Thursday, 18 October 2018

Building an Online Platform: What Writers Can Learn From Bookstagrammers


If you're unfamiliar with the term 'bookstagrammer' then listen up! 

Bookstagrammers on Instagram are the social media stars that every publisher wants to work with, every author wants to give a copy of their latest novel for review - and every writer should be paying attention to! Why? Because Bookstagrammers are in the know! They appeal to their followers because they are REAL, genuine book lovers who are always in search for the perfect read. And we listen to what they have to say!

Their Instagram account is ALL about reading, sharing beautiful books and what current trends or classic books readers may want to try. Which is definitely something all writers should be taking note of! 

So bearing this in mind, I recently had the opportunity to speak to the wonderful Sally from BooksCupsandCandles where she shared her top tips for getting back in your reading stride, building an online platform AND what a reader REALLY wants! 

With over 11,000 followers on Instagram - Sally is the lady you need to listen to! 




Before we get into all things book-related, could you explain a little about yourself to my readers and how your passion for reading cultivated into something much larger? 

Sally: It seems that I have loved reading forever!


Well, at least, from as far back as I can remember and it is a love that has never wavered, only grown.


I can actually remember the very moment when the magic first struck.


Photo Credit to @bookscupsandcandles

It began with C.S. Lewis’:  ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. I cried buckets over that one. I was seven, and my older best friend had somehow talked me into trading my candy for this battered old copy of the book that had once belonged to her Mom.

I was deftly drawn into a new world, via a magic wardrobe. It led to a land of perpetual winter, talking animals, a wicked witch, a friendly fawn, and a lion whose kindness and strength knew no bounds. I still get shivers just writing about it. Fast forward many years, and you’ll still find me curled up with my nose in a good book at any opportunity.

When I first discovered that Instagram had its own special reading corner for us book lovers (Bookstagram) I was hooked. Finally I had found my people!

It all began quite innocently. I didn’t have any props, and so I just found a well lit area in my house and began to share my favourite reads, as best as I could. Since Bookstagram is such a friendly, welcoming community, I soon received a lot of support and kind comments, and it wasn’t long before I started making friends.

Stephen King famously said ‘If you want to be a writer, then you must do two things above all others. Read & write.’  As a fellow creative (I know you’re currently working on your first fantasy novel), how important do you find reading is when you’re a writer?


I love that Stephen King quote!

Photo Credit to @bookscupsandcandles
 I have to say that I agree with him wholeheartedly.

It is very important and I believe that for an aspiring writer especially, the more books that you read, and the more writing styles you are exposed to, the sooner you will find your own voice and the clearer it will be.

Writer’s block and falling out of the habit of reading happens to the best of us. What top 3 tips can you share with us about getting back on track or if we find reading tricky?


Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself in a massive reading slump?

It can be so frustrating when you have a bunch of brilliant books sat winking at you from the shelves, yet you find yourself unable to concentrate on any of them.



For me personally, I find that I’ll first turn to a contemporary read when this happens. I’m already struggling to focus, so I’ll look for a lighthearted, feel good, story, which requires little effort on my part. Forget cerebral novels for now. Let the author do the work, I’m just along for the ride at this point.

If I still find myself in a slump, then sometimes I will pick up an old favorite and settle down for a reread. The familiarity of a well-loved book, is soothing for the soul and it can be all I need to feel refreshed and ready to begin the next book on my never ending #TBR list. The Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling are perfect for this.

If neither of these suggestions work for me, then my final course of action would be to pick up a short story collection. If I’m struggling to commit to a novel, then a book that I know I can just dip in and out of at will is a super substitute.

Before I know it, I’ll have hit my stride again and be ready to soak up a new story.

From your own experiences and with such a large Instagram following, what advice do you have for others looking to build a professional public platform? 


Oh my goodness, thank you. I appreciate the compliment.

There are so many brilliant accounts out there, and mine is small fry compared to many of those. I can only tell you that I follow my heart, and post what I love.



My account has grown at a steady pace over the course of two years, and through trial and error. My advice to anyone starting an Instagram account would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone and interact as much as you can.

I know it’s hard.

It was for me, because in real life we can’t just walk into the middle a conversation, and add our opinions, but it’s totally different online. I remember being so shy at the beginning when it came to interacting. However, everyone was so welcoming and it didn’t take long for me to feel at home and look forward to discussing and sharing my love of books and reading with likeminded people. It’s so wonderful to find people who have so much in common with you.

I don’t think there is a specific recipe to grow a platform, other than to be authentic, and, I guess, I’d say be consistent with your posts, and you will find your people.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by building a following and online platform. What social media apps do you use to organise, edit and plan your content on Instagram and other social media channels.

I’m a creature of habit, and although I have a ton of fabulous apps on my phone, I edit most of my content with ‘Pic, Tap, Go’ and ‘Color Story’.


 Photo Credit to @bookscupsandcandles
I guess I’m a little lazy, and I stick to the same presets most of the time. 



When I want to spice things up a little, then I’ll add a video effect.  The only other platforms that I use are Bookscupsandcandles.com (my blog) and that’s linked to Twitter, but I am considering starting a You Tube channel in the near future.


What is it about specific genres/authors that engages you with their work? Equally, what absolutely turns you OFF from reading a book? How can readers learn to better themselves as a writer?


I read across the whole spectrum of genres, but as for my favorite genre, I’ve always loved Horror.

You know I’m going to name Stephen King as my favorite horror writer, but I also particularly like Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire), Kealan Patrick Burke (Blanky), Neil Gaiman (American Gods), and Dan Simmons (The Hollow Man). I’ve just read my first Joe Hill book, (NOS4R2) and now I’m a huge fan. 

Photo Credit to @bookscupsandcandles

I also love thrillers, and Police procedural novels. 

Authors like Patricia Cornwell with her famous Kay Scarpetta novels, keep me turning the page, long after I should be asleep. I’d encourage everyone to pick up ‘Post Mortem’ the first in this series. Similarly I’ve been anxiously awaiting the publication of the latest Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K Rowling) novel ‘Lethal White’ as I love her Cormoran Strike series. I love a good series where the protagonist becomes like a familiar friend and I can watch them grow, while I enjoy each new installment.

I find the Bookstagram community to be rich with hidden treasures just waiting to be unearthed. For example, I previously overlooked Historical fiction, thinking it wasn’t my cup of tea. Then I was introduced to the work of Simone St. James (‘Lost Among the Living’, “Silence for the Dead’) and I was instantly smitten. Her books are amazing, and all have a supernatural element within, that I love so much.

The truth is, I would have totally overlooked these in the bookstore. 

As to what turns me off about a book. I’d say it is probably the same as most readers: bad writing, the more obvious contrived plots, and weak characters. Luckily I don’t fall upon many of these. 

Publishers are very picky these days (though I do have some fabulously cheesy 1980’s books that I’ve started curating lately that have all that and more.)

Let’s talk about your own creative projects & your fantasy novel you’re working on!  What is it about the writing process that you love/find tricky and how do you overcome these challenges?


Yes, I’m so thrilled to be working on my first novel which is a fantasy novel which is set in ancient Britain. 

Photo Credit to @bookscupsandcandles

I’m sure anybody else would make a terrific job of world building, and create a completely mythical stage; but I decided that I would make life as difficult as I could for myself, and base much of my story on ancient history too as it fascinates me so much. 

So I’m weaving both fact and fiction together as seamlessly as I can. It’s taking me a little while, but I’m enjoying the progress. I’ve had to draft all three books at once, just for continuity! We are talking Witches and Wizards, Dragons and Druids, magic and mayhem, all coming together in an exciting adventure that also has deep roots and consequences. It’s a huge project but I’m so excited about it. 

I guess that maybe Narnia affected me deeper than I thought!

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my love of books with your readers.

You can find Sally over on her beautiful Instagram account on @bookscupsandcandles and her blog https://bookscupsandcandles.com
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2 comments

  1. Yes! Lion Witch and Wardrobe among the first to enthrall me many years ago! Love any vehicle now that can transport me to another world!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lois! Yes I agree, it's a wonderful book. Another favourite of mine was The Hobbit which would also take me to a totally different world as a child growing up.

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