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Using Instagram Poetry To Grow Your Audience, With Orna Ross: Self-Publishing Poetry Podcast

Using Instagram Poetry to Grow Your Audience, with Orna Ross: Self-Publishing Poetry Podcast

In this month’s #AskALLi Self-Publishing Poetry Salon, Orna Ross takes a deep dive into the most popular social medium for sharing poetry: Instagram, and speaks to Phoebe Garnsworthy, an Australian spiritual author, poet, meditation teacher, and ALLi member, who has grown her following to 227K, using only organic methods.


  • How you can submit your poems to Orna’s new platform for self-publishing poets #indiepoetryplease
  • Plans for the Self-Publishing Poetry podcast in 2021
  • Tune in for more valuable poetry advice.

Tune in for discussions on a different theme each month with a focus on developing prosperity for poets through community building and self-publishing.

Listen to the Podcast: Instagram Poetry

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.@OrnaRoss takes a deep dive into the most popular social medium for sharing poetry: Instagram, and speaks to Instagram influencer @lostnowhere_. Click To Tweet

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Centerhttps://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

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About the Host

Orna’s work for ALLi has seen her repeatedly named one of The Bookseller’s “Top 100 people in publishing.” She launched at the 2012 London Book Fair, after taking her rights back from Penguin in 2011 and republishing her books herself, with the titles and treatment she’d originally wanted. Orna writes award-winning poetry and fiction, runs a Patreon page for poets and poetry lovers as well as an active author website. She is on a mission to help eradicate creative poverty through digital publishing and enterprise. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @ornaross.

Read the Transcript: Instagram Poetry

Orna Ross: Hello everyone, and welcome to our new season of our self-publishing advice on publishing poetry podcast; our first one back after the long summer up here in London.

A few changes to the poetry podcast and to poetry things generally around here at the moment.

So, last season, as those of you who are regular listeners and watchers will know, Dalma and I went through a lot of information about how to self-publish and how things are different for poets these days, and there are almost dual tracks that poets can take when it comes to publishing. And a lot of poets are still using older methods of submitting to magazines and submitting their poetry to publishers.

We're looking at an alternative path to publication, which is the indie path, and publishing our own work through social media and various other forms of short publishing for our poetry, building up our readership in that way, and moving on from there when we have enough poems to make chapbooks. And then moving on from there when we have enough poems to make full on poetry books. We looked at all the different ways in which that can happen, and all of those podcasts are there for you all to hear. The season doesn't go away at the end of the season.

But this time out, we're going to do it slightly differently.

So, in each episode, I'm going to be interviewing a poet who has taken this way, who has decided to take advantage of social media or some other way to get their poetry out, who's built a following on the various platforms.

And today, we're going to be talking about what is probably the best-known social medium for poets, and that is Instagram.

And I am absolutely thrilled to have a fabulous ALLi member who is going to join us shortly, Phoebe, from Portugal, who is not only a poet, she's a meditation teacher, an author of longer books, as well, and of poems, which she has shared. And she's built up a fantastic following on Instagram, I'll let her tell you the startling numbers. And most impressively, she's done it using purely organic methods. And I know she has loads of fantastic tips that she's dying to pass on to you. So, that's going to be great. Before we call Phoebe into the session, I just wanted to tell you what to expect over the next number of weeks.

So, we will be looking at some of the other platforms. Twitter, it seems to be an obvious platform for poetry, given that it is really the verbal platform of choice. And I know Phoebe has some interesting things to comment on that, but we will be looking for a poet who is doing great things there and bringing them to you to explain how they have managed to do it.

We'll also look at Facebook, because Facebook is also being used very successfully in that way. And then we'll get into audio, because audio is made for poets, really. And video also, we'll look at YouTube and SoundCloud and these various other platforms too. So, from now to Christmas, we'll be looking at talking to different poets about how they've done it. So, the way to get the most value, I think, from the sessions is to come along with your own questions about your own publishing and share where you're at.

The other thing I wanted to just mention before, and we get stuck into the heart of today's session is Indie Poetry, Please! This is a feature that I run on Instagram, where I am actively looking for great indie poets to share their work and featuring them on my own account, but also on other people's accounts. And so, if you would like to be part of that, there's different levels of which you can partake, but if you follow the hashtag #indiepoetryplease on Instagram, you should find out everything you need to know. And if you have any questions about that, I'll be happy to answer them in this show as well.

