editor's choice

Pinterest – ‘inspiration snacking’ or something more? A few thoughts for authors


Social networking platforms are authors’ new best friends. With global reach and, in most cases, instant and direct access to existing and potential markets, Facebook and Twitter are obvious forums for the publishing industry to go to when promoting and selling books – but what about Pinterest?

pinterestlogondexAs social networks go, Pinterest, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t seem to carry the same kudos as its peers – surprising given that it’s the third most popular social media network in the world and that referral traffic is at least equal to that of Twitter, with shoppers 10 percent more likely to make a purchase when compared to peer sites. (1)

Evan Sharp, who launched Pinterest, along with Paul Sciarra and Ben Silbermann, in March 2010, comments that their mission is twofold: the first, to ‘help people discover the things that they love’, the second, to ‘enable people to go out and act on those things, to make them actually part of their life.’(2)

In this sense, Pinterest is both inspirational and aspirational.


What’s all the fuss?


Pinterest attracts an overwhelmingly female audience, far more so than peer platforms like Facebook or Twitter which have a pretty much 50/50 male/female following. The figures speak for themselves: according to Forbes (3), Pinterest was forecast to have more than 40 million monthly active users (MAU’s) in the US alone by year end 2014. Of this figure, more than 34.1 million were women (and that’s estimated to grow to more than 37 million female MAU’s at year end 2015). This makes it a tremendously exciting forum for authors, particularly those writing books in areas with a predominantly female readership.

‘When people use Pinterest, they’re raising their hand and saying they’re interested in something by the fact that they’re pinning it,’ says eMarketer Debra Aho Williamson. ‘That makes them a really strong market for advertising.’ (4)

Thus, it’s hardly surprising that Pinterest launched a targeted paid advertising ‘experiment’ at the end of 2014, introducing promoted pins into users’ search and category feeds.

With all this information in mind, why is it that Pinterest appears to be less popular with authors than Facebook or Twitter? Is it because it’s a purely visual forum? Does this put writers off?

Pinterest is remarkably user friendly and, perhaps, more to the point, it’s fun. Users create themed boards – mood boards, as I like to think of them – which they curate, pinning or repinning images from various sources, which are then picked up and repinned by other Pinterest followers – and repinned and repinned and repinned, ad infinitum. Users can also invite peers to pin on their boards, thus making the process more interactive and a shared experience. What makes Pinterest interesting in a creative sense is that it allows users to return to, and dip into the continual stream of images available – what Mia Blume, Pinterest’s product design manager, refers to as ‘inspiration snacking’. (5)

Actually, I think it has the potential to be far more than that.

To my mind, Pinterest is both inspirational and aspirational, as I have already commented: by ‘pinning’ an image, you’re essentially saying, ‘I want this’/’I want to be like this’/’I want to do this’ or ‘I’ve done this’/’I’ve read this’/’I was here’/’I love this – what about you?’ It’s a place where people visually share ideas of what they want/have or aspire to have, whether it be recipes/food (one of the most popular areas), or books, music or a pair of shoes. As such, it’s a very creative space, a platform from which people, writers especially, can draw inspiration, provide it and/or feed aspirations.


The Literary Shed on Pinterest


Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 13.56.10

The Literary Shed currently has 88 boards, which sounds a lot, but actually isn’t if you trawl through Pinterest. Of these, 86 are mine and the remaining two are boards that I’ve been invited to ‘pin’ on – and I’ve been careful to choose which invitations I accept.

Initially, the boards related directly to The Literary Shed’s primary focus, i.e.: books, specifically popular genre fiction (‘Books that changed my life’, ‘Romance/gothic covers’, ‘Crime fiction’), literary sheds and popular culture (‘Film posters’, Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Music that changed my life’). Then they expanded to my interests in general, for example, boards on specific authors (such as Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, André Gide), vinyl and a great cat or two. Several of the boards have been inspired by images that other pinners have put up, which, in turn, either reminded me of things that I’d forgotten I liked or sparked new ideas/interests, such as the strangely fascinating world of celebrity dolls (‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! Never mind the waxworks).

As I type, The Literary Shed has a following of more than 241,000 pinners, which by by far outweighs our presence on other social networks. Based on my experiences, I believe Pinterest is an essential and brilliant social networking platform for authors. It’s not just an endless pit of creative information, literally at one’s fingertips, and an opportunity to allow people to view one’s interests, life and aspirations, but it’s also a vehicle through which new ideas can be born and, of course, a vehicle that can be harnessed to attract new traffic back to an author/publisher and bookselling sites.

With all this in mind, following are 11 thoughts on how Pinterest might work best for you.


1. Your Pinterest persona – social media consistency and branding

When you’re setting up your account, think of how you’re presenting yourself. This is a visual forum, after all. Make the photo you choose, the language you use to describe yourself concise but compelling and, more importantly, make sure everything is consistent with your presence on other social networking/media platforms. Don’t forget to include your website URL (it’s important to verify it on Pinterest anyway). It’s an image-based platform and you want to stand out from the crowd. Branding is one way to do this.


2. Making people aware of your Pinterest presence

Use the Pinterest widget builder to create a Follow button on your website and upload the Pinterest icon/button to as many places as possible, adding it to your email signature, etc. Make your audience aware that you have Pinterest presence. Share new pins/boards on Facebook/Twitter/your website. Invite people to comment.


