8 Instagram Book Influencers Share Why They Love Bookstagram — And How They Get The Perfect Photo

Photos courtesy of Abby Endler (@crimebythebook/Instagram) and Michelle Martin (@michellereadsbooks/Instagram)

Using social media and reading can often feel at odds: The seconds you spend scrolling through pictures are seconds you spend not reading, but Bookstagram has proven that Instagram can be a valuable tool for learning about books, talking about books, and creating communities with other readers.

Take Reese Witherspoon: Her book club — Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine — boasts over a million followers on Instagram, and Witherspoon frequently announces new book club picks on her personal account. Witherspoon has become a tastemaker in the world of books because of her online presence and her passion for sharing her favorite reads with her followers. Much like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon's name carries weight when placed upon the cover of a book, and she's put her name on books like The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

But it's not only celebrities who influence the books people read, buy, and love. Through Instagram, users who post pictures about books — Bookstagrammers — get to cultivate their own reading communities, places where they can share their reviews, preview what titles are forthcoming, and even curate parties and themed events around their latest picks. Above all, they want to inspire their followers to pick up something new and give it a read. Want the secret to capturing your favorite book cover and making your own Bookstagram a success? I spoke to 8 Bookstagrammers about why they love talking about books on Instagram and how they get the perfect shot:

Abby Endler from New York, New York: @crimebythebook

crimebythebook on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

I started my Bookstagram when I was in a transitional period -- just out of college, rediscovering my love of reading for fun, not for school. I've been a lifelong fan of crime fiction (I started young with Nancy Drew!), and started my Bookstagram purely to share my passion for the genre.

What is challenging about it?

I think there's always pressure to read all the hot new releases or stay on top of every trend. I'm committed to keeping CBTB tailored to the books and authors I'm personally passionate about, and which I genuinely think will best suit my readers.

What are you reading now?

I'm reading a June release right now that I've been looking forward to for quite a while: A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

I'm a huge believer in originality. When I started CBTB, I established my own unique photo style, and I've stuck with it ever since! I follow my gut and don't stress; after all, Bookstagram is all about letting your own style and personality shine through. (But if you're looking for practical advice: Natural lighting is key!)

Follow @crimebythebook on Instagram.

Renée Hicks from Atlanta, Georgia: @book_girl_magic

book_girl_magic on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

Growing up in the suburbs and attending mostly white schools, I didn’t learn much about black history and that was the basis for creating this book club: to read more books by people who look like me.

What is challenging about it?

One challenge is trying to keep up with the amount of books that people consume. I’m a slow reader, a single mom, work 10-hour days and lead a very busy life. I have to remember this and remind myself to read at my own pace and for enjoyment. The second is that black Bookstagrammers get overlooked by publishing companies A LOT! It’s gotten easier now that I have over 8,000 followers and have somewhat made a name for myself, but they often don’t think of us even if we hit their exact target audience. It’s extremely frustrating.

What's your favorite book that you've read in the past year?

My favorite books would have to be Assata by Assata Shakur and The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

This is a fun question for me. I am a professional photographer and this has come in handy for me. For the past year, all my photos taken have been with my professional camera. I feel it helps me stand out from others in a way. My camera helps me take things to the next level. I also invest in props to incorporate in the photos as well.

Follow @book_girl_magic on Instagram.

Bibiana Julian from Miami, Florida: @bibi_julz

bibi_julz on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

Becoming a participant in Bookstagram was a happy coincidence. I started researching and getting into activities to help improve my brain fitness and thought, “Why not try reading?” Naturally, I started sharing my “book moments” on Instagram, and I realized that so many of my followers were asking for recs or tips on how to get motivated to read. So this is how my book giveaways started: Why don’t I motivate and encourage my followers to read by giving away books as I finish them? By motivating them, it motivates me and holds me accountable.

How has it enriched your reading life?

Sharing this reading journey with my followers, and following the #library or #bookstagram hashtags has enriched my reading life so much! I now have a never ending list of books I MUST read, have found a unique way to connect with my followers and am working on my brain fitness :)

What are you reading now?

Currently reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love any book that opens your imagination to love and magic!

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

I’m actually new at this. I typically just find a spot of good lighting, snap a shot and post. Maybe I should be more creative, but I really wanted to be RAW and not get caught up on getting the perfect pic. Share, giveaway, makes someone day and pay it forward!

Follow @bibi_julz on Instagram.

Kendra Winchester from Greenville, South Carolina & Autumn Privett from Atlanta, Georgia: @thereadingwomen

thereadingwomen on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

We co-founded Reading Women after meeting in our English M.A. program and realizing the courses focused on books by men. If you look back over the history of literary awards, very few women, comparatively, have received top awards. Only 14 women have won the Nobel Prize for literature, and 30 have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Reading Women reclaims the bookshelf by interviewing authors and reviewing books by or about women of all backgrounds and experiences.

