books

Hello Publishers…

‘Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean I need to do it for free.’
– Faroukh Naseem

Yeah, I finally have a quote to my name (Somebody please add it to Goodreads.)

For best results the writer recommends you read this with the calming voice of Morgan Freeman in your head.

A couple of days ago I posted a twitter thread which I later shared on Instagram as well. Here’s the post if you’re like me and love to read 300+ comments about a topic which hasn’t been openly discussed much.I’ll go through each tweet and try and elaborate as much as I can.

But before we get into it, let me briefly talk about Content Creation which seems to have been misunderstood by a lot of people.

Content creation takes time and effort. It also takes a lot of understanding of what our audience likes. If today I post an absolutely amazing drone shot of a city, it probably will not do well because my audience has not followed me for such content. If I suddenly post a very different style of photo, my engagement will be lower even if it is related to books. Content creation around books is not easy at all and is very limiting too. Plus it is not limited to the visual aesthetic. Captions can be an important part of the bookstagram experience but the engagement around books isn’t easily created and not everyone reads captions since Instagram is primarily a visual platform. When you have accounts following hundreds of pages, you do not get special treatment unless you are really liked by someone following you. So if someone thinks content creation is child’s play, they probably have a private account with pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner with the captions Yummy, Yum and Burp on them.

So here are the tweets, broken down one by one

1 – When will publishers stop thinking that advertising their books in front of thousands of people after creating content for them is payable by free books?

This point has been misunderstood by most. Especially accounts which have started out recently. I think most skipped over the ‘thousands of people’ part. Free books do hold a lot of value; I happily receive them and post about them on my page. They are usually a new release or pre-release copy and they give us an opportunity to create a post around something new and share it online.
I did not receive a single book from a publisher until i was well over 20k followers and had a genuine organic audience on the platform. I had to fill out a form and share what I had to offer in terms of influence in exchange of these free books. Publishers need something in exchange of the book mail they send and since they are a business they aren’t sending them just because we are readers. We are readers with an audience who create content. 


2 -Book accounts are a very specific and concentrated niche. I’m being conservative here by saying 99% of those who follow book accounts are interested in books and are potential customers for these publishers. 

This potential buzz a book blogger can generate for a book is huge. This is where readers come for their book related news, new release dates and synopses. Bookstagrammers have built an audience which trusts them after years of work and it has not come easy for any of us. I speak for myself when I say that I do not promote books I do not like or expect to like. I have promoted books for authors directly too but only after I felt that these are books that I would be interested in reading as well. Not just because they were willing to send me a free copy.
Bookstagrams are not like a cat account or a lifestyle account. Cat accounts are followed by people who might be allergic to fur and probably will never in their lives buy a cat related product. Lifestyle accounts might be followed by people who will never travel to that country, go to that restaurant or wear such clothes. These are very diluted niches. So if you have a book account with 10,000 followers it’s probably a more powerful selling window than a lifestyle account with 100,000. That’s one reason there are probably only a dozen book accounts on Instagram with more than 100k; not every random person follows a book account.

3 – I think publishers have become very opportunistic and are using so many book bloggers to get almost free publicity. It starts with the book mail IGstory, followed by a summary on the timeline and if the blogger is reading it, probably an update Current Read Post and a review.

Most of us do not get free books with any obligations apart from making sure we mention that we’ve received a free book in the caption. Publishers do not guide the narrative of our captions and they do not get a say in our reviews. If they tried, I along with many other accounts I have spoken to would not agree to do them. People might not realize how much a review that is not genuine can affect our credibility. Fortunately, I learnt this very early on before I had truly understood how bookstagram works. I had reviewed The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak and given it a 1 star rating and readers commented that they were so happy for my honest review (I was naive enough to not even think there could be a dishonest review). That point onward I had promised myself I would make sure to be as truthful as possible without demeaning an author or publisher. That is what I have continued to do and that is what I always will..

There have been some comments from people who do not seem to understand Bookstagram and how things work on the platform. Some think that if we get paid for a post (an advertising space) we will end up talking positively about them. Most promotions are just that, promotions. They include a picture/video centered around the book and a caption which shares the synopsis and release date information. Think of it as adverts in a newspaper (you know, that thing you see old men holding rolled up under their arm). They offer information on the product; nothing more, nothing less. They don’t take away from the credibility of the newspaper itself or from any of it’s articles. Instead they are merely a way for the newspaper to support their publication. That’s exactly what paid promotions are for an Instagram page.

I am all for supporting Indie publishers and will continue to accept books I’m interested in in exchange of posts. I have no problem in not charging for books I get which I will post about in my own time without any obligations apart from making sure I mention I have received it from the publisher.

But when a publisher contacts me for a campaign to promote a book, and it is a known publisher who sells millions of copies annually and has budgets allocated for promotions on traditional media, I better be offered a fair incentive as well. I do not get free books just because publishers like me, my influence is linked to them sending those books.

Its about time big publishers stop hiding behind “Publishing is becoming a dying industry”.
We are here and we are reading.

Laura who runs Whatshotblog.com has written 2 articles on this topic that I recommend:
It’s Time For Book Bloggers to Get Paid.
Book Bloggers Share Their Thoughts on Influencer Marketing

Last point is that our reviews are NOT FOR SALE.

p.s: I hope you didn’t forget to read this in the calming voice of Morgan Freeman.

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

Bookstagram for beginners!