How to sell more books with Instagram poetry

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Phoebe Garnsworthy. Phoebe is living in Portugal at the moment. She hails from Australia and, as I said, she's a meditation teacher, as well as an author. And hopefully, if I press a button, she will appear before you.

Yes. Hi, Phoebe.

I'm so pleased that you're here and were able to come and talk to us this evening about Instagram and your phenomenal success there.

Would you like to tell the people how many followers you have now?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Thank you. I have 227,000.

Orna Ross: Yeah, 227,000.

So, tell us all about it, when did you start your account?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes. So, I started my account back in 2016. So, just over four years ago now, and when I started my account, actually it was before I had even launched my books. So, I've now self-published seven books at present, and I started the account about six months prior to actually launching the book. So, originally, I thought of this as my marketing tool to be able to reach my audience.

And then it just, kind of, evolved and expanded in ways that I wasn't prepared to. So, it's definitely changed a lot since the very beginning stages.

Orna Ross: I think that always happens with social, you know, it guides you, and your readers lead you, and we will talk a little bit about that, but before we even get into that, I'm interested that you were so clear, you know, you knew that Instagram was going to be your marketing method. You actually went and started your account before you had a book; I'm always recommending that to new authors. They're always saying to me, you know, I don't need to do any of this, I don't want to think about marketing at the moment because I'm writing my book and, you know, it's best, I think, to do it the way you  did it. So, just bring us right back to there and your thinking at that time.

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, thank you. So, at that point, I knew that I needed to obviously gather my audience, but I just had absolutely no idea where. But of all of the social media platforms that were out there at that time, Instagram was the one that I just got. I understood it. It was very easy to me. I interacted on it a lot. I loved saving other people's photos. I loved creating it, like a mood board for me. So, that's kind of how I began at the very beginning. Actually, my photo album was taking on a life of its own, and I had so many photos that I had captured from Instagram and I looked at them all and I said, this is a feed in its own and I need to start sharing this. And so, I guess, that was more the mind frame behind it; I wanted to connect with my readers, to find those people that thought the way that I did, that resonated with the kind of movement and feelings and the way that I thought. And so that's, I guess, the core, the leaf that has kept going throughout the whole period, it's just that the photos have changed and the things  that I post are very different now, as well.

Orna Ross: Sure. But the driving intention, if you like, is the same. And right from the start you were enjoying yourself, you were actually enjoying that feedback and that connection with other people who are on your wavelength?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, definitely. I mean, it was very interesting. You've met many, many walks of life on there, but the beautiful thing about social media is you expand across the entire world and there's no borders. So, I got to meet people from all different countries and it really surprised me, even to this day, that I see my book going to very, very unusual places around the world, little islands.

And it's all because of Instagram that I've managed to actually reach these people. So, it's been interesting, yes, to say the least.

Orna Ross: Because what we haven't told people yet is you earn a full-time living as a writer from your Instagram account, which is an incredible achievement by any standards. So, people who are listening, poets, questions that you have for Phoebe, drop into the chat box. Tell us where you're coming in from, tell us a little bit about your poetry, and this is your opportunity to find out more about how you can use Instagram to do some of what Phoebe has done.

Can I ask you; do you feel that your particular genre goes down particularly well on Instagram?

Or what factors do you think played in, first of all, that made it, I know you would have had your challenges and we'll talk about those in a moment, but what factors played into you being able to grow so fast so quickly and so organically? No ads, this is what’s wonderful.

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Thank you. Yes. So, I think that, at the end of the day, it comes down to being authentic. So, you need to be raw, you need to be truthful, and that's the posts that resonate the most with my audience. And I see that, you know, it's not just a matter of putting something out there and hoping that it does well.

No, I look at it. I look at the way that it does. I look at the metrics. I look at the audience who saves it, who shares it, and I interact with them. I look at the comments and I speak to them a lot. So, there's a lot of careful thinking behind each post.

In terms of the way that it has become successful, I think that poetry definitely has an advantage because you are expressing your authenticity and your voice, and that's what people are falling in love with. They're falling in love with the way that you think, the way you use your words. Having said that, I do also write fiction and nonfiction, and I've managed to twine that into my Instagram posts as well, in different ways, like through characters and through their thoughts and feelings too, but of it all, the poetry has been the best. And I definitely do best from the poetry, because it comes from the heart. And that's what Instagram allows you to do, you're allowed to express yourself in that way.

