How to use Pinterest to Promote Your Book

by Joel Friedlander on October 4, 2013 · 28 comments

Post image for How to use Pinterest to Promote Your Book

by Courtney Gordner (@CourtGordner)

I’ve been trying to get some time to explore the hugely popular social site Pinterest, but without much luck. I get traffic from the boards I do have there, and the biggest one is for the winners of the monthly Ebook Cover Design Awards. So it was good timing when Courtney Gordner told me she’d like to give readers some ideas about how to use this site to promote their books. Here’s her report.



Almost everyone takes part in social media in some way, whether it’s just for work or for personal pleasure. But even those who don’t know much about social media are familiar with some of the bigger sites, like Facebook and Twitter.

But those are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • There’s LinkedIn, which is designed to help you build a professional network;
  • Vine, which grants users a creative outlet through which they can watch and make 7 second long videos;
  • Instagram, which provides a similar service as Vine only with an emphasis on photography rather than film;

and many more. But one network in particular has become very popular very quickly: Pinterest.

Pinterest takes the concept of a personal bulletin board and applies it to an online forum, allowing members to create multiple boards about various topics on which they can “pin” as many lists, pictures, videos, and links as they desire.

Then they can share their boards, allowing their pins to be repined by others. And this is primarily what makes it such a useful tool for authors.

Linking

While Pinterest allows you to create a visually pleasing and informative virtual corkboard, the primary purpose is to use videos and pictures to link to other websites. For an author, this means linking to your own website. To do that, however, you need to make sure there are pictures on your site. They can be:

  • book covers,
  • book trailers,
  • illustrations from your novel,
  • fan art,
  • even a picture of you and your family.

Then, by sharing your pins on your other social media profiles, you can create even more traffic on your sites.

If you build a connection from your Pinterest page to your website and social media accounts, you’ll increase your traffic. One way authors do this is having contests for readers to participate in.

For example, Nicholas Sparks recently held a contest on Instagram to promote his book signing.  Part of the contest was to link to his Facebook page in your comments. In one contest he is promoting two social media sites and his book signing all at the same time.

Pinterest Nicholas Sparks

Instead of Instagram you could promote this on Pinterest and link it with Twitter, or whatever social media mix that seems right for you.

Contests are a great way to interact with fans, link to your other sites and social media pages which will increase traffic. Get creative and tailor the contest to your needs and your fan base. Play off of the themes of various books to keep the contests fresh.

For example, if your book takes place in a poker casino, you might make your contest about “Lady Luck,” where fans tweet their pictures of them going against the odds.

If your book is about a police officer, you might encourage readers to share their stories about their experiences with public service, or with the police. Get creative!

Other uses

Pinterest is used by writers in a number of ways. Some use it to promote book covers, others use it to create individual boards for each of their stories so that readers can get some behind the scenes information, such as different factors that inspired the creation of a favorite character, or actual locations used as settings for each story.

But one major application of Pinterest is its ability to connect writers with their readers. As a result, many of an author’s pins will be repinned by their fans, creating more links to their website.

The ideal Pinterest of an author should include three elements:

  1. a list of all their books,
  2. any promotions they are currently doing, and
  3. updates about their personal life, such as places they have recently travelled and anecdotes from their day.

Here’s an example of Julie Hyzy using Pinterest to promote her books, eBooks, favorite books and her friends books. She also adds a personal touch when she adds her favorite recipes.

Pinterest Julie Hyzy

The strategy that authors should follow is to pin in a personal manner. Make your boards about you and things that you find interesting. The more your fans connect with you on a personal level, the more they will make an effort to follow you and promote you.

Here’s a way Jody Picoult used Pinterest to let her fans get to know her.

Pinterest Jodi Picoult

Pinterest can also be used to build excitement around a new book. This can be done by releasing teasers for the cover or inserts of the book leading up to the release date.

Build a board around ideas that inspired this novel. Show the readers where the story line came from by sharing photos of news articles, personal photos or whatever inspired the topic.

