Aug 16, 2016
Mastering the art of Bookstagram - Lisa @ Lost in Literature || LITHW16
Today's #LITHW16 post is one of my own favs! :) Instagram - or rather bookstagram to be specific - has become a huge platform for book promoting and a major player in the publishing game these days! While on the surface, the secret to have a successful account might seem to be good photography alone, but in reality, there's so much more. Like all social media, instagram has its secrets and tips, and today we have Lisa from Lost in Literature to explain all about it!
I honestly couldn't think of a better person for this post! Lisa's feed is gorgeous, but what I love most is the connection and interaction she has built up with her followers! Without further ado, let me hand over the floor to Lisa, and before that, don't forget to check out her bookstagram!
Hey, bookies!! I was completely blown away when Mishma asked me to write up a guest post about Bookstagram to feature on her blog as part of this amazing event, Learnt it the Hard Way! I'm so touched and I couldn't be happier to share with you all what I've learned over the past year being on Bookstagram. I started my own Bookstagram account in October of 2015, but I spent months before that admiring all of the amazing talent in the community. I learned quite a bit, and now I'm hoping to be able to share some of that with you guys today! ♥
You may have looked at a few bookstagram photos and thought, "I'd love to do that! But where do I begin?". Well, that's where I come in! I can definitely give you a few pointers for starting up your very own bookstagram account.
So let's get started! All you need for a bookstagram account is a love of taking photos of books, a camera/phone, and a fun username!! If you already have a book blog and want to have them linked in some way, try picking a name that goes along with your blog title. (For example, my Instagram name is @lisa_lostinlit and my blog is Lost in Literature.) Try not to pick something too generic, like "booklover" or "bookworm" as you want to stand out to others. And try to stay away from extremely long names, such as "icannotlivewithoutbooksbecausetheyaremylife" because, well, obvious reasons. ;) Once you have a name and you open your account, it's time to start taking pics!!
Taking Photos: For me, the very most important thing when taking photos is light. Lots and lots of natural light. Some choose to use professional lighting for their photos, and they come out gorgeous! So do whatever works best for you. Since I don't have lighting like that, I choose to go the natural light route. Be very careful not to take photos when it's too dark, causing the photos to look distant and grainy. Lighting is key. (With all of the photo editing apps out there, it's also possible to lightening up your photos and make it look like you had great lighting, so definitely check those out as well. ;))
Finding Your Own Personal Style/Theme: It is perfectly okay to be inspired by others, but be very careful not to copy others' styles exactly. You want you own look. When people are scrolling through their feed, you want them to see your photo and know it was you that took it. You want all of your photos to flow nicely together and fit as a group. Here's my current theme/style:
As you can see, you don't need to always use the same background or only take photos in the same type of layout. As long as your photos look good together and your feed flows, it's a wonderful "theme" and you should consider it a success. That's not to say you can't choose to be more exact with your photos. Some bookstagrammers ONLY do flat lays. Some ALWAYS do bookstacks. Some NEVER take shelfies, while others take tons of shelfies. Again, this is totally your decision. Don't worry about trying to make your photos all look the same, unless that's the look you're going for. Instead, just be yourself and take photos that YOU like, and then use editing apps, props, or other things to help them flow together beautifully in your feed.
For example, I almost always have baby's breath in my photos. I also often use candles. Some people have a mug of coffee in every photo, or a certain pillow they like to throw in to their shots. Others use the same bright-colored, vibrant flowers in every shot. These are all things that you can do to help your photos stand out.
Editing Photos: Everyone has their own idea of what looks good, and that's what makes bookstagram so amazing. With all the filters and cropping tools out there these days, it's wonderful how unique and gorgeous you can make your photos look. I personally use the Photoshop App to edit my photos. I don't use a preset filter myself. I edit them each individually. But if you'd prefer, they do offer preset filters that make editing photos that much more convenient.
As you can see above, the first image is the original image that I took using my iPhone 6. Then I used the Photoshop App to brighten it up, crop it, and change the colors a bit to match my "theme." I like to bring down the saturation a bit and up the brightness so my photos look bright white, yet more muted on the color side. Here's another example:
Again, this is where you get to be unique and find your own style! Do whatever you like the most. And don't be afraid of change!! You don't have to stick with the same look forever. Every few months or so I end up changing mine around a bit, and that's totally okay! Do whatever looks good to your eye.
