Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Instagram for Writers

There’s a new social media sheriff in town: Instagram. And it’s not just for teenagers. Here’s how you can utilize this valuable platform to connect with other writers and potential readers – over 200 million of them.


If you're familiar with Twitter, you know these are links preceded by the pound sign. (For those who existed after the age of landline telephones, I’m talking about the # symbol. ;) ) The #amwriting hashtag is one of the most popular among writers from all stages of the game, a great way to connect and see who around the world is currently working right now.

For published authors or authors who plan to go indie, creating a hashtag for your latest book or series title can connect current and future readers. There’s nothing like community, and I’ve noticed that’s especially true among readers. Hashtags are the virtual equivalent of sitting next to someone who’s reading the same book on an airplane. You instantly know that person is awesome because of his or her great taste. Hashtags are how you can use social media to help turn your readership into a community.

Behind the Scenes

On the subject of community, it’s a beautiful thing when writers post behind-the-scenes glimpses of their process. From images of a historical writer’s research findings to a real-life snapshot of a hot mess of a desk to a picture of an author’s kid holding a debut novel, readers love to see this.

Of course, there’s a fine balance. You don’t want to give away all of your trade secrets. And you certainly don’t want to jeopardize your privacy – or the privacy of your loved ones. There’s just something about a little glimpse of an author’s humanity to connect and endear him or her with readers and give context to the characters and worlds they love reading about.


Approaching release day? Running an eBook sale? Posting an article on your blog? You can make graphics, even on your smartphone (I don’t have enough room on my laptop for Photoshop, so I use the Rhonna Designs and A Beautiful Mess apps on my phone) for announcements, blog post graphics, and other promotions. In today’s digital age, having an attractive image or graphic to accompany your content greatly increases your visibility, not only according to the algorithms of major platforms like Facebook but based on people's natural tendency to gravitate toward what’s visually appealing.

I’ve also known authors to run promotions on Instagram and other social media platforms (sometimes with their own hashtags). For example, around release day, they will run giveaways inviting readers to post a "selfie" with their copy of the book or the book on the shelf at a store in exchange for prizes.

{Tip: Since hyperlinks don’t work in Instagram, changing the link in your Instagram profile will give readers direct access to the link you're working with.} 

{Two writers who are doing it right}

Mary C. Weber, author of The Storm Siren Trilogy (Instagram: @maryweberauthor)


If you follow Mary Weber on Instagram, you'll see everything from news about giveaways to extras from her books to pictures of the author at work to funny quotes from her kids. As you can see above, she recently used Instagram to alert readers to a special Valentine’s Day promotion for her eBooks. She used the hashtag #kindle, so people who happen to click on that hashtag looking for books on kindle will see her graphic and be aware of her book's special price. 

Mary is definitely one who is doing her social media promotion right because it doesn't seem like promotion. It's a fun gathering place for her readers with a really inviting sense of authenticity. The middle screenshot is from a video she made talking about her Storm Siren for Schools program. And the one on the far right answers the number one question readers ask about her first novel. Love it!

My only complaint? How much she likes to TEASE readers about her enticing upcoming sequel, Siren's Fury. :) 

Jenny Bravo, author of These Are the Moments, writer behind BlotsandPlots.com (Instagram: @blotsandplots


Jenny Bravo is an indie author and one who is spot-on, in my opinion. If you visit her Instagram profile, she is doing a phenomenal job preparing the way for her self-published novel by posting enticing snippets, being transparent about the process and the valuable things she's learning, and inviting readers into a gorgeous yet cozy space. She is nailing the hashtag game with consistency too, with the abbreviation #TATM for her novel, the #TATMtent for her amazing writing tent, and #TATMTuesday for {usually handwritten} quotes from her book.  

Like Mary, Jenny offers authenticity to her readers. And I think the biggest thing I can commend her for is what she gives back to her readers. Obviously a lot of people who follow her blog and Instagram are aspiring authors themselves, perhaps a good percentage who wish to go the indie route. She gives great writing tips, selects gorgeous quotes from her book to feature, and again fosters that sense of community by offering snapshots of her personal process. Her posts don't feel gimmicky and don't have the sketchy undercurrent of self-promotion.