Orna Ross: And I just find that sentence absolutely fantastic. That poetry does the best, because conventional thinking is, poetry doesn't sell. People won't buy poetry; people don't buy poetry. What do you say to that?

Instagram poetry allows you to have a voice

Phoebe Garnsworthy: I think that poetry has its time. I think that there's always going to someone that resonates with that glimpse into your life. When you're speaking poetry, it's such a big part of your soul and everyone loves that, and that's what it is at the end of the day. We want to connect with each other. We want to feel like we're in unity. And so, poetry, I think, breaks down those boundaries and it brings us closer together. So, I think for that reason, it works. It's always going to work. Poetry is always going to have a place, especially on Instagram, it allows you to have a voice and it allows you to find your audience in ways that you didn't think that you could before.

Orna Ross: I've had a lot of poets say to me, if I freely distribute my poetry on Instagram, then why would anybody buy my book? They've already read the poem, they've had the poem, you know, they don't believe that posting on Instagram can actually convert into book sales. Can you talk a little bit about how that process has worked for you? I mean, you're living proof that they are wrong. So, explain how it works for you.

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, definitely. I think that it, kind of, comes down to the thing, eBooks (inaudible) books, and printed books (inaudible) their mark here. And to be fair, I actually sell more printed books than I do the eBooks.

And so, when people see the poetry, they're not going to read 200 poems in a row, they're going to read maybe three, four or five, and then they buy the book straight away. At the end of the day, my audience always wants to have something they can hold. And, when it comes to poetry, people almost like printing it out. They like having something in front of them that they can look at, they like pulling out the papers and putting them around so that they can always refer to it as well.

So, for me, I don't think that it's a problem posting all of your words on Instagram, because when an audience likes what you do, they also want to support you. And that's what it is at the end of the day, we're building loyal customers. And when it comes time for me to launch a product, they are very well aware of my words and the way I talk, but they'll buy it before I've even {inaudible) that much in it. But it's taken its time to get to that level of loyalty and audience definitely, as well, but the more you share, the more people appreciate it. And even though perhaps, of the audience, obviously not all of them are paying customers, but at the end of the day, they appreciate your work and then they'll speak it and share it through word of mouth. And that's a lot of how my organic growth has happened. It's not just through the Instagram, it's through word of mouth and you can only grow that by sharing as much as you can and as much as you feel comfortable with.

Orna Ross: Okay. So, talk to us, you mentioned earlier that you looked at your analytics, for want of a better word.

So, just to talk to people a little bit about what is it you look at in the background that tells you whether a post has worked or hasn't worked and, you know, what kind of actions do you take?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, definitely. So, when you post it you want to know when your best time of day is to post. So, Instagram will tell you that through the insights. You'd learn what day's the best, and what time is the best, and also where around the world your audience actually is. So, from that, you can gather the best time of day to post. And once you've learned that you also monitor, when you're posting at that time, is it actually good? Is it working for you?

On the back there's lots of information for you to use such as, how are people finding your posts. Are they finding it just through their Instagram feed, or are they finding it through explore and search, or are they also finding it through other people and sharing? So, you can see all of these things.

So, for a post to be successful, you want it to have likes, you want it to have comments and engagements, and ideally, you want these posts to be shared. You want them to be saved. And you can also see if people have shared them on their walls, and that's helping your growth expand as well. And so, the most important thing is also for you to engage back with them.

So, if you see someone posting it and sharing it, you want to write back. You want to say thank you, and this is how you get to build your audience well with trust and loyalty which is so important.

Orna Ross: Now, all of this sounds very time consuming. I know people are listening to this and saying, well, you know, how does Phoebe do all that and get her writing done as well?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: That's a really good question. At the beginning, it took up a lot of time. Now that I've gotten used to it and I understand the statistics, I only check in every day, and maybe once or twice a day, and I would spend no more than 10 minutes. So, at this stage, it's taking the time to get to this stage, but I would not spend longer than half an hour to an hour on it each day, I would say, maximum.

