25 Creative Ways Authors Use Images for Social Media Marketing

Whether you’re promoting a specific book or trying to drive exposure to boost an author’s brand, posting eye-catching images is imperative to capturing readers’ attention on social media.

Some social platforms revolve around sharing visual content, including Instagram, where photos still generate 36% more engagement than videos. And on platforms where images are optional, including them dramatically increases engagement. For example, Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without images.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have an expensive DSLR camera to take original high-quality photos for your social media marketing campaigns. Your smartphone can take excellent pictures, and there are great articles with tips and tricks for easily shooting and editing pictures, including guides specifically from book bloggers. And you can use free tools like Canva or RelayThat to easily create custom graphics.

So what kinds of images should you share on social media to engage with readers? Here are some creative ways we’ve seen authors use images on their channels. We hope this helps you brainstorm some new types of images to post, so you can test which works best for reaching your unique audience.

1. Use clever props when displaying books on a shelf

While books on a shelf are fun to look at, mix it up by adding something unique to the shot. When Brenda Novak wanted to encourage fans who liked her Facebook page to join her Facebook group, she included a photo of several of her books lined up on a shelf along with a callout promoting the group in the photo!

Colleen Hoover also used a strategically-placed prop to make the image pop.

2. Turn a book into an artful display

Many authors post beautiful pictures of their book (or a book they recommend!) alongside eye-catching props that are either relevant to the book’s plot or look great with the cover design. Many also use relevant hashtags like #bookstagram, like Adrienne Young did in her description on Instagram.

3. Peek out from behind a book

We’ve seen many selfies from authors on their social media profiles, but peeking out from behind a book is a great strategy for those who aren’t super comfortable posing in front of a camera. Meghan March peeked out from behind her book for an Instagram post.

Here’s another peek-out shot from Chelle Bliss.

4. Display a book cover on a phone or ereader screen

Just because a book is only available digitally doesn’t make it any less photogenic. With the right props and lighting (to reduce glare) or photo manipulation know-how (to superimpose the book onto a blank device screen), you too can publish beautiful images like this one from J. Daniels.

5. Create a quiz or game relevant to a book

Creating a unique game or quiz is fun for readers and gives them a unique way to interact with you — and people love sharing their results with their friends! It’s also easier to share if there’s an image to go with it. Mackenzi Lee created a name generator relevant to her book Bygone Badass Broads as an image optimized for Instagram, branded with the book’s cover and hashtag. Nearly a hundred followers chimed in with their generated name. Mine is “Boston’s Mother of Procrastinating,” which I have mixed feelings about.

Sylvia Day posted a simple fill-in-the-blank image branded with her image and URL.

6. Show a sneak peek of an upcoming release

Fans love sneak peeks of books they haven’t gotten their hands on yet — even if they’re still works in progress! There are plenty of clever ways to include text in an image. Susan Dennard posted a photo of a page from her upcoming release Bloodwitch.

7. Show books with food or drink

Catch readers’ eyes by including something yummy in the photo with a book. It will take a bit of testing to determine what types of photos your fans engage with most. Maybe some fans prefer coffee and tea, while others prefer sweets and cookies… like these macarons in R.S. Grey’s photo.

8. Show books with an adorable fuzzball

If your readers are pet lovers, draw their eyes by including animals in your bookish photos. Brenda Novak posted this cute picture of a pup in reading glasses holding her book under its chin. What dog lover wouldn’t pause to take a closer look in their feed?

This photo from Rainbow Rowell includes her books subtly stacked next to her cat. It’s kind of like subliminal messaging. “Oh hey, that book title looks familiar…”

9. Take a book sightseeing

Have a trip coming up? Take a book along for the ride and photograph it in front of scenic backdrops. Bonus points if the location is relevant to the book’s plot! Karina Hale posted pictures of her book on Instagram in a variety of locations.

Jessica Hawkins posts photos with excerpts of her books in an ereader, rather than showing the cover. This lets readers both sightsee with her and get a preview of her work.

10. Promote a discount price

If your book is discounted, let fans know so they can snag a copy! Some authors include the price in the image to draw attention, like Christine Feehan did. (Notice in the description that she also asked fans a question to boost engagement.)

Another option is to post an image of the Featured Deal in BookBub’s daily email. That’s exactly what Denise Grover Swank did when her book Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes was available for free.

11. Ask fans a question in an image

Post a question asking fans for their opinion, even if it’s not about a specific book. This can make readers feel appreciated and make them more likely to engage with the author’s online persona. Rather than simply posting the text of the question, turn that text into an image, like Tillie Cole did here.

