Here’s a pretty picture of a book I hated: A guide to bookstagram

I started bookstagram over two years ago and I feel like I’ve learnt enough to be able to help other newbies just starting out. Before you read my advice just remember there is no magical formula to growing your account. I do believe that who you are, what you read and what you offer your audience ultimately decides how your account grows and not necessarily your pictures themselves. That said hopefully this rather comprehensive guide will help you a little bit particularly in avoiding common mistakes that I myself made when I was just beginning.

Avoid spammy shoutout for shoutouts.

Controversial I know and I am very guilty of doing this myself in my early days on bookstagram. I’ve both followed new accounts I’ve seen in shout outs and unfollowed people for spamming there story on a regular basis. So my advice is to avoid shoutout for shoutout sessions/posts altogether and keep how many accounts your shouting out to a minimum. Honestly there’s nothing more annoying than loading and clicking through 40 shoutouts just to see that account finish with “I’ll catch up with the rest of the shoutouts tomorrow”.

Don’t get locked into a theme

I see people so many times saying they are bored of there theme and want to try someone new but are worried about losing followers? Unless you basically stop being a bookstagram changing your theme will not cause 100s of accounts to unfollow you. Experimentation is good and helps you grow. Your pictures will only get better. I’ve changed my theme a bunch of times and I’ve never noticed a mass exodus. If anything I think followers like seeing something new and also while I’m talking about themes…

Please don’t use theme dividers

Pointless pictures that fill up my feed is what theme dividers look like to me. Why people even feel the need for dividers in the first place is beyond me. Just change your theme.

Try not to interact with people just to get them to follow you

This includes following, liking all their pictures, commenting etc. If you are just doing it for follows you are going to be disappointed. I’ve totally done this myself when all I wanted was my account to grow and in the beginning it’s hard. Definitely engage with and follow accounts you like, like however many photos you want but don’t do it with the expectation you will get something in return.

Be yourself

I’m quite a ranty person and I’m not afraid to share my opinion. My bookstagram is entirely me and not a version of myself that people might find more acceptable. I’m sure there’s people who find me negative or opinionated etc. But in being myself I’ve found other people on bookstagram who are like me who I now consider friends. Don’t change yourself or your opinions (just to be clear I’m not saying being racist, homophobic or anything is okay cos duh that’s not). Didn’t like a book? Love an unpopular series? Share it.

Invest your time

I see people post once every few weeks and then complain that they don’t have a big account. Well you won’t because there’s thousands of bookstagram accounts and you need to be consistent. Unfortunately if you’re looking to grow your account going part time just won’t work. There’s very few accounts I have seen do this and they are hugely popular booktubers with 100k followers. Most of time you need to be posting at least once a day. You need to be liking posts, commenting and replying. Starting conversations and asking questions. Sharing things on your story. It’s a huge commitment and you need to spend your time everyday to grow your account.

Give people something to respond to

I will like every photo but I only comment when the caption gives me something that I can easily respond to. Ask questions, play games, do a vote. Try to be original and creative.

Find your unique selling point

Pretty pictures are fine but you need something that helps you stand out. Do you have lots of beautiful rare books? Do you love to give recommendations based on popular books? Do you get sent a lot of arcs? Do you have a pet hedgehog or a cute cat? Do you make book merch? Do you go to a lot of book events? Do you have a book buying problem or buy a lot of merch? Do you primarily read romance or fantasy or horror? Play to your strengths. Being known for anything on bookstagram will hugely when it comes to being recognised and growing your account.

Your pictures aren’t original.

Okay maybe they are but mostly they’ve been done before in some form or another. We are all taking thousands of pictures of books everyday. There’s going to be some crossover. I’m guilty of this and I’ve seen this a few times but getting mad at people for taking a picture similar as yours is never going to end well. If they are genuinely copying your every photo just block and move on. There’s nothing you can do at the end of the day and it won’t impact your account.

Use your stories

Honestly I love peoples stories most of the time. Particularly unboxing of book boxes I didn’t buy. I went on holiday recently and I was asked by someone to put my holiday snaps into a highlight. Stories let us see the person behind the account (if you don’t take photos with yourself in them) and I get a much better feel for your personality.

Don’t tag authors in negative reviews

I’ve done this, people still do it, and authors don’t like it. I was once in the awkward situation of being asked to review an authors e-book. I did and I gave it 3 stars and explained why I didn’t like it that much. I tagged her in the review like she requested and she went off to read what I had said. I didn’t hear what she thought but I wasn’t exactly nice in my review. I wouldn’t say this was strictly my fault but I’ve since learned in that situation the best thing to do is not review at all and definitely don’t tag.

Im going to stop this guide here before it gets too long but look out for Part 2 in the fire. I hope reading about my own experiences on bookstagram will help you with your own account.

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.

