5 Ways New York Times Bestselling Authors Use Instagram To Promote Their Books

Interesting and underrated ways to connect to the reader and get more sales

5 Ways New York Times Bestselling Authors Use Instagram To Promote Their Books
Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash


5 Ways New York Times Bestselling Authors Use Instagram To Promote Their Books

Interesting and underrated ways to connect to the reader and get more sales

Instagram is one of the best ways for authors to promote their books. According to Socialbakers, the top brands on Instagram have a 47x higher average post engagement rate compared to the top brands on Twitter. As a survey by CNCC suggests, Instagram had 400 million monthly active users, more than Twitter’s 316 million.

In essence, Instagram helps generate a lot of buzz about an upcoming release and can help authors their books. If you’re a new author looking to promote your book or build a personal brand, Instagram could be one of the easiest and most fun ways to go about it.

And when it comes to marketing tips, why not learn from the most successful?

In this post, I’ve analyzed the profiles of five New York Times bestselling authors and looked at the ways they keep their readers engaged. I’ve added case studies and included some takeaways you can apply to your own social media usage to sell more copies of your books.

1. Virtual Book Tours

Samantha Shannon, bestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree and The Bone Season series recently announced a virtual book tour to celebrate the release of her latest book, The Mask Falling.

Shannon’s book tour was essentially a series of live sessions with various book bloggers, book reviewers, and other authors with a similar following who had a new book coming out soon. These sessions are free and interested users have to register to join. Some events end with a gift or giveaway for attendees — which can be cakes baked with the book cover art on them or some other book-related merchandise.

Shannon announced her upcoming virtual tour via an Instagram post but keeps posting reminders about them on her Instagram stories. She also routinely reshares posts made by fans excited about the events or comments and feedbacks from recently-concluded events.

Shannon’s tour schedule
Image from say_shannon (Public Instagram account)

The takeaway

  • Virtual events generate a lot of buzz before an upcoming book release.
  • A series of collaborative events with people having a sizeable social media presence can go a long way in sparking interest in the readers.
  • Regular reminders about events and resharing the feedback from attendees can keep the hype alive without the need to consistently create new content.

2. Candid and Informal Videos

TJ Klune, the bestselling author of The House in the Cerulean Sea has a dedicated following on Twitter and Facebook — the two platforms he mostly uses to promote his books. On Instagram, he mostly reshares the posts made by fans reviewing his books on his stories.

One way he engages his readers is to drop the occasional video announcing a new book release, some snippets of the behind-the-scenes process of writing, or in general him hopping in to show his face to fans. These posts aren’t professionally shot in studio locations, but are simple slice-of-life takes with the author walking around and talking to the camera.

They have at least 200 more comments than his usual image-only posts, so I guess that goes a long way in showing how much readers love this personal touch.

TJ Klune posted a video with the caption “TODAY IS A VERY GOOD DAY”
Image from tjklunebooks (Public Instagram account)

The takeaway

  • Rather than simply posting text or images, it’s a good idea to pep up your feed with videos and IGTV content.
  • A personal touch always keeps the readers engaged.
  • Casual videos make you seem accessible and friendly.
  • The high engagement in spite of the absence of professional recording equipment suggests that readers love the candid take.

3. Signed Copy Giveaways… With a Twist!

Leigh Bardugo, bestselling author of Ninth House and the Shadow and Bone series recently organized a very interesting version of a giveaway on her Instagram profile.

To celebrate the release of her new book Rule of Wolves, she partnered with independent bookstores to sell signed and personalized copies of the book. The process was very fascinating, split into the following steps:

  • For five days a week, she posted the names of five independent bookstores in the U.S. on her stories.
  • Each store had 50 slots where readers had to fill in their names and they would be eligible to secure a signed copy in their name.
  • All people who pre-ordered using the form would be eligible to receive “delightful pre-order gifts (yes, plural)”.
Bardugo’s post on how to secure a signed copy of their book
Image from lbardugo (Public Instagram account)

The takeaway

  • Asking people to pre-order a book in exchange for gifts and signed copies is a great way to generate buzz for the book even before release.
  • The more people pre-order a book, the better chances it will have of getting pushed up on the bestseller list.
  • Posting about the details on Instagram stories instead of making a pre-announcement is a great way to keep the readers on their toes. People will be more likely to keep checking the author’s stories each day in the hopes that a new slot is open soon.

4. Post Motivational Content

Matt Haig, the bestselling author of The Midnight Library often takes to Instagram to post motivational quotes that may or may not be directly related to his book.

These posts are an open invitation to his followers to share their views or their own experiences regarding the matter being talked about. All such posts have lots of comments. People also tend to share them in their stories if the words resonate with their thoughts. In fact, I discovered the author’s profile when one of my friends shared his post on their stories.

Haig posts motivational content, “You have no control over who people think you are. So don’t worry about it.”
Image from mattzhaig (Public Instagram account)

The takeaway

  • Inspirational posts that have a broader appeal are more likely to be shared by people who can relate to the words.
  • These don’t even have to be your own words. Reposting quotes from famous authors that align with the general message of your book or the shades of the personal brand you’re trying to build work well.
  • This is a great way to keep your Instagram profile abuzz with activity even when you don’t have a new book coming out anytime soon.

5. Book Posters, Memes, and Fun Content

Lisa Gardner, the #1 bestselling author of Before She Disappeared often relies on beautifully designed book posters or memes to engage with her audience. Her recent post with the viral Bernie Sanders meme garnered a lot of praise and support from her fans.

Though not directly related to the book release, the use of memes shows the readers a different side of the author. It’s an interesting way to keep your profile up-to-date on recent happenings without taking too much of a political or controversial stance.

Gardner posts a photoshopped photo at a book signing with Bernie Sanders (from the inauguration)sitting beside her.
Image from lisagardnerbks Instagram

The takeaway

  • Sharing timely memes are a fun way to show the readers another insight into who you are as a person.
  • It might also be an interesting way to attract more people to your page who haven’t necessarily read your books or heard about you, but might choose to follow you based on your usage of memes.

Final Words

Every author has a different way of using Instagram to promote their books. Some choose to only repost pictures made by fans, while others take a lot of effort to create unique images and videos. Some share a lot of fan art of characters from their books, while others post their own images and glimpses from their personal life.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it, but summing up, here are the interesting ways five New York Times bestselling authors use Instagram to promote their books:

  1. Virtual book tours and collaborations with fellow authors or book bloggers who have a significant following on social media
  2. Candid videos talking about books or behind-the-scenes of the writing process
  3. Giving away free merch to every person who pre-orders a copy of the new book
  4. Posting self-written motivational quotes or resharing inspiring content written by famous authors to reach a broader audience
  5. Timely memes, jokes, and other fun content tied in with your books to spark curiosity in the reader