3. Subtlety vs the direct approach

You need to be far more subtle in your marketing approach, if that’s your primary aim in using Pinterest, and also far more aware of your peer pinners. Beautifully presented boards with clever titles and captions work well and you are more likely to be followed and to have your images repinned. While you can easily create a board for each book, featuring direct promotional material that leads back to your site or to your publisher’s, your readers want and, arguably, deserve more. They want to know more about you, about your mores, aspirations and influences. They may be aspiring writers themselves and they want some insight into how you got to be you and how your characters/plots have evolved/are evolving. Dedicated character boards can help do this, for example.


4. Pinning and repinning

Once you’ve decided what your initial boards will be make sure you pin more than one or two images on each – ideally I’d say at least 10 for presence. You can initially keep the boards private until you’re happy with them and then go public, inviting other pinners to follow you, comment and repin from your boards. There are two ways to pin images: you can repin existing images by searching on Pinterest via key words and seeing what’s available in the image stream or you can choose to upload your own images from your computer or phone. Every image added using the ‘Pin It’ button links back to the site from which it came. About 80 percent of the pins on Pinterest are repins. If you’re amongst the smaller percentage of users creating new or unique pins, every time your image is repinned you’re promoting yourself, especially if the caption text you include features book information, your website and/or a link to a bookselling site. Repinning other people’s pins is just as important though, and it raises your visibility.


5. Creating boards

If you’re using Pinterest to endorse your ‘brand’ and to promote your work, at least some of your boards will focus on the books you’re writing or have written, but think outside the box. What about the books and writers you love and want other people to love, too? What about the music that you listen to while working or the TV programmes you have watched or watch to blow off steam? What about travel? Places you’ve been to, places you aspire to go to? Or places you are going to on your book tour with links back to the bookseller?


6. The importance of a good board cover

Just as we judge books by their covers, Pinterest board covers are important so select an image that looks great on a laptop and a mobile, as the chances are you are one of the more than 75 percent of users who use the app/view Pinterest on a smart phone. I change my board covers fairly regularly and that’s usually prompted by a few new gorgeous repins/pins to those boards, which I want to showcase or something that’s particularly topical that I want to highlight.


7. Your life and aspirations – board suggestions

One of the things to ask yourself when you start using Pinterest is the extent to which you are prepared to allow users to glimpse your life via your Pinterest boards (without attracting stalkers or axe murderers, obviously). Pretty, well-lit photos of your work space (real or wannabe), a desk, a deck, a café, pens, notebooks, libraries, the view from your window, your cat or dog stretched out over your laptop – all these things are great inspirational/aspirational and happy images that also provide a little bit of insight into what you like, what your life’s like, your aspirations.


8. Your books – board suggestions

You want to showcase your books and an obvious way to do this is by pinning book covers, but why not make it more interesting and pin covers that have been rejected or are under consideration (with your publisher’s permission!)? Or images that track the evolution of the final cover? You can invite other people to pin on your boards so perhaps ask the art director/designer/photographer if he/she will contribute to the board by pinning mock ups that use different images/fonts or pin photos from the actual shoot for your book, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Similarly, pins of foreign edition book covers are interesting. Pinterest is a global forum and you can use it in this way to show your global presence.


9. Themes – board suggestions

If you write in a particular genre, such as romance, curate boards with similar and/or complementary themes. You may love Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, as I do, or have a passion for Regency London. Share these passions with other pinners through your boards. You may even draw inspiration from images that you’ve never seen before via other pinners.


10. Promoting other authors/working with other writers – board suggestions

Endless self-promotion is boring, so what about creating boards that promote peer authors? Invite some of these authors to pin on your boards. This may make them more likely to promote you back and may lead to new audiences/pinners. Similarly, if you belong to a writers’ group or collaborate with other writers share some of your boards with them so that they can pin on your mood boards and vice versa.


11. Interact with your audience – inviting others to pin

Get your readers involved by inviting them to pin on a special board. Ask for their opinion on something, for example, which actor should play the hero of your latest book in a movie or TV adaptation or the type of shoes your heroine should wear on her first date with your hero. Jimmy Choo’s or Manolo’s? Their opinion matters and they’ll feel more invested in you and your writing.


These points are just a few of the ways in which you can benefit from Pinterest, while promoting yourselves and your books and, arguably, increasing sales through referral traffic. But the main point about Pinterest is that it is fun – and, at the end of the day, a little bit of fun can go an awfully long way.

Happy pinning!



Notes: (1) ‘How Pinterest drives ecommerce sales’; http://www.shopify.com/infographics/pinterest?SSAID=314743&ref=sas&ssid=314743&aff_sub=314743&aff_sub2=SSCID_21jz_3yqqc
(2) ‘How Pinterest Became a Booming Factory for Creativity’, Amanda Fortini; http://www.wired.com/2014/07/pinterest-creativity/
(3) ‘With more women than Twitter, Pinterest finally gets paid ads’, Jeff Bercovici, 5 December 2014; http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/05/12/with-more-women-than-twitter-pinterest-finally-gets-paid-ads/
(4) Ibid.
(5) ‘How Pinterest Became…’, op.cit.


Images: Pinterest logo (www.pinterest.com); screengrab of some of The Literary Shed’s Pinterest boards


Also of interest: The Literary Shed on Pinterest



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