Can Bookstagrammers make money? This question often comes up on Bookstagram (what the book community calls itself on Instagram), and I have also seen an increase in book influencers generally speaking up for payment in exchange for product promotion.
This post focuses on how to make money from Bookstagram. I have thought about this post for a LONG time and written several drafts debating the best way to share this information and to be respectful to both authors and Bookstagrammers -- all of whom are working hard!
But, at the end of the day, this particular post is entitled "Can Bookstagrammers make money?" And so, I am going to focus on answering that question with a "YES!" and providing you with some creative ideas how to make money from Bookstagram.
CAVEAT: I first have to note that I personally am in a bit of a unique position. I have run my blog (and Bookstagram) as a business from Day 1. I spent years of my free time learning how to start a blog, how to grow a successful Bookstagram and the best blogging resources.
I have read, watched and listened to probably thousands of hours of content about how to blog successfully at this point. I also invest financially in a lot of resources to help it grow. It's A LOT, from tech, to photography, social media, graphic design, search engine optimization, partnerships, copywriting, marketing and SO MUCH MORE.
I have described it before as being like going to college and being both the teacher and student in every class.
I am CONSTANTLY researching and tweaking things, as well as paying for courses and tools that help me grow. And I spend early mornings, late nights, holidays and weekends, every single day, working on it. But, I actually love all of that!
However, I realize many Bookstagrammers are not in the same position as me. I think many Bookstagrammers started out purely as a hobby to promote literacy and connect with other like-minded people through book influencing and just thought it was really cool to get some free ARCs of books in exchange for posting about them.
But, as Bookstagram has grown, Bookstagrammers also grew -- first, in size, as many book influencers have amassed more followers than book publishers themselves. And this generally requires hours per day of engaging with your community, as well as giving up some of your personal anonymity, in order for followers to feel like they know and trust you and your opinion.
Also, Bookstagrammers began to create content far more involved than a "point and click" image: long-form reviews, artwork using dozens (or even hundreds) of books, running chat groups to discuss specific books, and so forth.
In a recent Bookstagram survey I conducted, Bookstagrammers told me they spend anywhere from minutes to four or five hours a day running their Bookstagram. And 87% of people who responded to the survey said that Bookstagram influences their book purchases. (#BookstagramMadeMeDoIt has over 50,000 posts at the time of writing this post.)
So, if Bookstagrammers are influencing purchases, my position is why shouldn't they be earning money from it?! Personally, as the requests I received to review books grew, so did my stress about how much I could take on for someone else without seeing a return for my most precious commodity -- my time -- other than a book I could technically borrow from the library for free, trade with a friend, etc., with no strings attached. I'm hearing the same from many of my fellow Bookstagram friends.
But, not everyone agrees with me -- there's a wide variety of opinions out there about the question "Can Bookstagrammers make money?" ranging all the way from those who don't believe in any compensation in exchange for book reviews to those book influencers who are actively and publicly pointing the finger at brands who provide only product in exchange for promotion, as exploitation of people who are (a) mostly women, (b) often from diverse backgrounds and (c) all creatives.
I personally believe the Bookstagram community should move towards some payment for book influencing. But, I also very sincerely understand authors can also be bootstrapped by time and money, as well as so many other things, like systemic racism as one example, so I really try to walk that line of being respectful to both authors and Bookstagrammers, who both rely on each other! I also understand that some people find unpaid reviews to be more genuine, as well as other arguments against payment.
My personal rules: I personally handle every request on a case by case basis and prioritize free work for authors who: follow me back and interact with me, have a book completely aligned with me and my audience, promote a charitable cause of interest to me and/or offer a diverse point of view, etc.
My boundaries: I no longer EVER agree to promote a work only "because I feel bad." And I personally do not see myself agreeing to do unpaid work where a middleman is involved (like a PR company). My position is that, if there's money to pay the PR middleman, there should be money to pay the influencer or blogger who has cultivated the relevant audience and maintains the community on a daily basis through content and engagement.
All this being said, the two points I really want to drive home about the purpose of this post is that I am hoping to provide a few quick tips for Bookstagrammers who probably don't want to run a full blog like me but would love to make some extra cash off their already successful Bookstagram (and don't know how), and I am also trying to be respectful and reasonable to everyone in the Bookstagram community at the same time.
How To: Can Bookstagrammers Make Money?
