Intro: What Is Pinterest?
- Pinterest is a bookmarking site that lets you save images, rather than text links.
- Find a page (or picture) you like on the web, ‘pin’ it and add one of its images to a visual pinboard
- Pinterest is also a social network: find interesting images and links based on what friends with common interests are ‘pinning’
- Images on Pinterest automatically link back to the original page where the images was posted (creating the ‘bookmarking’ part).
As you browse Pinterest it becomes clear that most people are using it to create ‘idea vision boards’ for projects like home-decor and craft projects. But there are plenty of ways for a writer to use Pinterest to, from building a collection of inspirational quotes to building a following as a high-quality ‘pinner’ in a particular niche.
So, how do you use Pinterest? As well as browsing Pinterest and repinning other people’s images, I recommend grabbing the ‘bookmarklet’ and putting it in your browser’s links bar. Then, as you browse the web, ‘pin’ images and arrange them in boards, adding new material to Pinterest.
As with every hot new social network, building a reputation early is key to becoming influential on that network. Allocate some time every day to building quality links and soon you’ll be a Pinterest guru. People are inclined to feel personally invested in the ventures of people they ‘know’, so gathering a large audience on a social network can ultimately lead to sales of your work.
Here are 17 ways you can use Pinterest to inspire and improve your own writing, and build an audience for your work.
1. Create an Ideas board
Never again sit down at your desk and think “I don’t know what to write!”.
Browse the web and ‘pin’ pictures that suggest an intriguing starting point (or climax) for a story.
Browse other people’s boards on Pinterest, always thinking about characters, settings and story.
Add all these pictures to one “Writing Prompts” board and refer to it as often as necessary.
2. Create a vision board for your characters
- What does your heroine look like?
- What are the various aspects of your hero’s character?
- Where do your characters live?
3. Create a vision board for story settings
- Exotic locales
- Mundane locales
4. Collect inspirational posters and sayings
Lots of people collect and pin posters of inspirational sayings. You can create your own writing related board.
You can also easily create visual version of favourite quotes that you come across while reading.
- Fire up your image software
- Create a nice background,
- Overlay some text in a nice clean, readable and a large enough size that it’ll catch someone’s eye when they are browsing lots of little thumbnails.
- Post to a page on your own website.
When people click on the pin (and the repins) they will be brought to you site, so make sure there is something good for them to discover on the page as well as the picture!
To see an example of how I used this technique click here, then click on the image.
5. Build a board full of pictures of your mentors
*Collect pictures of authors: those you love, those you aspire to be like. Look at them for inspiration
I recommend collecting three tiers of mentor. (Some days you won’t be able to stand looking at anything but the bottom rung…)
- Writers you know you must be able to equal,
- Writers who are more practiced than you, but who you don’t hold in complete awe,
- The gods of your writing life. You can’t imagine being like them, but reading their work always inspires you.
6. Collect pictures of beautiful libraries and bookshelves
You’re in this business because you love books and reading, right?. There’s nothing like gazing at a beautiful space filled with books to fill you with dreams of seeing your book among them. (Also, these are popular pictures, often ‘repinned’ by avid readers, and isn’t that your target audience?
7. Collect pictures of authors’ workspaces, for inspiration
There’s nothing like a little solidarity to make you feel you’re not alone in your writing journey. Why not pin some pictures of other writers’ workspaces? Or start your own board with this one ->
8. Collect funny comics or pictures to give yourself a break
There is a lot of humor and comics online aimed at readers and writers (and librarians). Pin a few!
9. Create a vision board for your story’s antagonist
Back to the writing! Start working on your antagonist. Collect pictures of
- People (mean people, nice people, overbearing parents, sweet grandmothers. Antagonists come in all forms)
- Expressions of emotion
- Mean-spirited quotes
- Places that typify your antagonist or evoke the difficulties your characters get into.
10. Collect beauty
Who says everything in your pinboards has to be connected to writing?
For inspiration – to get you in the creative zone – collect pictures of things that you consider really beautiful. Art and beauty tend to feed each other.
If you only focus on books and writing you’re inviting creative block. Look at all the beauty in the world and art, and feel those creative juices flow again.
