July 17, 2018

How to Make Instagram Work for Authors, Part 1 — Guest: Monica Corwin

Silhouette of photographer against sky with text: Visualizing Our Brand with Instagram

For as fast as some are abandoning Facebook, far more are flocking to Facebook-owned Instagram. The visual platform is one of the fastest growing (if not the fastest growing) social media platform.

But as authors who focus on words rather than pictures, we might not know how to make it work for us. Never fear, while I’m at the RWA Annual Conference this week, I have an Instagram expert to help us out with two fantastic posts.

Monica Corwin has not only gotten solid traction on Instagram, but she’s also figured out how to get the most out of it, especially when it comes to working with our brand. Today, her guest post starts with the basics of how we can make Instagram work for us.

Thursday, she’ll be back with more about how Instagram can help us grow our brand. Together, her posts might just make us excited to try Instagram, even if we don’t have a clue. *raises hand* Yay!

Please welcome Monica Corwin! *smile*

(Note for newsletter readers: To see Monica’s examples, click through to the post to view the images.)


Crash Course:
Instagram for Authors, Part 1

by Monica Corwin

Instagram is an under-utilized social media form among authors. Mostly because it’s visual in nature, and many authors assume it won’t be beneficial to them. But Instagram can benefit creators of written media as much visual art forms.

The main thing an author needs to understand going into Instagram is they are a part of both the writing/author community on Instagram, as well as the Bookstagram community:

  • The writing/author community is your peers.
  • The Bookstagram community is a mix of peers (hopefully) and readers—those you want to target in hopes that they will pick up one of your books.

Which means, when you post, you need to cater to both of those communities to maintain a balance.

Let’s go back to the basics. I won’t tell you how to set up an Instagram account, as there are many tutorials for that, but I can tell you some quick tips and tricks to maximize your Instagram posting game.

Instagram Posting: Coming Up with Images

As Instagram is all about pictures, make sure yours are great. You can do this a couple of ways:

Your Photos

If you can take photos with a decent camera (I use the one on my iphone), you can edit for exposure and flaws. I use the VSCO app downloadable in the app store. Make sure to take your shots near natural light then use the editing app to easily alter your picture to perfection.

Stock Photos

If you are absolutely not a photographer, you can use stock photography and overlay images onto them. I also do this for my feed using graphics from The Image Apothecary or Deposit Photos. You can have the best of both worlds by having The Image Apothecary make you your own set of promotional images and put your book covers in there for you.

If you go with a regular stock site, try looking for images with the terms “tablet flat lay.” It will give you Instagram worthy shots you only have to manipulate a book cover into. I use the free version of Pixlr to do this—it’s quite simple—or you can pay someone on Fivrr to make you up a bunch of images overlaying your book cover onto stock photo tablets.

This is a stock site photo that I put my book cover onto:

Example of a stock photo with book cover pasted on

This is an image I took myself and edited:

Example of self-taken book photo

This is a graphic from The Image Apothecary, which specializes in providing shots for authors to use (you would still need to manipulate the image to put your cover on the book or tablet in the picture):

Example of stock photo with cover pasted on

Instagram Branding: Coming Up with a Look

What you should remember when posting to Instagram is you need a theme, or to stick to a certain look. This is called branding.

It should match your own personal brand if you are able. Once you choose your look, it’s best to stick with it and save any variations for stories (more about those later). In my experience, the best way to choose your look is by assessing your strengths and what kind of shots you can create, as well as finding the look you like yourself.

Collage of Instagram posts for branding example

Go through Instagram and find accounts that speak to you. Figure out what you like in those looks and try to bring that to your own images.

I like to keep my account pretty simple, with a cleaner, more minimalistic design, but that is my personal preference. You can choose anything at all. And people get creative.

Instagram Content: Coming Up with Post Ideas

One question I always get is, what do I post? Many have trouble figuring out what to post on their feed to keep consistency.

Make a schedule for yourself. Decide what days you want to post; it’s recommended every day, but every other day is fine too. Then set a schedule.

For example:

  • On Monday, post about your own titles, target both the writers community and Bookstagram in your hashtags.
  • On Tuesday, post about your writing process, target the writing community.
  • On Wednesday, post about books that aren’t yours, target the Bookstagram community.
  • On Thursday, post something fun about you or your life (doesn’t have to be personal).
  • On Friday, post about the future, or a fandom, or anything you want.

This schedule is not a fixed thing you have to do—it’s just to give you ideas on how to come up with things to post. Also use that save button, and save the posts you like and might want to try out yourself.

