Do you love books? Want to connect with fellow bookworms? Want to share your excitement over that new release? Are you a book reviewer or book blogger? Then bookstagram might be for you. In this post I will cover what bookstagram is and the basics on how to start an awesome bookstagram of your very own, with tips regarding hashtags, photos, and more.
Feel free to follow me @thatbookishbrunette I like to think I’m pretty nice and I share pictures of my cats. And who doesn’t love cats?!
What is bookstagram?
Instagram + Books = #bookstagram
Bookstagram is an Instagram account for everything bookish. Book lovers share about their reading lives, showcase their book shelves, share bookish items like book marks and book sleeves, participate in special bookish events, share book reviews, host giveaways, and more.
I discovered a whole new world when I joined the bookstagram community. I learned about book subscription boxes like Book of the Month, what advanced reader copies (ARCs) are, and about ARC tours with PR companies like Social Butterfly PR.
Why start a bookstagram?
The bookstagram community is a great place to connect with fellow book lovers, learn about new books to read, and find bookish items to purchase, like book marks and book sleeves.
For those with a blog, Instagram can translate to more blog traffic, however, having a book blog is not necessary to be a part of the bookstagram community. Although some people have a bookstagram account that is paired with their book blogs, there are plenty of people who just have bookstagram accounts. The great thing about bookstagram is that if you love books, it is for you! In fact, I spent six months solely being a part of the bookstagram community before I decided to venture out and start this blog.
I love bookstagram; I love connecting with fellow book lovers, finding people who enjoy certain type of books as much as me, and flexing my creative side when taking pictures. But it is not a perfect place and sometimes it can be a tough place to be.
The Instagram algorithm is constantly changing and engagement with your posts and stories can be a struggle, which can be disheartening especially since numbers are so important to the algorithm.
People will follow/unfollow you and it is definitely disappointing when you see your follower count go down.
It is too easy to compare yourself to other accounts and wonder what you are doing wrong or why you don’t have as many followers as them or why your posts aren’t getting as many likes.
I haven’t personally experienced this but I know that there can be bookstagram drama–people arguing over reviews, being intolerant, attacking authors’ work, and more.
Yikes! That doesn’t sound great. Is it worth it?
Despite all this, I still very much enjoy the platform and yes, believe it is worth it. It is too early to say whether it will bring me blog traffic, but even if it doesn’t, it brings me so much. I have made great connections on bookstagram, been able to read anticipated books before they were released, won free books, and more.
If you do have a book blog, I think it is important to have a presence on Instagram, even if it is a minimal presence. If you don’t have a book blog and/or don’t want one, I think bookstagram is a great alternative, and is a great creative outlet and place share to book reviews.
Before I started this blog, I shared book reviews, what I was currently reading, book recommendations, wrote about my life and mental health, and more. Now that I am pairing my #bookstagram with blog, I will most likely be posting reviews mainly on the blog and then sharing this news via my Instagram stories to drive traffic to my blog. I will also continue sharing book and other related pictures, such as flat lays, book stacks, or pictures of my book shelves.
How to Start an awesome bookstagram: The steps
Before you open up Instagram and sign up, think about what you want your name to be, your niche, and what you hope to achieve with your bookstagram
What do you want to feature on your bookstagram account?
Think about the type of books you love to read. Are you going to focus on a particular genre? Some people just read thrillers while others read a mix of general fiction. Do you want to pair books with recipes or booze? Do you want to focus on home design or self-help books?
An area of #bookstagram that I love is #romancestagram, which is made up of romance bookstagrammers, or bookstagrammers who solely or primarily post about romance novels. Mollie of Mollie’s Book Shelf, created a great list of twenty romance bookstagrams to follow. This list has some of my favorite bookstagram accounts to follow.
Once you figure out what you want to feature on your account, you need a #bookstagram name or handle. Mine is @thatbookishbrunette
If you are going to be focusing on a specific genre of books, you can include that in your name, however, if you think you might want to explore other genres or don’t want to be too limited in your niche, I recommend not picking a name that includes a specific genre or niche because you may lose followers if you decide to change your name later on. It is a good idea to pick a name and stick with it.
Tips On picking a bookstagram handle
- Is your bookstagram name available? You will to check to that the handle you want to use is open
- You want your IG handle to be easy to remember, spell, and find. Avoid super long handles or too many random characters or numbers. Try keeping your handle to two or three words and if needed, maybe a number or two.
- If you have a book blog or plan on starting one, try to pick a handle that matches and is available across other social media channels.
- Do you want your handle to be your personal name or a brand name?
Now that you know what you want to feature on your account and have an available name picked out, you need to sign up for Instagram.
