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How I use Instagram to sell more books

My friend Kate Hanley has been micro-blogging on Instagram to promote her latest book, How to Be a Better Person: 400 Simple Ways Make a Difference in Yourself — and the World, and I’ve asked her to write this guest post about why and how she’s doing that, and what results she’s seen. Kate is an author, yoga teacher, and personal development coach who helps busy women focus on the things that matter so they can stop stressing about the things that don’t. In addition to working one-on-one with clients, Kate teaches and speaks at companies and events about mindful time management, avoiding burnout, and finding work-life balance. Learn more and get her free decision-making matrix at her website. Follow Kate on Instagram, too. 

How I use Instagram to sell more books

By Kate Hanley

When it comes to social media, I love Instagram above all other platforms. I used it strictly for personal purposes, primarily to share photos of my kids and my daily life. (Which may explain why I loved it; it was a work-free zone!) But as I was creating a promotion plan for my newest book, How to Be a Better Person, I hired an online marketing consultant who challenged me to re-think that.

Pointing out that I had nearly 500 followers and that my posts generally got a decent level of engagement, she convinced me that my Instagram feed was too good a promotional opportunity to ignore.

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I saw her point, but I was nervous; I loved Instagram because it wasn’t the frenzy of promotion that Facebook has become. I didn’t want to contribute to the noise.

Presuming I could get over that hurdle, I also didn’t know how to use a visual medium to promote a book that’s filled with tips that are related to changing your outlook.

Together, we worked out a plan to spend one week on each of the eight sections on my book as a way of giving first and inviting people in to the book instead of merely asking them to buy—which can feel like a big ask to someone who doesn’t really know you and not likely to be very effective.

For each post with the themes, I decided write two to three paragraphs about the tip I was posting a photo of—call it micro-blogging. As a writer, this was a way for me to get excited about using a visual platform for something work-related.

Micro-blogging helped me come at book promotion from a spirit of giving and inviting, and not so much about “pay attention to me and buy my stuff!” That helped ease any reservations I had about using my Instagram feed as a promotional tool.

The How

Tech-wise, it hasn’t been seamless. I’ve typed most of these posts on my phone with my thumbs, which is slow-going and painstaking, but I feel it’s important to have access to an emoji keyboard to stick with the conventions of the platforms and to infuse tone.

You can install Gramblr on your computer and then upload photos from your hard drive and use your nice big keyboard to post—I just heard about this and am looking forward to trying it out!

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An example of one of my Instagram posts

One thing I have come to love about Instagramming for work purposes is that it shows you exactly how popular each hashtag is, so you can choose hashtags for your posts that jibe with your content and that will help new people find that content and, hopefully, follow you.

Instagram is also more conducive to building relationships with other followers whom you might not know in real life—perhaps it’s the heavy use of emojis and tagging that really engages people and makes it feel like a friendlier place.

Make sure you reply to all comments and use emojis to connect with your commenters, and people will be more likely to share your posts with their followers (although they, and you, will need to download an external app—I prefer the Repost App—to share other people’s posts to your own list.)

The Results

use Instagram to sell more books 4I released a book last May called Stress Less, which I didn’t do much social media promotion to support—mostly because I was on deadline to write How to Be a Better Person when it came out! (Having two books come out in the same year is kind of like having Irish twins; one will naturally get less attention when the other is more needy.)

But comparing the sales numbers, How to Be a Better Person has sold 30 percent more copies in its first month than Stress Less did in its first month of life. (I’m also up to 680 followers.)

Of course, the fact that How to Be a Better Person came out in prime new year/new you season (it was released on January 2) probably has something to do the strong first-month showing, but if you can boost book sales doing something you enjoy and that helps you engage directly with your readers, why not?

Other cool Instagram ideas I’ve seen:

  • Develop 30 days of content counting down to a holiday that has some relevance to your subject matter in your own version of an advent calendar. Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement is a whiz at this.
  • Post a picture of a stack of three or five books and saying you’ll give them away to three or five lucky winners who post a comment that answers a particular question (perhaps something you’re looking for feedback on).
  • Ask readers to post a picture of themselves with their copy of the book and tag you and/or use a specific hashtag

If you’re on Instagram, I’d love to connect with you there! I’m @katehanleyauthor. And if you’ve seen other great book promotion ideas implemented on Instagram, I’d love to hear about those too—please leave them in a comment here!

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  1. Social media feels overwhelming to me. There are so many venues. Still, I need to jump in and try a couple of them. Great information. Thanks for sharing. Your sample looks amazing. My novel,” Old Mountain Cassie: The Three Lessons” is launching early spring. I will definitely give Instagram a whirl.

    1. Sandra has a great point, Tonya. There are a lot of platforms to choose from. Try to find the sweet spot of where your readers are and where you like hanging out. 🙂 Best of luck on your book launch–how exciting!

  2. I hope Kate’s article helped, Tonya! Regarding social media, I recommend figuring out which networks reach your target audience, then selecting the one you think might be the least daunting. You’ll do better mastering one or two of the right ones. Plus, it’s likely that you won’t find your best audience on, say, four of them. Master one, then consider mastering a second, but the key piece is knowing where you’ll find your readers.

    Good luck!


    1. Sandra, Thanks for the insight and guidance. I will do some Sherlocking on the different choices. I don’t feel the tug to develop on Facebook.

  3. This is exactly the post I needed to see. The tips for promoting on a book on Instagram are excellent, but the part I like best is using Instagram on my Mac using Grambler! I have tons of visual content on my computer, and getting it onto my phone was an annoyance I was avoiding. Thanks, Kate, for writing this, and thanks, Sandra for sharing it.

  4. This is such a helpful post! I recently have gotten more excited by Instagram because when I post something there, I can also have it post to Facebook and Twitter. I love getting triple the posting out of one post! Anyway, I didn’t realize you couldn’t access Instagram on your computer until one day I tried. Ugh! So, thank you for the tip about Gramblr. I’m installing that today. Also, I was very frustrated with Instagram about not being able to share some of my favorite images with my friends. So, again, thank you for the tip about Repost App. I’m getting that one too. I absolutely love the idea of micro-blogging. That sounds totally do-able and fun! I have also recently taken two marketing month long classes that are teaching the art of engagement rather than direct, in-your-face marketing. I’m anxious to get started on Instagram now that you’ve empowered me with more tools. Thank you!

    1. Hi Wanda, I love hearing how you’re educating yourself. Hope those tools work out well for you. I think you will love Instagram! For me, that also helps; the fact that I truly enjoy it. It keeps me coming back. Good luck! Kate

    1. Thanks, Sarah, but I can’t take credit for this helpful info. It’s from our guest blogger, Kate Hanley. I’m using Gramblr, too, and love it!


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