Jenni is a dear friend of mine that I knew I just had to have on board for this event! Not only does she have her debut coming out this summer, but she’s very authentic with her marketing and sharing about her writing on Instagram. Her tips will be helpful for any writer who is unsure about how to share about their story or who needs the extra confidence boost to do so!
How to Share About Your Story on Instagram
Raise your hand if the word “platform” scares you.
When I first started really thinking about publishing that word was enough to send me into a panic. I hated the idea of having to sell my book to people. Talking about my book was intimidating and I felt lost trying to figure out how to do it.
And then I joined Instagram and became active in the Bookstagram and Writing Communities there and something shifted. I became more confident in sharing about my story and now those panics at the word “platform” are nothing more than a distant memory.
But how, Jenni? you might ask. How do you get the confidence to share about something so personal? How do you know what to share? How do you deal with the rejection and the anxiety of people not being interested?
I’m glad you asked!
Join the Writing Community!
Instagram has an expansive writing community that is warm and welcoming. It’s built on celebrating stories and writers and sharing ideas. If you’re not sure who exactly to follow, I’d start by following the writers of this blog series- most of them are established in that community on some level and from there you’ll be able to find other writers.
Listen when writers talk about their stories and find ones whose work you’re really excited about. Follow them, invest in them, listen to how they do it. Learn from them. Make friends. Along the way you’ll find people who have your back in various ways- I have a small group of amazing women who do everything from full on editing my book to listening to me rant or stress to going out of their way to send me positive encouragements. Not everyone edits, not everyone listens, not everyone sends me encouragement unprompted, but every one of them pours into me what she has to offer and I need every single one of them. Create a writing tribe and invest in them with genuine interest and support, and they, in their own way will invest back in you.
Unfortunately there’s no single hashtag I can give you to follow, but monthly writing challenges are huge in the writing community.
Basically, they consist of a list of prompts- one for each day of the month- that ask a question or encourage you to share about an element of your story. They might be something like “is their romance in your story?” or “share your favorite thing about your story world” or “show us your writing space.” What kind of picture you use is up to you, and you then utilize your caption space to share snippets of your work, answer the questions, and share about your journey.
They’re easy to find if you are following writers active in the community and don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find any. You also get to make the rules, so you can be creative with how you interpret the prompts and only do as many or as few as you wish (you can post every day, once a week, pick a few prompts you love, etc.)
Also, Character Interviews:
You know what is the most fun you can have? Throwing a sticker question box up in your Insta stories and letting your followers ask your characters anything. Then when you post the answers, answer as if your character is answering. Try to capture their voice- their snark, their friendliness, their confusion, whatever makes them who they are. It gives your readers an informal way to get to know your characters. And then they like your characters and are invested in your story.
You don’t have to answer from your character’s perspective, if you don’t want, but personally I find it a great way to get into the character’s head. And I’ve learned so much about my characters from doing this. That said a few things:
You don’t always have to commit to everything you respond with- if someone asks if your character likes salty or sweet snacks and you say salty but later decide sweet makes more sense for your story, you aren’t locked into the answer you gave. I try to be careful giving major answers about backstory and the like, but minor things, it’s okay to not stress and just answer with what seems right for the character just then.
If something is a spoiler you can simply say that- “This is a spoilers so I can’t say.” You’re not obligated to answer just because someone asked. For instance, when I was working on my Victorian mystery series I did an “ask me anything about Bailey and Thorne”- the two main characters- and I got asked both “who makes the first move in their relationship?” and “who kisses who first?” Since the series is a 4 book series with a very slow burn romance those are spoilers for late in the series, so I simply said that. I do know who makes the first move and who kisses who first. But I’m not ready to announce it on Instagram, so I didn’t. It’s your story, your games, your posts. You make the rules.
Besides interviews, there are other kinds of fun story games as well- things like “Give me a number and I’ll give you a line from that page of my WIP” or “Give me a song and I’ll give you a scene or character from my WIP it reminds me of.” You can find them all over Instagram or else ask for them. Or, if you want to play a game and can’t find a template, go ahead and make your own! Canva is the app I use for that, but I’m sure there are others.
So How Do I Approach It?
You want to start posting, maybe you’ve found a writing challenge you’re excited about, or want to play a story game- but how do you get started?
I get it- it takes an incredibly amount of confidence to just start posting about your story one day. But go for it. You don’t need permission, you don’t need a special sign or to pick the perfect day. And if you do need those things here they are- you have my permission, this is your sign, today is the perfect day. There, now that that’s out of the way…
Let Go of Fear:
This is the biggest one. Nothing else I say will matter if you don’t listen to this. It’s scary, opening up and sharing about your story and there’s so many different reasons to be afraid. I still get afraid every time I post something, my anxiety creeping in to tell me that no one cares. And every time I’m blown away by the support I receive.
