Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms and is widely regarded as one of the best platforms to build an audience. But to many writers, the words “platform” and “audience” can be terrifyingly intimidating. Hey, marketing yourself in any way can feel like that. It can feel like a never-ending pool of people to attract and engage with – even more terrifying if these people are future readers of your book.
When discussing an Instagram author account, I’m not just talking about setting up a personal profile and occasionally posting pictures of yourself walking your dog or drinking craft cocktails, but setting up your profile to professional, and listing that profession as “Writer” or “Author”. In most cases, this will mean having two separate Instagram accounts: one for fun, and one for your author career. You will also need a professional username, author bio, and a Linktree to share all of your valuable website info and publishing URLs.
Sounds serious, right? So do you need an Instagram author account if you’re serious about a) getting published and b) marketing your book? What about if you’re not quite ready to get serious about your author career (if that’s the case, this probably isn’t the resource for you).
Let’s break this down.
Instagram author accounts for unpublished writers
If you have had anything published – short stories, magazine articles, blog posts – anything at all, then you should set up an Instagram author account and call yourself an author. Why? Even if you’re an aspiring author (i.e. you would like to publish a book), you are still currently an author of published words, regardless of the format. Ergo: author. If you write for fun, or don’t yet have any publishing credentials, you should call yourself a writer. You can always update your profile to say “author” later down the road.
Instagram author accounts for published authors
Instagram can be a fantastic tool if you already have a book to market. It’s a highly visual medium – perfect for book covers. By posting consistent, relevant content, with appealing aesthetics, you’re attracting new readers by offering a “behind the scenes” look at your unique book publishing process.
Instagram as a publishing tool
Posting image-based content – posts, reels, and stories – is a form of publishing. You’re sharing your author journey with your network. Focus on posting content that speaks to your writing life. Perhaps it’s a shot of you at your writing desk. Perhaps it’s some writing inspiration you found outside in nature. Perhaps it’s a quote from another author you love. By publishing this content, you’re showing that you have more than just a product: you’re a real person, with dreams, ambitions, and even flaws. And all you need is your phone to take a picture, or a free and easy creative tool like Canva to build out beautiful posts. Your audience wants to see the real you, so go easy on the filters.
Finding your audience
With over a billion active users on Instagram, you need to focus on your target audience. Don’t just follow other authors and publishers, follow readers, literary journals, bloggers, and bookstores. Tag them. Interact with them. Instagram helpfully suggests people to follow, and you can drill down into their profiles and follow their followers. In particular, “bookstagrammers” are key. These book lovers will post pictures of your book and post a review for you to their own networks. Free branding! Free advertising! Incredible.
In many ways, Instagram is all about gaining followers, but those followers only matter if they are engaged with the content you post. It’s no good having over a thousand followers (a good benchmark) if only 10% of those followers actively like, share and comment on your posts. Pay it forward. Reach out. Engage. Never just post content blindly into the ether. An excellent way to follow topics and engage is via hashtags.
Useful hashtags to use with your Instagram author account
Why shouldn’t you use Instagram?
If you hate it or if it stresses you out. Instagram is a free, fun way to attract readers, but not at the expense of your health or sanity.
Why I set up my Instagram author account
Earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and give myself an Instagram author page: @natalie.harris.spencer. I made a commitment to post every day, and grow my followers to over a thousand. Aside from a couple of unavoidable omissions, I’ve hit both of those goals. I feel I’m conveying the “brand of me” successfully, kept it authentic, while making amazing new writer connections, and keeping myself on track with pursuing my author career. I thought it would be a lot to maintain, but to be honest I’ve found it strangely cathartic and empowering. I would 100% recommend setting yourself up with an Instagram author account.
Do you need an Instagram author account to sell books?
Yes. And no. You don’t need an Instagram author account. But it’s a free marketing tool with a built-in audience of engaged users. While you won’t sell books overnight, you’ll increase your clout over time by offering authentic content. So why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?