I’ve read a fair amount of posts about why it’s tough to grow as a bookstagrammer recently, especially from YA and book bloggers. The same themes seem to pop up again and again. These include lack of books, props, equipment and followers, but the truth is, as with anything, you can succeed without all those elements if you want to. However there is some truth in the growth debate. The algorithm is tougher these days yet certain accounts continue to flourish despite this. In this post, I thought I’d list some of ways that you can get around perceived Bookstagram myths and buck the trend.
Myth 1: You need to own a lot of books/props
Now I’m the first to confess that our pictures involve a lot of books, but I’ve seen many bookstagrammers with simpler feeds storm the platform recently. In fact, I’d even argue that these accounts are doing better than average. Kristen @wanderingbibliophile has a beautiful page which is striking in it’s use of neutral space and distinctive tones. Sometimes less is more. To be fair you do need a certain amount of artistic flair to achieve these results which is why a free app like Preview is essential (don’t ask me for advice though because I’m rubbish at curating my feed!)
If you’re short on reading material you might find these tips on how to build your book collection on a budget useful. This isn’t a quick fix – it took us more than thirty years to amass our collection. Still if you’re a book lover, it’s a life ambition worth fulfilling. There’s also the option of signing up to your local library, especially for new releases. That way you can share the latest titles for free. We have done this many times over the months. Not only does it cut down book spending, it supports a vital local service too.
Myth 2: You must have an expensive camera
This is one of the biggest myths on Instagram, let alone Bookstagram! We don’t have a camera and our photos have been featured by Instagram twice. At the moment, I’m using a Google Pixel 2 phone and before that had a Samsung. I know that my images would be better quality if we had a DSLR, and it is a future goal, but right now we don’t have the funds to buy one. As long as you have a fairly recent camera phone, you can improve your images hugely with free editing apps such as Snapseed.
Myth 3: The more followers, the faster the growth
Contrary to popular belief, having lots of followers isn’t always a good thing if you’re trying to grow. You see, according to some, the exposure that your photos receives on Instagram depends on the ratio of likes to followers in the first 30 minutes. If you have lots of ghost followers (or bots) who don’t engage with your content, then this can put a dampener on your stats. One way around this is to block the bots (not always easy to spot) or to stick to a set schedule so that people know when you’re going to post. Avoid buying followers at all costs as these will most likely be silent witnesses and add nothing of value to your profile.
Myth 4: Brands only work with big accounts
Again, not always true. Publishers often work with small accounts because it’s as much about niche and aesthetic as it is volume. The same goes for non-bookish companies. If you have a very specific focus then it’s likely you’ll connect with like-minded people. If you have under 3K followers, it’s likely that you’ll probably receive products rather than pay though. I’ve written about this in more detail on my bookstagram influencing post.
Myth 5: A shout out from a big bookstagrammer will boost your numbers
Of all the Bookstagram myths, this one is probably closest to the truth. If you receive a shout out from a large account then it might help you to gain more followers, but it’s not guaranteed. It really depends on the quality of your content. If you’ve taken lots of pictures in bad light, dashed off brief captions or not engaged then even backing from a well-known name won’t make much of an impact. It’s better to focus on creating fantastic words and pictures rather than hoping for a one-off lottery win.
As I mentioned at the beginning though, even the biggest accounts are finding it more of a struggle to grow these days so the best approach is to post on Bookstagram because you enjoy it. Take pleasure in the bookish chat and community. And if the aesthetic side appeals to you then that’s an added bonus. I listed 7 factors that encourage me to follow people back a while ago if you’re interested in finding out about what makes me commit, but I realise everyone’s different. At the end of the day, no one can predict who will fly and who will remain static. Just keep on showing up, engaging and sharing your passion. The results may not be immediate but you’ll gain new skills and friends – both of which are far more important than headcounts in the long run.