If you're an authorpreneur or a self-published author, you know that half the battle for readers takes place online. Social media serves as a platform for authors to spread the world about their novels, build community, and gives a chance to attract new readers. But what if you don't know how to use the awesome powers that Instagram provides? Or what if you're a seasoned author who is struggling to adapt to an ever-changing virtual reality? If you're out of ideas or just feeling discouraged, here are 10 tips to help guide you in the right direction.
5 Instagram Tips Every Author Should Know
1. Think Like A Content Creator
Ever wonder where that Influencer gets their "spark" from? Ever look at a popular author's Instagram profile and think, "What are they doing that makes people pay attention"? More often than not, they're thinking strategically. Everything you see is intentional- from what they share, to how often, to when they post, to the hashtags they use, to the content they share and who they promote. And they have a secret weapon: they've invested in a scheduling tool like Later to help them do it.
While spontaneity has a time and place, it's harder to maintain over long periods of time which can lead to negatives like burnout and inconsistency. There's nothing worse than running out of ideas or getting stuck in the mindset that your book marketing is a chore. If this is something you struggle with, it's time to break out the planning tools and put in more effort. While it may feel more awkward at first, it pays off the more you practice. When you have a plan you produce better work. The quality of your photos are better, your content is more interesting, and it shows that you've thought about how to best reach your audience.
The biggest reason you should start batching your Instagram content is because it saves time. Nothing beats taking one day to plan out a whole month's worth of content verses the ten minutes each day that you manage to squeeze in on your lunch break. When you schedule, you don't miss out on the perks of posting at the right time and you give yourself the freedom to focus on other things instead of being sucked into social media constantly.
Want to learn more about how to batch your Instagram? Elise Darma has a great article on the subject that you can read here!
2. Brainstorm Outside The Box
Once you've learned the in's and out's of how to batch your content and plan ahead, it's time to start thinking about what's outside the box. In a place like Instagram, it's easy to fall into the trap of being in an echo chamber. What you see is the same kind of content you post, the opinions of others who are doing well are then the opinions you share, the books you see that are popular amongst bookstagram become the books you read, you get the point. The problem with this is that rather than sharing what's unique and interesting to you (and your ideal reader), you begin to blend in with the crowd which is the opposite of your goal for being there in the first place.
The obvious question is, how do you get out of the box? The answer is going to vary depending on who you are and what your goals are, but a good place to start is by reconnecting with what's authentically you. You can't expect to follow what works for everyone else and still make an impact. You have to find your own unique selling point and own it.
Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds. All it takes is a pen, a piece of paper, and your brain. As an author the product your selling is your novel and often writing services or digital products (like workbooks and courses). But successful marketing goes deeper than that. Think about your perfect reader, the one that your book is destined for. What are they like? What do they like outside of your novel's genre? Where do they like to hang out? Knowing the answers to these types of questions will give you an idea of what their interests are outside of you. Write them down and then ask yourself what problems your ideal reader faces. What are they struggling with? Do they long to escape through a fantasy novel? Are they looking to boost their confidence with a self-help book? Or perhaps they want to experience love vicariously through a romance novel? Now think about what they may want to learn outside of that. Maybe your fantasy-loving reader longs for adventure, your self-improvement fanatic wants to learn how to cope better with life's challenges, and your hopeless romantic is looking for how to find prince charming.
From there, consider how you can cater to those deeper needs through your content. How can you better cater to your ideal reader outside of your novel through social media? For the adventure-seeker you can share things that fall into the realm of adventure content such as nature pictures, outdoor activity, sharing an exciting trip to someplace new, motivational quotes, and tailoring your call to action (buying your book) in a way that "dares" the reader to take a chance. For the self-help enthusiast, an approach rooted in empathy and helpful tips geared towards confidence building, self-care, and inspirational quotes/images can go a long way. Similarly, the romantic may benefit from seeing romantic images, relationship tips, what to wear on a date, etc.
Your unique selling point is how you decide to help your ideal reader, in a way that only you can. How you decide to translate the above into images, captions, icons is what will set you apart from your competitors. Remember, no one is you and that is your power.
Here are some more resources in case you get stuck:
3. Re-Evaluate Your Formulas
There's a lot of temptation out there to use formulas to structure your Instagram content. While this isn't inherently bad, especially when you're first starting out, it does have the potential to grow stale quickly depending on how you go about it. In case you don't know what we mean by formula, here's an example: Mondays you post a motivational quote, Tuesdays you post about your book, Wednesday you share a writing tip, Thursday you share a book review- and on through the weekend. Each day has a labeled topic and you post accordingly.
By itself, a formula like this can be a good thing. It helps you stay on track, helps you decide what to post, and it lets people know what to expect. The flip side is that it can also become too routine. When following a formula, keep in mind that the formula shouldn't be permanent. Allow for deviation when you feel like it to prevent boredom, change the topics of each day after a few months, switch one out if you find it's getting less engagement than others. Don't fall into the trap of doing it because it's the easiest way to post.