Orna Ross: And that will include processing sales, dealing with any issues that arise with purchases or any of that kind of thing as well?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, exactly. And the thing is, because Instagram owns Facebook, you can actually access all of this via Facebook. So, via the platform. If you're not too much of a phone person and you prefer being on the computer, you can reply back to DM'S on Facebook, you can like  photos, you can engage with your audience through Facebook as well, and that does it through the Instagram platform too.

Orna Ross: Great. Now you spoke a little bit about how things changed for you, since you began and now. Tell us what changed and why did you change?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes. So, at the beginning, well, it changed because my writing style changed and evolved over time.

At the very beginning, my first book was fiction. So, when I started the platform, I was expressing mood board for my fiction titles {inaudible} fantasy worlds {inaudible}. So, for the first six months, I would say, I launched it about six months before I actually brought out my book, I was doing a lot more of other people's posts and other people's images. And that is how I was connecting because I was actually me, I wasn't confident in my own work, my only {inaudible} was through the captions. I wasn't brave enough to be posting photos. And then, as things progressed and I got more confident with my work, I then did my own quotes, I started to do my own poetry and it's actually only, funnily enough, this year that I started to even put my face. I'd never even put a photo of myself on my Instagram account. It was just purely poetry, and that was it. But the thing that I've noticed is, doing personal posts, is that resonated become {inaudible} with my audience and I've become closer with my following. And so, I saw an increase in sales when I started to do more personal posts, in terms of me personally.

And so, now I'm always posting a photo of something that I'm working on because then that's getting exciting, or perhaps just something the way that I think that supports my personal development, which are things with my book. {Inaudible} always bringing it back to my books. It's bringing it back to a call of action, but it's still making sure that the audience can walk away with something for free, because that's what it is at the end of the day. Instagram is a free platform, so we still want to be able to give something for free so that the audience can feel like they're getting excited. And when it comes time for them to want to support, or when they {inaudible} support, then they're going to do it. They're going to remember, and you're up there anyway, too.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. I was just asking about, does the fact that you have this audience there, does it make you more productive do you think?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, definitely, because I feel like I need to support them. I need to give them something. I post every single day, and if I don't post in a day, I feel like I'm letting them down.

So, we've got that connection where I want to provide something for them that inspires, that brings them joy, that makes them happy. So, if I don't do it, I feel bad and, at the same time, it's important for me to do it because I know that it supports my business and it's supporting growth. So, it definitely is a positive thing to have this audience and being able to ask their opinion and advice. That was another thing, it's not just the posts on the grid, you know, you use the Instagram stories as well. You can ask questions with the stories; you can ask for everyone's opinion.

It's like having your own personal group, as if it's, you know, a Facebook group or something like that, where people are very engaged and interactive as well, which is nice.

Orna Ross: And do you feel that they have helped you to understand your own value as a writer?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes. That's a really interesting question. This is true. It's like I said at the very beginning, I didn't have the confidence or the voice to really put myself out there, but from having that support network, things change and I feel it makes it easier for the audience to send me messages when they've read my books. They're a lot quicker to write to me, they are a lot quicker to say thank you and to share my work. And so, I definitely have a different connection with that audience on that particular platform than anywhere else, really. And I have more feedback and words of encouragement from this particular space, which 100% helps me as a writer, definitely.

Why is Instagram poetry so popular?

Orna Ross: That's marvelous. Do you have any thoughts Phoebe, on why Instagram has been so popular for poets and why it has done so well for poets? Given that it is a visual platform really, and say Twitter is the platform of words, why didn't Twitter take off for poetry in the way that Insta did, what does Insta do that Twitter does not?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, that's true. I think that Instagram, particularly, it's an expression of your inner most thoughts and feelings, and because it's visual, it's easier to see someone's branding. It's easier to see someone's personality through Instagram. Whereas, for me, Twitter, I find it's more of a conversation starter. It's a back and forth, that kind of interaction. Whereas, Instagram, you can reach thousands of people easily, and you can personally reply to them, and it's a different form of engagement, I find personally. I also think that posting quotes, some point of difference on Instagram, because we're so used to seeing photos, we're so used to seeing imagery, that when there is something that's writing, you know, people want to stop and have a read and it's a point of difference. So, for that reason, it also supports it well on that platform, I think.