What nobody could tell me about book blogging: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

This post has probably been done loads before but I wanted to offer my perspective.

When I started my bookstagram I was a student and had plenty of free time. My account grew pretty quickly in a year as I had loads of time to take photos and I was posting twice a day. Now my time is EXTREMELY limited I am really feeling the pressure and I have become much more aware of negative behaviours that I adopted and how using social media everyday can have a big impact on your life.

Don’t worry this post isn’t going to just focus on the negative, I want to highlight the good parts about book blogging too and please remember this post is filled with my honest and frank opinions that you may or may not agree with.

Here’s what nobody told me about book blogging both good and bad:

Social media stats are important

Social media by design is very competitive because everything is quantified. You are literally told in numerous different ways how many people like you, how many peopled like your posts even how many people said Happy Birthday to you. In social media world this literally all ads up to how many care about your existence and how many don’t or at least it can feel that way.

Everyone says book blogging isn’t about the likes BUT everyone gets down about lack of engagement and losing followers just as much as they get excited and celebrate hitting X amount of followers. Your social media stats can make you feel great or like crap and this can be hard to deal with everyday.

Social media stats matter in book blogging, the bigger your account the more likely you will receive arcs from publishers, be chosen as a rep for book boxes and get all the fun perks of a huge following that you see other accounts get on a DAILY basis.

I’m not going to tell you what to do with this information but it’s just a harsh truth of book blogging that you will care about how big your accounts are and you will feel pressured and sad when you don’t grow as fast as your friends or you start losing engagement because you couldn’t post for a while.

The FOMO is real

You will see people get amazing proof copies and special edition books and book boxes everyday and eventually you will want to be part of that. My bank account has taken a SERIOUS hit since I started book blogging and my advice is this:

Try not to get sucked in.

I am saying this as both a past rep for book boxes and someone who sells book merch. Merchandise and beautiful covers are GREAT but your bank account won’t think so, so try and limit yourself. Don’t think you need loads of book merchandise to be a book blogger because you don’t and DON’T think it will increase your following/engagement.

I’ve drastically cut down on the book boxes I buy this year because I find myself with drawers of stuff I’ve bought and no where to put it and honestly most of it is random stuff I don’t need. I have lip balms and hot chocolates and face masks and iron-on patches and tea towels that I am never going to use.

Don’t try and keep up with the accounts who are getting it for free. Try to be really discerning and focus on merchandise for books YOU LOVE.

ARCS are great but..

Don’t convince yourself you’re going to read them all and keep requesting more. You won’t. I don’t now. This relates to the FOMO because when I see a beautiful exciting new release available I want it too. But then it arrives and it sits on my shelf and I start feeling pressured because I KNOW I don’t have time to read them all but it doesn’t stop me from requesting more?

It’s vicious cycle and can be addictive to be recognised and rewarded for all your hard work with an ARC but if you feel like you have too many it’s time to re-evaluate.

I feel very lucky I made the friends I did

For a long time I felt very lonely book blogging. It felt like nobody really wanted to have a real conversation, comments were made just so I would return the favour. People only followed me so I would follow them. This changed last year when I was invited to a group chat and ended up meeting a few of the girls on there at YALC later that year. At YALC me and two of the girls really hit off and have spoken and met up in London since.

I think you do eventually manage to make friends but in the beginning it feels like you are sliding into people’s DMs and being like “Hey wanna be friends?”.

Location is everything

I am a book blogger in the UK and I know I am extremely PRIVILEGED to have access to the publishers, arcs, and amazing bookshops like Waterstones and Goldsboro that we have here. But even in the UK there is an extremely limited amount of ARCs to go around compared to the USA and when the majority of bloggers are American you start to notice.

Also I may live in the UK but most of the fantastic blogger events and signings happen in London during the week. I am a 4 hour train ride away from London and can’t exactly hop down that after getting home from work at 18:30. They friends I made on bookstagram can see each other once a month while I can manage about every 3-4 months. It’s hard not to feel left out.

You will definitely feel limited and frustrated by your geographical location.

The algorithm is god

I would love to be one of those accounts who can post once a week and get thousands of people liking and commenting but I’m just not that popular. So I have to post once a day  or run the risk of disappearing altogether and that is a tremendous amount of pressure when like I said I’m out of the house for at least 12 hours everyday.

I often resort to re-posting old pictures. It sucks but it’s far better than the alternative and I can’t always make myself come home and spend half an hour taking one photo.

The only thing you can do is stop caring and focus more on your mental and physical health instead.

Meeting and speaking to authors you love is the best

I have tweeted at Jay Kristoff quite a few times now and when he’s responded or laughed at my bad jokes and I think this is unique to the publishing world. Writers take the time to speak to us, like our posts, share our artwork, appreciate our designs and laugh at our bad jokes.

Book blogging gives you the opportunity to speak to the people you admire most and crack banter with them. That makes it totally worth it.

