With the #bookstagram community booming on Instagram, more and more authors are wondering how to interact with fans and reviewers. To answer this question, I asked a group of bookstagrammers for examples of positive and negative interactions with authors on Instagram, and I’m going to share it with YOU!
Please note that these suggestions are specifically for interacting with the Bookstagram community on Instagram. They do not necessarily apply to other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.
Why should an author care about this? Simple: because Bookstagrammers buy books. Yes, some receive free ARCs from publishers and authors in exchange for publicity and reviews. But the biggest reason is that bookstagrammers buy books and they influence their followers to buy books. Smart publishers and authors recognize this, and many are launching Instagram-focused tours and campaigns for their books. If you don’t tap into this community, you are missing out on a huge tool to grow your career as an author.
Ready to learn how? Here we go!
First: Authors, comment on positive posts about your book!
Bookstagrammers love to share reviews, TBR stacks (to-be-read stacks), #shelfies (photos of their bookshelves) or #flatlays (books laid out on a flat surface). Most bookstagrammers will hashtag the title of your book, and some will tag the author in the post (and the publisher if it is a gifted review copy). Follow the hashtag of your book’s title and comment on those posts!
Nothing stalker-ish, please, but a short “Thank you for reading!” or “I hope you enjoy!” goes a long way. Remember that bookstagrammers spend hours each week curating their feed and sharing books. Not only is it polite to thank them for their time, it literally causes bookstagrammers to go full-on fangirl and share your comment with their bookish friends. “CHRIS BOHJALIAN JUST COMMENTED ON MY POST GUYS I AM DYING.”
You can also comment on positive stories. A word of caution, though: since those comments go into the DM inbox, they can feel more private and a little invasive, in my opinion. I recommend that you keep your comments on stories short and sweet: a “thanks” or an emoji. On the other hand, you can simply share their story to your own stories.
(Note: As a general rule, I recommend not engaging in prolonged DM conversation with bookstagrammers. You, as an author, need your privacy and those conversations can quickly spiral into unprofessional territory.)
On the other hand: Authors, do NOT comment on negative posts!
Bookstagram is, by and large, a positive community. But it’s inevitable that at some point, a reader won’t like your book. And while I understand that a negative review is painful to read, there is absolutely no reason for you, as an author, to engage with that post. Do NOT argue with the reviewer, either in the comments of their post or (heaven forbid) via their DMs.
By the same token, if someone comments on one of YOUR posts with a negative or off-topic comment, either ignore it (if it’s fairly innocuous) or delete it (if the comment is truly toxic). Do NOT engage. It only makes you look bad. I promise.
(A word on tagging authors in negative reviews. I agree that this is bad form. But there’s nothing an author can do to stop this from happening. Your best course of action is to scroll on by, then drown your sorrows in a bucket of ice cream or your healthy/unhealthy coping mechanism of choice. Message your author friends and rip the review apart privately, but do NOT do it publicly and for goodness sake, don’t take a screenshot, share it on Twitter or in your IG stories and blast the reviewer.)
Share positive reviews to your stories or feed!
Bookstagrammers love it when their posts are shared by an author–it gives our posts more exposure and makes us feel personally connected with the author. Sharing to your stories is a simple way to “shout out” the positive reviews and the reviewers. Add your own hashtags (#slaughtersquad is what Karin Slaughter uses, for example) or gifs (a happy dance with the words “thanks for the amazing review” is perfect). You can also use a re-posting app to share to your own feed. Be sure to always give the original poster credit and thank them–otherwise, you’re stealing their content.
Don’t be pushy.
Depending on your publishing method, you may want to directly contact bookstagrammers and offer them a free review copy. Most bookstagrammers agree that it is OK to reach out either via DM or email (there is an “email” button on most bookstagrammers’ profiles) and offer a review copy. Be sure to include all relevant information: back cover copy, publisher info, correct release date, and whether you are offering a physical copy or an electronic copy. If the bookstagrammer does not respond to your DM, do NOT continue to nag them. Don’t send a follow-up DM. Don’t comment on their post saying “I sent you a DM about my new book, please respond.” Just move on.
Don’t play the follow/unfollow game.
Bookstagrammers are constantly being followed by authors who are simply looking for a “follow back.” In most cases, those authors unfollow within a day or two. Don’t do this. Bookstagrammers will follow you if they are interested in your content. Period. Your job as an author on Instagram is to provide solid content on your own feed, then interact professionally with bookstagrammers. You won’t get good followers by playing the follow/unfollow game, so just don’t do it.
(Note: this is not a post about growing your Instagram following or increasing engagement as an author. If there is interest in this topic, I’ll follow-up with future posts.)
In summary: Remember that the first rule of Instagram is engagement.
Whether a bookstagrammer has 300 followers, 3,000 followers, or 30,000 followers, they have taken the time to read your book, take a photo, write a thoughtful caption, and share it with their friends. You can take the time to thank them. Each person who reads your book is important. If Delia Owens (author of Where the Crawdads Sing, which has sold approximately eleventy billion copies) can take the time to personally comment on reviews, so can you.
When you reach out personally to say thanks for reading, you are making a connection. Social media allows authors and readers to connect in a way that was never possible before. Don’t underestimate the power of making personal connections and building a loyal readership. It’s smart for your career, it builds community, and most of all, it’s kind. And I think we can all use a little more kindness, don’t you?
If this was helpful, please like/comment below and share. If you have other questions, please comment and I’ll address in future posts. And, of course, follow me on Instagram @bradeighgodfrey.