Orna Ross: So, it's counter intuitive, but it actually is because it’s different. It's that standing out rather than fitting in. That's really interesting, I hadn't heard that one before. How important are the pictures to your work? Is it mainly words? Is it mainly pictures? How much of a balance is there between the imagery and the words?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, for me, I have quite an even balance, but even if I'm posting a photo of an image, the caption is read like an essay. So, if my caption is too large to post as an image, I'll then change it and put it with a photo, because in the caption you've got a lot more space and actually, sorry, that's something also with Twitter, you're limited with how many words you can say.

So, Instagram, you've got more space to express yourself freely. I always find when I try and do Twitter, I've reached the limit and I can't get past it. So, Instagram, you've got a lot more space to be able to do it. And, in terms of the imagery verse quotes, when it's a quote, I find more people repost it.

So, it's definitely positive when you're posting a quote as an image, as opposed to your own personal image, not that many people share your own personal image that much, you're going to get your quotes shared a lot more.

Orna Ross: Interesting. So, what are your top tips for authors using Instagram to sell books specifically?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Definitely. Number one, 100% is authenticity. You need to be raw. You need to find your own voice. I mean, essentially as a writer, you have your own brand, so you really need to get very clear on who your brand is. I would even do a customer avatar to understand who your readers are and jot down  some things from, what are their interests, what do they want to hear from you, what do they care about? So, you're almost having a bit of a marketing plan, so to speak, for your Instagram, that's number one.

The second thing that you can do right now, if you've got an Instagram account, is have a look at your bio. So, the few little lines that are underneath image, where you've got your name, you've got author, and then you've got a bio, this is your time to really express your yourself. So, you want it as punchy as possible. Think of it like your one sentence line about your book, you know, you want it to be capturing your essence entirely so that this is the difference between people looking and scrolling down more.

There's a lot of tools for you to understand how to use Instagram, specifically you've got IGTV, which is videos on Instagram. You've got the stories; you've got the posts and now they've just done reels. So, it's important to experiment with all those different kinds, which might sound a bit overwhelming, but when you start getting used to it, you know, just take on one little bit at a time.

And then the last thing is actually really, really, really important, and this has helped me grow is hashtags. So, hashtags are like having your own personal keywords and it's important for you to pick some hashtags, you're allowed up to 30. So, I would use 30 and I would alternate them. Don't just have one set of hashtags, always mix it up. And you want these hashtags to be popular, but not too popular, and you want them to be quite specific. So, if you write poetry, an example of that is #poetrylovers or something like that. And you wouldn't want more than a few hundred thousand posts of that, definitely not up in the millions on the hashtag, you want it as low as possible, because this is how people will find you.

Orna Ross: So, that's very interesting, I think. Again, it's counter intuitive, people tend to do the hashtag has the most followers. Why not? Why not go where there are most people?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes. So, it's important because, when you're going for a higher following, it is going to get lost immediately. You've got to think that, on Instagram, there are millions of posts going every day. I mean, there's millions of users, but say there's a few hundred thousand posts minimum. So, if you are posting something that is re-posted a lot. Within seconds, you won't even be able to find it on the search. It will have disappeared amidst all of the other posts. So, that's why you want it to be in a smaller niche so that it doesn't matter in a few months’ time, in a year's time, people could still find your posts. And that's the beauty of it, if you're able to find some really good hashtags and when you know your niche, your specific genres and some words that the audience that loves those genres are searching for, you'll be able to come up and you can interact.

And that's also a way for you to find other authors, as well. It's not just about you on your own. It's very good for you to connect with other authors that are on Instagram. Think of it like you're doing a newsletter swaps or you're sharing each other's work. We're always building each other up, because we have unique voices. So, by looking, if you find someone's posts that you really resonate with, you share it through your own Instagram stories. It doesn't necessarily have to be on your grid, but through the Instagram stories, you tag that author, the next thing you know, you've started a conversation and you share it.

You have this mutual sharing. I always try and share if someone's posted something of mine and you've got that interaction going, which helps build your following as well, because you're then expanding to other audiences that are resonating with the kinds of work that you write.

Acquiring Instagram poetry followers

Orna Ross: We have a question for you here. Ezzeddine is asking how long it took you to acquire such number of followers, and that was actually answered at the start. It's been four years, but the next question is interesting. Has it ever come to your mind that you're wasting your time? Do you ever get fed up with it or, you know, bored?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: That's a good one. So, as you said, so it's taken four years. I don't get fed up with it because it is the platform I understand and I personally use it as well, so I enjoy looking at it. I am now at a stage where I'm looking at hiring an assistant to help support and to do the work for me, because it is so important.