Instagram Communities: Coming Up with Connections

Now, back to what I said about Bookstagram vs. the writing community. When you post, you get 30 hashtags to play with. That’s it. So make them count.

A great website for this is Hashtagify. You can use it to pinpoint the best hashtags for your posts or brand.

People use hashtags on Instagram to search, so think about what hashtags you want associated with your books/brand/look. But you also have to make sure they aren’t too obscure that people won’t hunt for them.

Meet the Bookstagram Community

The Bookstagram community on Instagram is huge. It’s where many of the bloggers have shifted, and it’s very beneficial to cultivate a connection there.

Bookstagram: Proof that authors belong on Instagram—@Monica_Corwin shares how to join them! Click To TweetConsider doing a Bookstagram tour on your next blog tour, for instance. When you post about books, tag the Bookstagram hashtags and don’t be afraid to reach out to your favorite Bookstagrammers for a feature. Many have contact instructions on their bios.

Bonus Tip for Scheduling the Right Posts for the Right Communities:

For the busy author, there are some auto-posting programs out there like Later or Buffer. You can load up your content and let them send it for you.

How to Optimize Your Page on Instagram

Monica's example of our Instagram page

Bio Link:

If you have less than 10,000 followers, the only link action you can get is via hashtags or via one link on your bio. Choose wisely, or go for a third party option like Linktree.

Linktree gives you sort of a link landing page to hold multiple links. Put your most pertinent ones at the top.

Bio Content:

Make sure to fill out your bio, give it personality, and add in some hashtags to make it searchable to others.

Profile Picture:

Also make sure you put in a profile picture. People won’t follow you back if it doesn’t look like you’ve settled into your own account.

Stories and Highlights

In the image above, you can see the circles underneath my picture. Those have to do with highlights and stories.

A story is a sort of temporary post on your Instagram. It disappears after 24 hours if you don’t make it a highlight.

I’m not going to teach you how to do highlights and stories, as there are tutorials out there. But come back Thursday, and I’ll tell you how to help your brand with them.

Feel free to ask me any questions, or follow me at Instagram. I’ll very happily follow you back. <3

Monica Corwin


Monica Corwin is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. She is an outspoken writer attempting to make romance accessible to everyone, no matter their preferences. As a Northern Ohioian, Monica enjoys snow drifts, three seasons of weather, and a dislike of Michigan football. Monica owns more books about King Arthur than should be strictly necessary. Also typewriters…lots and lots of typewriters.

Find Monica at:
Facebook | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Bookbub


About Twelfth Floor

This isn’t your high school Shakespeare.

I have thirty days to block my secretary’s advances.

I have thirty days to prove my worth as Illyria Pharmaceuticals’ CFO.

I have thirty days to help my boss fall in love with another woman.

Pretending to be in charge is harder than it looks. Duke Orsino, the CEO, sets my knees quaking with every glance. Olivia, my secretary, leaves unmentionables in my desk drawers. And I have no idea where my twin brother got off to.

I have thirty days to keep this shipwreck of life from falling apart.

Twelfth Floor is a contemporary romance adaption of the Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night.

This is a stand alone romance with an alpha hero, a not-so-alpha heroine, and lots of foul language.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo


Thank you so much, Monica! I’m not a selfie or picture-taking kind of person, so I always assumed that Instagram wasn’t for me. But I’ll admit, as I was reading your post, especially with the insight about using stock photos, I kept thinking, “Huh, I might actually be able to do this.”

Maybe after I return from conference… *wanders off with ideas* What say the rest of you? *grin*

And don’t forget to come back on Thursday, when Monica shares her insights into how to use Instagram to grow our brand. *smile*

Do you use Instagram now? If so, how is it working for you? Does this post give you ideas of how to improve your presence there? Do you have any tips or insights to share? If you’re not on Instagram, did you get an urge similar to mine to set up an account? Do you have any questions for Monica?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks, but that platform is owned by fb, as is snapchat, so I won’t use any of them.

Scarlett West

Thanks, Monica & Jami! Great article, Monica. You make it so tempting to join. I already have an unused account on Instagram but it’s so hard to keep up with everything. I didn’t know about the Bookstagram community over there. That’s awesome.

I for sure struggle with making my own brand. I understand the general concept but applying it to myself is so hard! Thanks again!

Colleen Albert

Loved the article – thanks for the great tips!


[…] writing world is awash with How To’s and I’m not going to join the merry band, but here is a post that’s targeted at authors about getting things going on Instagram which I found […]

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