Downsides

There are some aspects of Pinterest that keep it from being perfect. One major one is that Pinterest’s users are mostly female, particularly in the United States. However, even if Pinterest will only connect you with your female readers, it is still a useful network.

And if you update your Pinterest boards regularly, you will attract your male readers as well, leading them to join Pinterest and continue sharing your pins.

Another downside is the inability to link sites that have no pictures. This, however, can be easily rectified. All you have to do its make sure there are pictures on your website.

Ultimately, Pinterest is a great tool for authors looking to promote their books online in a creative, fun, and engaging way, and the negatives are nothing compared to the positives.

For any writer looking to engage with their readers as well as reach out to potential readers, Pinterest is the perfect tool.

PinterestCourtney Gorner is a blogger with a passion for all things internet and social media related! Read more from her on her own blog, www.talkviral.com, or connect on Google+.

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    { 23 comments… read them below or add one }

    Silver Knight November 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Joel, Courtney,
    Thanks for this timely article. A lot of the authors that I work with are just getting starting in their Social Media efforts. Pinterest was one of those avenues they were guided into for their book promotion. I think a lot of them are unsure how to actually integrate Pinterest with their websites.

    The guidance in this post, Courtney, is just want they need. I can’t wait to share this info with them.
    Thanks again.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner November 1, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Great! I’m glad you enjoyed it!! :) Thanks for the feedback.

    Reply

    Errol Lincoln Uys October 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Great advice, Courtney.

    I’ve been using Pinterest for a while to promote my historical novel, Brazil.

    http://www.pinterest.com/errollincolnuys/boards/

    I created three boards a) Brazil, the Novel b) The Making of Brazil c) Brazil (general stuff)

    The key is to have a website with loads of pix, which happily I have.

    The only problem is finding the time to deal with all the social media options. I’m also tweeting my novel @BrazilANovel — one micro episode at a time. Not easy when you have 1,000 pages to go!

    Errol

    Reply

    P Michael Dacre October 6, 2013 at 8:39 am

    If a “Downside’ is that a community is primarily female(noted above) then I accept since women, as a group, purchase 4x the number of retail books and ebooks as men.

    Reply

    J.M. Ney-Grimm October 4, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I get steady traffic to my blog from an image of mine that someone pinned on her Pinterest board. It’s fun when I see the link pop up on my dashboard.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 7, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Glad that it’s been working for you! Thanks for the comment!

    Reply

    ari lessiers October 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Awesome article and thanks for all the clarifications.
    This post was so timely! A lot of authors in the genre I am aiming for have inspiration boards YA Fantasy, I realised completely randomly that I had been bookmarking art that I loved for inspiration and hey presto… why not pin it so future fans could take a look as well if they were interested.

    I also completely privately had a playlist of music that inspires my series, so similarly I realised I could start a Youtube playlist/channel and label it my series ‘soundtrack’, blog about the meaning/relevance each song had. So hurrah for the ability to share inspiration with others!

    Reply

    Grace Bridges October 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I am often surprised at how many repins I get, even of very old pins of mine. So I think I should be making more use of that.
    I have plans to try linking as many pins to my site as I can. Not the photo’s clickthrough link, that should always go to the origin, of course; but in the *description* I can add another link. For example, a photo of Bangor in Ireland would itself link to the photographer’s site, but my description could read “Bangor, Ireland by X – Read my book Y set here – [insert shortened link to book page].” In this way a large number of relevant pins could point back to my fiction.
    I’m oversimplifying to show the concept, but I think this could be pretty effective as most repinners don’t fiddle with the existing description.

    Reply

    Holly Worton October 7, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Grace, one thing I really like about Pinterest is that it’s one of the more “low maintenance” social sites. Yes, you’ll get more out of it the more you use it, but once you pin things that link back to your website, they’ll get re-pinned over and over. I think you’re seeing that now with all the re-pins you’re getting.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I agree, Holly!

    Reply

    Andrew January 9, 2014 at 10:27 am

    One of the great aspects of Pinterest is that pins remain visible for so long and are easily discovered.