So, let's get practical. My answer to the question, "Can Bookstagrammers make money?" is a resounding YES. Below are some ideas on how to make money on Bookstagram through book influencing.
MAJOR / BIG / HUGE NOTE: All of these recommendations require time and effort. Like anything in life, you must take action, and do so consistently, to see any sort of payoff. And I am not promising any sort of "get rich quick" scheme here. It's not easy to make money on Instagram. I just want to give people that little push in the right direction, and you can see where it leads, decide how much time and effort you want to devote, develop your personal boundaries and the confidence to ask for payment, etc.
And even if you don't think you have the time to put into book influencing, keep in mind you are likely already spending a lot of time and effort on Bookstagram already without getting paid. In order to make the most of your time, I suggest that book influencers instead think about how to re-adjust the time you already spend on Instagram so that it may provide some return on your investment -- not necessarily add more to your to-do list. I have done this myself by posting less, not using Instagram during the day, removing notifications from my phone, etc.
Now, FINALLY, below are some options for how to make money from Bookstagram.
I have seen a lot of Bookstagrammers host book sales for used books (other than ARCs, which are not for re-sale) on their Instagram pages and use Venmo or Paypal for payment.
This reminds me of how I used to spend a few weekends a year cleaning out my house and selling stuff on eBay. It was a GREAT way to earn some extra cash while maintaining all my other life obligations and not making too much of a time commitment at the same time.
Use Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are a great way for Bookstagrammers to learn how to make money from Bookstagram. You can start making money for actual sales conversions. The way it works is you get a unique link from a retailer and if a person buys something using that link, you earn a commission, at no extra charge to the consumer.
A few places where I am an affiliate and where you can also sign up:
Amazon: If you are going to sign up to be an Amazon affiliate, I recommend signing up both for their affiliate program, which allows you to create links, and their Influencer program, which allows you to create links in a "Shop." The Shop allows you to create lists and shoppable images. You can visit my Amazon shop to get an idea of what this looks like.
Bookshop.org: Similarly, Bookshop.org allows book influencers to create lists of books on a static page or create a link for a specific book.
SkimLinks: I like SkimLinks because you simply use a browser extension to create a link on most retailers' websites. It's so quick and easy to get an affiliate link for virtually any retailer! And I don't think you need a blog to join.
Then, it's really up to you to advocate for your links, consistently refer people to them and test things out to see what works. Having the affiliate link and placing it in your bio are really only the first steps.
You can try kindly suggesting after each book review that if a review inspired a reader to purchase the book, you would appreciate them using your link in your bio at no cost to them.
If you have a swipe-up feature on Instagram stories, that definitely makes it easier! Also, be sure to note things like time-sensitive deals and sales.
It's up to you how you want to handle it, and you can test things, but it can help to pick just a few products you are "known" for. Be creative with it. For example, you can make it a weekly theme on your Bookstagram. Then, when someone is ready to buy they will think of you.
Lastly, if you syndicate your reviews to GoodReads, I believe you can also use affiliate links there.
Collaborate on a Paid Sponsorship
Bookstagrammers can also get paid sponsorships with authors, publishers or bookish brands. While this is very standard in the lifestyle sphere of Instagram it hasn't quite caught on in the Bookstagram world yet.
I think on Bookstagram it requires creativity (like partnering with lifestyle brands who are already paying influencers), as well as more Bookstagrammers refusing to produce content without compensation in order to change the general landscape of Bookstagram.
You can see what brands bloggers you follow are already partnering with, build relationships with brands you love, etc., to start. Book influencers can reach out to a brand and make a pitch, as you would make a pitch for an ARC.
When I make a pitch, it's very personal to what I absolutely love and think I can do well with and why, as well as data-driven. (You can refer to your Instagram insights). At the same time, keep it simple and casual! No one wants a dissertation in their inbox.
Think about the pitches that you receive and which ones make you say "yes." Then, you can try to pitch that way to someone else yourself.
There are also a TON of companies out there that act as middle men to link brands with influencers. You can research and sign up for them. I personally signed up for one a day for about a month myself. I'm now signed up for a few dozen of them but I haven't actually worked with any of them myself yet, so I don't feel comfortable recommending any specific ones here just yet (but will update this post when I do).
