WRITER SUPPORT TEAM INTERVIEW: BOOKSTAGRAM
What is it?
And why should you know about it?
Two members of our Writer Support Team, Polly and Elsie, are dedicated bookstagrammers and are here to tell us more about it and how Bookstagram could help all of you budding writers out there.
Could you start by explaining what Bookstagram is to someone who hasn’t the foggiest?
POLLY: Bookstagram is an online community on Instagram, where book lovers can share their opinions on titles they’ve read or are going to read. It’s essentially a virtual space for readers to find recommendations, see what’s current and engage with all things literary. I’ve made some really magical friends through this platform.
Tell us a little bit about your accounts, how you first got started, the type of content you share, and some of your bookish goals.
ELSIE: I got started in lockdown 1, partly to keep myself busy and partly to bolster up my CV for the book related jobs I was applying for. I quickly fell in love with the supportive community of bookstagram, and having a dedicated place to shout about books.
I mainly post reviews, but I also like posting themed book stacks (for example, I love taking part in
This year I’m planning on reading 74 books (just over 6 books a month), and reading one ‘classic’ book a month.
POLLY: Similarly, I didn’t know much about Bookstagram until around March last year. I had always had a blog where I posted my reviews and posted eye-catching pictures of the books I was reading was just a way of marketing myself initially. I would say it was since the first lockdown I started to engage more with other people posting about books and focused more on this aspect of my content. It was also nice seeing something other than influencers in Dubai on my newsfeed.
I think my mental health has improved by engaging with a community that values books over appearance. I share reviews, my current reads, my recent book purchases and reels (funny videos).
My goal is to read 100 books this year and read more international fiction.
How do you think Bookstagram can help our aspiring authors?
POLLY: Firstly, the Bookstagram community is such a supportive place. The more engagement you have with people that like to read and have the same reading tastes as you, then you are automatically building yourself a ready audience for anything you put out. Just as you would ask friends to read/purchase your book – you now have an entire reading community at your fingertips. It’s also great to see what people are reading. A lot of publishers, actually, work directly with bookstagrammers now to market their books. So, why not build a platform there to begin with, to increase your chances of sales?
ELSIE: I couldn’t agree more. It’s a great way to stay on top of what books and genres are being talked about. When pitching a book, you need to show that there’s a demand for it, and you can do so by referencing comparable titles.
I follow plenty of authors with bookstagram accounts. If you can attract an audience by talking about the books that you read, this could be a great starting point to begin a mailing list, and promote your own writing.
You both feature a wide range of genres on your accounts, how do you decide which books to read next and which ones to feature on your account?
ELSIE: I try to prioritise Advance Review Copies (ARCs) that I’ve been sent by authors and publishers, as I like to review them before the publication date, so I can encourage people to pre-order them! Other than that, I’m a mood reader, and it really depends whether I’m in the mood to read about people falling in love, or being brutally murdered…
Every book I read is featured on my account, but if it’s not a positive review I don’t tag the author!
POLLY: I download a lot of upcoming books from NetGalley and receive a few physical books directly from publishers. I usually read and post about them to not only increase my chances of more free books (I know, the dream!), but to help promote titles.
Like Elsie, I’m also a big mood reader, so, I just see how I’m feeling before I pick up a book. A lot of bookstagrammers will pre-plan their reading list at the start of the month. I am just not that organised.
I read a lot on Borrow Box an app that connects to your library card where you can read books for free. I often see what is newly released on there and borrow them. Otherwise I decide based on what people are raving about on Bookstagram and look for popular books in my favourite genres. I personally feature most, if not all, the books I read on my account – which can be time-consuming if I’m behind on reviews.
What’s rewarding about book influencing and what are some of the main challenges you face?
ELSIE: If I told my childhood self that one day I would regularly be sent free books, she would go out of her mind with excitement! However, the most rewarding thing is when someone tells me they’ve read a book based on my recommendation – reading books doesn’t have to be a solitary experience, and one of my favourite parts of reading is getting to share my enjoyment with others.
I can sometimes put pressure on myself and feel that I have to post regularly, and that each photo has to be perfect. I have to remind myself that I already have a full time job, and bookstagram is what I do for fun!
POLLY: I think the most rewarding thing is when other people buy a book based on your review – and fall in love with it too. It’s nice to spread the word about literature and that you’re bringing a bit of joy into people’s lives. I know A LOT of my friends love my little book reviews and have bought books on my recommendation. It makes me feel closer to them and it’s nice to be heard.
The main challenges are probably just getting your posts seen, composing the perfect composition and generating engagement. It can also sometimes feel like a vicious cycle where reading is no longer just for fun and you feel you need to share every thought on a book – but, when that happens, I take a step back and focus on something else, before returning with even more passion.
How would you describe your relationship with the publishers and authors who send you their work?
POLLY: I have a good relationship with someone at Bloomsbury and Faber & Faber, because I chat with them on bookstagram and they know the kind of books I like. Often when a publicity department knows what kind of book you’ll rave about, they will send anything they think you’ll like your way. I have recently connected with one of my favourite debut authors via bookstagram, the friendship we’ve formed has been a real balm during these past few months and he’s offered me a chance to practice my Japanese. Oh, and he recommended my newsletter to both his editor and agent – so, it’s great for getting word out about your work and networking.
ELSIE: I recently spoke to a PR director who told me that proof copies cost around £5 to produce - more than the cost of making a mass-produced paperback - and with postage on top it is expensive for them to send to multiple reviewers. I make sure to honour the time and money spent to send me the book by publicly thanking the publisher and writing honest reviews to go alongside photos that show the book off.
What’s the most elaborate photo sequence you’ve ever taken?
ELSIE: Definitely the clock of books. I thought it would be fairly simple, but by the time I was finished making sure all the books were the same distance apart, and could fit in the frame, an hour had gone by…
POLLY: Well, I have videoed a few reels (short compilation videos) and they can be quite fiddly. In terms of actual photos my recent photo for The Cat and the City took a bit of composition.
Flatlay (carefully arranged items) is super popular on Bookstagram and I’m still experimenting with styles. Some photos can take a while to get exactly right.
To finish off, could you summarise in one sentence why our writers should dive into the Bookstagram world?
ELSIE: As an author, it’s your job to understand the complex beings that are readers – bookstagram is an excellent way to figure out what makes them tick!
POLLY: Exactly. Not only will you expand both your reading tastes and your market reach, but you will “meet” a whole network of people that love books just as much as you.
You can follow Polly’s account, Where Polly Wanders here and Elsie’s account, Bookgrants here.
Have a question about your writing, getting published or anything in between? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced and friendly Writer Support Team, we’ll be delighted to help.