Now that I’ve jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, I’m noticing a lot of other authors are asking the same ‘what’s this Pinterest thing and why should I sign up?’ questions I asked a few months back. I may be partly to blame because I’ve been talking about it a lot, though with articles containing stats like these being tweeted it can’t be entirely my fault. So I figured I should write a bit of an advice post.
Pinterest is like Twitter in that it allows you to share interesting and fun links with other people. On Twitter your home page is a constant flow of tweets by the people you follow. On Pinterest you can look at what everyone on Pinterest is pinning, or just your followers. I recommend the latter, or you’ll be looking at an endless flow of nailpolish tutorials, weight loss motivational slogans, and mis-spelled religious sentiments.
As with Twitter, the best way to figure out who is on it and worth following is to find someone you know and look at who they are following. And here it offers a feature I wish Twitter had: you can choose which of their boards to follow. If Twitter had that function, I’d choose NOT to follow the rabid sports commentary of a few people I find interesting otherwise.
While in Twitter time sweeps your tweets and pins away unless someone retweets or repins them, in Pinterest they go into boards. This is a bit like favouriting tweets, except that you can categorise them and… well… how often do you go look to see which tweets a tweeter has favourited? Looking at other pinners’ boards is part of the fun of Pinterest.
So, once you’ve joined Pinterest and started following a few people, how do you make it work for you as an author? Well, I’ve written you a handy list. Which turned out to be rather like the one in this article on Sony’s Pinterest Strategy, but without the ‘business speak’ language, so I shuffled things around to follow a similar format.
1. Research what other authors are doing on Pinterest. Well, this is kind of obvious. You’ll find that some authors are using pin boards as, well, pinboards – in other words they are collecting images that inspire them. They’re also putting up pins of books: their own and other people’s. But like with most social media, the ones who ‘get’ the site and enjoy it also tend to have boards dedicated to things they like that aren’t necessarily related to writing and books, which gives a nice, more personal insight and makes them seem more human. I recommend checking out Tansy Tayner Roberts, Alison Goodman and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Pinterest boards.
2. Make your website Pinterest friendly. Once you’ve attempted to pin books you’ll start to see what makes a Pinterest friendly web page and what makes you swear under your breath and wonder if the author gives a damn about whether anyone can find information about their book on the internet. Ideally, create a separate page for each of your books with a good image of the cover and some information – a blurb at the least, an extract or link to one if you’re a smart cookie. Then look at what else on your website would make a good pin, like blog posts that have disappeared into the archive, writing advice and that short story you put up as a freebie. If necessary add an image to the web page for the pin. Something that compliments the text and might encourage someone to click through to your site. Often just words set against a plain background does the trick.
3. Create pins that are ‘spam safe’. The big down side to Pinterest is how easy it is at the moment for spammers to exploit it. As soon as a pin looks like it’s going to be popular spammers repin it and change the link so it leads to a different web page. There’s a reporting system in place but it does rely on Pinterest members checking their repins for dodgy links. Having pins of your books available in a board means pinners always have somewhere to go to find safe pins. And for everything else you pin…
4. Practise good Pinterest etiquette. Don’t pin or repin anything that doesn’t link back to the source. I know, it’s tempting to repin anyway when the image is so very, very cool. But not checking for spam links does nobody any favours, and how can you expect people to respect your intellectual property if you don’t respect that of other creators? (Oh, and yes the Pinterest iPhone app is a bit sucky for checking links. I now ‘like’ pins when using the iPhone, then check the links and convert them to a repins when I’m on my computer later.)
5. Be more than just a self-promotion robot. Create boards of pins other than your book covers that readers might find interesting. Pinterest is a visual medium, so ask yourself what can you offer here that you can’t elsewhere? I have a casting wish list board, a collection of images that inspire me, and include pics of objects and places that have inspired books I’ve written. Other board ideas might include fan art (with permission from the fans, of course), collections of favourite book trailers, a board of favourite movies, and a ‘soundtrack’ board of music you listen to while writing.
6. Cross post/pin/tweet from your website and other social media sites. Again, kind of obvious.
7. Look at what publishers, booksellers and book bloggers are doing, and if any are on Pinterest see if there’s a way you can work together. It’s early days, but like with Facebook and Twitter there’s potential in Pinterest to run competitions, pin links to video or other content, as well as reciprocal pinning. Pinterest’s strength (though also its weakness) is in how creating a link is integral to creating a pin, which creates paths through the internet. When it works well, those paths lead people who are interested in what you’re pinning to something they want, be it information, a shop or just something really cool.
8. Have fun!
There are probably more ways that Pinterest can be used and enjoyed by authors than this. It is early days. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.