Social media is a great way to generate publicity for a book, and one trend that has recently gained popularity is Instagram takeovers. For authors who aren’t familiar with Instagram, the platform can look incredibly complicated at first glance. Knowing the basics of the platform is crucial, especially given the frequency with which it’s updated. In this post I will offer tips to get your Instagram-newbie author ready for a takeover in no time!
Get Them Familiar with the Platform
Most takeovers usually happen on Instagram stories, but the buttons to add this content may not come across clearly. Make sure your author knows that in order to access this button, they will need to either swipe left or locate the circle at the top left of their screen. I always find that screenshots and examples are incredibly helpful in this step! A great way to get comfortable with this feature is to practice—have them create test posts on a private or personal account so that they have a better idea of what to do when the time comes. This will also allow you to gauge their understanding of the platform as well.
The idea of a takeover may seem overwhelming to authors who don’t know what to expect. They may ask questions like “How often should I post?” and “What kind of content do I share?” Giving your author some guidelines can help soothe some of this anxiety. Let them know specifics like how often they should post (i.e. once an hour vs. ten posts total), what the time frame is for their takeover, and what you and your viewers expect to see during that time. Make sure they know what they are getting into. I always recommend that authors share fun facts about themselves, pictures of their pets, and other material that allows viewers to get to know them. This will look different for everyone, so make sure you are as clear as possible every step of the way.
Given everything going on in the world with social distancing, virtual meetings, and geographical limitations, it is more important than ever to establish effective communication. While emailing back and forth is convenient, giving a step-by-step tutorial in text can be overwhelming. Sharing screens or having an audio connection is a great alternative that will help take stress off your author and make them feel like they aren’t alone in figuring this out.
Know Your Resources
One of the great things about the “new normal” of virtual meetings is that it is easier than ever to find a video tutorial that can do some of the work for you. This video by Louise Henry is very in-depth and effective at covering all of the options that Instagram stories has to offer. In his tutorial, Dusty Porter offers a quick, but thorough, rundown on Instagram stories. These are just a few examples, but you always have the option to take matters into your own hands and screen-record your own tutorials as well.
When in Doubt, Take Over
Some authors just won’t get the hang of Instagram, and that is okay! I recommend that you sit down with your author and plan out content that you can post for them: choose photos to share and create captions with together, or offer a Q&A session via email so followers can still have authentic engagement with the author. There are endless possibilities!
An Instagram takeover will not make or break a campaign, so if things really aren’t working out, then it’s time to move on. With that being said, always be patient and allow your author the time and space to acclimate to Instagram. Only move on as a last resort.
Instagram takeovers are a fun and low-stress marketing tool that anyone can take advantage of. With these tips, you may be able to help your author in a big way! Just make sure to do your own research, because in the world of social media, the platforms we know and love can change in an instant.
BookTubers are a well-known part of the book-loving community. BookTube is the place on YouTube people go to hear others rave about books they love or discuss all things wrong with the books they don’t. Throw in some fun bookish tags and it is the perfect space for readers to get more content when they aren’t curled up with a book. That being said, BookTube has gone through some important changes over the years and one vital change is that the personalities and faces of these channels are becoming more and more diverse.
Diversity is something the publishing industry has long struggled with, but BookTube isn’t letting that stop them. Anyone who has a passion or an interest can upload a video onto YouTube, and that is no different for the book community. These videos afford BookTubers an audience and platform to speak their minds and call for change, much like the creator Christina Mitchell does consistently. Mitchell’s channel takes the issue of lack of diversity head on and calls out the community in dedicated videos. One video, which criticized the attendance of BookCon, resulted in the Con giving her a panel to speak on issues that concern her, such as diversity.