    While a tweet of post on Facebook “vanishes” quickly, pins (and especially book pins) care easily discovered again and again and again.

    In many ways Pinterest is like a public library shelf.

    Reply

    Jason Matthews October 4, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Pinterest is still a decision for me. I’m on it but not doing it well and not sure it’s worth the time and effort I sense it would take to start seeing substantial results especially when Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter are already important to maintain and working well.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Hey Jason! Thanks for the comment. Social media takes time, for sure so I understand why you are hesitant. Those are the more important pages, Pinterest is just another fun way to interact and connect.

    Good luck!

    Reply

    Holly Worton October 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Jason, if you’re not enjoying it, and if you’re not getting great results, then it might make sense to focus on other social sites. Also…who is your target market of readers? If you don’t have a large female readership, it might not be your best option for just now.

    For me, it’s the 5th biggest driver of traffic to my website, so it makes sense. But I think that Pinterest is definitely not for everyone…just yet. We’ll see how it continues to grow!

    Reply

    Ari Lessiers October 4, 2013 at 6:25 am

    To clarify, my (very newcomer) understanding was that its ok to Pin an image from an artists site ie Deviantart, because A. the site has a button especially for this and B.Clicking the image goes straight back to the artists website, so the source is credited.

    However the article mentions images linking back to your website. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a lot of articles about artists unhappy when people ‘borrow their art to decorate their blogs’ without crediting, and some who don’t want people borrowing their art credit or not. Case in point I wrote a blog article about JK Rowling having wanted two characters to end up together and then changing her mind. I used a fan-art image of the two characters from Deviantart and I asked the artist first. She was delighted that I asked and that I would credit her and link to her page. However this kind of image use is hardly sustainable right? I’ve also read people complain that most artists do not/might not even bother respond when you ask them and are you going to ask for every image? Which is pretty much why I hesitate to use artists created images from Pinterest as images in my blogposts, therefore most of my pins do not link back to my website. So I’m not talking about using peoples art for other things, ie covers/etc… i’m just trying to understand how pins can link to your website when they are not your original content/creation.

    Or does the article mean images that 1. You are taking yourself, and 2. Are copyright free or generic. But to be fair, why would I fill Pinterest with boards of generic stock images?

    I’d love to hear how others understand these issues, especialy in the context of the article, maybe I’m just misunderstanding it? How do y’all treat pinning/image use?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Ari, maybe I can help.

    1. You cannot use images that belong to someone else without their permission, whether it’s on a blog post, a book cover, or elsewhere.

    2. Most people want you to pin their images as long as you link back to the site where the image came from.

    Out of respect for the owners of the image, I keep any descriptions they create in the description field. Keep in mind you can add your own keywords to the “img alt” field as well.

    As with blog comments, most people know how to click through to your own site to see more of your content, if they are moved to do so. In the early days of this blog, much of my traffic came from blog comments, and they are less obvious a target for clicks than your Pinterest boards.

    Reply

    Dan Erickson October 4, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Although I have a Pinterest account, I rarely use it. I’m sure I could figure out ways that it would help to promote my book, but here’s my reason for not using it. I already use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon regularly. It’s takes months, even years to build a social network. I only have so much time. So for time-management-based reasons I’ve chosen to not build Pinterest at this time. Maybe after I’ve built other networks larger I’ll add a few new ones.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Hey Dan!

    I totally agree with you, social media is so time consuming! It’s great that you are getting out there in other ways! One thing I can suggest is some social media tools to help save you time. You can set up your Tweets and posts weeks ahead of time, so you don’t have to get on every day!

    Good luck! Thanks for commenting!

    Reply

    Linda Bonney Olin October 4, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Ari Lessiers raises the larger question of copyright infringement by Pinterest users. As an award-winning photographer, I would be delighted to have more people enjoy looking at the photos I use to dress up my website. But I don’t want to lose control of my images. When I add a photo I want to protect on my website, I set the URL link to “none.”