Just like you can get book blind as a writer, you can also become blind to what you post on social media. Falling into a routine may be comfortable, but if you aren't careful you can block yourself creatively and ultimately wind up losing followers. The number one way to avoid having your material go stale is to make sure that you don't share the exact same type of content twice within your chosen content buckets. An example would be taking a selfie in the same pose, with the same background, on the same day, with similar captions. After a while the image loses its appeal because there's not much variance and it all begins to look the same to your reader, who will quickly move on to new, fresh material posted by other authors.
A content bucket refers to the topics you've chosen and all the related material that goes with it. Going back to our example, your content buckets here are motivation, your book, writing tips, and book reviews. Within those topics are tons of smaller topics you can discuss. For example, motivation can include motivational quotes but it also includes things like what motivates you, the tools you use to motivate yourself, how to find motivation when you don't feel motivated, the different types of motivation, or an anecdote about a time when you struggled with staying motivated and how you overcame that obstacle. You get the picture. All of your chosen content buckets can be broken down like this in infinite amounts. It's up to you to look deeper and share them.
4. Add Your Personal Spice
We often see authors on Instagram trying to drum up a larger audience and getting discouraged when their books aren't gaining the attention they want. What these authors fail to recognize is that it's not that their efforts are in vain (although it can certainly feel that way), what's holding them back is that they're all work and no play. Sharing your books and related content is good. But when your entire feed is nothing but your own work and nothing about yourself, the author behind it, then you miss out on a prime opportunity to attract and connect with your readers.
We'll just come out and say it: No one likes a pushy used car salesman. And the harder you try to "sell" your book, the more you as an author appear desperate to make the sale. Likewise, on social media if you only focus on raising awareness for your story, you'll find your audience will drift further away rather than be enticed. Why? Because books aren't relatable. As much as we may love them, we have to remember that our books are products, not people. Unless you're commiserating about the process of writing with other writers, talking about nothing but your books and writing can get boring if there's no spice mixed in to liven things up. The thing to remember is that potential readers may be enticed by your book's cover or blurb, but only fans who have already read your work are interested in the deep dive. Go too far in one direction, and you risk alienating part of your readership.
Just like with book sales, the 80/20 rule can be applied to social media. Eighty percent of the time there should be a balance in your content that is split between your writing process, behind-the-scenes elements of your book, your book's blurb or other marketing-related aspects. The other twenty percent should be your actual sales pitch. Now, you may be wondering what the "spice" is in this mixture. Just like your unique selling point, your spice comes from your personality. Your readers may be intrigued or already love your book, but these days they also want to see a window into the author behind the magic.
If you've been hiding behind your novels, it may be time for you to lift the veil on your secrecy. While we know that this is an introverts nightmare (and we recognize so many of our fellow writers share our fears) we also know that showing more of your personality can help your overall bottom line. This doesn't mean you have to share each and every detail of your private life with the public. You can choose how much to share but don't be afraid to show off your smile, your interests outside of writing, your pets, your family- whatever you're comfortable with. The point is to let your readers see who you are, and let them get to know you.
The takeaway is that your readership is made up of real people who want to buy books from another genuine person. This leads us to our next point.
5. Be Genuine
No matter what strategies you choose, show up as your genuine self. Your followers are going to follow you because you're YOU. Not because of any other reason. It doesn't matter if you have trendy clothes, the latest books trending on bookstagram, the fanciest writing desk, or anything else. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be present. They'll buy your books because they like you and want to support you as much as they will because they're invested in what you've written. For that reason, it's more important to engage and connect than it is to constantly be sharing your book.
If you've experienced low engagement, ask yourself the hard questions. Are you engaging? Or are you just posting and sitting back waiting for the like counter to go up? If the answer is the latter, then unfortunately your problem may go a bit deeper than just your frustration over the lack of results. You may be coming off in a way you didn't intend. Instagram isn't unique in the sense that social media provides us with a "bubble" that we can safely stay wrapped in. This, however, can become a problem when we choose to focus on the content we're producing and forget to explore outside of ourselves.
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Start by following other authors and bookstagrammers that you genuinely enjoy and want to see more of. Begin liking and commenting on their posts and sharing what resonates with you. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the positive responses you'll get in response on your own work. Work up the courage to send a DM, and you'll wind up with new connections, new friends, and future loyal readers. Rinse and repeat. Over time you'll boost your engagement and your book sales organically, and really, isn't that the best way?
Whether you're looking to make stronger connections with your current fans, sell more books, or reach new readers all your dreams can come true! Through implementing these 5 tips you'll see more engagement, more traffic, and you'll learn to have more fun with your Instagram.
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