As a writer, you no doubt spend a lot of your time shut away behind closed doors, typing furiously. Life is lonely and you may only break the isolation to visit the fridge or hang about at the virtual water cooler of social media. However, social media isn’t a respite from writing, it involves more writing and is a notorious time suck.
I recently discovered a better way to take a break and still check in with online friends. It’s one of the easiest platforms to add to your social media — it’s fast, and it integrates easily into other profiles like Twitter and Facebook, so you can share your photos across all your social media accounts. I joined Instagram.
Instagram is a free phone application that allows you to snap photos on your phone and quickly edit them with a variety of filters, focuses and frames. The application also provides a number of ways to share your artful images with friends, family and online social communities so you can upload them to Twitter and Facebook.
I can hear you howling at me now about selfies and see you shaking your head in disapproval but stick with this post because I believe the app provides special benefits to us as writers. So do others in this field, because among many authors like Salman Rushdie and B.J. Novak, you’ll also find Random House Kids, Simon and Shuster, Harper Collins Canada and even libraries using Instagram.
So how can it help? Well, writers generally are a retiring private bunch of people who don’t have many chances to connect with their readers. Chatting on Facebook is one way to get to know them and for readers to learn a little about you but it is much better to take photographs that reveal something about you, where you live, food you like to eat, places you visit, what you get up to in your spare time, or even show off your pets and family.
Instagram allows you to do that with minimum effort. Snap at a morning sunrise from your office window, or the large bar of chocolate that is helping you get through chapter thirty-two of your WIP, and share it. It’s pretty much like a visual version of Twitter.
If you, like KS Brooks, live in the wilderness, posting photographs of bears in your back yard will open up your world with your readers. Conversely, if you live by the sea or in the mountains, share those photographs and engage further with your followers or friends without spending precious time writing about it. If the photographs relate to your books or you, then hashtag them #author or #books.
Using hashtags such as #bears #dogs #sea or #photoaday in your own captions also means that people are more likely to stumble across you, and start following you.
Instagram is best when pictures speak louder than words. It’s better to send a picture of a sunset from your window than describe it. Another bonus of Instagram is that it allows you to post a fifteen second video.
So what can we authors do to get the best out of Instagram? Here’s a few suggestions:
• Rather than simply tweeting about your new book cover, do different things with it to make it more appealing, then allow others to view it. (Set it up in an interesting place and photograph it or, since pets are universally adored on Instagram, post photographs of your pet ‘reading’ it.)
- Screenshot your five-star reviews and share a snippet of them with a link to your book. This allows you to brag about your book using someone else’s words.
- Post teaser images from your upcoming books.
- Reveal some of your scribblings from your WIP.
- Post photos of some of your TBR pile of books and give other authors some promo too.
- Post photos from hangout sessions with other authors.
- Reveal ‘behind the scenes’ images of your book signings or talks.
- Create images with quotes from the book, or share images directly from the book.
- Share a screenshot of any special sales or discounts for your book as they happen.
- If you’re giving away an eBook, share a screenshot of the cover.
- If a blog or local paper asks for a picture to accompany an interview, then you can email them something a bit different, rather than a straight cover shot.
- Create a video from your book signings to boost credibility and authority for yourself as an author.
Give it a whirl and see if you can make it work for you. It’s a lot less time restricting than other social networking sites and, apart from anything else, Instagram is also a lot of fun.