    If I pin a link to them on Pinterest, what’s to stop anyone from grabbing one to use for their own website or book cover or stationery or who knows what else? Yes, I add a copyright notice on the edge of my images, but anyone with a photo editor can remove that in short order.

    Maybe I’m naïve to think people can’t already swipe my images, and egotistical to think anyone might want to. Still …

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Hi Linda,

    Everyone has their own comfort zone when it comes to their work, which is fine. If you aren’t comfortable in using your website link, then don’t. But, I will say that you aren’t doing yourself any favors as far as marketing yourself. Once a few people have pinned your photo, it gets lost in the mix and has no way of being traced back to you.

    When you use your website link, and others pin it, somewhere in Google’s secret algorithm that might be helping your SEO which will help your site. That’s a topic for a different post, but I hope you get what I’m saying!

    If someone is going to steal your photo, they are going to do it anyway. If you add the link, most people don’t take the time to remove it and repin it them selves, they are just looking to get the photo onto their board so they can admire it later.

    I hope this helps! Thanks for commenting!

    Reply

    Ari Lessiers October 4, 2013 at 3:38 am

    So I have a question.

    I have been creating boards showing inspiration and art created by other artists, that reminds me of my upcoming series characters. http://www.pinterest.com/alessiers/boards/
    But for instance, My Pin of my character Leto, is a deviantart picture I found that reminded me of her.

    I know if someone clicks on the image it leads them to the source which is the Deviant art page, and thats as it should be, the artists should be credited for what they create.
    Then i note that in the ‘description’ part of each pin, a lot of artists already automatically will have a sentence ie ‘Girl Crying, by Gunmally on deviantart’.
    So I’m ok with the way things are, but I am not sure of Pinning ettiquette, ie, can I remove that sentence since the image links back to their page anyway and write ‘This is how I picture Leto’ (I could add a credit
    ‘This is how I picutre Leto, by the brilliant Gunmally on Pinterest’ Or is removing/adjusting the artists description a big no-no?

    In the article above you’ve mentioned that each pin links back to the author website, but my pins link back to where the art originally came from. The only way peeps can get to my website is that I have it written at the top of my pinterest page : Ari Lessiers – author – arilessiers.com. Am I missing something here? How can using other peoples pictures link back to your website? Or are we talking about using those pictures on your blog posts or on your website, for which surely the ettiquette is to have to ask each artist if you can use each image on your blog, Since my pinterest boards is newborn and still contains close to a hundred pins I can see that getting massivly hard to sustain.

    So yeah, as you can see, I am slightly confused.

    Reply

    Courtney Gordner October 4, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Hey Ari,

    Let me see if I can answer these for you! What you’re doing is great with pinning from other people! Pinterest is a social media network, social media is created to connect people. You’re connecting with the people you are pinning. The hope is, someone will see YOU pinned that, be interested in what else you have pinned (“Wow I love that picture, she has great taste, I wonder what else she has on her board”). So, they will go to your board and see you and your website. Even if that doesn’t lead to a click right that second, your name is now somewhere in that person’s memory and that could trigger something later down the road. You’ve made a connection with them.

    You shouldn’t change the link for sure, you’re right about that. When I said it links back to your page, I meant they can see who you are and click on you. I think it’s okay to change the description. It’s the same thing you see if you’re looking at clothes or food, some people change it to “this would be a great recipe for me to make for the cookout this weekend!”

    “Found this picture at ___ and it reminded me of ____” is a good way to do it, but you’ve gotta remember the person has the credit in their link. The description is the reason you are pinning it, what it means to you!

    If you want pictures to have links back to your website, you’ve gotta upload them yourself. Your blog posts would be great things to pin! With a link back your website, you’re promoting yourself!

    Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Reply

    Andrew January 9, 2014 at 10:24 am

    It is totally O.K> accepted Pinetiquette and encourage by Pinterest to change the description of an email

    It is also Pinetiquette (when being very polite) to say how you discovered the pin and include something like (via @xxxx), though that information sis sometimes contained int he pin itself.

    Reply

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