Author Toolbox

How to Set Up Instagram to Grow Your Author Business #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

It’s time for a new adventure with this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

Welcome to the third year of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join. Non-writing publishing peeps (editors, book-marketing specialists, book-cover designers, picture-book illustrators, etc.) are welcome, too.

There have been several posts recently on how to use Instagram, but I didn’t find that they covered everything you need to know to use it properly to grow your author business. So I did a bit of research: Instagram is a powerful marketing tool for business (no matter which business you are in).

What is Instagram?

It’s a social media network with an emphasis on mobile use and visual sharing. You can follow other users and be followed by them. You can like posts, comment on posts and send private messages.

You can get the Instagram app for free on your iOS or Android device. You can access it from a computer, but you can only upload and share images from your mobile device.

Who is it best for?

Research has shown that the young adult demographic (18-29) are all using Instagram, so if you write for this age-group, then you definitely need to connect with your readers there.

How to set up your account.

Go to Instagram and sign up with your email and a password.

Fill in your profile, add your profile pic (your author photo) and link to your website/blog. Remember to set your profile to public.

Set up a business account.

To see your analytics, of course. (And to use scheduling tools. See below.)

  1. Go to your profile and tap the three stripes/dots.
  2. Tap settings.
  3. Tap Switch to Business Profile.
  4. Add your category (books) and contact information (an email address if you like).
  5. Done.

Plan your content.

Using this social media channel – just like all the others – is about expanding your brand. Plan things out ahead so you’ll have clarity about the message you want to send. This means you’ll post 80% stuff unrelated to the release of your new book, 15% stuff related to your new book (like cover teasers) and only 5% about your book (reviews, blurbs, buy links, etc.) that won’t annoy your followers and still bring them some value and entertainment.

How authors can use Instagram.

  • Photos of your current WIP (even a little blurry).
  • Cover reveals (partial or blurry to build the excitement).
  • Photos of short lines you wrote (your own handwriting on paper with an interesting background).
  • Photos of your surroundings (where you take your morning walk, an interesting outing, etc.)
  • Photos of your pets (it makes you relatable).
  • Inspirational quotes.
  • Quotes from your books.
  • Author events you attend (can be of the people, your books on display, etc.).
  • Anything visually interesting that works with your brand (like that number plate you saw that is hilarious and in tune with the car chase you wrote about in your latest thriller/cosy mystery/chicklit novel).

Test everything.

There’s no silver bullet (werewolf pun intended) to tame the beast that is social media: you have to test when you should post (how a post performs), what you should post (how it resonates with others), and how frequently you should post. Once you know all of this (use your analytics tool in your business account), you can schedule your posts accordingly (if you like automation to some degree).

Engage and grow your account organically.

You should start out by following your friends from other social media networks, liking and commenting on their posts, and seeing where that leads you. (This is a good way to make sure your profile appears alongside similar ones in algorithms.)

You can also go through their follower lists to see if anyone there appeals to you.

Respond to comments in your feed, ask questions in your captions and chime in on other conversations. Show that you are a real person. Don’t copy-and-paste anything into a conversation – that’s spam and it doesn’t make anyone feel special.

Then do the following:

  • Decide who do you want to connect with. Other writers? Then create posts that appeal to writers. The same with readers, animal lovers, etc.
  • Decide on a posting frequency. Just like with other social media channels, your followers want a general idea of when something new will appear in your feed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your Twitter followers to check out your Instagram feed – they might love it and follow you there as well (#truestory).
  • Remember to use hashtags. (See below.)
  • Use emojis – we use them everywhere else, so why not here?

Don’t fake it ‘til you make it.

Never. Never. Never. Buy. Followers.

Not only is that sleazy, but Instagram recently announced that they will remove inauthentic likes/follows/comments from third party apps that boost popularity. So why waste your hard earned money on something like that?

You want people to like you for you, not for how many followers you have.

Scheduling Apps for Instagram.

Because we love automation! Just remember: to be able to use scheduling apps on Instagram, you have to have a business profile. (It’s easy to switch. Check info above.)

  • ScheduGram (upload and edit photos from anywhere on the web, bulk upload multiple posts to schedule, analytics, drag-and-drop layouts, a favourite among a lot of users. Free trial, $25 per month up to $260 a month and a custom price).
  • Onlypult (upload directly from your PC, one week free trial then paid plans from $15-$79 per month, unlimited posting, schedule multiple posts).
  • Later (free accounts: 30 photos per month, post photos, search and repost content. Paid accounts from $9-$49 per month: 250 posts per month, post photos and videos, search and repost content. They also send you helpful emails about new trends on Instagram. You can use this scheduling tool for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, no matter the plan you’re on. The big thing that influences price is the amount of social profiles per platform, the number of users, and how many posts you can schedule a month per platform. So here’s the rub: they don’t post updates on Instagram for you, they will send you a reminder of when it is time to post. Then you have to approve it and post from the mobile or web app.)
  • TakeOff (part of Crowdfire. Free: 10 scheduled posts per account. Paid starts at $7.48-$74.98 per month: 100 scheduled posts per account. They support scheduling on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram on the free plan and Pinterest is added on the paid plans.)
  • Viral Tag (free trial, then several payment plans) You can use this one for Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn. You can schedule in bulk – even for an entire month. You can customise your message for each social media network even while using the same image and link. It automatically recycles (reposts) your top performing evergreen content. And you’ll get reports on how your posts have done on each network that is linked to the service.
  • Hootsuite (30-day free trial. Schedule Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Free plan: 3 social profiles, 30 scheduled messages. Paid plans from $29-$129 per month.)
  • Buffer (Free trials available. Free plan: 3 social accounts, 10 scheduled posts. Paid plans from $15-$399 per month: 8-150 social accounts depending on price plan, 100-2000 scheduled posts depending on price plan. Schedules to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram on the free plan, Pinterest is added to paid plans. You can schedule posts, but it won’t post them on Instagram for you – they’ll send you a notification and you have to post it yourself.)

Great hashtags to use.

Hashtags are how things are sorted on Instagram. You can use as many as you like – though some agree that more than ten might be a little crazy if you’re only writing something like “Check how cute Caitlin today. #Rottweiler #Rottweilers #Rottweilertales #Rottweilerpuppy #RottweilersofInstagram #Rottweilerlife #furbaby #petstagram #nofilterphoto”.

I’m sure there are hashtags for all dog breeds 🙂 Usually I find the hashtag I want to use by letting the app suggest something when I start typing in after # what I’m searching for – it’s a great way to see what is popular at that moment.

Here is a list to get you started. (Capitals can change as the algorithms change.)

For books.



















For pets.









For writing.













Do you use Instagram? Any tips you’d like to share?

Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free ebook. I won’t share your information and I’ll only email you once a month with updates on new releases, special offers, and a bit of news.

*This was an extract from my new book The 30 Day Author Platform Challenge.

30 day author platform challenge book

Go from invisible to searchable in 30 days.

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Series: Non-Fiction @ Ronel the Mythmaker

Volume number: 1

Not sure how to get started on building your author platform? Not sure what an author platform is? Then this is the book for you.

Includes how tos on the various social media networks and writing tips. Helps to define your writing goals and who you are as a writer. Helps with community building and getting your name on the map.

Some parts of the book can be found on the author’s website, but this is a complete updated version for 2019.

The author originally ran a 20 day Basics of Author Online Presence Challenge on Writer to Writers in 2017 – this is the superpower version of that challenge with loads more information and tasks.

There are PDF worksheets to download and homework to get the most of the lessons. There are also customisable to-do lists to help you keep track of your various platforms and what you have to do every week.

Get as an ebook from your favourite online retailer.

Get in print from Amazon.

35 thoughts on “How to Set Up Instagram to Grow Your Author Business #AuthorToolboxBlogHop”

  1. I got pretty serious about instagram a few months ago, when someone kinda important hinted I needed to take it seriously. I’m struggling, because my phone camera is awful with low light, and my house is so dark and it’s -40C out, lol. I’m in the middle of a big edit at the moment, so I’ll pick it up again in a month or so. 🙂 I tend to use #bookstagram or variations of it more than anything else at the moment.

    1. Thanks for the hashtag! Have you tried editing photos on Canva? It’s a bit of a long way around ’cause you have to load it to your phone again, but you can adjust contrast, etc. and make collages. I’ve done it to make some of my less brilliant photos tell a story 🙂

  2. Thanks for the list of scheduling apps. I use scheduling for Twitter but not for instagram as I tend to post less on Instagram. A scheduling app would be great. Some days are more ‘instagram-worthy’ than others!

  3. I struggled with Instagram for a while but I seem to have found my groove recently.
    Great post! You’ve provided so many book-related tags that I’m going to start using.

  4. I tried to use Instagram last year, but I got overwhelmed by social media in general because of the recommendation to post so often and the volume of notifications when I did (Something I struggle with a lot!) My Twitter has fallen by the wayside, and the only thing I’ve been doing for months is hosting my hashtag game. I want to make another go of that, and Instagram, this year, and I love your list of ideas for how authors can use Instagram. Thanks for sharing this detailed guide 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Louise 🙂 I’ve found that I only need to post once a week to have great engagement on Instagram. As for posting often — that’s what automation is for: you set it up once and it looks like you’re around more than you are 😉

      1. Once a week for Instagram is what I’m planning to try now, so that’s a relief 🙂
        I’ve always shied away from automation. I like to be around to reply to comments right away because the connection feels more real. (Of course, it’s more work, and if I forget to post I can go a week with nothing on Twitter!) The only thing I do schedule is my weekly writing prompt. If I did that on the day chances are I’d forget!

  5. I’m still learning Instagram. I’m no good with taking pictures, and I’m not artsy enough to keep up with a ‘theme’ like I see so many doing. I like to joke that I am consistently inconsistent with my content. It’s a mix, but it’s all me so I go with it for now. LOL Thank you for the hashtags. Those are the greatest mystery.

  6. I love that you included hashtags! I’m always on the lookout for new ones. Instagram has become my primary social media platform (unless you include YouTube). I’m particularly fond of images, just still working out how best to connect my author brand through them. I haven’t heard of some of those apps you mentioned, thanks for sharing! In case you haven’t heard of it, I have had a lot of success with the Preview app. 🙂

  7. No, I haven’t tried instagram–yet! I have enough trouble finding original content on the social media channels I have already. You offer clear instructions for instagram, though, so I’ve marked it to hopefully use it later. All best to you!

  8. Thank you for the great post! I use Instagram all of the time. It’s my favorite social media, though I am also a photographer and focus on that with my ‘gram. Maybe I should start using it for my writing too!


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