BEHIND THE SCENES: How I #Bookstagram

I’ve had quite a few people contact me recently asking for feedback on their accounts. Everyone’s account is different and I know that my method won’t work for everyone, so I don’t really feel comfortable giving individual feedback.

But if you WANT to know more about how I approach #Bookstagram, here’s my method!

1. FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT

When you look at someone’s Instagram account, you see maybe six photos without having to scroll down. Those photos tell you what to expect in terms of quality, content and mood. So these photos should ALWAYS be inviting and up to your personal standards, and they should accurately represent what your account is about.

2. GET THE LIGHTING RIGHT

I’m a big fan of natural light, because I like the way my pictures look with it. The lighting that I enjoy the most is available to me from about 10am-4pm in summer, and 11am-2pm in winter.

Some days won’t have the light at all because it’s raining or it’s overcast. I’ve learnt to take a lot of pictures in advance when the light is great; that way I never have to worry about scrambling to take photos in lighting that I’m not happy with.

How I #Bookstagram

How I #Bookstagram: Where I take my flat lay photos

3. FIND THE RIGHT STYLE

This isn’t just about the filters that you use, although editing and enhancing a photo is an important part of the process (I use Adobe Photoshop, and I pay about $10 a month for it). Sometimes it takes a while to work out what your style is (minimalist layouts, busy flat lays, outdoor photos, etc.), and it can evolve over time.

When I first started #Bookstagram, I was kind of just taking photos whenever. I didn’t care too much about natural lighting or establishing my own style. Then I started taking more photos in the forest next to my house. Once I moved, I decided to use a more neutral background for my pictures, since the forest was no longer nearby.

I learnt to balance what like to take photos of with what my audience responds to. Because as much as this is about satisfying yourself, it can absolutely be discouraging to take a photo you’re really proud of and only get a handful of likes.

I do like taking photos of popular books such as Harry Potter (who am I kidding? I love HP photos) but every so often I also like to showcase underrated books that I really love. Those shots may not get as much overall engagement, but I’ve met some awesome people by doing this because we bond over a lesser-known story.

4. DECIDE WHEN TO POST

This requires a bit more experimentation. What works better for you? Posting once or twice a day? More? Less? Eventually you’ll find a sweet spot with the number of posts per day and the right time(s) of day.

Even though I’m in Australia, the majority of my followers are in the U.S. so I try to take their time zones into consideration. The Instagram algorithm can sometimes mess with everything, but I will usually post three times a day:

  • Between 6am and 7am/when I wake up for work: one freebie post
  • 10am: one photo from someone else’s challenge/multiple challenges
  • Between 9pm and 11pm: one photo for the daily prompt from my own monthly photo challenge

I use colour-coding to keep track of which photos I’ve taken, which photos can be taken immediately and which photos I need to prepare for. Here’s how I keep track of what photos I want to post, and when:

How I #Bookstagram

How I #Bookstagram: My schedule in progress

5. INTERACT WITH PEOPLE

You could post once a day or 20 times a day, but ultimately you’re just throwing stuff out into the void. You can’t just assume that people will come flocking to like your photos if they don’t know that you exist.

I make an effort to like and comment on other people’s photos. Even if those people don’t reply, I sometimes end up talking to other people in the comments and finding an interesting account to follow because of it.

When it comes to comments on my own photos, it can take a few days but I will try respond to everyone and let them know that I’ve seen and appreciated their comment. And if someone asks a question, I’ll try my best to answer them.

I tend to do this during those in-between moments of the day: in the few minutes before my bus arrives, while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, or while cooking dinner. Instagram’s new reply function makes this a lot easier, and if a few people have made the same kind of comment I’ll reply to them all in one comment to make it easier for myself and for them.

6. TAKE PHOTOS IN ADVANCE

I work full-time and since I prefer to use natural light I don’t really have time to take photos during the week. So I try to spend one weekend a month taking almost all of my photos for the next four weeks. It requires a lot of planning but it’s a great feeling to have everything out of the way.

Plus, it gives me the opportunity to edit my photos and do a mock layout to see how things will look on my account. And having this mock layout ready means that I can move photos around if something crops up (book/author milestones, buying a new book, receiving a review copy or subscription box, etc.).

I tend to alternate between shelfies and flat lays, and I try not to have a photo of the same book or series too close together. I do this all in an Excel document. Now, that might sound a bit pedantic but it works for me. I really like being organised. Here’s what my mock layout looks like:

How I #Bookstagram

How I #Bookstagram: Creating a layout

7. BE INSPIRED BY PHOTO CHALLENGES

When I started writing this section, I actually ended up with way more information about creating a photo challenge than I expected so I might do a full post about that later. But for now, let’s focus on taking part in photo challenges. I think it’s a great way to get into a habit of posting regularly, and you don’t have to think too hard about what to post.

