On Wednesdays, we don’t wear pink, but we #witchywednesday instead: How to sell books on Instagram

Written by Marilyn Barr

Author of the Strawberry Shifters book series and spin-off paranormal tales. Marilyn’s works contain heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated. She is a sucker for cheesy vampire movies (see what she did there), bad puns, Italian food, punk music, black cats, and all things witchy.
December 2, 2020

We have all sat through lectures about making connections on social media and have thousands of followers on the advice of the experts. Then your debut novel comes out and those thousands of followers do not follow through in buying your book. You spent hours with supportive comments, teaser graphics, and pithy posts. Where did you go wrong?

I’m not discounting the true connection between twin souls connected by the common goal of being an author. Some of my most fervent supporters are fellow authors. Will my best friend on social media buy my steamy PNR when he reads WWII war novels? No. Will he read and review it? I hope not. He will hate it because he’s not my target audience. However, the support is valuable to me, not my book sales. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without other authors, but I made author social media accounts because the experts said I needed them to sell books. They forgot the disclaimer: I need social media to find my readers who aren’t necessarily other romance writers. The experts also forgot to tell me how. In this article, I will demystify Instagram hashtags (and Twitter works this way too) to sell books (as opposed to making friends).  Disclaimer: Facebook recognizes hashtags too, but I haven’t found the success in them like Instagram and Twitter, so I excluded them from the scope of this article.

The old pound sign has gotten a renaissance without the facelift as a hashtag. A hashtag is a way of indexing social media posts. On Instagram especially, readers follow topics by following the hashtag instead of everyone who is a part of that posse. This is great for unknown authors who can add a # to their genre, get their books next to the best sellers, and put their book in front of readers who will enjoy it. You get 30 hashtags per post so don’t be afraid to stack them at the end of your post (but leave a little space).

Being creative, I invite you to go beyond your genre. Is your hero a #cowboy in a #cowboyromance, #cowboybook, #western, #kentucky, or #cowboynovel?  Add these to your post so your readers will find it. The person scrolling may collect cowboy memorabilia and be your target reader. They aren’t following #romancenovel but will buy your book. Let’s make a profitable connection!

Enough about your book, what about you? The experts say to put yourself out there and be authentic, again without saying how. My fellow weirdos, it is your time to shine! My most successful posts are labeled #vegan, #veganlife, #veganauthor, #veganlifestyle, and #veganpasta. Do you have a hobby like collecting figurines or making draino-bombs? Take photos of your collection (especially if they tie into your books – add a snippet or teaser) with #authorlife, #authorlifestyle, #kentuckyauthor, and hashtags for your collected item. I have more #pagan, #paganauthor, #witchyauthor, #witchybook, #greenwitchesofinstagram, and #tarotreaders following me than I would have ever guessed. Those botany classes I took in college are finally paying for themselves because these followers have a connection to the main character in my book, not writing romance novels. They are instant sales and delightful friends, even though they have no idea what MC, ARC, CP, or oxford commas even are.

So, I’ve given you the secret to finding a posse who will buy your books. What about bookstagrammers who will promote and review your book for free? I promise they really exist and are wonderful people as well. How do you find them? You guessed it, #bookstagram but it is more than that. Have you ever done a #bookstack? This is the most popular type of post with the #readingcommunity on Insta besides food photos. Place your books among the greats, literally, and post the photo. You can group them by cover color, heat level, genre, size, holiday, or main character name (for example). If your group is by cover color or art, put an object of that color/design in the graphic so you have more things to hashtag. How about a #vampire bookstack next to a TV playing #Buffy the #Vampireslayer to sell your #PNR? My favorite bookstacks are “if you liked these, you would love my book…” because they read like an Amazon ad. It is targeted, marketable, and my favorite part – free.

I have learned a lot about social media since my #debutnovel #newrelease #Strawberryshifters and hope I inspired you to join the Instagrammers in selling books. Want more examples? Follow me at https://www.instagram.com/marilyn_barr_author/ and join me for #witchywednesday, #TWRPThursday, and #Caturday.

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