Image: Matthew Loffhagen
As writers, you and I both know to never judge a book by its cover.
At least, in theory.
In practice, though, images are a fantastic (and easy) way to grab the attention of your potential readers.
Visual social media sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are gaining popularity at an incredible speed. With picture-based social media, users who see something they like will instantly share it with their followers, helping good images to travel quickly to large audiences.
Think of all the times you’ve scrolled past a lengthy text post online, but paused to enjoy a photo of an adorable kitten. Why? Images instantly grab attention – readers come for the pretty pictures and stay for the fantastic narrative within your stories.
So how can sharing images help you to promote your novel? How can you as a writer make use of pictures to draw in the social media crowds?
There are a lot of different ways that you can use visual social media to engage with your readers. However you go about it, you’ll want to use these platforms in a way that complements your unique skills. Some writers use Pinterest or Tumblr as scrapbooks of ideas for their stories, and others use them to communicate directly with readers and fans.
Let’s have a look at the power and potential of both.
The big digital scrapbook
If you see pictures as you write, scrapbooking is probably the easiest way to use visual social media. Sharing images that match your story is a great way to draw in potential readers.
Some writers like to collect pictures to inspire them as they write. They’ll often use Pinterest as a place to store these pictures and to share the images that set the mood for their literary creations. Bestselling author Jill Mansell uses Pinterest in this way, posting images that she finds inspiring while she’s coming up with ideas for her writing.
No matter what inspires you, if it can be photographed, it can be shared. Graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley uses Tumblr to share fashion choices for his characters, which helps readers contextualize his stories.
Pictures of the world your characters live in will help potential readers to experience the atmosphere of your writing. You can share photos of places you’ve visited that have inspired scenery in your stories. This will help your readers to develop interest and excitement in your work and your literary universe becomes a little bit more tangible.
Communicating with fans
Maybe you don’t think in pictures. Maybe scrapbooking just isn’t your thing. Perhaps, you prefer to connect directly with readers, to talk with them and build a rapport. Using visual social media can help you to reach out to your followers through images, while also allowing them to reach back at the same time.
Many Pinterest boards focus on the experience of reading. Authors such as Isabel Losada use Pinterest to post pictures of book covers, helping followers to see not just the prose of the stories, but the full reading aesthetic.
You can take this a step further by including photos of the whole journey your story has taken. Greg Pembroke, author of child-shaming picture book Reasons My Kid Is Crying, uses social media to share pictures from his book signings (often attended by his unhappy children). Giving people a chance to see your adventures as an author is a great way to help them feel connected to your writing.
Why not add some interactivity by asking readers to submit pictures of their reading experience? Giving readers a chance to share photographs of where they read allows them to tell their own story about how they connect with your writing.
Some magazines, such as Glamour, invite readers to submit photos of themselves reading the magazine while on vacation in different parts of the world. This is an excellent way of encouraging your social media followers to get involved and to share their own personal love of your stories, especially as readers will love the chance to share their vacation photos.
Giving readers an opportunity to show you what your stories mean to them will encourage their loyalty and will also be deeply rewarding for you as an author. Social media works best when your followers are allowed to feel like friends, rather than customers.
Make a start
The best way to figure out what works best for you is good old fashioned trial and error. Sign up for Pinterest or Tumblr, and start posting pictures. Post links on your website and other social media so that fans can follow you, and be sure to share pictures regularly in order to draw the biggest crowds. Feel free to ask your followers directly what they’d like to see you post!
If you’re feeling particularly creative, digital scrapbooking programs such as the iOS app Project Life are a great way to easily build pretty collages, and you can even include quotations from your novels.
So, don’t underestimate the power of platforms like Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram and make sure that you include image sharing as part of your book marketing strategy. It’s easy to do and the results will be instant. Used right, you can gain a stronger connection with your fans, while drawing in new audiences at the same time.
Do you use images as part of your book marketing strategy? If so, how? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.