Never judge a bookstagram by its cover
By Maisie Scott
Instagram is an aesthetics driven form of social media, and that also impacts bookstagram accounts. The algorithm privileges the images with the best editing and shots as well as interaction. To gain follower engagement you have to use arresting images which will stop Instagram users from just scrolling past.
Books also take an aesthetic or visual form. Although there is a lot more to books than what meets the eye, we are all guilty of judging a book by its cover. The sleeve jackets of books and the particular colour and cover design that are used now target millennial and Gen-Z consumer interests.
Instagram and books intersect in the form of bookstagrams. Alice Porter covered ‘How instagram made books cool again’ in a 2020 Mancunion article. Porter discusses how publishers are now catering to the demands of Instagram algorithms. Book publishers now opt for creating insta-friendly sleeve jackets which are ‘aesthetically pleasing’.
Over our series on UK bookstagrams we have spoken to several people about the importance of aesthetics and interaction. Last week we went ‘Behind the bookstagram’ and spoke to @i_likebigbooks. The final account in our series is @letmegiveyouabook which is run by Martina. The content Martina produces creatively makes use of Instagram posts, reels and stories.
Bookstagram spotlight: @letmegiveyouabook
What’s been your best lockdown read so far, and why?
My best read so far is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s quite a long book, but so worth it! The novel has the perfect mix of everything: mystery, a bit of drama, crime investigation, and unforgettable characters. The book haunts you until you finish reading it. I wrote my first big review for Goodreads about The Secret History and you can find it here.
Tell us about the book that began your love for reading.
I’ve been reading ever since I was little! My sister would take me to the library and (back in the days when we didn’t even have phones) I had so much fun reading. I loved exploring colorful pages and creating my own plots and characters.
It wasn’t long after that I started writing my own short kids poems and short stories. But I guess that the book which was a milestone for me was Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. The book left a great impact on me, and I completely fell in love with the idea that the written word is a glue that keeps us all together regardless of our life story, background, what we do, what we dream of or what we’re afraid of.
What motivates you to post on your books insta?
Engagement! Seeing that people can read the same book and experience it from so many different perspectives excites me so much. My flatmate and I have contrasting opinions on loads of books, so can you imagine just how many different thoughts we can hear from thousands of people over social media.
I love seeing all the bookish trends, and I’ve honestly made some great friendships with booksta gals from all over the world. Without my bookstagram I wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with them.
How important are aesthetics with book pictures on insta, and what’s your vibe?
My insta is all about the content! I don’t take photos of my books nor do I follow a certain vibe. My posts are digital creations that I create to fit with the book I’ve just read. Currently I’m working on an insta reel where I will try to convince people to read The Secret History by showing them what kind of aesthetic and vibe they can experience when reading this book. In this particular case the focus is dark academia which is currently very popular.
Which of your posts has received the most engagement so far?
The most engagement I’ve received so far is from a reel that’s dedicated to letting my followers choose their dream library aesthetic! I was not surprised by the high engagement because people love to see content that is tailored for them. Posts like that are what motivated me to start in the first place. So, instead of making content about me I try to take an approach which makes it about my fellow book lovers.
So, in terms of content creation how do you edit your photos and how long does the process take?
I edit most of my photos using Canva, AirBrush and LightRoom. It takes at least one hour to prepare a good quality photo/carousel and 2-3 hours to prepare a relevant reel or TikTok. Often I repurpose my content for different channels, but from now on I am mainly focusing on TikTok.
Video is definitely the future of content marketing and with the TikTok algorithm (which in my opinion works undoubtedly better than IG), even bookstagrammers should embrace this change.
The trick with books related content within traditional media is to use as many words as possible e.g. long reviews, book descriptions etc. However, the average person’s attention span is 12 seconds and it is dropping lower by the day. Time to hop on the TikTok train!
How do you navigate your relationship with Instagram and your mental health whilst maintaining a bookstagram account?
This is such an important topic – it is proven that likes, comments, follows on social media produce dopamine in our brain; a chemical that’s associated with pleasure.
I’ll quote a New York University professor Adam Alter here: ‘When someone likes an Instagram post, or any content that you share, it’s a little bit like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned, it’s a very similar experience’. Very dangerous stuff, right?
Many years ago I decided to delete my personal Instagram account because it became too much for me. Even before Insta stories, reels or IGTV, I’d spend hours and hours scrolling around Instagram, and at one point I decided that it was enough.
But with a bookstagram account it’s very different. The book community that I’ve experienced so far is all about supporting diversity, embracing opinions, sharing and learning rather than displaying a faux picture of ‘a perfect life’.
What I absolutely love is that on booksta, mental health talk is present and you can talk about it openly. My very first post on Instagram was dedicated to recommending books that calm one’s anxiety. First instagram post. Many people DM’ed me after this post saying they haven’t even thought about using books as a supporting tool on their mental health journey.
Are there any habits you practice around reading? If so, please share them with us!
I take notes! It might sound funny, but I get so inspired when reading that I just have to jot down points. Afterwards I use my notes for reviews, insta posts, and insta stories. Also, after a good book I take a long walk (without headphones!) and simply enjoy the world I just came from after finishing a book!
Please give Martina a follow @letmegiveyouabook and support her creative insta posts and reels. You can also find Martina’s TikTok account by searching the same handle.