Instagram Primer for Indie Authors

by | Apr 13, 2016

According to a report by Digital Marketing Research, as of March 2016, Instagram had 400 million monthly active users and captured the attention of 20% of all Internet users.

Part of its growth might be due to the mother of all social media networks, Facebook. After Facebook purchased the app in 2014, Instagram’s user base soared by 60%. Then again, Instagram grew so quickly just because it’s an image-based app and any social media network based on imagery is bound to succeed these days.

Hard to tell.

There are conflicting reports as to what social media network is the fastest growing. The data seems to change from month to month, or at least, it did in 2015. That year, Adweek, TechCrunch, and Global Web Index each reported different statistics.

It was also in 2015 that Pew Research Center reported that Instagram was the fourth most used social media network, behind Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

If your reader demographic is between the ages of 18 and 49, Instagram can be a strategic application for you to use. If you write:

  • young adult
  • new adult
  • dystopian
  • teen and young adult romance
  • and science fiction novels

then you need to spend time connecting with your readers on Instagram.

Some agents are recommending that all authors, including nonfiction writers with an older readership, also use Instagram. Perhaps it’s because of Instagram’s meteoric rise. But if your audience isn’t on Instagram, does it make sense to use it? I’m a huge proponent of saving time on social media by only spending time on those networks where you’ll find your readers and your colleagues. But with Instagram’s popularity, it might make sense for you to follow Jane Friedman’s advice: grab your username anyway. After doing that, play around with Instagram and see whether it’s worthwhile for your genre and readership. If it isn’t, leave Instagram, focus your energy on other websites, and return to it later to test it again.

The beauty of Instagram – and this is why it’s easy to test it – is that it’s effortless to incorporate it into your life. You’ll see why if you keep reading. For now, let’s leave the statistics behind and talk about how to sign up and use this tool.

How to Join Instagram

Profile Image

Joining this network is easy. Sign up by navigating to on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet. It’s best to use your smartphone because Instagram is for the mobile web and you’ll need to be on your mobile (or tablet) to add your profile image. As with other social media websites, don’t use your book cover or image of your favorite pet as your avatar. Use the best picture of yourself that you have.

Every time you add a new network to your marketing arsenal, represent your brand as best you can. What is your brand? You. Some writers become irritated at the mention of the term author brand but denying that it exists doesn’t deny its importance. Everything you do and say online reflects upon you so every step you take online, every post, every image you upload, needs to support your author career in as positive a manner as possible.


When you select your username, use the name on the cover of your books. Build your brand around your author name, whether it’s:

  • your birth name
  • a name you predominantly use
  • or a pen name


Complete your bio, which Instagram restricts to 150 characters, and add your author website address. Don’t forget to check the box next to Similar Account Suggestions so that Instagram will suggest additional users for you to follow.

Desktop and Laptop Restrictions
You’ll be limited in what you can do from your desktop or laptop whether it’s a PC, Mac, or laptop. You can sign up, complete your bio, follow people, view your news feed, like images, and leave comments.

But you can’t add or change your profile image from your desktop or laptop. Most people carry around their smartphones in their back pockets or purse so start using your mobile when using Instagram. Alternatively, use your tablet if you bring that with you more often. (I haven’t tested Instagram on a Kindle reader, such as Kindle Fire. If you use Instagram on that tablet, please let me know in the comments below.)

As you’re out and about, visiting your favorite café where you write or taking a walk in the woods or a lovely path, snap images with your smartphone. Then, upload them directly to Instagram. Select a filter for your image if the image appears too dark or too bright, and post it.

Now this next step is what makes Instagram simple to use. As you post your image to Instagram, you can also post it to other accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. While I don’t recommend syncing Twitter to Facebook or even Instagram to Twitter (unless you’re selective about what you post), linking Instagram to Facebook is seamless. The comment and hashtags you write for your Instagram post will integrate smoothly with your Facebook profile. This is how to connect your accounts:

  1. Navigate to your Instagram profile on your smartphone.
  2. Tap the gearshift in the top-right corner.
  3. Click Linked Accounts and select the websites you want to sync with.

How Authors Can Use Instagram

Authors have taken to Instagram, expanding their brand, and letting readers learn more about them than what they write or blog about. Check out these examples:

Tyler Knott Gregson

You’ll find Tyler on Instagram where he’s known as Tyler Knott, an #Instapoet on this app. He’s a successful poet who rose to fame by using Instagram. He creates quote images and posts them mostly on Twitter and Instagram.

Here’s one of his poems displayed as an image:

Tyler Knott Gregson image

Here’s another image he took of the sky.

Tyler Knott Gregson image2

Jane Friedman

Jane was excited about the inclusion of an essay she wrote in an anthology and announced its availability with this picture of the cover. Granted, it’s not an exciting cover, but it’s still a good use of Instagram.

Jane Friedman image

Orna Ross

Orna likes to take pictures of her surroundings, which gives her readers and colleagues a sense of the beauty where she lives.

Orna Ross image

Joanna Penn

A nonfiction and dark thriller author who writes under the name J.F. Penn, Joanna a self-described taphophiliac (she loves visiting cemeteries) so it makes sense that she would post this image.

Joanna Penn image

Crissi Langwell

While attending an Indie author event at a library, Crissi took an image of a display of her books.

Crissi Langwell image

  • Share:
    • the cover of a new book about to be released
    • images from your hometown
    • images of the desk where you write
  • If you have a favorite café where you like to write, take a picture of the sign or the front of the building.
  • If you love dogs, take a picture of your dog doing something fun.
  • When you have a reading, ask someone to snap a picture of you, preferably not when you’re standing behind a podium but during a moment when you’re animated, laughing, or engaging with an attendee.

