After publishing a piece yesterday on why I think it’s time for book bloggers and bookstagrammers to get paid, I’ve been reflecting on my own book blogging journey, and more specifically, the beginning of my #bookstagram account. Whilst my feed now consists of pretty diverse content, it all started with my love of books. Let’s go on a journey back to 2013 and see just how far I’ve come in the last 5 years!
2013 – 2014
The first time I ever posted on #bookstagram was way back in 2013. I was in my last year of secondary school and this was the year I read and reviewed a book and film a day over the summer!
Instagram wasn’t so much of a thing at the time and I didn’t publish to it often at all. When I received books from publishers I would simply post a picture of the cover, caring little about the aesthetics of those tiny squares. My first picture was of Sarah Dessen’s new release The Moon and More and I can’t help but smile when I look at this picture and think about how things have changed over the years.
At the time I was part of a programme run by Penguins UK Books called “Spinebreakers”. Unfortunately, it no longer exists, but it was a club for keen under 18 book reviewers and we’d get sent two new books of our choice each month.
People often ask me how I get so many books from publishers today and the answer is simply that I started my blog way back in 2011, joined programmes such Spinebreakers, and have been building relationships with PRs in publishing for over seven years.
The Spinebreakers would often meet in person at the Penguin offices, so I managed to meet the team face to face, which always helps. I also did work experience with Penguin in September 2014, which you can read about here.
Although this programme is no longer run by Penguin, I am sure I have heard of similar programmes run by organisations or publishers themselves, particularly to help young people get into publishing. If it’s something you’re looking to get into, do some research into this as it can be a great way to make yourself known to them!
2015 – Part I
Even at the start of 2015, I wasn’t posting on #bookstagram regularly. I’d settled into life at Oxford University at this point and my blog had very much taken the back seat. It’s a shame I wasn’t so into photography or Instagram during my second year because I lived in an amazing room with an insane view out over the quad and Christ Church library, which you can see in the background of the far left photo in the second row. I’m kicking myself for the wasted opportunity!
I reckon at this point I probably had around 350 followers and was posting pretty sporadically. I can see that I was starting to think about colours and composition though, which I clearly wasn’t back in 2013. It also seems to have been the birth of my open book photos, which were a signature photo of mine in years to come, though sadly I post very few of these now.
2015 – Part II
In July 2015, I moved to Paris. This was a complete game changer for my blog and Instagram. I lived in Paris for 11 months and during this time I completed two internships with social media marketing companies. This is where I really learnt about the influencer industry and I was living and breathing social media. As my work involved research into social media and influencer marketing was beginning to grow, I was constantly exposed to “professional” instagrammers, creative photography and diverse accounts.
This is also when I purchased my first ever DLSR, which I still use today, the trusty Canon 100D. Undoubtedly this had a huge impact on my photography skills and style and I was always experimenting with different objects, scenes, lightings etc.
I started to take pictures outdoors, favouring holding the book up at an angle with a nice background. I also started to take pictures of me “reading” in public – my face was always hidden though!
I also discovered the art of the flatlay. I purchased white cardboard sheets to use as a background and would have fun composing these flatlays with different colours and objects.
There are also some non-bookish pics as this is when my blog content started to diversify. Living in Paris exposed me to so many new experiences, restaurants, museums etc and I wanted to share these experiences with my readers.
In 2016, I was still living in Paris and still absorbed in the world of social media whilst busy exploring the city in the evenings and weekends. I feel like this was a real turning point for my Instagram feed as I finally discovered the art of an Instagram theme! Hooray!
After leaving Paris, I went on a three-week holiday to Thailand with my boyfriend. This was the longest period I’d spent in any country other than England or China and is where I discovered my love for travel.
I think I passed the 10k follower mark at some point during this year, which was beyond anything I could’ve hoped for when I started this account! I certainly never set out to be an “instagrammer”, nor could I have imagined all the amazing opportunities and friendships that would come from this venture.
In 2017, sh*t gets serious at Oxford as we all realise finals are fast approaching. It also dawned on me that I’d soon be leaving this wonderful city I’d called home for 3 years. I was desperate to experience as much of it as possible before I left so I tried to explore as many colleges, cafes and museums that I could alongside my busy studies. As such, the majority of the photos from the first half of the year are Oxford-related.
Then, I graduate.
It’s goodbye Oxford and off another adventure. This time I go off to China, Japan, Seoul and then back to China for a big East Asian tour. I visit Paris twice that year and take some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever captured – Paris is always a good idea after all!
Now here we are at 2018! I’ve just started my 6 months off, am officially a full-time blogger (say whaaat!) and have just passed 25k followers on Instagram. My feed has a distinctly orange and warm tinge that I would’ve hated when I first started out on Instagram. I still use my Canon 100D but I now edit my photos on Lightroom as opposed to VSCO Cam and other apps. It’s absolutely amazing what can be done with Photoshop and Lightroom and I’m hoping to keep developing these editing skills over the next few months!
As for content, I love to post a mixture of bookshops, libraries, flatlays, city scapes and more on my feed today. Engagement bobs up and down like a yoyo but bookish posts always tend to do the best since that’s where it all started!
So altogether from start to finish (though of course, the story continues..), it looks something like the below. If you’re still with me this far into the post (thank you!), you’ll now know that it has been quite a slow process, I didn’t grow my account over night and I most certainly wasn’t a natural born photographer. I’m completely gobsmacked by the fact that I actually began my Instagram account for @whatshotblog back in 2013, when I was still at school, but have now just completed my first year of postgraduate study after my four year degree!
If you liked this post, check out these:
It’s Time for Book Bloggers and Bookstagrammers to Get Paid.
Book Bloggers Share Their Thoughts on Influencer Marketing
The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Book Bloggers
Behind the Scenes on Instagram with @whatshotblog
10 Truly Beautiful Instagram Accounts for Book Lovers
10 More Beautiful Instagram Accounts for Book Lovers
How to Declutter Your Bookshelves
7 Beautiful Books Bloggers Love to Use as Props
7 Reasons to Always Carry a Book With You