A Creator vs. Personal Bookstagram IG Account
If you are thinking about trying to earn a little profit with your Instagram or want to work with publishers or PR companies in reviewing books, I recommend creating a public IG creator account.
Why a creator account? Mostly for the insights. A creator account provides you with information on your stats, which brands or publishers will often want to see to determine whether to work with you and such. You can see stats such as:
- Daily data on audience growth
- Profile visits
- Specific insights for each post
- What drove viewers to your post (i.e., hashtags, your profile, etc)
- Insight into your audience
- When they are active
- Where they are from
- Age demographics
A creator account also allows users to organize their inbox with three tabs: Primary, General, and Requests. The Primary folder is intended for messages that users want to receive notifications for. The General folder is for any message that a user does not want to receive a notification for, and the Request folder is for messages from anyone that a user does not follow. You can also move messages between folders.
Set Up Your Profile
Once you sign up for Instagram, you need to create your profile, which means picking a photo and writing your bio. Some users have a brand logo as their profile picture but I personally use a picture of myself. I recommend this because I know I like to see a face to the name.
You might tell people a little about yourself and what they can expect to see on your page. Be aware that you are limited to 150 characters for your bio and 30 characters for your name. Here is a screenshot of my profile:
One thing I want to note about my bio. In addition to being a bookstagrammer and blogger, I also own a freelance business, That Bookish Brunette Literary Services. Because of that, my bio has more about my business and services than just information about me.
If your account is solely for your blog or bookstagram, then you can definitely focus on sharing information about yourself. You can share:
- Kind of books you read
- What you do for a living
- Your current read or current audiobook
- How many books you’ve read this year
- Any pets
You’ve picked a name, signed up for your account, and set up your profile. Now it’s time to create your content.
How to start a bookstagram: the content
Think about what kind of photos you want to take. Do you want to take mostly flat lays? Take pictures of your bookshelves? Post book stacks? Are you going to use props? What is your aesthetic or theme going to be like?
Heres’s a snapshot of my Instagram feed:
As you can see, I mix up my photos and don’t stick just to flat lays or book stacks.
It is really up to you and what you want your bookstagram to look like.
Do you need to use props?
I personally love using props but they are definitely not necessary to take great photos. You can have pictures of you reading your book, book selfies (pictures of you holding a book), take pictures of your book shelves or even hold a book in front of the book shelf, pictures of book stacks, pictures of your book in nature, and more. Use your imagination! You can also check out what others are doing for inspiration but make sure you aren’t copying anyone.
Where to get props
If you do want to use props in your photos, know that anything can be a prop. Take a look around your house and I’m sure you’ll find tons of stuff you can use:
- House decor
- Pets (I think pets make great photo props. I love seeing people’s cats, dogs, and other pets in their pictures)
Props can also be found at any number of stores. I love shopping for props at Target and Michaels. Some of my favorite props are artificial flowers, candles, wood rounds, and this wooden trunk I found at Michaels.
Think about the background
Be mindful of your surroundings when you are taking your photos. What’s in the background of your photo? Your messy kitchen or cluttered coffee table? Your TV? If you are taking photos on your table or on the floor, are they clean?
When I first started my bookstagram I often ended up with pictures with random stuff in the background because I was new to taking these kinds of photos and unsure how exactly to set up my photos. I ended up with things like the corner of my entertainment center, cords, part of my curio cabinet, etc in my photos. Here are some examples:
I do often use my living room floor for flat lays because it’s a simple hardwood floor and works as a background. My new favorite thing, however, is using an actual backdrop for my photos. Right now I use a piece of styled poster board I picked up at Michaels for $1.99. I use one piece for flat lays and when I am taking angled photos I use two. You will see these a lot in my more recent photos.
Be mindful of the lighting
Lighting is a super important consideration when taking your photos. I recommend using as much natural light as possible. I take my photos near my living room windows. Depending on the light is coming in through your windows you might end up with shadows or brighter spots so just be mindful of how you are positioning your setup.
Do you need a professional camera?
You might think you need a camera to take professional looking photos but I don’t believe that is true. I take my photos with my iPhone 11 Pro. I tend to take my photos using the Studio Light in Portrait Mode then go on to edit those raw photos. What makes the difference for my photos I believe is the setup, backdrop, and the eventual editing. Here is the before and after of one my most recent photos, taken with my iPhone and then later edited in Lightroom.