I tend to take on multiple photo challenges during the month (in addition to my own) and just choose whichever prompts suit me on any given day. To figure out what kind of photo I want to take, I line up the prompts next to each other in Excel and highlight the ones that work together. The organisation process ends up looking a bit like this, with some adjustments throughout the month:

How I #Bookstagram

How I #Bookstagram: Choosing daily challenge prompts

8. WRITE ENGAGING CAPTIONS

Your Instagram tells a story in snapshots. Captions are an opportunity to let people know a bit more about yourself. I usually try to talk about what’s going on in the photo and what’s going on outside the photo, in my own life.

I try to make it more like a conversation, sharing some information with my followers and asking for their opinions in return. And, like I mentioned before, I get to continue that conversation by responding to comments.

I write all my captions in advance and email them (along with edited pictures) to my phone. I started doing this because I have issues with my wrists and typing on my phone for too long is painful. I’ve kept doing this because it means I can just paste the caption and associated hashtags into Instagram in less than a minute and go on with my day, checking back in when I have the time.

9. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ACCOUNT

This is probably the most important thing of all. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, and don’t feel pressured to do things the way everyone else does. I really doubt that many people make crazy-detailed Excel documents like I do, but it’s what works for me.

I try not to follow too many accounts because I can barely keep up with everyone as it is; I only enter rep searches for products that I truly believe in; and I take photos of books that I want to talk about.

I’ve worked hard to create an Instagram account that I’m proud of, and that I love.  It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. It actually took me more than a year to get my first 1000 followers.  If you’re just starting out on #Bookstagram, be patient. Engage with people. Challenge yourself and keep working to improve your photos and your process. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

And so far, it’s worked! Phew. If you got to the end of this, congratulations – you’re an absolute champ. Whether this helped you or you just ended up thinking I spend way too much time on #Bookstagram, thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “BEHIND THE SCENES: How I #Bookstagram

  1. These are great tips! I always find myself struggling to find the time to take pictures and post (even though I want to). I’ll definitely have to incorporate some of your organization strategies–I love that you put together a mock layout!

  2. I feel like such an amateur boosktagrammer now hahaha You’re so organised and thorough with it all! I barely plan (at most I track the challenges and tags and also book review promo photos). You can really tell how much effort you put into bookstagram with how gorgeous your account is!!

    Natural lighting is my biggest struggle. I don’t have decent lighting to help, and the one window in my room (on the darkest side of the house ahfjdskf) is where I have to try and take advantage of light. And because I’m away so often with uni, the only time I can take photos is weekends and I’m screwed if it’s overcast or raining safjkhrksdf. ONE DAY I will have a better set up. ONE DAY.

    My posting schedule is ever second day at the moment, whenever I have time due to limitations with time to take photos and times to write captions and post. I wish I could do more but alas, life ruins those plans.

    • Thank you so much! And pfffffft. Don’t feel like an amateur. I’ve finished my degrees and I’m working a job with regular hours; my schedule is consistent and reading and photography are basically my only hobbies. There’s no way in hell I would be able to put the same amount of effort in if I had your crazy schedule!

  3. this is such a great post – I love your photos and it’s interesting seeing the behind-the-scenes of how the magic happens! 😉 I am super daunted by your methodical spreadsheet prep, though, I am NOT that organized at all, haha.

    I wish I had more time to work on my instagram account and my blog, especially the latter, it’s really frustrating that I have had both for the same amount of time and I have a lot less followers on wordpress. I need to work on that, but like you say, there’s no point pretending to be like anyone else or trying what other accounts do because that’s not necessarily a recipe for success across the board.

    • Thank you so much! And I don’t think having different amounts of followers is anything unusual. I have nearly 23,000 followers on Instagram and fewer than 1000 on here — and I’ve had Instagram for a shorter amount of time! They’re completely different mediums so I don’t think the comparison is really black and white.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this – I love your bookstagram! I am just starting to focus on improving my blog (moving to self-hosted yay) and Insta after like five years of blogging and these tips are so fantastic! Do you think you have to do every single day of a photo challenge? Or is it acceptable to dip in and out? I’ve always wondered that!

    • Ooh, that’s an exciting step! I’m glad you liked the post. I complete every day of the challenge that I host but not for others. On most days I’ll post a photo that fits several challenges, but it won’t be the same challenges every day. Sometimes I might pop in for 15 prompts, sometimes I might pop in for three or four. It just depends on what inspires me.

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