Whether Jenny knows it or it just comes as second nature to her, this is excellent strategy for a self-published author as she anticipates her release, opposed to some who just slap up their finished product on Amazon and call it good with no marketing legwork.

Instagram is pretty easy to use

If you’re apprehensive about having one more social media platform to manage, know that you can connect Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. A few little clicks and you can instantly post your image and caption to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, foursquare, or all of the above.

It also has built-in cropping and photo editing capabilities that are as easy as sliding through a range of lighting/color filters and picking the one you like most. Once you get used to Instagram, it’s super easy and takes no time at all. 

What have you heard about Instagram? Is anything keeping you from taking the plunge? 

Are you already on Instagram? Link us to your username and tell us how you like to use it.


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business. 

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and received the Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance). 

Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:

Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Joanne Sher said...

Okay - I love the IDEA of Instagram. I totally see how it can be an amazing tool for writers and promotion and ALL that. But you have (unwittingly, I'm sure) hit upon my rant if the month. Because I don't have a smartphone, I can do nothing. "They" wont even let me have an account - I can't follow or like any pix, can't comment or interact in any way. It makes me grumpy!

Sorry - my tirade is over. This really is a great post, Laurie!

Jill Lynn said...

Great post, Laurie! I'm always watching what Mary does on instagram. She's a rock star! And using a hashtag on instagram makes a huge difference in who sees what I post.

Jaime Wright said...

EEEEK! A social media platform I haven't embarked on. HELP ME?!? ;) xxoo

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Joanne - Yes, that does pose a problem! But until you cross over to the smartphone dark side (if or when hehe), you could share pictures and apply the same tips on your other social media platforms!

@Jill - I think you've done a great job, too! I hope it can help you reach even more readers. So proud of you!

@Jaime - Of course I'll help! This is a PERFECT platform for you. (And that's what sisters are for.)

kaybee said...

Yup, this one's intimidating.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Laurie, what a great post! I was just commenting on Seekerville that I like Instagram, but I haven't figured out how to use it professionally yet. So, you're giving me some good ideas. :)

I personally love Instagram, taking pictures to share there.

Question: What app do people use to add words to what they want to share on Instagram?

Jill Kemerer said...

What a helpful article, Laurie! I'm pretty new to Instagram, but I'm already enjoying it! Thanks!!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So smart, our Laurie!!!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ KB - I promise it's not that intimidating! Just try it!

@ Jeanne - What I failed to mention is that Instagram is essentially my online baby book :) There are quite a few apps that will let you add words. The ones I use are Rhonna Designs and A Beautiful Mess, but others use Phonto.

@ Jill K - I like following you on Instagram :)

@ Amy - Awww, shucks!

A.J. Cattapan said...

I just started using Instagram a few weeks ago and quickly learned that it is definitely where my readers (MG and YA) are. The kids aren't on Facebook or Twitter anymore. They're on Instagram and Snapchat.

I realized the extent of this when my friend's fifth grade daughter found my Instagram account within a couple days of me starting it, even though neither of her parents were following me yet! I'm still not sure how she found me.

Anyway, this post is very helpful as I'm trying to figure out how best to use it. :) Already following Mary Weber. I'll have to start following the rest!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Amy - Yay! Sounds like you are headed in the right direction. I have been kind of dragging my feet on Snapchat, I have to admit. Not sure if I'll ever take the plunge on that one haha!

Unknown said...

I opened an Instagram account because I was told that's where my YA audience lived. Now it's my favorite social media outlet. I follow history buffs, weight liffters, book fans, all my favorite pasttimes. I like it because it's harder to get wrapped up in some political discussion or something else equally distracting.


Christen E. Krumm said...

I love love love this. Other than Twitter, Instagram is my FAVORITE social media!!


Gisele LeBlanc said...

I love Instagram. I like to post my haiku there, but I've always wondered in what other ways I could use it to promote my writing -- well, if I ever become a published novelist, that is. Great suggestions and ideas!

Connie Cockrell said...

Love this post. I just joined Instagram and have been posting pictures of hikes, my garden, and so on. I love the ideas in this post and will try and figure out how to link all of my social media. It never had occurred to me to make meme's and post them on Instagram. Not sure how that can be done but it looks cool. Thank you for sharing.


P.S. Joshi said...

Thanks, Laurie for this helpful information. It was both interesting and thorough. :) --- Suzanne