How to Get Started on Bookstagram
Recently, I’ve had a few people reach out to me to ask how I created an established Bookstagram. One of my favorite things to do (other than to read) is to try and share the best practices that I’ve accumulated throughout these past 3 or so years with newer bookstagrammers, so I was all too happy to answer some questions and share my favorite tips.
What made me start a bookstagram?
Short answer: I can’t remember. Long answer is here.
Who can have a bookstagram?
This might sound silly, but I swear in the beginning I thought that everyone who was creating these stylized book accounts were all in publishing. (No clue what made me think that- but I can assure you I was wrong). The answer is- ANYONE can have a bookstagram! If you like to read and want to talk about books with strangers on the internet, then by all means, have at it. By and large, it’s a really fun place.
What’s an ARC?
Advanced Readers Copy- AKA “free book”. These are unfinished copies sent to readers to help generate early buzz for the book.
How long until I can get free books?!
Hard to say. Publishers tend to send books to readers who will actually either A) read the book B) post about the book or C) ideally, do both. It’s a transactional relationship and after a certain number of followers and consistent posting you might get books sent to you without directly requesting them (and it is AWESOME). But- keep in mind- these are not truly free. I don’t get paid for doing this and the blog and Insagram take time, so I see the free books as a sort of payment. I also love it and that really helps. You don't need to be huge before you start getting books, but publishers/authors will take into account your size and engagement when considering whether or not to send it out.
(PS- I’m only speaking from experience, so if you are actually in publishing then by all means chime in!)
Where do you get free books?
I’m in the process of writing a whole post about this, but long story short I get books sent to me via Netgalley (digital galleys only), from the publishers who DM or email me, from Booksparks, from TLC Book Tours, and on occasion, I’ll ask for them.
It took me a ridiculously long time to finally work up the nerve to ask for a free book (it wasn’t until last year), but my rule of thumb is as long as you’re asking with the understanding that you may not get a response, it can’t hurt.
Here are my favorite tips to give to Bookstagrammers that are just starting out:
Just start. Take pictures of the books you already own, get a bunch from the library, or take photos of whatever you've been reading. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to post what everyone else is posting.
Find good lighting. Nothing will make me not follow an account more than fuzzy or dark photos. Natural lighting is best if you can get it! Play around with settings. I don’t Photoshop my pics, mostly because I don’t know how. I tend to stick to editing on Instagram and playing with A Color Story.
Be Authentic. You like YA? Fabulous. All thrillers? Go for it. Classics, current releases… anything goes! I found that when I started posted what I love (contemporary fiction and thrillers) it got a lot more fun for me.
Along these same lines…Read what you like! Don’t feel like you have to read the buzziest thing- unless you want to. I personally like to read buzzy books because I like seeing if I agree with the crowd or not.
Don’t be a contrarian just to be a contrarian- but if you didn’t love a book, be honest. It will help build your credibility.
…but please do NOT tag the authors if you didn’t like the book! They’re people too, you know they spent a ton of time on it, and there’s really nothing they can do with your negative feedback after the book goes to print.
Disclose! If you do get something sent to you (yay!) be sure to disclose. Publishers require it and it lets anyone looking at your post know the book was sent to you. I tend to stick to #partner @publishername, right in the beginning of the post.
Theme or no theme? Personally, I don’t have a theme and don’t believe you need to have one in order to be established on Bookstagram. That said, I find a lot feeds that do manage to have a cohesive feed GORGEOUS- I just stopped putting pressure on myself to keep to one. I don’t know how they do it and I didn’t want to spend the time finding out how- because more time spent on IG means less reading time.
Use your hashtags! You get 30; take advantage. I like to mix them up and utilize the text replacement function on my phone. For iPhone, go to General>Keyboard>Text Replacement>Plus sign. Put whatever hashtags you like in “Phrase” and come up with a Shortcut. That way, when you’re trying to add hashtags to your post you can just type in that Shortcut and you can insert the hashtags. Thank me later :)
Consistency is key. If you can take a photo each day, great. I tend not to get home until it’s already dark out, so I take my photos in bulk on the weekends. It works for me and I’m never “worrying” about what to post! I’ve been posting once a day everyday for 2+ years, and I’m convinced this has kept my account growing.
Find challenges! For the first year or so I was really consistent in participating in challenges. A challenge is when an account creates a hashtag and comes up with daily prompts to go with it. I found them to be really helpful in trying to be creative when deciding what to post! Some of my favorite monthly challenge hashtags are #grimdragon #riotgrams. The account @bookstagramchallenges also keeps a running list of various challenges to join. Don’t worry about following it to the letter! But I do recommend only using the hashtag if you follow the prompt and click through and engage with other people posting!
Engage. I’ve made a lot of internet friends along the way and I really do talk to some of them at least every week.
Respond to your comments/DMs. It can get overwhelming after awhile, but even now I still try and respond to everyone.
That’s about it! If you have any questions about getting going, I’d be happy to answer. Leave it in the comments below.
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