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Using Instagram to Market Your Book

Never have we judged so many books by their covers as we do today, with social media allowing us to display #shelfies and #bookstagrams and #bookfetishes (yes, all real and popular hashtags). Instagram has over 700 million users, and has seen incredible growth since being purchased by Facebook roughly five years ago. But how do you market a book with only a photo?

Answering that question leads us to a common Instagram misconception. Instagram isn’t just a photo-sharing site. You can also post videos, create captions that don’t have a 140-character limit, and include hashtags that will get your image in front of exponentially more viewers. Let’s take a look at five Instagram marketing techniques you can use today.


1. Set up your account the right way.

  • Create an Instagram username that is identifiable with you and/or your book. E.g. “JaneDoeWrites.”
  • Include the title of your book in your description and also include releveant information that may draw in fans. E.g. “Author of THE DOG BOOK and posts about #reading and #dogs.”
  • Link to your blog or website.
  • Keep your posts professional. Stick to photos that are relevant to your brand and keep more of the personal images (friends, family, etc.) for a different account.
  • Make your account public instead of private if you are using it for marketing purposes. Private accounts are only visible to the people you follow and who follow you back. Just keep in mind that with a public account you must be safe and thoughtful about what you post (see the bullet point above!).
  • As with any social media marketing, the most important thing is to make sure you aren’t only posting about your book. Someone who only sees post after post of your cover will unfollow you pretty quickly. Give your followers more! Take a look at what other authors in your field are doing on Instagram and try to replicate their strategies.


2. Use the four-step method for each post.

Get the best results by following these four steps:

  • Use high-quality photos that are not dark, grainy, or blurry. Use the available filters to improve the appearance of your image and advantage of Instagram’s nice editing tools too.
  • Write a brief caption for your photo that is relevant, memorable, and shows your personality. Check out this article about writing awesome captions.
  • Use hashtags! Instagram is one of the few sites that doesn’t suffer from hashtag fatigue, so use anywhere between five and twenty on each post. Check out this list of hashtags for book lovers, and Google what other hashtags might fit with the topic of your book.
  • If applicable, tag the users who appear in your photo and include their usernames in your caption. This will allow your post more visibility.


3. Post video content.

Have more to say than can be captured in a single image? Instagram allows users to post videos ranging from 3-60 seconds. Give your page more dimension by adding videos every few posts, whether that’s a book trailer, an interview, or something different! Here are some tips on creating a great marketing video.


4. Host giveaways.

Giveaways are great for any social media site, blog, or website. You can offer copies of your book, cool swag, or preorder incentives if you are promoting your book before it goes on sale. Instagram does have rules about promotions, but there are lots of ways you can get your fans engaged. Two of the easiest options are:

  • Follow plus like or comment (i.e. “if you follow my page and like this post, you’ll be entered in a drawing”). This type of giveaway helps you grow your follower count and increase engagement on your page.
  • Create a photo challenge. Have readers post a picture of themselves with your book or doing something related to your book’s topic, then choose a winner from those entries. This type of giveaway spreads the word of your book beyond your page—potential readers will be seeing posts on other accounts and may get interested in your book. (Note: you can also require people to follow your page in addition to participating the photo challenge.)


5. Participate in photo challenges.

Each February, members of the writing community on Instagram posts photos for #authorlifemonth, which showcases 28 (or 29) days of images related to the day-to-day of being an author. Posts include images of your book, your author photo, your work in progress (WIP), your dedication page, and more. This type of event gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at you, your writing process, and your book. While you wait for #authorlifemonth to come around again, look for other book-related photo challenges, or start your own!

Want to learn more about marketing on Instagram? Check out the links in the sidebar!

Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at