I mean, it's a big, big part of my income. So, it's almost like, if I don't post, I'm not making money. So, I have to do it. It's not really a question of stopping doing it. This is a big part of my business. So, I don't stop.

Orna Ross: So, you'll be concentrating on the writing and an assistant will do the administrative side of things?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes, that's exactly right. But the thing that's actually interesting, as well, like with what I post, I'm not just posting content that I finished. I will brainstorm ideas, it also inspires me, you know, the way that I write, every now and again, I'll be inspired and something will come through to me and I write my poetry in a stream of consciousness, style of fashion. So, if I'm all of a sudden typing away on my phone, and then I share that, and then by the end of it, I actually have a lot of content to then move into publishing a book. So, it works both ways, I create the original pieces in Instagram first, and then it goes into the published book and then I published the book and then I share those pieces.

So, it kind of goes full circle for me, which is interesting.

Orna Ross: A very nice circle.

So, yeah, before we leave, you mentioned posts, stories, and reels. Can you give us some ideas? First of all, can you explain what each of those three things are? We'll begin with posts, and can you give an example of ways in which you use it, or you've seen that particular feature on Instagram used well?

Reels is brand new; we'll talk about that last, but just posts, first of all, this is kind of, what you see when you go onto somebody's profile. What exactly is a post on Instagram?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yes. So, a post on Instagram, you need to own it. This is also very important. You have to also be very careful with copyright and making sure that the posts that you are posting, you own. And the posts on Instagram are either a photo or, of course, you've perhaps created the quote, and it's something that stays on your profile, on the cover, and it's there until you decide to delete it and it can be there for years. And then that's what you're using to express yourself, and this gets the largest viewing of audience.

This is always going to be expanded into the Explorer, which means someone could just be looking on Instagram, not even following you and your post can come up. If it's got a good engagement, if there's a lot of likes and comments, someone's going to find you organically through that. And this is the posts that people share.

Now, the other three tools have come out as a way for Instagram to stay in the latest of technology. The most recent one is reels, so I'll talk about that first, because what's really interesting with reels, it's something to get on top of, because right, as of now, it appears that it is not affected by the {inaudible}.

So, it is very organic in terms of, when you post a reel, it is getting posted and everyone has seen it. And this is very new, and I think this is because they've just started to try it out. The reels are in competition with Tik-Tok, it's 15 seconds, and you just do a video or a photo. Sorry, it is only a video and you can write on it. You can share however you wish. For reels, for me, I share more personal videos. I've done a small reel of me reading before and that's been popular as well.

And then the other, IGTV, which is Instagram TV, which is in direct competition with YouTube. So, the way Instagram TV works is that you can record up to an hour and this allows people to stay engaged on the platform for longer.

With Instagram TV, it's not knowing if the hashtags make a difference with that, but it is very good for your audience to get a more personal glimpse of you. So, on my Instagram TV, I'll usually speak for maybe 10-15 minutes about a subject that I find interesting, or it will be I've read excerpts of my book, I've done meditations on it. It's a more personal, longer glimpse into my life, essentially.

And then the last one, which is the Instagram stories, which are the little things that come up around your profile, there's a little light around your profile to say that you've updated something. And these only last for 24 hours. So, when you do an Instagram story, it only goes in five or 10 seconds, I think, and then you keep adding to it and you can do it throughout the whole day. So, that's just a real personal glimpse into your life. And, with the Instagram stories there's a lot more interactions you can do. You can do yes and no, and ask the audience for yes and no, you can get them to tell you what they need to know, you've got a little Q&A, you can really interact with your audience in ways where they can be as involved with you or not. And the reason why it does well with the audience is because it can also essentially be anonymous to the rest of the users.

So, you know, on the post, when people comment, everyone can read your comments, but on the Instagram stories, people can comment and only you, only I can see that. No one else can see that. So, you get a lot more answers and a lot more truthful speaking as well through those different areas.

Orna Ross: Lovely. Yeah, lots of great ideas there, no shortage of inspiration, Phoebe, thank you. Just one final question from, Ezzeddine. I know that Charles Harvey was trying to send questions, but unfortunately, we can't see them. So, I just have a final question from Ezzeddine again asking, did you start this as a business?