Using Props: I know a lot of people stress about props and what to actually use in a photo. The good news: you can use absolutely ANYTHING you'd like!!! Some people prefer cleaner, more simple photos. Maybe just a book and a mug of coffee. Others add a bit more, such as flowers or a candle. Then you have the people that enjoy crowded photos, that throw in anything they see around. All of these approaches are gorgeous and it totally depends on which you prefer for your feed. Again, this is all about you and whatever makes you happy.
Using Hashtags: These are SOOOO important!!! Make sure to use those hashtags, guys!! Every. Single. Time. Hashtags are a major tool in the Instagram world, and rightfully so. They are a wonderful way of connecting different photos that all have a similar purpose together. For example, I ALWAYS post the book title's name and the author's name in my tags. (i.e.: If I'm posting a photo with Throne of Glass in it, I will use #throneofglass and #sarahjmaas in that photo.) When joining a challenge or read-along or other activity on bookstagram, there is almost always a hashtag that goes along with it. (i.e.: #lilbookishaugust for our August Photo Challenge.)
These hashtags are there for a reason. If you click on the tag, you will be able to see all photos that are joining the same challenge. Again, it's a very handy tool to stay connected. Below is an example of how I use tags in my photos. I know a lot of people don't like to see a bunch of tags at the bottom of a caption. So instead, I only put the most relevant hashtags at the bottom of the caption, and then put the others in a comment on the post. That way they are still there and functional, but somewhat hidden.
Tagging Your Photos: Tags are a touchy subject. They can be just as wonderful as they are annoying (when used incorrectly) so be very careful about who you tag. Always tag the author and publisher in your picture. Don't tag random people that you want to see your photo because you're looking for more followers/likes. If you join a photo challenge or other tag (more about this later) don't tag that person in every single photo. That's what hashtags are for!! Excessive tagging of random accounts is more aggravating than anything else and clogs up people's accounts. Instead, ONLY tag the author, publisher, company of a product, things like that. People that are actually IN the photo should be tagged. Not random people for random reasons.
Writing Your Captions: There are a few different ways to go about this. I tend to write more lengthy captions. I talk about whatever is in my picture, whatever I'm doing that day, random things going on in the world... really whatever is in my head at the time. I also almost always post the synopsis to the book in the picture (assuming it's a new release or something that's soon to release that others may not have heard of yet) and I always include some type of question or topic idea. I love starting conversations with others, so I try in every photo to start up some type of dialog. Chatting with my followers and friends is one of my favorite aspects of bookstagram!
Now that you have the basics to start up your own bookstagram account, let's start looking into turning it into a successful venture!
Posting Consistently: This is key. You really want to remain an active account to be seen by others. This doesn't mean you need to post 10 times a day. That's obviously excessive. I post 2-4 times per day, every day. This is my own personal number and the number that works best for me... but you do whatever works best for you. Posting once per day is wonderful. Posting several times a day is great too. Whatever you feel comfortable with. It's very time-consuming to take photos. It's not a quick, simple thing. So see what fits into your schedule and do that.
A helpful hint to keep in mind: if you don't have a lot of time to take photos every day, but you want to post every day, try taking a bunch of photos of one time to get you through the next several days. Some days I can up to 10 pictures, which last me several days. That way if I'm not around to take photos one day, I always have a backup.
Interacting with Others: Don't be afraid to reach out to others!! The Bookstagram community is seriously amazing. There is very little drama and almost every person I've met so far as been truly incredible. Comment on photos. Start conversations with others. Interact any way you can. Everyone is so welcoming and we all love getting to know other people. So don't be afraid to chat it up!
Deciding When to Post: This again is completely up to you. I find that most of my followers are active during the afternoon, so that's when I tend to post the most. I always try to keep my posts a few hours apart so they don't all go up at once. I'll post one around noon, another 1:30 or 2:00, etc. This way I never feel like I'm spamming people with a whole bunch of photos at once. Again, this is completely up to you. Some people prefer to add three photos immediately in a row, as that's the only time they are available to post. That's great! Just figure out what works best for you and go with it. There are apps as well that are useful in scheduling posts if you're not available to post throughout the day. I don't use any of them myself, so I'm not able to recommend any... but I have heard they're out there, and that they are helpful if you're away from your phone during the day, but want posts to go up at a certain time.
