Reflections on Five Weeks of Bookstagram

Discussion Post

Five weeks ago, I decided to join the world of Bookstagram.  I read a few posts about how to get started and what to expect, but mostly I’ve been figured things out on my own.  Here are some of my thoughts after five weeks of activity.

I Didn’t Want a Theme–But Maybe I Have a Style

A lot of Instagram advice suggests that users stick to a theme; a theme makes your brand recognizable  and allows other uses to immediately identify your work.  The biggest bookstagrammers all seem to have themes.  However, I personally find themes limiting.  One of the things I love about photographing books is being able to create a photo inspired by an individual book. I want to design unique photos that capture a particular book’s cover colors or its themes; I don’t want to be stuck photographing every book on the same wooden floor or surrounded by the same props.  I don’t want all my photos to look the same.  However, I think all artists have a style even when they’re not consciously trying to make their art “match,” and this holds true for Instagram.   Even just five weeks in, I can often guess which of my friends have taken which photos in my feed, even when they don’t have a dedicated theme for their accounts.

shakespeare

I’m All About the Photos, Not the Captions

I go through my feed quickly, and 75% of the time I do not read the captions other users have posted with their photos.  There seem to be two general photo types on Bookstagram: photos of individual books and photos of multiple books all stacked up.  In the first case, it’s a good guess that the user either just acquired the book and has yet to read it, or they have already read it and liked it.  The captions just generally aren’t actual reviews or critiques. In the second case (photos of stacks of books), the focus of the photo is generally the appearance of the books.  They’re all pink, or they’re a rainbow, or they’re a gradient.   The photo isn’t about the content of the books, and neither is the caption, so I simply don’t read it.  I’m not sure if this is bad Instagram practice, but it makes me assume other people don’t pay much attention to captions either, and perhaps I shouldn’t be stressing too much over writing captions.

golden-son

I Don’t Know if People Are Liking Photos or Books

Since I’m still a newbie on Bookstagram, I don’t have ton of followers, and I’m probably averaging about 12 “likes” per photo.  However, the number of “likes” per photo does vary a little, and the results are often surprising to me.  Occasionally I take what I think is a really pretty photo (you know, if I do say so myself) that gets a mediocre “like” response, while a lower-quality or less creative photo of a better-known book gets a lot more “likes.”  My data on the subject is still limited, but my impression is that the reputation or popularity of the book in the photo can somewhat trump the quality of the photo itself.  (Quick, everyone, snap some pictures of Harry Potter to upload!)

lotr-bookmarks

Are you on Bookstagram? What do you think? Do you have a theme? Do you usually read the captions?

22 thoughts on “Reflections on Five Weeks of Bookstagram

  1. Adoptabookaus says:

    I started my insta last year and I like themes but just not for me, I’m like you with the I want to do what I want not stick to a certain aesthetic, although some other peoples themes are just so beautiful but I just can’t stick to it properly. I read the captions of people post and talk books on there as much as I can🙂

    I don’t know about if the book is popular or not but I’ve found that a stack of books or a shelfie is a lot more popular then when I just post a pic of one book no idea why :’)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      I do follow some people with some great themes. I would just get either bored or frustrated if I did it myself. I’d probably keep accidentally taking photos that didn’t fit. :p

      That’s true! I guess I like photos with stacks of books, too. Maybe they just look more impressive or something. :p

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joséphine says:

    I think part of the reason that photos featuring popular books gets more likes is that they’re searched for via hashtags more often. As a photo gets more “likes” and comments, the more it gets bumped up followers feeds too. This in turn increases the views on a photo, thus garnering more “likes”. I have had nicer photos with virtually unknown books gain more “likes” than my average too but it’s unusual when it happens. That being said, bookshelves seem to be the most popular types of posts. Haha.

    As for captions, I scan keywords as I scroll. I decide based on those if I want to read the caption. If I have all the time in the world, I read maybe two-thirds of the captions. If not, then maybe a quarter. I don’t follow that many people, though. I’d be too overwhelmed if I were to follow hundreds upon hundreds of people. I generally follow friends, bookstagrammers with great recs, and of course (most important to me), those who take great photos. Like you, I care about photos first, captions second. But captions and comments are the drivers of interactions, so I do try to make an effort.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Hashtags are a good point! I guess I don’t peruse them a lot myself yet, but it would definitely make sense if people are purposely searching for HP photos or Maas photos, etc.

      I also don’t know much about how the feed works, since I gather I joined after some algorithm update, but I did notice there seems to be a “popular” photos section. I can definitely see how being labelled “popular” gets you more likes and starts a whole cycle.

      That makes sense! I guess I actually skim for keywords, too, sometimes. I’ll skip captions that are random questions of the day, life updates from the user, etc, but if it looks like an actual comment on the book being featured, I’ll read it.

      Like

  3. Diana says:

    I joined Instagram recently after hearing about Bookstagram but I just can’t figure it out. I set up an account for my book blog but somehow it got linked to my personal facebook page and most of my friends are non-readers so now its like I talk to myself. I stopped using the account after a while. How did you get started? Did you set up a page for the blog? How do you get into Boostagram from Instagram? Sorry if they seem like basic questions.

    I really like your photos. They are so creative. Perhaps Bookstagram is like blogging whereby some posts are more popular not just because of the post itself but also other factors such as timing?

