If you’ve been bookstagramming or blogging for a while then there’s a high chance that you’ve already been promoting titles online, but for new bookstagrammers receiving your first review copy is a pretty exciting occasion and one worth celebrating. In this post, I’ve shared a few tips on how to become a bookstagram influencer.
As within the blogosphere, the bookstagramming world is packed with influencers. I think many of us have become immune to the advertising that appears in our feeds everyday, but the fact is, if a publisher gifts you a book or a bookish company sends you a product to post on your grid then you are by default, an influencer.
The word stems from the Latin word influentia “a flowing in” which later fed into a French medieval astrological term describing how the stars could affect man’s fate. Nowadays it has a myriad of connotations and in social media circles is often seen as a somewhat negative descriptor. For many it conjures up images of semi-clad people selling products in exotic locations. However the reality is far more nuanced than that, especially in the literary realm.
Our family is relatively new to the world of book marketing. Publishers didn’t start offering us review copies until we were a year old but since then we’ve had a fairly regular stream of offers. These have been both paid and gifted. We haven’t run with all of these. Sometimes because they haven’t matched our account and sometimes because we haven’t had time to showcase them properly. So the ones we have chosen have been titles or products that we’ve really loved.
We choose with care for another reason too. For UK ads, even if something is sent for free without any conditions, you should legally tag your caption with #gifted right at the beginning. This can be a red light to lots of people. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose that it formalises the marketing aspect of the post and none of us want to feel sold to even though it’s constantly happening online. You can see it in the sheer number of advance book reviews.
We keep in touch with a couple of publishing companies whose lists we really admire. If they send us a free copy, we decide how we want to share the recommendation. Occasionally we’ll create an Instagram post if it’s really special. Other times we’ll publish on Instagram stories or on the blog (or maybe all three).
But where do you find these opportunities? There are quite a few ways to get your toe in the door. Here some of the main ones:
Requesting Free Books for Review
This is the easiest way to become a bookstagram influencer. One method is to follow publishers that you like and watch out for giveaways or advance copy sign-ups. Be sure to include Twitter – I received my copy of The Familiars by applying through this channel. Some like Walker YA open up blogger application windows .
You can also contact publicity departments directly if a book catches your eye. I know of a few people who have done this successfully (including myself although the copy never arrived!). Remember to include a link to your Instagram account plus any other social media channels and quote your numbers. Small accounts are just as likely to bag these if they are well-curated.
There’s Netgalley too if you don’t mind digital copies. I’ve registered but I prefer physical books so haven’t requested anything recently.
Once you start working with a publisher they will often stay in contact to see if you’d like to receive future advance copies. At this stage it’s worth considering how many books you can realistically review. This is another reason why we only work with a couple of companies at present although I’m hoping we can cover more titles next year.
Repping for a Bookish Company
Repping is big on Bookstagram, particularly for Young Adult (YA) merchandise. The most popular are the Fairyloot, Owlcrate and Illumicrate subscription boxes. Every few months they hold rep searches where you can apply to receive boxes for a period of time and act as a brand ambassador. Competition is fierce for the big names, but there are plenty of smaller brands running similar schemes. To discover them, type in the hashtag #subscriptionbox and have a scroll through.
It goes without saying that you’re much more likely to secure a repping slot if your Instagram feed matches the aesthetic of the brand. Note also, that you’ll probably need to post your submission on your main grid.
Getting Paid for Bookstagram Posts
Paid advertising on Bookstagram is a rarity. Generally thse campaigns are only offered to bookstagrammers with a significant amount of followers or who fulfill a particular niche. As far as I’m aware it’s all done by word of mouth so a publisher or agency will approach you directly.
Often you’ll be asked to quote a rate. This is a murky subject with many grey areas – engagement, following and aesthetic can all impact on your fee. However if you want to become a bookstagram influencer then this is an area that you might want to think about. If you’re curious then this Instagram influencer sponsored post money calculator may give you a rough idea.
Once your cost has been accepted, you’ll be sent a brief. Publishers will need to approve the posts first. I prefer this as I like to ensure that we’re meeting their requirements. We’ve been asked for minor corrections in the past so if you accept a paid commission then I advise building in enough time for a re-shoot. Naturally paid ads also have many more guidelines. If you’re UK-based, you must include the hashtag #ad when publishing anything that has been paid for or has conditions attached (even if unpaid). If you want to find out more about this then I recommend Bookish Bronte’s post on the subject.
The paid opportunities are much greater for non-bookish promotions. You can apply to apps such as Tribe and Indahash if you have a certain amount of followers – usually around the 3000 mark. Once you’re accepted, you’re encouraged to pitch ideas for publicity posts to a variety of brands. If successful you’ll get commissioned and paid for these. One thing I would mention though is that you often have to buy products (at a discount) to shoot the image and sometimes the window can shut down before you get a chance to submit your draft. The one time I tried this, it happened to me although I do know people who’ve worked very positively with these types of platforms.
For non-paid gifted items, it’s sometimes worth contacting companies directly with a pitch. However do bear in mind that big brands get deluged with requests and smaller makers might not have time to get back to you. It’s better to strike up a dialogue online with a company first, especially if it’s a brand you really love.
And that’s the crux of it really. It’s fairly simple to become a bookstagram influencer but influencing at its best should be authentic and carefully-considered. It’s great to receive freebies and income, but at the end of the day, your account will be most successful if it represents you and your interests with integrity. It should also serve your followers so choose wisely and make sure that whatever you advertise brings value to as many people as possible.