Photo Editing Tools
Editing is such an important step in your bookstagram photo taking process; it makes a huge difference in the quality of your photos. If you do not want to invest money in editing tools, there are some free photo editing apps, such as:
- VSCO (There is a premium subscription version for either $4.99/month or $19.99/year that gives you access to more filters and tools)
- Adobe Lightroom CC Mobile
I have recently discovered the magic that is Lightroom presets. Lightroom presets are basically preset editing settings and although you can adjust the settings to your liking, you can also simply add the preset to your raw photo and voila, be done! You can find presets for both the free mobile version of Lightroom as well as the paid desktop version.
I currently use a set of five Interior Bright presets I purchased from The Hungry JPEG. Because I want my photos to have a consistent look, I try to take my photos in the same lighting so that I can apply the preset to my raw photos without having to really adjust the settings. Occasionally, however, I do tweak the settings a bit, usually the saturation or exposure settings,
What about ebooks?
As I discovered when I first started taking bookstagram photos, it is difficult to take a good photo of an eReader; there is usually a weird glare or the cover gets obscured.
The trick I learned was to take an image of the book cover and superimpose it over the eReader in the original photo, which I talk about here.
Once you’ve taken some pictures it’s time to create your posts. What does that mean? Time to write some captions! With captions, you want to think about the main content as well as the hashtags you want to include.
When you first join bookstagram, I think it’s a good idea for your first post to be about introducing yourself, and sharing why you joined bookstagram. This is a great way to connect with existing accounts.
Bookstagram Post Ideas
- Meet The Bookstagrammer – This is a way great to gain followers and boost engagement. People love learning about the person behind the bookstagram page and you can include a call for people to share about themselves as a way to invite engagement.
- Book Reviews – Bookstagram is a place to find new books to read and reading reviews is a great way to do so.
- Book stacks – Share a stack of some of your favorite reads or what is on your TBR or do a fun color book stack
- Giveaways – There is nothing people love more than free stuff, especially free books, at least in the bookstagram world, and hosting a giveaway is a fun way to boost your engagement and gain followers.
- Shelfie – Show off your bookshelves
- Participate in a hashtag challenge – There always a ton of different and fun hashtag challenges to participate. Some call for a book stack, like the #rainbowstack while others are more about showing off book covers, like the #CuteCoversChallenge. Some other fun challenges: #mostownedauthor challenge, #ShowYourSmileStack (share a stack of books that make you smile), and #cloudstack.
- Book mail – Show off those books you’ve recently purchased or received from publishers.
- Bookish merch – Another fun thing to show off is your bookish merch, such as bookmarks, book-themed candles, book sleeves, and more.
- TBR – Share what you are planning on reading during the month
- Monthly Wrap-up – Do a wrap-up post where you share the books you’ve read that month
Your caption, including any hashtags (which I discuss below) can be no more than 2200 characters.
Consistent and engaging captions will draw in an audience and gain you followers. You also want your captions to be easy to read with short sentences and spacing. Unfortunately Instagram does not recognize line breaks so you will need to workaround this. Some people use icons or actual line dashes to break up their text. I’ve heard that some people type in their iPhone notes app and then copy and paste but this has never worked for me, Instagram always deleted my spacing. My trick is using a free site that creates line breaks for your captions. There is also an app version available for $2.99.
A great way to get people to engage with your posts is to ask questions. Asking a question of the day or QOTD is a popular caption type on bookstagram. And the question does not necessarily have to be book related. Some other caption ideas:
- Share a favorite quote
- Talk about what you are currently reading
- Share what is going on in your life
On Instagram you can use up to 30 hashtags per post. Hashtags are a powerful engagement tool; they are a way to categorize your posts so that your target audience can find your content. Your content becomes discoverable through the use of hashtags and they are a way to gain new followers.
It is important to do your research into hashtags–look at what other bookstagrammers are using or what hashtags people are following. I like to just type in #book and then see what comes up for hashtags.
To learn even more about hashtags, check out my Bookstagram Hashtag Guide.
Be strategic in your hashtag use
- Use relevant hashtags – Listing a bunch of irrelevant hashtags in your posts is spammy behavior, will annoy people, and may be flagged by Instagram. You want to use hashtags that are related to your post and are targeted to your audience.
- Use specific or niche hashtags – The more specific your hashtag, the more targeted your audience, and the higher chance of engagement you have. If you focus on a particular genre or niche, you want to use hashtags related to that genre/niche. For example, I feature a lot of romance novels and often use a variation of the hashtags #romancebooks, #romancenovels, #amreadingromance, and #romancereader.
- Mix up your hashtags – You don’t want to use the same set of hashtags over and over again, as you risk having your account be treated as spam. You also want to mix up the size of the hashtags you use. Some rules of thumb are to aim for hashtags that range from 25k-200k uses. It is okay to use a handful of super popular hashtags, as long as they are relevant to your post. Don’t drown your post in hashtags with uses in the millions; your post will likely get lost in the masses if you use too many popular hashtags.