Book series I started but haven’t finished

I’d like to start this post by saying that I’m a notorious procrastinator and my free time is very limited. This is a very bad combo when it comes to loving and reading books. I have a tendency to start a series and then for some reason completely abandon it for a year and I can never remember how or why I didn’t finish. Hopefully this post will actually help me as I can see what I need to finish and make a start on. First off…

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Illuminae Files by Aime Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

This is the one I feel most guilty about. I loved A.I.D.A.N and apparently Gemina is the best one in the series but for some reason I just never finished reading the rest. I have pre-ordered two copies of Aurora Rising and have the arc so I’ll probably try and binge this series and that book all in one go.

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Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I picked this up in January and I was meaning to read the rest but then life happened and I decided to work on reading Muse of Nightmares instead. Like Illuminae I’ve been told the second book is better and after what goes down in the first book I am really curious to see where this series will go. SPOILER: The first book reads like an entire trilogy and I was GOBSMACKED with how it ended.

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Firebird Series by Claudia Gray

I read the first two books last year when I borrowed them from the library. I didn’t LOVE the books but I’ve been thinking a lot recently I really should find out how it ended. There was a really good twist in the second book that made me want to get the third but I just never did.

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The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

This is another one I didn’t give a very good rating to, but I kind of liked the romance if not the dumb love triangle that was brewing. So I was interested to see how it ended but apparently not enough to pick it up a year and half later.

Comment below a book series you started but haven’t finished!

Controversial opinion: My thoughts on ARCs.

So Harper Voyager dropped a UK Arc of DarkDawn recently and it got me thinking about ARC’s. I wanted to come at this purely from a Book Blogger perspective as obviously I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in publishing. I can only see what publishers, authors, booksellers etc openly tweet about so this is definitely more an opinion piece than a factual look at the situation.

Arcs are pretty coveted commodity within the book community and I think we all know this. ARC’s in theory have two purposes – marketing for the book through giveaways, photos, unboxings etc and increasing awareness through reviews and word of mouth recommendation.

ARC’s also act as payment. Bookbloggers get literally nothing for their time but the book they are being asked to market/review. Sometimes this is a finished copy and sometimes this is an ARC. An entire community of free marketers, publicists and consumers that exists around books and the only thing we get for the hours of reading, writing and photography is the book itself. It’s nice to get something tangible to keep for all those hours.

I think the black market that has sprung up around ARC’s changed the game. People didn’t just want ARC’s to read, but also to collect or trade and even sell. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to trade ARC’s (I’ve done it myself) but something that was already pretty sought after has become a hugely valuable commodity and now even more difficult to get.

I think now there is bad feeling and in-fighting within the book community over who gets ARC’s, why and what they end up doing with them. People hate people who request ARC’s to trade them later. People don’t like it when others use their status to get access to ARC’s to trade whilst people with less followers who would love the book are getting ignored. No one likes seeing bigger accounts getting thrown ARC’s everyday and when you know they can’t read them all.

I think something needs to change.

With the amount of ARC’s that end up for sale on ebay, it is pretty clear that more care needs to be taken when choosing who gets a copy. Huge bookstagram accounts and bloggers with massive followings shouldn’t be just getting thrown ARC’s of books they didn’t even know existed.

I can definitely understand some book bloggers frustration with the situation.

For example with the DarkDawn UK ARC, that is a hugely anticipated release and you know people will be dying to get their hands on it for whatever reason. TO BE CLEAR I love Harper Voyager. I’ve been dying to get on their blogger list for years, they pretty much publish all my favourite books. However I didn’t think it was fair to post a photo of a hugely sought after ARC and follow up immediately with “Proofs are rarer than Hen’s teeth. So don’t even try it”. If they aren’t publicly available then don’t publicly announce it? It also didn’t help seeing someone who works for Harper Voyager ask for one and immediately get told it’s on it’s way. I’m not saying this person shouldn’t get one but maybe do it in a less public way?

Situations like this can be a bit of a slap in the face. From a blogger’s perspective the ONE thing we get as some sort of payment/reward whatever for our work is the very book we talk about. No one likes to feel under valued and it feels like book bloggers are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to getting ARC’s.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

P.S I obviously can’t speak for all bloggers and I don’t think I’m trying to, so if you’re opinion is different that’s totally cool. Arcs aren’t hugely important to me, I’ve requested a fair few and received a few and I don’t really collect them unless the cover is gorgeous. I read what I can when I can and I always make sure to take a photo for the gram.

Popular Book Series I didn’t like..

I’d like to start by saying that this list is not an insult to the authors. I have other books by most of the authors mentioned that I LOVED I just didn’t particularly enjoy these and I’m going to be very honest and blunt about why.

 

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab

Kicking off with the one that makes people GASP. I tried really hard with this series but I GENUINELY was falling asleep reading this. People RAVE about these books but to me it just felt empty and kinda quiet. Like the world was really restricted and not built up. I was curious as to what happened to black London but not enough to keep me reading unfortunately.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

So this series started off really well for me. I actually really enjoyed the first two books. Side note though: I’m very surprised these books are YA considering the pretty disturbing and graphic scene in the second book. Out of all the books I’ve ever read that scene shocked and disturbed me the most. This series went downhill for me in the final book which I was totally bored by and skimmed to the end. However I LOVE Strange the Dreamer and if you struggled with this don’t skip that series.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

So this is an interesting one on my list because I have actually read the entire series. I was never fussed about Aelin, Rowan was basically furniture for all the personality he had and Chaol (imo) was just straight up racist/prejudiced. The only reason I kept reading was because of Manon who is one of my favourite fictional characters ever and I’m praying she gets her own spin off.

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Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

So this book is compared to Game of thrones a lot which is a big mistake. If you wanna know how much less world-building and characterisation there is in this book compared to Game of Thrones take a look at the map. Huge landmass with three blobs for cities and that’s it. This book was just bland for me and didn’t offer anything new or interesting to keep reading.

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I think Joseph gives anyone enough of a reason to hate this series but the insta-love doesn’t help either. My issue with this book mainly was pacing, a lot of nonsense goes down and the big climaxes fell flat. I thought I was intrigued enough to continue the series but it turns out I wasn’t.

What I have learnt about myself is that I don’t tend to enjoy popular YA fantasy that much. The YA fantasy I have enjoyed has actually turned out to be New Adult with a few exceptions.

My most anticipated releases of 2019

I am the first one to admit that I am horrible at keeping track of new releases. I basically live under a rock and I usually don’t know a book is publishing until it hits the shelves. But I realised for this year I am actually aware of several releases a few of which I’ve already pre-ordered. However this might have something to do with the fact most of them are the biggest releases of the year for fantasy/YA but we will ignore this fact.

The first and most obvious is…

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Aurora Rising By Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

I risked my job two days in a row to pre-order the pretty sprayed-edged Goldsboro edition of this book and I’ve got my Illumicrate subscription ready to go for May. Now full disclosure I’ve only read Illuminae which I loved but I’m pretty certain I will love this book too. I was lucky enough to receive an arc a few months ago which I’m planning to read a bit closer to the release date. Not that this book needs much hyping, I myself was hooked from this line alone:

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.”

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Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

This list does not exist without Darkdawn. Nevernight is one of my favourite fantasy series of all time and I CANNOT WAIT to find out what happens to Mia. For me the final book in a series can be hit or miss but I am reasonably confident Jay Kristoff won’t disappoint with this conclusion. Unlike another book I read recently *cough* Queen of Air and Darkness *cough*. I have two copies of this book on the way and YOU KNOW I will be refreshing like mad for the Illumicrate special edition Darkdawn box.

“Hogwarts but with violence and sex”

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Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

This book is the first in a new trilogy and I actually don’t know much about it. I’ve heard it’s dark fantasy, there’s a forbidden romance and I’ve seen some references to The Darkling. Whose one of the best morally grey villains ever so I’ll definitely be reading this.

“Prepare for a snow frosted, blood drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare”

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The last Hours: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Story time: The Infernal Devices series is by far the best Shadowhunter trilogy. The only downside to reading these books IMO is that you have to get through The Mortal Instruments series to understand them. Then along came The Dark Artifices series and I was BLOWN AWAY Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows was amazing. Until Queen of Air and Darkness came along and basically recycled the plot of The Mortal Instruments whilst focusing way to heavily on Clary, Jace and the gang. So technically out of the 12 books I’ve read written by Cassandra Clare I’ve only loved 5 of them. Not great odds.

HOWEVER, The last hours trilogy is set in Edwardian London and is set after the events of The Infernal Devices series so I am HYPED. My favourite characters Will Herondale and Tessa Gray will be back, I get a beautiful old London setting to relive and BONUS: Clary and Jace aren’t even born yet so there is no way they are gonna be popping in.

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Ninth House By Leigh Bardugo

I am going to be honest here and tell you I have absolutely no idea what this book is about but it’s Leigh Bardugo and it looks dark and broody. And we all know that Leigh Bardugo does DARK and BROODY very well indeed. This is adult fiction and it sounds like it’s gonna be urban-fantasy but I am excited to read something a bit different.

“Welcome to a world of secret societies and the occult”

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I’ve seen this one a lot on Twitter and it’s definitely one of the more hyped YA Fantasy releases. I’ve got my eye on it as I don’t often read fantasy inspired by Ancient Arabia and this book just looks magical. I’ve also seen an enemies to lovers situation which is 100% my weakness.

“People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.”

Comment below any books I have failed to mention that you think I should be looking out for this year.