Participating in Photo Challenges: I LOVE photo challenges!! They are honestly what got me into bookstagramming so much. They are a wonderful way to meet other bookstagrammers, as well as a way to provide you with photo ideas on a regular basis. If you're anything like me, there are times when you're completely idea-free and you have no idea what to post. That's when the challenges come in handy! Use their prompt for the day to get your creative juices flowing. It's also a great way to get your account out there and known to others. Many people will look through the challenge hashtag and find new accounts to follow that way. Also several photo challenge hosts (myself included!) share photos every week as a way to shout-out new and amazing accounts that you may not have known about prior. Photo challenges are a major plus to the bookstagram community and a way to be an active participant in the community as well. If you're not sure what a photo challenge is, here's an example. This is our photo challenge for the month of August. As you can see, each day has a prompt for your photo for that day.
Representing Small Businesses and Individual Products: (Note: This topic seems to be a bit controversial at this time, so please remember this is solely my opinion, and you should do whatever you feel comfortable doing, regardless of others' opinions.) Repping for products and businesses has really started to skyrocket over the last several months. When I first started, this was almost unheard of... and now you see rep searches and product posts everywhere. Here's the thing: advertising through bookstagram for small book-related businesses is a wonderful way to get your brand name and products out there! Most bookish people (me in particular) LOVE bookish merchandise!! We're always looking for new and amazing things that relate to the books, characters, and authors that we love so dearly. Whether it be bookmarks of the characters, merchandise with quotes from books, candles and soaps that smell like what we envision the characters smelling like, jewelry, etc. inspired by books... we eat this stuff up!!
For small businesses especially, getting their name out there is really key. So having a few respected boosktagrammers receive their products (for free) in exchange for posting photos about the items for others to see is a wonderful way of getting their name out there. Just think... if a bookstagrammer posts a photo raving about a candle that you didn't even know existed, and that bookstagrammer has 1,000 followers, most of whom also didn't know about the candle company, just think about how many orders could come from that one picture! Then add in a few more people with different followers and boom... you've got yourself a successful business. In my opinion, it's a fantastic way to help small businesses make it in this very huge world. Here are a few examples of my posts involving products I'm promoting:
(This photo is showing my two Scent Pop Candles, as well as Hufflepuff necklace made by Rory the Fox Handmade.)
What you have to be careful of is you don't want to only post photos where you're raving about certain products. No one wants to feel as though they are being sold merchandise in every photo. It's okay to love a product and want to tell others about it, just do it in a respectful way that's not overpowering. Also be realistic about it. No one is going to believe that every single bookmark you own is "the best bookmark out there!!". Of course the main purpose of posts promoting an item is to do just that.. promote it. But be sure to point out what you actually like about the product and why it's different from others. Providing promo codes (supplied by the company) is also a wonderful way to spread the love by giving people a small percentage off, while helping small businesses bring in more orders.
In my opinion, repping for a company is something you shouldn't take lightly. These companies are trusting you. They are sending you an item at no cost, taking you at your word that you will take photos of their product and help them promote it in a respectful and efficient way. It can't be easy for businesses to put that much trust in people they've never met, so you need to be respectful and only agree to rep for a company that you think you can successfully rep for. Don't take on more than you can chew, is my point. If you only post once a week and are rarely home and available to take photos, don't promise a company that you will post once a week if it isn't doable on your end. Respect and loyalty is key in this endeavor, so be sure you're up to the challenge before committing to it. As with any other form of social media, "spreading the word" is a very useful and important aspect of Instagram. So why not spread it with gorgeous photos to accompany your thoughts on the product!
I hope this has given you guys a small push if you're looking to start a bookstagram account. It's really not as tricky as it may appear. The most important things are to BE YOURSELF and HAVE FUN!! Do you have any questions? If so, please comment below and I'll do my best to answer any question you may have. Also feel free to reach out via Twitter (@lost_in_lit) or via my blog (http://lostinlit.com) at any time! Thanks so much for listening to me ramble, guys!! And thank you so much, Mishma, for having me today! ♥
That was such an informative post! Thanks so much Lisa!
Hope you guys enjoyed it! If you have any questions on bookstagram, feel free to ask away in the comments!