Bookstagram – How, What, Why, When, Whatever…

It’s been 2 years since I started my Bookstagram @theguywiththebook which recently crossed 35k. I had no idea there is a thing called Bookstagram and it was just a space for me to keep track of the books I’ve read.

Recently I won the Bookstagrammer of the year award at the London Book Fair and so I decided this would be a great time to share what I’ve learnt over the past couple of years and hopefully this will help you start or better your account!

Well, that’s enough about me, let’s start!

Quick Introduction to Bookstagram.

It’s an online space on Instagram where people post pictures and videos of books and talk all things bookish.

How to setup your Bookstagram Profile:

Instagram Handle

First thing you need to decide on is an Instagram handle which reflects your bookish side. When I started Bookstagram my handle was @thebookpiper (Yes, I know :l) and I kept it because I used to prop my pictures with a book and a pipe I had picked up on a trip to Zambia (Stupid, I know). Later I changed it to @theguywiththebook. When I reached around 500 followers I realized that

A- My handle makes no sense and

B- Not many male book bloggers were around (So I thought it would be smart to let people know) and it helped. So, think about it and chose your Instagram handle smartly.

Profile picture

The next (or maybe even the first) thing that people will notice is your profile picture. Either create a logo for free (I made mine in 5 minutes on the app Canva) or use a regular picture of yourself or maybe a bookish photo. Whatever makes you happy. Just remember your profile picture is going to be a tiny little circle and sometimes pictures look like a mess in such a small frame.

Instagram Bio

Your bio is the next thing you need to add and what I like is to try and keep it simple (I’ve had messy bio’s before because I didn’t think about it much) but now it’s a clean little bio reflecting the fun side of me, followed by my current read which includes numbers showing how any books I’ve read and the number I want read by the end of the year. Next is ‘Saudi Arabia’ which is where I live. For me this clean and clear bio works but you can experiment with what you like. Just make sure it’s something which reflects your theme of books. Oh, you can add ‘Bookstagram’ to your name as well.

Starting!

You’ll want your page to look active right away so it’s a good idea to fill up your page with maybe a dozen posts so it looks active. Not many would be interested in a page with 3-6 posts. Next you’ll want people to know about your page and you’ll need to start interacting to attract traffic. This is going to take some time and you’ll have to work on it persistently. I will talk about interactions in a bit.

Content Creation

Irrespective of the type of books you read, Visual content creation is where you need to concentrate the most. Instagram is a visual platform and the most effective way to drive people to your page and make them want to press that blue button is to have visually appealing timeline. Captions come second and will form an important but not equally important part of your post for majority of people. The reason I say this is that on average for me the number of comments are about 50-100 and the number of likes go somewhere between 3k to 6k. Not everyone will be in the mood to have a chat on Instagram PLUS you are not the only one they are following. The average number of accounts 1 user follows on Instagram is 800.

Taking pictures

The main thing you need is a camera, not necessarily a DSLR. Your phone camera will work just fine. You could start your page with a single setup style and take multiple pictures with different books and setups and slowly graduate to different styles. Or you could start and learn on the way to find out what style(s) work best for you. It’s all hit and miss and depends on what you are good at over a period of time. I, personally enjoy taking pictures at the beach or at cafes but sometimes I’m in the mood for a flat lay. I don’t follow a single setup theme because my mind is just very random and I’ve tried but I can’t follow a single theme. I’m slowly trying to learn how to have a color theme my page if not a single style theme. These days I’m regularly using a bookish scarf as a background as I don’t have enough time right now and it actually looks really good!

Photography tips

1- All cameras will give their best shot in natural lighting. If you are taking pictures at home, take pictures as close to the window as possible.

2- Check online when the ‘Golden Hour’ is in your city. This is the time the sunlight is perfectly angled to give a soft lighting environment. If you can, then try to schedule your shoot during this time.

3- Focus on different parts of the image to see which point is giving you the best lit picture.

4- Take multiple pictures from different angles. You’ll be surprised to see how different the same setup looks from different angles. I’ve posted pictures of the same setup from different angles and each of them has a personality of its own.

5- If you need to take pictures at night (I almost never have), do not use direct lighting, use a thin cloth or shower curtain to soften and spread the light.

Engagement

First thing you might learn on IG is that every day is a new experience. One picture will get a 1000 likes and the next maybe 200. There is no guarantee. So what you need to do is try to control the things you can control. The one thing you can kind of control is to direct traffic to your account.

What I have done over the past is followed a bunch of people on whose posts I like and comment almost every single day. I do this every time I post a picture on my page. I follow around 30 people who post every single day. When they see that I comment almost daily, they naturally return the favor on my posts. Please note I try to be thoughtful in my comments and try to relate it to the caption or picture. Unless I’m really tired or out of ideas I might comment something generic like complimenting the picture posted.

These are connection I have grown and maintained over the past and were only built since I was regular on their pages and got noticed. There are some accounts which are way bigger than mine but they appear regularly on my page as well because I am regular on theirs. So try to give, to get.

United Bookstagram

Many of you might already know, I created a hashtag along with my sister @sumaiyya.books : #unitedbookstagram. This is to support smaller account who have just started on bookstagram. We try to like/comment on posts on the hashtag every single day. Use it, and be active on it. You’ll find some really great accounts who want to engage and grow with you.

I really hope this helps you if you are starting out. I honestly don’t know if any of this information is new to anyone, since these are almost basic tools/tips that I use daily which makes it seem like general knowledge!

If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog here and do share this post and help your fellow bookstagrammers!

Happy Reading!

Faroukh

@theguywiththebook