11. Collect cover art of books similar to your story
It can be easy to lose your way while writing, and lose the ‘tone’ you were striving for. A quick glance at a board full of the covers of books written the style you’re aiming for can get you right back on track. (Imagine looking at a screen full of hard sci-fi books versus a screen full of historical romance covers. Instant mood-change!)
12. Create a board for pictures of your work ‘in the wild’
If you have already published work, appeal to your fans for pictures of your work out in the real world. (You can do this through Twitter or Facebook or some other social network if you have a following there).
Collect pictures of your book being read, on shelves, on benches, in boxes arriving from Amazon.
Sharing these pictures oing this creates ‘social proof’ that other people are reading your work: a powerful marketing tool to encourage readers to try your work.
13. Create a board for fan art
- Sure they’re dinging your copyright, but you’ll create more raving fans with a compliment than a ‘cease & desist’ letter
- Best-selling author Neil Gaiman regularly posts links to fan art, and his following is the kind of cultish, raving fans you want to create!
- Allowing not-for-profit derivative works gives people a sense of ownership of your characters. They will love them (and you) all the more if you acknowledge them.
14. Create a board about something you really love, whether or not it’s related to writing
Yes, it’s off-topic but there are two very good reasons for doing this:
- Readers like to get to know the authors, to get a look behind the scenes
- You’re more likly to keep updating a board filled with things you are passionate about, rather than one you think you ought to be doing
15. Don’t go, ahem, overboard with this
One or two off-topic boards are great – they let readers see another side of you. However, if eight out of ten of your Pinterest boards are off-topic, you risk your followers missing the message your’re trying to send (“I write. You might want to read my stuff if you like my taste”.)
16. Create a board of other books like yours
*This might seem counter-intuitive, but you’re not really competing with other authors. If someone is a dedicated reader, they’re always looking for more titles like the ones they love. If you become a valued source of recommendations, they’re going to learn to trust your taste, and are more likely to give your books a try.
17. Create a board that will appeal to a particular interest of your readers
Promoting yourself and your work doesn’t necessarily mean talking about yourself and your writing all the time (in fact, I would argue that talking about yourself and writing shoudl be the least of what you do). Think about what your readers like, and pin those things.
- Debbie Macomber, an author who knits and often inclues knitting in her books, could create a board of beautiful kniting patterns, accessories or humor (yes, there is knitting humor!)
- Sophie Kinsella might create a board full of images from the latest fashion shows and blogs
If you like to read in the genre you’re writing in, think of the other things that interest you. Chances are your fellow readers in that genre are also interested in some of them. Create an awesome board in that niche and start building followers.
WARNING COPYRIGHT ISSUES
There is a brewing controversy with Pinterest since people are taking and repinning other people’s (possibly copyrighted) images. Also, Pinterest’s terms of service have all kinds of silly things in them that say they can reuse and sell anything pinned on Pinterest. I remember a similar controversy back in the stone age of the intenet when Yahoo took over Geocities. These things usually get sorted out when a few stroppy creatives stand up to the lawyers writing the terms of service. (I’m not downplaying the importance of this issue, but I do believe it will be sorted out by a change in the language in the terms of service).
UPDATED 3/24/12: Pinterest has announced an update to its terms that addresses the silly “we can sell your stuff” clause and have announced tools to make reporting of copyright infringement easier. These are good signs that Pinterest is evolving and should survive, and is therefore worth putting time into.
More damaging, however, is the idea of using other people’s work without permission. The consensus so far seems to be that you should only
- Pin artwork from the page where it was originally posted (this way, the ‘pin’ leads back to the original site and the original artist gets credit. For extra credit yourself, look at any images on pages and try to make sure that they are not violating someone’s copyright before you give that page more publicity by pinning the image’. If the image is clearly from a professional photographer yet is on a 13 year old’s fan site, with no attribution, you’re probably looking at a copyright violation.)
- Create your own artwork
- Find images that are marked as being available under the Creative Commons license (for example, you can do an advanced search at Flickr and check the box that says ‘search only within Creative-Commons licensed content”)