Mitchell’s example of speaking out isn’t the only headway the community is making on diversity. YouTube recently released a trailer for a BookTube video featuring David Sedaris. While Sedaris is highlighted, this video also features a panel of numerous BookTubers including Cindy Pham, Joel Kim Booster, Jake Roper, and Francine Simone, a small selection of people that still showed a more diverse set of content creators from the platform. This support from YouTube itself shows that people are taking notice and their platforms are just as successful as the white creators from BookTube’s inception. This is also a show of growth as YouTube’s previous feature with Michelle Obama consisted of a largely white panel of BookTubers. A HuffPost article was even written with Black BookTubers criticising the choices of creators included in this video and the missed opportunity YouTube had to highlight a marginalized group of the book community. These outspoken creators are a huge part of the visibility of these issues and a huge step into holding the publishing industry as a whole accountable.
BookTubers aren’t just making callout videos—they are also uplifting authors and books that are already representative of the diversity they seek. They are still coming up with popular BookTube content while also featuring people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and so much more. For example, Cindy Pham from readwithcindy even posts an annual Asian readathon in the month of May to highlight Asian Heritage Month. This event is specifically targeted for Asian authors, characters, or both. These creators are using their platforms to both create a positive and fun space for book lovers while also giving a spotlight to issues they care about. These content creators are unapologetically calling for change out of love for reading, something their audiences can no doubt identify with. BookTubers are making it quite clear that they won’t stand for the industry’s lack of diversity, and with their impact we can look forward to how that will change the face of the industry in the years to come.
I started my bookstagram page at the end of September 2020. In under half a year, I have amassed 3,400 plus followers, held conversations with some of my favorite authors, and made many bookish friends. There are many tips and tricks only accessible to those engaging with other accounts, consuming a lot of content, and running an actual bookstagram account. Thus, I have gathered my most useful tips and tricks on how to create, operate, and brand a successful bookstagram account.
Realize your definition of success.
What do you want to get out of your account? Do likes matter? Do followers matter?
Know your own value. Likes and followers only hold the weight you place on them. Big or small, this account is ultimately for you!
Develop your content strategy.
Will you be posting book reviews? Do you want your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and uniform in style or color? Will you post other content besides books?
Many followers first engage with your image—this is Instagram, after all. Having good lighting and photo quality are a great first step to running a professional account. Many bookstagrammers use props like fake flowers, bookish merch, and other knickknacks to create a theme, while others use a consistent filter or color scheme.
Your inaugural post is a great way to introduce yourself to the bookstagram community! Why did you choose to begin? What books do you like? Why is your account unique?
Design your profile.
Start with your account name, a.k.a. your @ handle. Making it book related helps alert others to your interests.
Another critical part of your account is the profile picture. Some choose to pay for a designed logo, but you can make your own in many different apps, Adobe Creative Cloud, or even Word. A picture of books or you with books would work, just make sure it is recognizably your account. This is your chance to stand out!
Many times people decide to follow and follow back based on your @ handle, profile picture, and bio. If you choose a random selfie or obscure name, other bookstagrammers may not recognize your account as a book page.
You have the option to switch your account to a “business profile.” It is not required, but it can be worthwhile because you are able to see the best times to post, the demographics of your followers, and engagement rates of your posts.
You can also create highlights on your profile from the Instagram story feature. You are able to further brand your account by creating cover images for different highlights.
Engage. With. Other. Accounts. If you follow an account, like a few of their photos, and even comment, they are more likely to return the favor! You will also create friendships and start to carve out your own space in the bookstagram community.
A big part of success on Instagram (and beating the algorithm) is consistency. Most recommend posting at least once a day. However, post as much or as little as you can manage. Do not overwhelm yourself!
If you choose to use hashtags on your posts, choose ones with fewer than fifteen thousand posts and more than one thousand. This will help your post be shown to more accounts.
There are many apps you can employ to help you. Instagram layout apps are great for planning your feed, follower apps can help you keep track of any spam accounts or bots, and editing apps can make your images pop!
Follow trains are useful for beginners looking to make new friends and find new accounts to follow; you can often find them under hashtags and around general bookstagram.
Do not follow too many accounts or like too many posts in a short period of time, especially when you have a new Instagram account. They will temporarily block your account. Since the numbers frequently change, you can google the current Instagram algorithm and rules.
Ultimately, successful accounts bring something new to the table! Convey your unique voice via your reviews, use unique props, or just find your people. If you are confused about any steps or features of Instagram, Google will most likely have the answer. You are also free to message me on Instagram, @fringebookreviews, and I will try to address your questions! You can also use my account as an example. Good luck, and happy reading!