That said, it takes time. Don’t give up if only one or two people respond at first. Sometimes it takes people time to get used to an idea. I first started sharing about my science fantasy two years ago, took a break to work on my Victorian mystery, and when I returned to the science fantasy series last year a total of one person remembered it. And that’s okay. Because what matters is I kept sharing and people are listening now. People I didn’t even know were listening have gone out of their way to tell me how excited they are for my story.
So don’t give up if people don’t hear you at first. If you keep it up the right people will start to hear and it’s worth it.
Be Clear What Your Story Is:
Know what you’re writing and pick a few words to describe it. My current project is “science fantasy Cinderella” and the project before that was “my Victorian mystery Cinderella” (I like Cinderella, okay? xD). Savanna refers to her story as “my Robin Hood Trilogy.” It can be something as simple as “modern romance” or “medieval comedy” or “mermaid space opera.” Just something that easily says what it is when you’re referring to it.
I’d also suggest posting a short synopsis or even just a basic premise and then creating a story highlight so you can point people to that when you talk about your story. You can also create character profiles to include in this highlight. I know personally for me, I like being able to find out what a person’s story is about fairly quickly when I go to their profile- I don’t like having to dig for it- and this way you don’t have to explain your story every time.
Don’t Overwhelm People:
Try to come up with something short and sweet to explain your story. For example, my science fantasy is “Cinderella, if Cinderella were a space cadet deserting from the military.” This doesn’t explain 95% of the plot or tell you about all the amazing characters or get you acclimated to the story world but it tells you what the story is about.
When talking about my Victorian mystery series I leaned more into talking about my characters (more about why in the next point). When I did a poll on Instagram only about half the people who responded could tell me the mystery that’s being solved (to find Bailey’s mother) but every single person told me exactly who they characters were- a tired optimist and a dorky, self-assured detective- and were right.
If you have a lot of characters, introduce them slowly, let people get to know a few before throwing more at them. Don’t try to explain the entire plot of your story. Give it in bite sized chunks. Let people become interested, let them get to know a little and trust them to stick around for more.
Know What People Want to Buy:
This isn’t “write for the market” because I strongly believe that all stories should be written from the heart, regardless of what is popular. But the truth of the matter is that in order to be a published author you have to sell your book. And in order to sell it, you need to have something people want to buy.
For instance, when I started my Victorian mystery retelling I knew it was a simple fact that Victorian mysteries aren’t popular right now in the YA genre and those that are are in the paranormal genre. So my options were to either add paranormal elements (which I never wanted to do) or else figure out what about my book people did want. I knew people would enjoy it when they read it, I just needed to figure out how I could convince them to give it a try.
The answer was my characters. The two main characters- Bailey and Thorne- are very marketable so I leaned into that when talking about their story. The Victorian elements are still there, I’m very upfront about that. But instead of making the hard sale by creating a platform that revolves around Victorian mysteries, I determined what I had that people are interested in and I made sure they knew my book had that.
Don’t promise something you aren’t going to deliver on. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to marketing.
Think of Everything You Share as a Gift:
I didn’t realize I did this until someone pointed it out, but it’s exactly how I approach what I share- I’m giving people a gift when I share about my story. I don’t mean that in a vain way, like I’m doing something special and they ought to be grateful; that’s not a gift- that’s charity.
What I mean is think of the last time you were excited to buy a present for someone. Think of the thought in which you put into it to make sure it was something special, something that they would love. You didn’t get them something you wanted, you got them what they wanted. You went out of your way to make them smile, to make them feel special.
That’s how I approach what I’m sharing. I listen to what gets the most responses and keep that in mind for future reference, the same way you’d listen to a friend talking about things that interest them and filing it away for the next time you want to give them a present. I try to bring them into my posting decisions- asking if they want me to give them a playlist for my story or interview my characters. I ask them which characters they want to hear about the most.
I don’t always follow it, sometimes I need to make strategic marketing decisions. But also, more often than not, listening to my audience is a strategic marketing decision.
Lastly, Have Fun:
At the end of the day, this is the most important. Give yourself permission to enjoy it. Be unashamed of that joy- if you’re looking for permission to stop being a self-deprecating artist and start being in love with your story, this is it. This is your permission. If anyone tries to make you feel bad about how much you love your writing, just tell them Jenni gave you permission to stop doing that. It’s all good.
And, seriously, I highly recommend finding a group of people to follow who are also happily sharing about their stories. Nothing will inspire you to be unapologetic about your own story like being surrounded by others who are unapologetic about their own stories.
And, if you’re at a complete loss where to start, might I humbly suggest you give me a follow? You can find me @ivorypalaceprincess. I look forward to seeing you around!
Jenni Sauer is a 20-something city girl from New York (but no, not The City). A pragmatic optimist, she writes fairy tale retellings woven with realism and laced with hope, striving to offer light that shines in, rather than denies the darkness. She’s been telling stories since before she could even hold a pencil and hasn’t slowed down since.
When not writing she spends her time nannying, overanalyzing stories, buying too many candles, and investing in her friends and the #bookstagram and writing communities on Instagram. You can find her there @ivorypalaceprincess