I don’t want to brag, but I consider myself highly experienced at failure (But please, try to contain your jealousy). To do my part for #bookstagram, I’ve compiled some of my biggest fails, complete with a few photos I’ve taken that still make me cringe. Get excited.
1. I gave away crap nobody cared about (and made it complicated AF). For my first giveaway, I piled together random books, treats, handmade items, etc., and I was super confused when I got about 12 entries (at least half of which were sketchy giveaway accounts). Once I made sure my giveaways were thoughtfully curated and easy to enter (none of this “repost this photo 3x” and “like my FB page” nonsense), my engagement went up almost immediately.
2. I wrote basic captions. I used to copy and paste a random book quotes from Goodreads, write something generic about how much I love coffee and Fridays, and call it good. My captions were as original as a vodka cranberry or a picture of the sunset with the hashtag #blessed. Once I used my captions for thoughtful questions and personal anecdotes, however, the entire dynamic on my feed changed. My likes and comments increased and, most importantly, I began to interact with my followers in a meaningful way.
3. I obsessed about the algorithm. After trying what feels like a million different ways to please the algorithm gods and boost my visibility, I can confidently say I wish I had spent that time reading books and eating chocolate instead.
4. I used giant, ugly watermarks. Once I stopped using watermarks, large brands started reposting my photos much more often and drove more traffic to my account. If you do use a watermark, make it tasteful, and keep in mind that most watermarks are easy to remove with a variety of different apps, so you are by no means protected from image theft.
5. I was afraid of publishers. I used to wait and hope for publishers to contact me first. Now, when I see a book I want to read, often I’ll reach out to the publisher and ask for a promotional copy. It might sound like something only “big” accounts can afford to do, but plenty of publishers are more than happy to work with newer accounts. And, honestly, the worst thing they can say is no, and you have to buy the book after all.
6. I posted photos I didn’t like. This one probably sounds like an obvious don’t, but apparently I struggle with common sense. I thought posting a photo I didn’t like was better than posting nothing at all, and my feed was flooded with shadowy photos, weird angles, and odd photo props. If you’re not proud of a photo, don’t post it. Your followers will forgive you for a little inconsistency if they love the content you create.
7. I wrote disrespectful book reviews. When I hated a book, I would take to social media with my righteous anger and list all the reasons why it was a complete waste of my time. It was cathartic, but it was also cruel and unprofessional. Be compassionate. Be a critical thinker. Learn to be honest and kind in your assessments. Those qualities might be rare, but they’re certainly not mutually exclusive.
8. I ran too many promotions. Wholly unprepared for the number of brands that would ask me to work with them, I started saying yes to everyone because I felt flattered and I suck at saying no. When my ratio of sponsored posts to unsponsored posts got insanely high (I think it was 1:1 for awhile) I had to learn to say no. I get that “free stuff” (or even money) is exciting, but if you find yourself promoting a book you hated or fat-free ice cream that tastes like you’ve given up on life, it may be time to re-examine your priorities. Your followers won’t thank you for pushing products on them you would never buy yourself.
10. I was guilty of genre bias. This is the fail I’m most ashamed of. When I featured a book that wasn’t literary fiction, I would often preface my review with something like “I don’t usually read YA, but I needed something easy” or “Fantasy isn’t really my thing, but I made an exception this time.” Ummm… SO RUDE. It’s okay to have a favorite genre, but why was I writing off entire genres and announcing it like I was some superior intellectual being who exclusively reads classics by dead white men? Since I abandoned the snobbery and widened my reading options, I’ve found so many extraordinary reads I never would have picked up otherwise. Read what you want and don’t be that insecure person apologizing for your choices. People who look down on you for it aren’t worth your time.