Mention social media to indie authors and you get mixed reactions. Some will nod and say ‘yep, I do that’, whereas others will pull a face resembling a bulldog chewing a wasp. They’d rather bungee jump without a rope than bother with the online world, and all the positive and negatives that come with it.
Whether we’d like to engage with it or not, the simple truth is that without putting yourself out there on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (to name but a few), you’re going to struggle to attract the attention of readers, especially when you consider how many books there are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the other online retailers.
Let’s assume that you’re not going to be one of the lucky authors who smash the bestsellers lists to smithereens without embracing the web, and concentrate on one of the best social media outlets for indie authors: Instagram.
Instagram is the image-based social media app that has soared in popularity since it appeared on the scene in 2010, and even more so since Facebook acquired the app in 2012 for a cool $1 billion.
Here are some awesome Insta-stats from this May 2016 post on Brandwatch:
On an average day, 80 million photos are shared
Instagram usage has doubled in the last two years
Instagram now has 400 million active users
75% of Instagram users are outside the US
Over 60% of users log in daily, making it the second most engaged network after Facebook
30% of internet users are now on Instagram
Over 40 billion photos have been shared
Instagram clocks up 3.5 billion likes every day
None too shabby, ey?
One of the best parts of Instagram is that it is 100% image orientated, which is the way that the majority of the web is heading. Gone are the days of the long-form blog post and pages and pages of text. The 2016 web user is drawn in by a sparkly image, a GIF or a meme, not the magic of words. That comes later.
A large number of people have the attention span of a gnat, so if you’re still reading this, I congratulate you and invite you to pick up your free bag of money at www.
Just kidding, but thanks for sticking around.
Getting back to Instagram, then…
There are a number of cool ways to use Instagram to engage with readers, publishers, agents, fellow authors (indie or otherwise) and the rest of the web. Here are a few:
Promote yourself without being a bore
Due to Instagram being image-centric, you can promote your books without blathering on about them too much and boring everyone to death. One of the reasons I deleted my Twitter account was because of the authors who talked about themselves 24/7, and always in the third person. Drove me crazy, and I didn’t buy one of their books.
I’ve purchased art and craft books based on Instagram posts that have caught my eye, and it works novels, too. And when it comes to selling books, we all know how integral a decent book cover is.
Create pre-release buzz for your books
Instagram is superb for creating a bit of pre-release publicity for you and your novels. To use myself as an example, I’ve been using Canva.com to create posters and images related to my upcoming book. Here are a few I’ve created recently:
Some of you might be thinking ‘I can’t design anything’, but have no fear. Canva is extremely simple to get to grips with, and trust me, if I can do it, a three-year-old chimp can do it (apologies to all chimps with Instagram accounts).
Target your audience with hashtags
Whatever you’re putting up on Instagram – be it book covers, writing quotes or pictures of kittens firing AK-47s (unrelated but a personal favourite) – you can use hashtags to target your audience. If you’re a YA author, use #YAAuthor to reach them. Here are a few hashtags that I use to target writers, readers and authors in general:
There are hundreds more, and Instagram are extremely helpful in that they will tell you how many posts are featuring the hashtag. This means you can start typing it and then abort it if not many people are using it. On the flipside of that, it also means that you can take authorship of a hashtag and sends folks directly to your posts and in turn, your works.
Whatever you chose to use Instagram for, just remember that it’s not all about selling books. It’s about showcasing you: Your personality, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, creative passions and pet hates.
Engage your fellow Instagrammers, and don’t get hung up on book sales. This writing lark should be fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?