there and to get knew people to see your book. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and with the internet, things like giveaways can be megaphones for this. Why? Because you’re not just spamming people, you are offering them something in return for the simplest of gestures. Reposting the giveaway announcement, commenting something below a picture, posting a picture with a certain hashtag. You have so many options.
I haven’t done an Instagram specific giveaway, but I’ve done a Goodreads giveaway and a Wattpad giveaway. PLUS I actually WON an Instagram giveaway recently that I was totally stoked about! I won The Reluctant Sacrifice by Kerr-Ann Dempster (one of my new online writer friends), and so far, it’s SO GOOD. With the new school year, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, but I intend of finishing it soon because I need to know what happens! Would I have really known about this book without the giveaway? Maybe… because I follow her, but my followers now all know about it too, because I reposted her giveaway picture. Now she’s reaching a wider audience than before, and I got something out of it as well. Win-win.
#11. Reach out to Book Bloggers/Instagrammers.
And many of them have over 1K followers on Instagram. Think of all those book lovers just waiting to hear from their favorite Instragram book bloggers to tell them what they think of an up and coming book.
Follow them, see if they read your genre, and reach out to them. It’s not going to hurt you one little bit, but if they read and feature your book on their channel, feed, and/or blog, it could help you a lot. Plus now they have a free book to either keep or give out in a giveaway in the future, thereby continuing to spread your words around the world. I did this, and my book will be featured on Books and Mugs later this autumn!
#12. Promote your writing with updates and reviews.
When The Blast had its first book blog tour last April, I instagrammed pictures of some of the reviews. One of my high school friends contacted me on Facebook after years without hearing from her, and basically said that since seeing the reviews on Instagram, she purchased the book and couldn’t wait to read it.
Don’t spam your feed obviously, but reviews help a lot. Don’t be afraid to take clips from them and put them on Instagram.
There are also updates or quotes that I post from my books every now and then to generate interest or to alert my readers of a new chapter on Wattpad. Sometimes my readers will check Instagram before they check Wattpad, and I’ve had readers comment on a picture, “Just saw this, going to Wattpad now!” When you include a quote or a picture with the announcements, even people who aren’t reading along can enjoy reading a snippet of your work. And who knows? Maybe one of your quotes draws them in?
- Keep your Instagram feed visual by keeping words to a minimum.
- Share your writer’s life. That includes writing space, writing process, and favorite writer’s tools (coffee is big on my list).
- Make connections to your readers.
- Use Instagram as a networking opportunity. No one ‘grams in a vaccuum.
- Don’t spam.
- Support fellow authors and support your readers.
- Stay true to your brand.
Any other ways you’ve used Instagram or other ways you’d like to see me use Instagram?