The Twitter novel, falling under a category coined “Twitterature,” is a modern phenomenon in which authors publish their stories in increments of 140 characters at a time to eventually form a full narrative that online viewers can easily access for free right in the palms of their hands. It is important to note that Twitterature as a whole does not limit itself to novels, but to all kinds of writing including poetry and aphorisms. Some writers choose to work collaboratively while others release their work on an individual basis.
Twitterature takes an innovative stance on both the publishing world and the digital community, with writers releasing original content on a platform that is accessible to all. Twitter fiction has become especially prominent, with award-winning authors—including Pulitzer Prize winners—taking part in this inventive and groundbreaking format. Founded in 2009, the Twitter Fiction Festival promotes Twitter fiction from a multitude of established authors every year. There are several magazines devoted to Twitter fiction, such as Outshine and Nanoism, which give authors even more exposure and readers an opportunity to compartmentalize their content.
Twitter novels can be published over the course of months with one or two tweets a day being released from the author. This allows for the literary technique of using a cliffhanger to precede the text being released. The concept of releasing stories in increments is not new; serialization of literature began as early as the seventeenth century due to the prominence of moveable type. Books were a great expense to produce during this period, so to reduce costs and expand readership, publishers produced larger works in small installments called fascicles—considerably the formative version of the Twitter novel. Charles Dickens is a prominent author who wrote serialized fiction such as his renowned and infamous novel Great Expectations, which was released in parts in the literary magazine All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861. Great Expectations remains a vital literary classic to this day despite its initial periodic publishing format.
Examples of Twitter fiction span far and wide. Released by Sceptre Books, an acclaimed work of fiction entitled The Right Sort was released by author David Mitchell in 2014. The story combines compelling elements of psychologically thrilling content with magical realism. Jennifer Egan’s Black Box was released on the New Yorker‘s Twitter feed in 2012 as a work of science fiction which rose to high critical acclaim.
Titles such as these prove that literature is boundless in its reach. Twitter fiction has brought on a new way for the public to connect with literature on their own terms, at their own pace, and by their own means of discovery.
For many new writers, the question is how to break in, get an agent, and get published. There are many tracks to getting to the peak, but the route is often long and arduous, and authors can go many months—which can compound to years—without hearing about the masterpieces on their hard drives. How can a writer get noticed and noticed fast?
Like with all contemporary remedies, the internet has a hand in getting new authors noticed.
According to Pitch Wars, the curators of the event, “#PitMad is the original twitter pitch event, where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. No previously published works. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch.” It’s really something like speed dating, where agents and editors get to peruse the quick pitches and interact with authors. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published, but you will have eyes on your manuscript’s idea.
Another key feature of #PitMad is the use of hashtags, not only to denote the genre of your manuscript, but also to let agents and editors know about target audience and authentic authorship. As we move forward with Ooligan’s acquisitions process, we looked at not only #YA, but also at #BVM (Black Voices Matter, for Black writers), #POC (People of Color), #IMM (Immigrant), #OWN (Own Voices), and many more. These hashtags help agents and publishers fill in gaps in their publication list, but also help promote diversity in publishing.
However, not all see this as a great use of time. Jessica Faust from BookEnds Literary Agency says that not only is #PitMad not the best use of her time as an agent, but also that she doesn’t consider “an event like this [as] querying.” She goes on to say that 140 characters is not enough for a full pitch. And while Faust isn’t wrong about the pitch length, she doesn’t speak for all agents and publishers out there. Writers do get picked up here, but it might be a bad idea to put all your eggs in this basket.
In summation, #PitMad is a way for you to meet agents, publishers, and even writers in the Twitter community. Pitch your idea of your manuscript and wait for the likes to roll in. It may not be a total success, but it’s a quick route to get there if you remember to also query for real on the side. As an acquisitions editor for a press, I’ll divulge a few pro tips to writers: pitch in the morning (and think about Eastern Standard Time), pin the post to your Twitter page, and post the pitch a few times, but don’t spam. Use the hashtags, but don’t embellish the truth. Add realistic but known comp titles—not comp TV shows or movies—to your post. I’m less likely to go for “Casablanca x Fifty Shades” than a more grounded “Love, Simon x The House on Mango Street.”
A social media strategy is an essential part of publishing and marketing a title. Ooligan is a great example of the many uses of a social media strategy, as there is an almost constant revolving door of individuals coming in to work on a title at its many different stages as new students enroll and others graduate. A social media strategy document is the perfect way to get them up to speed on both your ideas for social media as well as the main selling points of your title. Now, getting started on this document may seem overwhelming at first, but here are some tips to guide you in the right direction.
Find a Previously Published Book
The first step would be to look at comp titles or any book that may reflect some key points or themes you’d like to highlight in your title. This does not mean writing down and copying the social media strategy, but it is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t. It may also allow you to discover innovative ways to utilize platforms that you may not have considered before. Remember to look for recent titles and similar-sized publishers as part of the process.
Narrow Down Your Platform
Targeting your audience is one of the most important aspects of marketing and social media, so once you get your ideas flowing it is time to narrow down which platforms you’re going to use. By focusing on one platform, you can better understand what your target audience may expect in terms of content. This doesn’t mean totally disregarding other platforms, but instead giving special attention to the ones where you can find the consumers you are looking for.
Look Outside of Bookish Accounts
A great idea is to look at other Twitter accounts that may support the themes of your title even if they aren’t related to the literary world. Our recent title, Laurel Everywhere, made a point to target mental health accounts on twitter in order to highlight the key themes of the book and the message the author wanted to get across. Incorporating a list of accounts like these can bolster your social media strategy and maybe even give you an opportunity to reach out to these accounts to further support your title.
The best advice overall, even if you totally disregard these other tips, would be to take screenshots and compile them in a document or presentation. This is essential to ensure you remember your information, but also to help you and others keep new team members up to speed. It allows you to incorporate explanations as well so you can write out what you like or don’t like about a specific image or example you have recorded.
These tips are by no means the only blueprint of a successful social media strategy document, but they can help if you feel like a fish out of water. There are countless ways you can use and learn from social media, so dive in and learn what you can. The last and final tip would be to discuss with your team. Social media, in my opinion, is best when it is a collaborative process, so take some or all of your team members on this adventure of social media research and see what you come up with!
“Tell us what titles or genres you’ve enjoyed in the past, and we’ll give you surprisingly insightful recommendations.”
In December 2006, many things were happening around the world. NASA revealed photographs supporting the theory of water on Mars, an adult giant squid was captured on video, and the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was auctioned to charity for $923,187. Another notable December 2006 occurrence was the creation of the online book catalog and recommendation resource, Goodreads.
Goodreads allows users to keep track of books they’ve read, books they want to read, and the reading journeys of other registered users. Users are able to interact with each other while getting consistent recommendations from both a Goodreads algorithm and the ever-updating feed from their friends on the website or app. While Goodreads is a wonderful resource for readers, it also houses a very lucrative market for indie publishers and authors. Through the Goodreads author program, Q&A groups, word of mouth, and the Goodreads recommendation engine, indie publishers and authors are able to establish a presence among the bigger five guns in the publishing world.
Goodreads Author Program
Per Goodreads, the author program is “designed for authors to have a profile on the site and interact with fans, and add photos, videos, or events to their profiles.” Using Goodreads as a sort of social media platform, authors are able to cultivate a following and stay connected with their readers. They can even update readers on what they are reading, since most authors are—at a fundamental level—readers too. Authors can post reviews or favorite quotes, or even create lists of favorite books.
Authors can also host a Q&A group to answer questions and interact with their fans. Any followers of the author are notified via their inbox to submit a question, promoting the new release. There are seven million users on Goodreads and it is very worthwhile for authors (either publishing independently or through an indie press) to interact with them! Another program, Ask the Authors, allows authors to engage with their readers from their author dashboard.