    Great post!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I didn’t purposely link my Facebook and Instagram accounts, but it does keep suggesting I follow my Facebook friends, so somehow the apps are communicating with each other, even without my approval.:/ I don’t post my photos to Facebook from Instagram, though, partially because I’m not sure yet if there’s a way to ensure it would post to my blog’s Facebook page and not to my personal account. Most of my friends probably wouldn’t be interested either. :p

      Thank you! I think you’re right that some other factors are in play. I post a lot of my photos around the same time, but sometimes I post ones later, around evening EST, and they don’t seem to do as well as ones I post earlier.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out for me or if I would even keep going. I was somewhat afraid I would be very bad at taking photos or I would simply lose interest, but so far so good! I don’t know if I’ll be doing it three years from now, but I at least wanted to check it out since the platform is so popular.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. alilovesbooks says:

    I have an instagram account but like Diana I accidentally linked to Facebook and can’t figure out how to unlink without my friends thinking I’ve ditched them. Consequently I post a mix of books and other things (cat, horse)

    As far as looking at others I can also be guilty of not reading the text. I usually like every book picture but am drawn to the ones of books I like.

    Generally though I mostly use it to follow some of my fave authors. Pierce Brown and Patrick Ness have great pics and text:)

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I don’t think I linked my Instagram to my Facebook, but it’s still aware I’m logged into Facebook because it keeps suggesting I follow the accounts of some of my FB friends. I really had no idea I knew so many people in real life who are on Instagram! I have no idea if it’s possible to get the accounts to stop speaking to each other. I generally try to separate my real life from my online life, and I don’t necessarily what the app recommending my blog Instagram to people I know.:/

      Yes! I skim text, but a lot of it I don’t read. It depends whether it’s an actual comment about the book or just a life update or random question.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Geraldine @ Corralling Books says:

    I think the last point you made is spot on! I’ve definitely found that anything Harry Potter related garners a lot more likes, but there are some outliers for me – some books that aren’t that popular still get lots of likes? It’s all very complicated!
    Are you enjoying bookstagram though? I hope you are – your photos are lovely, and they really reflect who you are!❤

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I haven’t actually taken any HP pics yet. so I should get on that! :p Some people are suggesting time of day, hashtag, algorithm, etc. so I guess a lot of factors do come into play.

      I am enjoying it so far! I wasn’t sure I would, but it’s quite fun!

      Like

  6. Sarah says:

    I like one of your early points, that you like taking photos that suit/celebrate the individual book, not a reoccurring “theme” in your account. I think that’s important.
    Also, those Lord of the Rings bookmarks are adorable!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Thanks! One of the reasons I didn’t join Bookstagram for so long was because I didn’t quite get the “point” of throwing a book on your floor and photographing it. Making the photo suit the book makes it seem more like art to me (not to insult anyone who does something different).

      Thanks! I bought the clip art because I realized multiple sellers are using it to sell the magnetic bookmarks that are so popular. The clip art set is only $6, so it’s cheaper to buy the art and create/print your own bookmarks if you want a bunch of them! I have some magnets lying around, actually, so I might try magnetic bookmarks next.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. wonderfilledreads says:

    I have a bookstagram account and am one of those people who doesn’t stick with a particular theme. My original idea was to have a theme but I got tired of seeing the same thing over and over so I did away with it. But you are so right about “likes”. Popular books definitely get more likes and certain hashtags do as well. I hate that Instagram changed their feed algorithm as I get so tired of seeing the same bookstagrammers all day long on my feed.

    Like

  8. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    Good question. I’ve also wondered if they’re liking the books or the pics. My highest liked post so far was a pic of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Great Gatsby together, and it’s an awesome pic, but I also wondered if it was because of the books or the composition. I didn’t realize I needed a style. I guess I’m failing at Bookstagram. 😂 I thought my style was book pics. Haha! I kinda go with the flow, but I know what you mean. Some people’s accounts almost every pic looks the same. There are always bright books, and lots of them, arranged in different ways. They sort of remind me of the same pic no matter how different.

    Like

  9. betwixt-these-pages says:

    I started my insta a couple of months ago and while I don’t necessarily have a “theme” I stick to, I DO know I have a pretty distinct style (or, at least, I HOPE it’s distinct!)

    Also, I agree–ten to one, I can always tell which photos were taken by my fave people–usually because their photos all have a certain quality or consistency I look up to and admire.🙂

    Like

  10. luvtoread says:

    There is such great pressure to have a theme and have pretty objects to go with the books on Bookstagram. My account doesn’t have a theme, I just try to take a picture of a book that makes sense (thematically & visually). I admire those that have themes, as they are generally beautiful and thoughtful, but at the same time I wonder where the spontaneity is. Everything looks too posed and perfect, but some themed accounts are absolutely stunning.
    With regards to captions, I do read the captions (if I have time) and I’m always confused by those who post captions that have nothing to do with their pictures.
    I’ve been uninspired lately so haven’t posted a pic in awhile but hope to gain inspiration soon.

    Like

  11. TeacherofYA says:

    I just started Instagram, so I’m a big newbie. I don’t have the time to take pretty pictures, but I love other people’s pics. I liked your Golden Sun one with the pine cone sun behind it! Absolutely original!
    I like the captions when it’s a particularly vague photo, like a single book plain photo, or a stack of books. I have just been putting up pics of books that I have acquired so that I have some idea how to make this thing work. For example, I took a pic of a rare find book today! It wasn’t gussied up but I was so excited that I wanted to share. Plus all the blogging and reading takes up a lot of my time (oh, and I have to write a focus paper on The Winter’s Tale, and I have no idea what to discuss! Maybe once I have an actual bookshelf in my room, I can take better pics that relate to the “Bookstagram” concept).
    Congrats on your beautiful photos! 👏👏👏👏

    Like

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