How to use Instagram as a Writer: An Introduction
Instagram is a visual platform. So how should authors and writers use Instagram, when our primary raison d’etre is words?
There are a few ways that you can make the most of your Instagram feed and start building an audience of readers. There are many successful authors with large audiences on Instagram – published and unpublished alike – using Instagram in their favour to build up an audience.
The important part about that is deciding what kind of audience you want to build. You can quickly grow a community of like-minded writers, which is a great support to you, however, it is important for authors to make sure they focus on growing an audience of potential readers. Other writers may buy your work, but more likely it is readers that you need. You want an audience of: Avid readers of other authors in your genre; people who like who you are and what you stand for, who may then be interested in reading what you write; people who love to read all kinds of writing.
If you want to begin building an audience of readers, or need to grow the following you already have, there are a few key things to focus on:
- Make sure you are paying attention to the aesthetic of your feed
- Create engaging content
- Use the right hashtags
- Optimise other functions within Instagram like Stories and Reels.
Often the best way to learn these things is by watching someone else do it well:
1. The Aesthetic
One of the best examples I’ve seen of how a writer is using Instagram is author Chris Gill. Chris Gill is a Lambda Literary Awards finalist and author of The Nowhere, an Australian coming-of-age mystery novel. His Instagram feed is an aesthetic pleasure that offers a behind-the-scenes look into his life; snippets of his work and poetry; stunning photography; and shots of what he is reading. All in a cohesive colour scheme based on the cover of his novel.
‘The cover design for my last book had a very clean and minimal aesthetic, so I wanted that to feed into my social media. I wanted my Instagram feed to look cohesive when you look at it from a birdseye view.’
While social media is important and can be fun, Chris advises that “writing is what’s most important for an author – so have the book ready first. Then, once you’ve prepared your book and its aesthetic, have fun creating a campaign that represents both you and your novel.”
Chris believes in posting the best content that he can and has built an audience by following other authors and readers and engaging with them. He sees the Instagram author and reading community as a very welcoming place. He says “remember not to just post about your book all the time – readers and followers want to get to know who you are and what inspires you to write.”
2. The Content
For my own Instagram feed, I decided to go with a black and white colour scheme, posting a black and white photo and then a text image featuring a short piece of poetry or a snippet from a novel. In this way, I’m trying to showcase my writing – which is what I hope people will want to see more of. I use a cute little app called Nichi to create my text images.
You want your content to represent you and your work. Try to include pictures that showcase: your writing; where and how you work; the writing process; your geographical location and lifestyle; your book and the publishing process; things that inspire you and your writing; beautiful things you see; reviews of your work; other authors, books and writers you enjoy; community events or resources that your readers may like.
3. The Hashtags
It is recommended to use hashtags on all of your posts. The consensus is that about 11 hashtags are a good number to start with. However, including 1 to 3 hyper-relevant hashtags is also good. You can experiment with your audience to see what works best for you.
Use a mix of popular hashtags and smaller niche hashtags. This way you are seen on discover pages on the popular hashtags, but are more likely to be relevant to the people viewing the niche hashtags – it’s good to have a mix of both.
I’ll get you started with some popular hashtags for authors on Instagram. Click on any one of those and see what kind of content other people are producing. It helps to build your community to like and comment on other people’s posts too, so have some fun browsing those hashtags every now and then.
And my favourite: #bookstagram. This is perhaps the most popular hashtag for readers on Instagram. Be inspired by some of the wonderful photography of books by browsing this hashtag. Any time you take a photo of your book or a book you like, be sure to use that hashtag for other book lovers to admire.
4. Stories and Reels
There are some really creative readers on this platform. Instagram stories have a 24-hour lifespan and appear at the top of people’s Instagram feeds. Instagram Reels is a new feature that is being amplified by Instagram to compete with TikTok. Reels are short videos with snappy music that may get featured on the discover page. In this way, your Reels can reach people who don’t follow you as yet – so are a great way to capture new followers and interest in your work.
Also, check out a few of these Instagram accounts by authors for inspiration.
Rupi Kaur is a Canadian poet and illustrator who grew a following of over 4 million on Instagram with her heartbreaking poems and illustrations.
Ransom Riggs, author of the Peculiar Children books is also a good example, along with his wife:
Tahereh Mafi who also writes young adult fiction.
Daniel Piper who runs an account showcase his poetry, currently being taken over by his satirical alter ego Dante Papier.
And of course, don’t forget to follow Novlr on Instagram too!
Have fun with Instagram and don’t forget to show your personality. It’s a great platform to connect with other authors and readers.