Or ask fans to ask you a question for an upcoming Q&A. Colleen Hoover crowdsourced questions for a Q&A and turned it into a contest — each fan who asked a question would be entered to win a signed copy of her latest book. She coupled this with an image to catch readers’ eyes.

12. Use a custom graphic to promote a giveaway

When running a giveaway on social media, consider creating a custom graphic to make the contest pop. This is a great example from Lex Martin, who took a promotional image of one of her books and added text to describe this specific giveaway.

13. Display quotes or funny quips as a graphic

Readers love sharing inspirational quotes with their friends, whether it’s a quote from one of your books or one that resonated with you (an author they like!). Instead of just sharing the text, spin up a graphic including the quote (or share a pre-existing one). Alice Hoffman posted an image of a quote from one of her backlist books.

Or you can share a joke, quip, or gripe that readers can agree with — like this image from Julia Quinn. Fans will often chime in and agree!

14. Show books you’ve left for strangers to pick up

A trendy promotional tactic is to leave books in random locations around a city and drop hints about the books’ whereabouts in an image. Simon Sinek’s strategy is unique — he bundles two books and encourages the finder to give away the second copy, either to a friend or by dropping it at another random location for someone else to find.

15. Show off your workspace

Give readers a glimpse into where the magic happens! R.S. Grey took a photo straight down of her desk (with her legs and book in the shot).

Sarah M. Eden revealed the reality of many authors’ writing spaces: wherever they can cram in some writing time!

16. Hand-write a note to readers

A fun way to turn text into an image is to hand-write it out and take a photo of it! Bonus points if the handwritten note is artfully displayed like it is in this Instagram post from Sylvia Day.

17. Display event or tour dates in an image

Rather than promoting a single event or tour dates in a text update, display them in an eye-catching image! Karen Kingsbury posted an image on her Facebook page to promote an event to fans.

Tahereh Mafi posted her Restore Me tour as an image optimized for Instagram, including her photo and book cover.

18. Promote virtual events with an image

Similarly, if you have an upcoming online event like a live video chat, a podcast, or a release day Facebook party, create a graphic to promote that event. That’s how Philippa Gregory announced an upcoming Facebook Live Q&A.

19. Show stacks or boxes of books to build event buzz

If you’re selling or giving away copies of a book at an event, posting photos of huge stacks of books or boxes can be a great way to build excitement — especially amongst fans who might be able to grab a copy! Jennifer Armentrout posted a photo of neat stacks of her book ahead of a conference and included the conference hashtag in the description.

20. Display swag

Swag can make great fodder for photos, and it’s great to post these photos when promoting contests or giveaways offering said swag as the prize! James Rollins posted some artfully arranged swag for a giveaway to celebrate the release of his newest book.

21. Provide regional information

If you have updates relevant to readers in different regions, such as launch dates that differ by country, you can avoid reader confusion by elegantly including the information in a graphic. Khaled Hosseini posted a graphic to show differing cover designs and publication dates by country, using a bright backdrop to catch readers’ eyes.

22. Post fan art

You can also show fan appreciation by sharing art they’ve created based on your books, or reposting photos they’ve shared with you. Karin Slaughter posted a photo a particularly talented fan messaged her:

Jennifer Niven makes fan art a weekly event, using the hashtag #fanartfriday to continually encourage fans to create and share fan art for her books.

23. Show props from a scene in a book

Bring your books to life by showing fans how you envisioned objects from specific scenes. Maggie Stiefvater posted a picture with tarot cards that appeared in a scene from her book. The tarot cards were also part of a month-long giveaway and offered as a prize to fans.

24. Display character art and costumes

Let fans see how you envisioned your characters, beyond what the cover art shows. Pinterest is a great place to share boards of your original artwork. If you can’t draw, that’s not a problem — you can compile images you find online! Leigh Bardugo created a Pinterest board for each of her main characters showing her inspiration for how they looked and dressed.

25. Post pics while shopping for books (something readers also enjoy!)

Give readers insights into your love of books by enthusing about discovering new books yourself! Victoria Scott posted a pic of herself digging through rows of books.

Author and agent Eric Smith regularly posts pics of books he finds at bookstores and book festivals.

When it comes to creating images for social media, the sky’s the limit — it would be impossible to list them all in one place! What’s the most creative kind of image you’ve seen authors post on social media? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Diana Urban

Diana Urban is the Industry Marketing Manager at BookBub, and was previously the Head of Conversion Marketing at HubSpot. She’s an expert in inbound marketing, content marketing, and lead generation. Diana is also the author of three young adult thrillers, and is writing her fourth novel. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaUrban.