About a week ago, I was lucky enough to virtually attend this year’s Children’s Book Conference (brought to us by The Bookseller).
During the 4 days, I learned about the challenges that the children’s publishing industry has faced recently (including but not limited to the pandemic) and the steps they have taken to overcome it and keep their the proverbial lights on. It was all very insightful and informative to me personally, as someone who has not thought about children’s books since they were a child, but there was a session in particular that stood out to me.
On Day 3, author, actress and social media aficionado Carrie Hope Fletcher delivered keynote titled ‘Why Social Media Isn’t Just For Influencers’. In it, she discusses how social media (in particular Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) very much helped speed along her career as a performer and creator by giving her an audience to share her pursuits and their respective journeys with. She stipulates that the professional use of social media as a self-marketing platform can instil a fair amount of anxiety in us, as it somewhat requires one to focus one’s personality into a narrow, digestible package. Your social media ‘persona’ can end up being the ‘elevator pitch’ of your existence.
Nonetheless, Fletcher speaks about the many benefits of these platforms, in particular Instagram. There, not only can you engage with your audience with photos, captions and comments, but on the ‘Story’ function, there is an all-important ‘Swipe Up’ function, which allows you to link to absolutely anything outside of Instagram, be it a website, blog, or… dare I say, a book.
This is where publishing houses and authors stand to gain a lot. The romance of reading books is alive and well on Instagram, with the often-used hashtag #bookstagram being used on a variety of posts and profiles. They are usually very aesthetic in nature, with excellent lighting, soft wood backgrounds and pretty hardback novels on gorgeous display. These posts along with the people who make them can garner a lot of attention, with accounts like @sweptawaybybooks boasting over 80k followers.
Fletcher also stressed that the content she receives the most engagement for tends to be of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ variety. A vlog about her writing process, or a photo of a rehearsal for a play she’s starring in; these will receive a lot of attention.
My point with all of this is that publishing houses could take advantage of this to generate more interest and excitement for their upcoming releases. A series of aesthetically-pleasing posts showing the process of accepting a manuscript and turning it into a wide-reaching product could drum up engagement. A YouTube channel detailing the rituals or routine of an experienced author could make readers feel closer to them, making them more likely to purchase their books.
As Fletcher aptly explains in her keynote: “People just like to feel included and heard. They like to know that their books are being written and sold by good-hearted, like-minded fun-loving people”.