We’re not the first to write about the ways in which you can use Pinterest to help market your book, and we won’t be the last. Why? Because books are first and foremost a tangible object with incredible visual (and tactile) appeal, and Pinterest is a social media platform designed and built to showcase beautiful things. Emphasis on “things.” Pinterest is often described as a kind of digital bulletin board, and whether or not you actually use bulletin boards in real life, it is a powerful tool for collecting objects–most of them real and actual physical objects–together into one easy-to-access-and-modify place. It may not have been specifically designed for books, but Pinterest is definitely a book-lover’s dream … and a haven, too, for self-published authors.
How does Pinterest work? Users create profiles, find and follow their friends, and have the freedom to tag these friends when “pinning,” not to mention respond to or “re-pin” these friends’ “pins.” You can create just one Pinterest “board,” or many. You can even determine which ones are public and which ones are private, and invite your friends to pin to your private boards with you! (As with every other social media platform, Pinterest has created its own semi-exclusive vocabulary.) Depending on whether you’re using the mobile interface on your smartphones or other smart devices, or whether you’re using the desktop interface on your computer or laptop, these pins are displayed tiled across your screen in a visual “feed.” So far, you’ll note that Pinterest provides many of the same services as any other platform–like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter–only with a more visual twist. In fact, I would say that Pinterest resonates with Instagram the most, since both of these mediums were designed exclusively to showcase visual content, and as such have attracted users of a more artistic bent.
So, how does the indie, hybrid, or self-published author take advantage of Pinterest? First, we have to address a certain … stigma … that Pinterest has acquired.
Debunking the Great Pinterest Myth: “Isn’t it mostly just recipes and wedding ideas?”
Forbes has published an article on it. So has the London School of Economics. And a whole host of marketing professionals (such as SiteLogicMarketing). In the United States, yes, some 83% of Pinterest users were female–but in the UK? That number drops to 44% female. And even in the predominantly female American user base, many big brands are making use of Pinterest to market meaningfully to men. In her Forbes article, Michelle Greenwald writes that Pinterest’s emphasis on “lifestyle” makes it prime territory for companies to “[add] brand value and [communicate] all the ways the brand can fit into its customers’ lives.” Yes, wedding companies and Etsy entrepreneurs and watercolorists have a good handle on the marketing potential of Pinterest, but so too do companies like Bit9, Go Pro, ESPN, IBM, and GE. When push comes to shove, purchasing a new washing machine or scoping out a new piece of tech is just as much a lifestyle-building decision as collecting ideas for bridal bouquets.
Top 5 Best Practices:
1. Take advantage of your own cover art. Your book is beautiful. Own it! Throwing together a Pinterest board that features your own book’s cover art should be amongst the first things you do with Pinterest as an author; the existing visual impact of your book is simply too great a resource to waste! You can fill the board up with illustrated quotations from your book, or perhaps photographs of your book in various locations–out “in the field, in its natural habitat” so to speak. And don’t forget about your book trailer, if you have one!
2. Put together an “inspiration board.” What inspires you when you’re writing? Art? Music? A really well-executed NPR interview? Set the mood for both you and your readers by putting together an inspiration board that features images, sounds, and atmospheres that evoke the world you’ve created within the pages of your book. You know those playlists that authors will put together to go with their books? An inspiration board is kind of like a playlist, only the content can be much more varied (and usually, much more visual!).
3. Pin contests and giveaways. There are all kinds of giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes running on Pinterest at any given moment, but often the most exciting ones involve books! Consider offering ARCs (Advance Reading Copies), singly or in bundles, to your readers via a Pinterest contest–and to enter, perhaps challenge each contestant to pin a picture of themselves holding your book in their favorite reading nook or space. This kind of contest turns into loads of free marketing for you, in part because it requires creative thinking and engagement on the part of your readers, and in part because for every person who enters and pins a picture, dozens more of their friends and family will be exposed to your book as it crops up in their Pinterest feeds. Just be sure you know how to navigate the fair use guidelines and contest requirements as stated by Pinterest!
4. Never underestimate the power of similarity. Those “if you like this, why don’t you try this?” ads are on to something, and Pinterest-savvy authors are taking note. One of the best things you can do on Pinterest is to dedicate a board to books that resonate with yours. Pin books (or book covers, with their Amazon listings linked in the descriptions, to be more specific) of the same genre, or featuring characters you like, or that employ plot devices that somehow exist in conversation with those you use. What purpose does this serve? As with any social media platform, you have to do a little creative manipulation to make yourself “findable” by your ideal readers. The more links you generate, the more connections you make easily accessible, the more people will find you and follow you on Pinterest. And don’t be afraid to “send” pins to or otherwise get in contact with other pinners whose interests resonate with your own; the worst thing someone can say is “no, I’m not interested in featuring your pin on my board of recently self-published historical fiction novels” … but they might be eager to pin it! You won’t know until you ask.
5. Don’t be afraid to set up or convert to a “Business” account. That’s right, Pinterest is doing its best to make it easy for you to build your brand! There are certain advantages to using a Business Profile as opposed to a Personal Profile, including access to analytics and other platform-specific tools that help you track what pinning activities are proving successful, and how to focus your time, energy, and attention where it’s going to do the most good.
Most Overlooked Feature:
If you haven’t heard of your “source page,” then you’re missing out! Pinterest sends out notifications when users re-pin your pins, but often these notifications don’t actually tell you how many users are pinning directly from your page and how many are re-pinning from other peoples’ feeds or from Pinterest’s built-in “suggestion” algorithms. Your source page is pinterest.com/yoursite.com, so if your username was “selfpublishingchampion,” your source page would be pinterest.com/selfpublishingchampion.com. Hop on over to your source page to see which pins are or are not performing well on Pinterest–it’s a good sign if users are pinning directly from your site, since that means they’re more likely to have seen more than just the one pin; they will have seen more of the content surrounding your book!
I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠
||ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.