Do you like books and want to become a bigger part of an online community? Then it might be time for you to join Bookstagram. Bookstagram is a part of Instagram where people post about books and the “bookish aesthetic”—comfy textiles, warm drinks, and soft candles that contribute to the perfect reading atmosphere. It’s a large, friendly community that is connected by reading and taking pictures of books.
Bookstagram is a great place to do both. Bookstagram is a great place to share your love of the written word with like-minded people or to help small companies reach more book-loving customers. I, as the great professional I am, have been on Bookstagram for a little less than a year now and have enjoyed it immensely. Read on, dear Reader, for tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.
Chapter 1: A Portrait of the Book as a Bookstagram
If you have a phone with a decent camera, you’re ready to be a Bookstagrammer. Start by taking high-quality pictures that aren’t blurry or too exposed. Don’t get me wrong; you can have some blurriness in your photos, but you want to make sure that it’s clearly artistic and not because your hand was shaking a little too much when you took the picture. Besides that, you can really do whatever you want for your Bookstagram pictures.
There are three main ways of photographing books in the Bookstagram community: flatlay style, 3D style, and photoshop. I use a mix of flatlay and 3D style, with an emphasis on flatlay. Try all of them out and see which you like the most.
Flatlay style is simply when the books are lying on a surface. This is the type of setup that I commonly use because it’s often easier. For this style, choose something to be your background such as a scarf, wood, loose pages, grass, or anything else you can think of. Then lay the books on top. Many Bookstagrammers use items that match the color scheme or mood of the book cover.
3D style is when your books and props are sitting up or stacked up in front of a background. Often, people will do this in front of their bookshelves, trees, or art prints. This method does make props like cups and candles easier to photograph with the book if you are representing companies that sell book-related merchandise—or you want to prove that you’re ready to rep for them.
This option involves using Photoshop or a similar photo editor that can put in ghosts, other book covers, or mystical backgrounds onto your pictures. This is the least common type of photo on Bookstagram because it often requires work on a computer. Many Bookstagrammers prefer touching up their photos directly on their phones, either through Instagram or another editing app.
Chapter 2: A Thousand and One Posts
You will soon learn that creating photos and captions can be quite difficult at times. If you’re like me and you post photos every day, then it can be challenging to remain relevant and unique. Never fear, young Bookstagrammer; you can use photo challenges!
A photo challenge is a prompt, like “red books” or “favorite ship,” for each day of the month that is written by fellow Bookstagrammers. Some of them have specific themes like The Greatest Showman or back-to-school time, but some are more generic. All are good. To participate in the challenge, you interpret the prompts and then you share a photo on your feed. It’s okay if you miss a few days in the month. You can interpret the prompts as literally or as loosely as you would like; however, you should explain why you think the book fits the prompt somewhere on the post — if it’s not clear.
We touched on captions earlier, so now it’s time for all of my opinions regarding them. Some people don’t relate their captions back to their photo, and some people do. I prefer it when the caption matches the photo; otherwise, I wonder why the Bookstagrammer picked that book to photograph. Either way will get you likes, but I am more likely to engage with posts that have captions that relate to the photo. Luckily, you can test out what you prefer and what gains you more traction.
Chapter 3: Far from the Maddening Crowd (of Followers)
Organic followers are the people who found you naturally because they like your content. These are the best followers to have because they will interact with you a lot and increase engagement on your posts. If you want to one day represent a company, earn money from Instagram, or become an influencer, then you want lots of people to regularly engage with your content. If you’re doing Bookstagram for fun, then it’s always nice to see that people like the pictures you take.
So how do you get organic followers? One way that works for me is to be engaged. Follow other Bookstagrammers, and like and comment on the posts that you like. Often, if someone sees you interacting with them enough, they’ll follow you back and start engaging with you on your posts. This is also a good way to make friends on Bookstagram. If you notice that someone has followed you and is liking and commenting on your posts, then share the love and follow them back.
Another way to get your posts noticed is through the photo challenges. You’ll want to start out by following the hosts, and the hosts will probably follow you back if they see that you’re doing their challenge. They will also sometimes do shoutouts where one of your posts is shown in their stories because they liked it or it fit the prompt well. Other people doing the challenge will also see your photos through the hashtag (the algorithm willing) and may find that they like your style.
Chapter 4: For Whom the Book Tags
Now, love them or hate them, hashtags are your friends. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post and put them in either the caption of the photo or the first comment; the choice is yours. It’s a good idea to vary the hashtags so they accurately match the photo. While you may not know where to start, finding the right hashtags isn’t too difficult. For starters, each photo challenge has a hashtag that goes along with it. You can also start with the hashtag #bookstagram, though this one has millions of posts associated with it.
The best way that I find relevant hashtags is by checking out some of my favorite posts from popular Bookstagrammers and seeing what they’re using. You can see what’s relevant now and also find some good hashtags to follow and use this way.
Another good idea is to make the hashtag book-specific. I like to put the author’s name in hashtags, then character names if I’m talking about them, the book’s title, the series title, and anything else I can think of that would apply. For example, for the Grisha books by Leigh Bardugo (I recommend posting pictures of these—they’re popular), my hashtags would look like #leighbardugo #grishaverse #kazbrekker.
Chapter 5: Your Adventures in Trends and Stories
One thing that I’d suggest doing to bump up your engagement is to post pictures of popular books and the ones that are in vogue at the moment. To know what’s in style, you just need to pay attention. What books are people taking pictures of? What are people anticipating? Are big authors writing new books? As you view other people’s posts, you’ll start to notice that you’re seeing the same books.
At the time of my writing this, the in-vogue books are Nevernight, the Grisha series, the Shades of Magic series, and every series by Sarah J. Maas. You can try to incorporate these books into your posts or you can choose to not. I post about Grisha and Shades of Magic fairly regularly, but I’ve never done Maas or Nevernight. And that’s okay.
Some books will always get lots of likes no matter what is popular at the time. Series like the Percy Jackson series, and the Ranger’s Apprentice series are some examples. These books have strong nostalgic ties to many different people and bring back good memories, which means that people like to see them. Play around with some books you enjoyed when you were younger—you may be surprised by what books always work.
Instagram stories serve many different purposes. You can talk about non-bookish things you do like the movies you watch or fan events you attend. Or you can post reminders about your posts, make polls, show which challenges you’re doing, or post reviews for the books you read. They’re short and sweet, and you can use them as much or as little as you’d like.
In the end, Bookstagram is what you make it. Don’t let trends or likes stop you from raving about a little-known book you love. Like the pictures you like and gush about the characters who really stand out to you. It will take time to build your Bookstagram following, so don’t worry overmuch about likes or follows when you first get started. Even if you’re hoping to become a big influencer in the future, enjoy your Bookstagram journey and make your feed something you’re proud of now.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever tried to Bookstagram and if you have any other tips or tricks for it.