And I think at the beginning, you pretty much said that you did. But another interesting question, where you sure you would succeed?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Well, that's a good question. I think that that comes down to just an author mind frame as it is of the self-publishing world. When I started it, I was working half on the side, so I was definitely doing this as my passion project but with the determination and hope that it would turn into a full-time position. And then, over the years, as I saw things change, as I changed my business, as I looked into how I could expand my business, it came into my full time job and it's definitely always been at the core of my heart that this is what I wanted to do, and that this is what I was going to do and I wasn't going to stop until I succeeded at it. So, I think that just comes down to, at the end, for any self-publishing author that's starting out that's wondering whether they should or not, if you can't imagine doing nothing else then this is what you have to do and you have to just keep going, because that's what it is at the end of the day.

It's just never giving up really.

Orna Ross: Okay. Fantastic. So true. And finally, what are the plans for the future? What's coming up?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Oh, that's a good one. Well, I'm just continuing to expand. I'm actually looking at really getting myself across all of the social media platforms. I do touch on them lightly, but now I'm really, really expanding those fingers across every area, because I think it's such a wonderful source of free marketing. And, like I mentioned, I've never paid for advertising or ads on any of the platforms, not even Amazon. So, it's really been a strong tool in my business, and I know that it can work.

And so, if I can make this work with Instagram, I don't see why I can't make it work with all the other platforms that exist out there. So, it's just a matter of figuring out the content and changing the content and making it work to each audience.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. Because Karen has come in with the last question saying, have algorithm changes affected your following?

And you know, a lot of people say to me, you cannot accumulate an organic following now, what would you say to that?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Yeah, that's interesting. I think that that's not true. I think that you can definitely always create an organic following, purely from the fact that you have an authentic, unique voice.

So, it's kind of like looking at the bookstore and saying there's too many authors, I'm not going to put my book out there. But at the end of the day, what you have is completely unique. You have your own gift. And the only way to share it with other people is to put it out there. So, find the platform that works for you, make sure that you understand it, that you enjoy using it, and then the rest kind of comes easy. You get into practice and get into a healthy habit with it and you'll see it grow, I do not doubt that it's going to grow, but at the end of the day, it takes persistence and you have to understand the platform and take advantage of the tools that it offers you because there are some really good free tools too.

Orna Ross: There's no doubt about that. And did you, at any point, find that the algorithm came in and kind of took the wind out of your sails and you had to adjust in some way or not, you just ignored it and just carried on doing what you're doing?

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Definitely. I hate that algorithm changed. It definitely impacted everything but, once again everyone's in that same boat, we're all trying to move through it and it encourages you to think outside the box, and this also is what keeps you interested in it, is because you're constantly learning and making different ways to create content and to become inspired.

So, of these four years, there's been ups and downs. Of course, like in any business, but at the end of the day, if ever I was feeling a bit down, I'm looking through old posts, I'm reading comments, I'm cheering myself back on. You just get back up and you just keep going at it and know that everything's going to align at some point.

Orna Ross: Phoebe, you have a fantastic attitude. You definitely have the indie attitude that is necessary for success. And we are so proud of your success and well done.

So, thank you so much for coming in to talk to us this evening about how to sell books on Instagram, and we will be keeping an eye on you. Tell people where they can follow you and where they can find your work.

Phoebe Garnsworthy: Thank you. Yes. So, on Instagram, my handle is @lost_nowhere. And also, through my website, www.phoebegarnsworthy.com and you can feel free to send me a message. I'm always open to helping out fellow authors, and if you have any questions, I'm always there.

Orna Ross: That's fantastic. Thanks again and see you on Instagram.

Happy writing, everyone. Happy publishing. See you next time. Bye. Bye.


Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


This Post Has One Comment
  1. Thank you so much, Phoebe and Orna. This was an incredibly useful and insightful interview (and very timely for me personally). I’ve been writing poetry for many years and sending it to hardcopy traditional poetry journals. While I have had quite a lot of stuff published, and I really appreciate the hard work and dedication of the editors/publishers of those journals, I have found the process quite dissatisfying and stressful. I’ve only just started publishing my work on Instagram and I love it. I’m actually enjoying writing again. Hearing your story, Phoebe, was inspiring. It was also great to discover a site that encourages poets and writers to be entrepreneurial – thanks Orna. I am now following you both on Instagram and look forward to reading more of your thoughts and insights.

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