- Consider using a branded hashtag – You may want to hashtag your brand or blog like #thatbookishbrunette
Hashtags by usage
These are the numbers at the time I wrote the post but remember these numbers can change; make sure do your own research.
Popular and large hashtags with posts in the million-use sparingly
#book #books #booklover #bookaholic #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #booknerd #bookcommunity #bookish #bookaddict #bibliophile #bookishfeatures #booksbooksbooks #bookobsessed #booksofinstagram #reading#readersofinstagram #bookphotography #bookphoto #bookreview #bookblogger #amreading #bookgram #flatlay #bookblog #bookshelf #bookgram #bookmark #booknerdigans #newrelease
Over 500,000 to 1 million
#bookishlove #booksofig #booksarelife #booktography #bookdragon #readmorebooks #instareads #bookblog #booklife #bookstack #bookhaul
200,000 to 499,000
#booksofinsta #bookishlife #bookishfeature #alwaysreading #totalbooknerd #bookpic #bookreviewer #romancebooks #contemporaryromance #bookrecommendations #bookrecommendation #getlit #bookster #bookhoarder #bookstagramfeatures #bookaesthetic #readingnook #bookseries
50,000 to 199,000
#bookpile #bookwormlife #bookishpost #bookpics #bookphotograph #bookishcandles #bookishmerch #booksandcandles #currentreads #booksharks #bookblogging #romancereader #readromance #amreadingromance #nonfictionbooks #avidreader #bookrec #bookrecs #booksbooksandmorebooks #bookstagramcommunity #booksandcats #bookspines #booksandflowers #igreaders #literaryfiction #bookwormlife #booksaremagic #bookgrammer #bookfeature #bibliophilelife #booksaremylife #historicalromance #romancenovels
10,000 to 49,999
#bookpictures #bookdragons #romancereadersofinstagram #ireadromance #whatimreadingnow #bookishphoto #booksandfood #bookishproblems #bookspine #bookishglee #bookreviewblog #bookstagrammademedoit #readaholic #bookishcommunity #bookishallure #romancestagram #booktravel #librarylover #stacksaturday
tiny hashtags under 10k
#bookblogginglife #bookishproblem #bookreviewblogger #bookhauls #booksaremyjam #favoriteromancestack
I haven’t been consistent about doing so but I do hashtag with my brand #thatbookishbrunette. I also occasionally use hashtags with the author name, publisher, or source like #netgalley.
Grab a list of over 200 bookstagram hashtag here
Now that you have your picture, caption, and hashtags, you are ready to post!
How to start a bookstagram: grow your following
Now that you’ve picked a name, signed up for Instagram, and created some content, you can think about gaining followers.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is ENGAGE! Follow accounts and hashtags, comment on posts, and interact with people’s stories. Participate in stack and photo challenges, readathons, and buddy reads. There are two accounts I know of that share different bookstagram photo challenges: @bookstagramchallenges and @challengesofbookstagram
Engagement groups can be a bit of a mixed bag on bookstagram. Some are for them, some are against them. Personally, I think you should do what works best for you.
I used to participate in engagement groups but it can be hard to stay on top of liking all the posts, especially if you don’t post for a day or two, when the engagement group rules require you to like all the posts every 24 hours.
There are different types, some are simply for liking posts–you tag the group in your photo and everyone who is following the group is required to like the tagged posts. None that I know of require you to follow everyone who is a part of the group unless you participate in a follow for follow thread.
To find these type of engagement groups, look at the different accounts that people have tagged in their posts. If accounts are tagged in a post, you will see an icon of a person in the lefthand corner of the picture:
Other types of engagement groups have specific threads that call for different types of engagement, such as commenting on a specific post, watching people’s stories, or liking certain posts. With these groups you don’t tag the account but instead comment on a post thread, which usually has a limited number of comments allowed or a time when the thread will close, then perform the type of engagement with all of the accounts who post. Two great accounts to check out for this type of engagement are @bookstabookclub and @ourbookstashelf These accounts similarly do not require that you follow the other accounts unless you participate in a Follow All engagement thread.
Well there you have it, now you have a bookstagram. Just remember that a lot of bookstagram is trial and error, figuring out what works for you. I’m constantly learning new tips and tricks and changing things up as I go.
Do you have any questions about starting a bookstagram that I didn’t address?
I’d love to hear your bookstagram tips in the comments below.
Loving this #bookstagram 101 guide? Check out my other book blogging guides: