Instagram for Writers
Really? I can hear the disbelief already. Instagram is a good platform for writers? That funny mobile app that gives you the ability to take and share pictures with cool filters? I’m here to tell you, why yes! It is a fantastic way for writers to engage with their audience. So much so that if you Google “Instagram writers” that you will get a short explanation from the search engine:
Unfortunately, Rushdie appears to have deleted his Instagram account, but you can check out Jon Krakauer’s fantastic profile here and see a bit about what visually inspires the Into the Wild author.
In today’s new world of social connectedness, readers have a wealth of information at their fingertips.They are curious, wanting to know everything they can about the individuals that bring them the books that they love. They want to know what makes a writer tick, what influences them and the types of things that they find of interest. Instagram is a special place for doing just that, allowing authors to give readers a small glimpse of the internal world of the author.
I follow Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, on Instagram and her photos are a pure delight, ranging from cocktails, to books she’s reading, to photos of nature’s bounty. The Night Circus is one of my all time fave books, so to see the types of visual candy that Morgenstern tunes into is a real treat for me.
Authors such as Amy Tan, Veronica Roth, Jasper Fforde, Bret Easton Ellis, Gary Shteyngart, Tao Lin, and Halse Anderson regularly post fascinating photos of art, their book tours, what inspires them, what they are working on and the people important in their lives. B.J. Novak shows us pictures of text--of books he’s reading, funny signs, interesting fonts and of course, bits about his new book The Book with No Pictures. One of his recent photos that made me chuckle is the menu from Cambridge’s Bartley’s Burgers, which happens to have a B.J. Novak burger ready for the eating (and which also goes well with this photo I took there last summer).
Publishers such as Simon and Schuster are also taking advantage of what Instagram has to offer, posting quotes, covers of books and images of their authors. Chronicle Books, Random House and St. Martin’s Press have all embraced Instagram. PenguinUSA plays a lot with their penguin motif, including some of the fun penguins from the 50s.
And did you know the bookish version of the “selfie?” Why yes, it’s the “shelfie” and readers all over Instagram love to share photos of what they are reading. All the more reason for writers to consider being on the platform, to be part of that conversation.
Why on earth should you use Instagram if you are a writer? There are a few reasons.
- Connect with readers and potential readers.
Sharing photos of the things that you love and that interest you (and that are associated with your book, writing, characters, etc.) may resonate with individuals who may not yet be familiar with your writing, giving them a hook into finding out more.
- Insert yourself into the conversation.
By using relevant hashtags, other Instagrammers can easily discover you, like and comment on your photos. Share photos that inspired your writing and again, use the right hashtags.
- Open a valve to new types of creativity.
As writers we often have an internal eye for stories, with snapshots appearing mostly in our minds. Instagram gives us a way to capture stories in a new format, unleashing a new type of artist, fueling our creativity.
- Inspire others.
Your eye for the pictorial story may turn out to be someone else’s impetus to write or to create. I mean, just look at this Wig photo I took and shared on Instagram. Doesn’t that make you wonder who owns it? What that person’s life is like? What inspired such an amazing storefront?
- Market your books.
Of course, just like every other social channel, you should be judicious about this. Don’t overwhelm your writer, but do, inbetween other types of content, share the cover of your book, quotes written down from your book, photos of book events (for example, Gary Shteyngart has a fantastic photo of him signing a folding chair), images that might have inspired you to write, photos of the places where your characters might have walked, etc. Give new viewers a reason to be curious.
You can also share video on Instagram, up to 15 seconds worth, which is quite a lot. Have fun with it, and again, the same above tips also apply to videos on Instagram.
Crystal King is a 30-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and the forthcoming THE CHEF'S SECRET (February 12, 2019, Touchstone Books) about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website: crystalking.comSee other articles by Crystal King