I will mention that one very new sponsorship company that's totally on point is even called Bookstagrammers. I have been in contact with the owner there a few times, and she's great! I also recently applied for a project there. Maybe you can start there too.
And if someone reaches out to you for a collaboration, you can start by asking them if it's paid, and then begin negotiating (more on pricing below). By doing this, I have turned unpaid collaborations into paid collaborations myself!
If it's unpaid, it's up to you at that point to think about the pros and cons and whether you want to move forward. I do caution you, however, that "I really just wanted a free [insert product]" can sometimes spiral into a lot of work, so try to be aware of your boundaries ahead of time, ask questions, get things in writing, etc.
It may seem hard at first to be assertive like this, but in my experience, it's actually not all that hard in practice and it feels good to set your own personal boundaries. At the end of the day, it's up to you to advocate for yourself and to set your boundaries.
I'm a recovering "yes" woman myself who can't imagine a life without boundaries now.
Sell Your Own Product or Service
It's obviously extra work to sell your own product on Bookstagram, but I know so many Bookstagrammers who are doing well-selling things like Lightroom presets and bookish products on Etsy via their Bookstagram.
One book influencer I follow sells bundles of themed vintage books! And I recently read an article about a woman killing it each month by selling her Canva templates.
If you're not crafty, perhaps you may be good at selling a service, like creating a list of personalized book recommendations for people via PayPal, Venmo, Patreon, etc.
How much should an Instagram influencer charge for a collaboration?
I don't feel fully qualified to tell people how to price collaborations fairly, but from my research and personal experience, generally, the current range is $100-$200 for every 10,000 followers for a "social media only" collaboration. HOWEVER, I have also heard a lot of influencers state this is an old metric, and that they make more than that. And I am sure there are collaborations below that metric as well.
You can also ask extra for things like the right for the collaborator to use your photos, exclusivity, a tight turnaround, etc.
I think it's important to really think about how much time a particular project may take you, as well as any out-of-pocket expenses.
I'm also playing with charging how much it would cost a brand to run an Instagram ad to the same amount of people plus compensation for the creation of content. If you play around with "Promotions" on your Instagram profile or do some Google searches, you can see how much ads generally cost on Instagram in order to come up with your rate.
My research generally shows that it costs $0.50 to $1.00 per click to run an Instagram ad, so you may want to take a look at your engagement insights and base your rate on a prediction of how many clicks your post may get plus compensation for the time spent creating the content, etc.
And you can also think about different kinds of partnerships at different budgets for your book influencing work:
- Full book review
- Hosting a buddy read for a book
- Cover reveal
- Book tour (no review)
How to Get *More* Out of Unpaid Collaborations
As I mentioned earlier, not every collaboration between an author or brand and Bookstagrammer will likely be paid, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help you promote a cause, a diverse read, etc.
But, that doesn't mean book influencers can't get something a bit out of an unpaid collaboration for your time, art and access to your audience. A few options:
One option I like: Can an author offer Bookstagrammers more than one book (and signed, if possible), for a giveaway? This both gives you a free book AND allows you to grow your community via the giveaway.
Another option: Can the author provide an image and/or written content for you? This significantly eases the burden on your time as opposed to reading a book, writing a review, creating content, posting on certain days with certain hashtags, etc.
Another option: Even if the author has a limited budget for influencer marketing, are they willing to do something else to provide added value, like donate to charity? Or, would the author be willing to re-share our content with their audience to promote you in return?
So, the answer to the question "Can Bookstagrammers make money?" is YES! While I can't possibly include every detail or important point here, I hope you found helpful ideas on how to make money from Bookstagram.
Remember, this all takes time and effort, and it is NOT a "get rich quick" scheme, but so does running a Bookstagram without getting paid. I think for most people this is a matter of hopefully getting some extra cash and not a total life changer. And it's a marathon, not a sprint.
I know it can be overwhelming, but I do hope the suggestions I provided can give you a good start. Perhaps you can start small with just one idea or 5-10 minutes a day, and then go from there. That's exactly how I started my own blog!
I hope I thoroughly answered the question, "Can Bookstagrammers make money?" for you.
Related Bookstagram Posts:
- A Beginner's Guide to Bookstagram
- Bookstagram Hashtag Guide
- Bookstagram Story Templates
- Bookstagram Name Generator
- Literary Holiday Calendar for Social Media Planning
- How to Start a Book Blog
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