How do books get discovered? This pie chart distinguishes between the various methods Goodreads members use to find books on the site.
states that they “require such a threshold to guarantee they know enough about a book to be statistically comfortable recommending it.” Ratings and reviews on books, especially indie titles, matter!
Using programs such as LibraryThing and Eidelweiss offer the option to implore early reviewers to review books on websites such as Goodreads. Having a strong baseline of early reviews helps a title tremendously when looking to market it on Goodreads.
Furthermore, Goodreads notes that if there is a strong comparable title to a new release and a publisher or author is able to market their book to the readers of the other title—and the readers respond by adding the new book to their goodreads account—the recommendation engine will notice this correlation and be even more likely to suggest the book to the right readers.
Where do people initially hear about the books they read?
Friends are one of the best methods of new book discovery.
Every launch for a new novel needs an exciting and buzzworthy marketing campaign. A targeted social media push is a must to reach your audience and, hopefully, spur sales; but reaching a young adult audience can be tricky. You can target parents, educators, and librarians who are perhaps the primary buyers. However, to create demand from the bottom up, you must reach young readers where they live which is, ironically, on YouTube.
When it comes to social media use, young adults are the largest subset of users. According to the Pew Research Center from their 2019 survey, some 88 percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds use any form of social media, and of those young adults 94 percent use YouTube. To reach this audience and boost demand for your author and new novel, YouTube must be a part of your marketing plan. To start your campaign, focus on BookTube, a growing community on YouTube that features creative videos of people reviewing and discussing literature, particularly in the YA genre. One such BookTuber, Christine Riccio, has become a major influencer with more than 410,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, PolandBananasBooks. Her videos display a goofy and contagious love of reading presented in a funny and engaging way. Of interest to publishers are Riccio’s “Book Talks,” “Stories I Ate This Month,” and “Binge Book Buying” videos where she talks about how and why she chooses books and gives quick reviews. A positive review from an influencer like Riccio can help drive demand directly from the target audience.
In today’s crowded social media spaces, YouTube has emerged as a reliable, easy-to-access platform for publishers and their authors to grow revenue and traffic. The YouTube channel Epic Reads, produced by HarperCollins Publishers, is a great example. It has more than 163,000 subscribers and funny, youthful videos like “Book Nerd Problems” and “Book Hauls.” HarperCollins has also struck a deal with another BookTube influencer, Jesse George, whose channel jessethereader is immensely popular. On Epic Reads he leads a series called Epic Adaptations in which he reports on all the YA book-to-movie and book-to-television adaptations that are in the works. This popular series helps stimulate demand for books that have been on the market for some time. And of course, publishers can use YouTube to connect authors directly to their audience by posting book trailers, events, and live readings of excerpts.
YouTube is also fertile ground for publishers looking to cash in on the popularity of young influencers. One of the most recent success stories is The Try Guys. Originally part of BuzzFeed but now independent, The Try Guys includes four filmmakers: Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang. With an audience of 7.29 million subscribers, they create original comedy videos that appeal to a young audience, like “Keith Eats Everything at Taco Bell” and “The Try Guys Switch Pets for a Day.” Publisher Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, capitalized on the The Try Guys’ popularity by publishing their book The Hidden Power of F*cking Up. Part self-help book, part memoir, it reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list the week after it was released in June 2019.
No one has been more successful at harnessing the power and reach of YouTube, however, than YA author John Green. His extraordinary success as an author is boosted by his extremely popular YouTube channel, the vlogbrothers, which he co-hosts with his brother Hank Green. Their videos run the gamut from jokes to history lessons to science experiments, but they also use the platform to promote their creative fiction. And with 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube, they have far greater reach than even the largest US publishers like Penguin Random House. Other authors can learn from his example by connecting directly with YA readers on YouTube. For publishers and authors alike, YouTube is a key component of any social media strategy targeting a young adult audience.
Book lovers, take a look at your shelf. What do you see? Not all of us can be Bookstagram stars with a plethora of breathtaking displays, but recently I’ve discovered that my books seem to follow a very similar color scheme. At first I thought this was a happy coincidence, but it turns out that publishers definitely know what they’re doing. In the book publishing world, marketing all begins with the cover.
A book’s cover is its most powerful marketing tool: it serves as a poster for the book and gives the consumer an idea of its contents. Whether we like it or not, we do tend to judge a book by its cover. One of the first things designers take into account when developing a cover is the color palette. While many artists are free to choose whatever shades they’d like to feature in their work, book designers must consider the marketing aspect of the cover. It is common practice for publishers, including Ooligan Press, to generate a list of successful titles within the same genre of the book to discern similar color palettes, design trends, and typefaces. The idea is that a reader will most likely associate the new book with a book that they’ve previously enjoyed. The power of recognizability within the intended market can be a powerful thing. According to Yu and Ahn’s study on the correlation between marketing and visual cues, delivering what a customer expects elicits positive reactions and increases the likelihood of purchasing the product.
For instance, if you’re like me and love a good fantasy title, you’ll notice that your bookshelf probably contains many shades of blue, grey, and black. A study conducted by Labrecque and Milne from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science shows that these colors tend to symbolize dignity, power, and mystery—all of which are elements in fantasy books. On the other hand, romance titles tend to utilize pastels with pops of bright, vivid colors. These shades symbolize sincerity and warmth, which are also indicative of the genre.
A book’s cover also comes down to how it is designed. In some cases, such as thrillers or memoirs, it’s encouraged to use photography as a foundation to establish that connection with the reader and the real world. But in genres such as fantasy, photos are rarely used on the cover because they take away from the audience’s imagination of the fantastical settings or characters. In those cases, digital illustrations are often preferred to capture that magical element and preserve mystery.
Recently, I read a romantic comedy book set in Singapore. The first thing I noticed was the cover’s minimalist vector art style in bright colors, which was almost identical to the Crazy Rich Asians series by Kevin Kwan. I picked up the book because I thoroughly enjoyed Kwan’s trilogy. The publisher definitely meant to catch my attention and—spoiler alert—it worked. It’s sitting on my shelf right now, in its happy home next to its Crazy Rich Asians cousin. I am a walking example of the efficacy of this book marketing technique and honestly, I don’t mind it. If it leaves me with a colorful array of books in all my favorite genres, I might just be on my way to becoming a Bookstagram star after all.
I think it is safe to say that the year 2020 has changed the world as we know it in a number of ways. Many people, myself included, are desperate for some semblance of the normalcy we were used to. While I completely understand these feelings, we all have to accept that important things are happening in 2020.
One important change is the momentum and support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement is affecting all areas of life and has caused at least one positive change in the publishing industry specifically—the support of Black authors, bookstores, and stories. With this abundance of support, there has also been some backlash on social media unfairly placed on Black-owned independent bookstores due to lack of stock and late shipping times. It’s vital to understand that the problem doesn’t start at these bookstores, but at the chain of supply that is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are a few things we have to realize, and first is that the book you ordered from a small, independent, Black-owned bookstore is most likely the same book countless others also ordered. As a smaller, indie bookstore they are doing their best to get these books to you, but the supply just isn’t coming in at the rate they need. It is unfair to assume that the fault lies with Black-owned bookstores rather than outside factors that are hindering their operation.
COVID-19 has clearly played a large part in slowing down the supply chain for everyone. It is simply a part of living during a pandemic that requires a bit more sympathy and understanding while these independent booksellers work tirelessly to get the books we all love into the hands of those who ordered them. While many are used to free two-day shipping, that is simply not a sustainable way of life. Now is not the time to point fingers and blame anyone for why the world has changed this way. Instead, we should focus on coming together.
It is important to remember why we should support Black-owned bookstores and why everyone has ordered the same titles in the first place. Black-owned bookstores are not falling short, but rather they are operating as best they can in dire circumstances. I applaud the resilience and strength it takes for these bookstores to operate during a pandemic and prioritize the people supporting them. We can all use a little more patience and understanding rather than trying to find who is in the wrong.
So while you wait for your copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, consider other titles that portray authentic Black stories and keep on supporting, educating, and growing. Also, if you have the time, maybe send out a supportive tweet to your local bookstore and let them know they’re doing a great job.