Most of all, test this app and have fun with it.

When to Post on Instagram

The easiest time to post is right after you take a picture or create one. You can also plan your posts.

According to Latergramme, a scheduling post for Instagram, the best time to post is between 2 am and 5 pm EST, with 5 pm being the most opportune time.

The best day to post is on Wednesdays, but if you start using Instagram, you’ll need to be consistent and post more frequently than once a week.

When you start out, post images when it’s convenient for you. As you gain followers, you’ll figure out when the most engagement occurs and tailor your timing.

Scheduling Apps for Instagram

Once you start using Instagram regularly, you might want the option to schedule images in advance.


With this app, you can upload images and videos from your computer, not just your smartphone. Onlypult also provides analytics. Plans start at $12/month.


This tool enables you to upload images from your computer, iPhone, Tablet, or Android, plan and schedule your posts, upload videos and manage multiple accounts if you have more than one. On a free account, you can upload 30 posts per month.


With this tool, you can organize campaigns or schedule images one-by-one, manage multiple accounts, create content, and add bulk uploads at once. For a single account, the cost is $20/month.


Use this free app to schedule images to Twitter and Instagram simultaneously. You’ll find it on iTunes and at Google Play where it’s called Publish.

Instagram Best Practices

Here are a few best practices to get you started.

  1. Use hashtags here just as you would on Twitter. Although hashtags haven’t taken off on Facebook, you can use them as well.
  2. Don’t be afraid to reveal a bit about your personal life. Images of you take while hiking or cycling or just about on the town add an interesting layer to your brand.
  3. Always be authentic.
  4. Don’t be promotional, unless you’d like to inform users of a contest.
  5. Build your community of readers and colleagues by liking their posts and commenting on them. Be as engaged with them as you’d like them to be with you, what Joanna Penn refers to as social karma.


The Ultimate Guide to Grow Your Online Business Using Instagram

How do you use Instagram and what apps are your favorites?

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. G. S. Oldman

    Instagram on a Kindle? I did it with a Kindle Fire HD this week but I don’t recommend this path unless you’re extremely patient. It’s pretty frustrating. It works fine once you get there, but getting there is the rub.

    As you know, I-gram is engineered to work like gangbusters on smartphones and tablet devices. I bought my K-Fire in late 2013. Basically a functioning tablet, I figured it was ready to go. Not quite. Signing up was a snap but, without going into details, downloading the app and getting it up and running was a pure pain in the ass that took way too many hours, and I’m not a digital dummy. Documentation on the procedure is piss poor (or probably outdated) and it was a couple of YouTube videos made by 13-year olds that set me straight. I can only conclude that I-Gram and Kindle don’t want to be used in combo (maybe in deference to Facebook’s market dominance?). It’s possible later versions of the K-Fire interface just fine.

    Regardless, I got it working the way it should and, so far, all is hunky-dory. But I advise using one of the “latest” (non-Kindle) devices where it takes five minutes to set up. Protip: If you’re over the age of forty, make friends with lotsa 12-13 yo’s. Buy them coffeehouse treats; social media set ups will then take way less time.

  2. Pamela

    Thank you! I’m on Instagram but never knew why, or really how to use it as an author. This is extremely helpful.

    • Frances Caballo

      Pamela: Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you have some additional ideas for how to use it now. We can all use a little inspiration!

    • Frances Caballo

      Tanisha: I’m so glad my post is giving you the extra incentive to explore Instagram more. Good for you!

  3. patriciaruthsusan

    Thanks for all this helpful information, Frances. :) — Suzanne

    • Frances Caballo

      Suzanne: I’m so glad you liked it. My advice is just have fun with it.

  4. Marina Finlayson

    Thanks for the great post, Frances! I just joined. It did actually let me add my profile pic from my computer, which was great. Now to figure out how to drive my new phone!

    • Frances Caballo

      Marina: Thanks for letting me know that you could add your profile pic on your desktop computer. That’s a new development. Have fun with Instagram.

  5. C. Lee McKenzie

    I’ve used Instagram, but haven’t been there regularly. When I do post an image, I get tons of likes, but I still haven’t quite connected with it.

    • Frances Caballo

      C. Lee: I completely understand how you feel. When Pinterest became available, I jumped on it immediately and spent too much time on it. But I am slower to use Instagram consistently. One of my goals this year is to have a consistent presence.

  6. Amy M. Reade

    I use Instagram sporadically, but I’ve noticed that many of my followers are my kids’ friends. Not that they’re reading my books, but it’s fun to have a connection with the younger set! I use Instagram as a purely personal platform- I don’t put my author stuff on there, but it gives people a glimpse into my day-to-day life. I typically put out pictures I’ve taken of the area where I live or places I’ve gone on vacation (and my dog- of course). You’ve inspired me to start posting more often!

    • Frances Caballo

      Amy: I’m so glad when I can inspire an author to use any social media platform more. And I think your current use of Instagram is great. It gives your followers and readers an inside view on your life. Good for you!

    • Amy M. Reade

      Kate, you are amazing! I’m off to check your lists right now!

    • Frances Caballo

      Kate: You’re awesome! And thanks for the lists. They will come in handy. :-)

      • Kate Tilton

        My pleasure! I know how hard it can be to start on a new platform so I hope these lists will help! :)

    • Mona

      As a brand new user, today-because of this post-I appreciate your lists. Thank you!

      • Kate Tilton

        You’re welcome Mona! I hope they help you find great accounts to follow and interact with :).



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