What is challenging about it?

The algorithm makes bookstagram an unpredictable platform. Post the same photo at a different time with different hashtags, and you will get different results. How it all works is a mystery, but it can mean the difference between 200 or 1,200 likes.

What's your favorite book that you've read in the past year?

We love Anjali Sachdeva’s All The Names They Used For God, which won our 2018 Reading Women Award for fiction.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

We decided early on to keep it simple and to focus on the book itself. For us, good lighting and the perfect background are the keys to the perfect book photo.

Follow @thereadingwomen on Instagram.

Sabrina Rodriguez from New York, New York: @latinxreads

latinxreads on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

I was tired of reading about white characters that were written by white authors. So I posted books that I was reading — ones that were by Latinx authors and featured Latinx characters. I know that there are so many lesser-known authors with stories that will resonate with readers and I feel passionate about helping them get their work out there. It is incredibly rewarding and motivating to connect with so many talented authors and insightful readers.

How has it enriched your reading life?

Bookstagram has definitely given me the opportunity to test out different genres that I initially was not so keen on reading, like poetry, historical fiction and memoirs. Opening myself up to those genres has allowed me to read some of the most moving stories I have ever read and they continue to humble and inspire me.

What's your favorite book that you've read in the past year?

I wish I could give every author whose book I've read this past year a hug because I honestly have read so many amazing books. But my favorite this year was probably The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot? How do you make your shots unique?

My worst nightmare is anyone seeing me when I take my book photos because I look absolutely ridiculous. I use my iPhone with a combination of sunlight and a ring light, so I have all of my equipment propped by my window. The LatinxReads trademark is the flower crown that I arrange around each book, which I’ve done since the very beginning of the Bookstagram.

Follow @latinxreads on Instagram.

Rikki & Michaela from Seattle, Washington: @theardentbiblio

theardentbiblio on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram? What do you get out of it? What motivates you?

We joined Bookstagram because reading can be such a solitary activity, and having access to a community that is so vibrant and full of people who share our passion for books and our reading lives has been an amazing experience. We enjoy documenting our reading lives for ourselves, but really it’s the conversations around books and reading, and the sense of feeling at home in a community of readers that keeps us active.

What is challenging about it?

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the hype machine. A book will suddenly be EVERYWHERE, and it can be so tempting to read it, even if you know it isn’t necessarily a good fit for you, just to be part of the larger conversation happening in the community around that book.

What's your favorite book that you've read in the past year?

Michaela’s favorite book of the past year was Mrs. Dalloway. I know, I’m late to the party on Virginia Woolf—but I also really loved I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Rikki's favorite books of the past year were A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

More than anything, it's about creating harmonious and atheistically pleasing spaces. If you create even a small space in your home, find a cute coffee shop or have a nice porch, you can set your book down on a table, chair, on a blanket or next to your cat, add in your cup of coffee and you'll have a realistic literary lifestyle image. To make images unique, I often shoot one set up a few different ways, then change it around until I'm happy with what I've done. Sometimes I turn to various sources of inspiration and see how I could do it better or make it my own.

Follow @theardentbiblio on Instagram.

Michelle Martin from New York, New York: @michellereadsbooks

michellereadsbooks on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram?

It motivates me to know that my account may be helping someone get back into reading. It’s the best when someone says were inspired to start reading more and people pick up the books that I share or recommend. I love getting messages from friends that say, “I’m reading that book you shared, and I love it!” It’s been such a nice way to connect, or reconnect, over the love of reading.

How has it enriched your reading life?

It’s been inspiring to see so many other people who make reading such a big part of their life. This has inspired me to read more and has allowed me to read more than I ever thought was possible. Also, the community is actually the best part of the internet. Everyone that I’ve met is so positive and supportive and I’m really happy to be part of that community.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (out May 28) and can already tell I’ll be recommending it to everyone.

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

With all the noise that social media throws at us, I try to make my photos clean and calming. I want people visiting my profile to feel calm and like they want to hop right in the photo and start reading. I have a setup I use with a neutral background to get that perfect cover shot of a photo.

Follow @michellereadsbooks on Instagram.

Emilie Hendryx from Northern California: @createexploreread

createexploreread on Instagram

Why do you participate in Bookstagram? What do you get out of it? What motivates you?

Books books books. Ok, other than that, books? But really, as a writer I love to read and support other authors. It started on my blog (hosting interviews etc.) and then I decided to combine my love of photography and books on Instagram. I love creating fun images and being as real and genuine as possible in my captions and my presence on Bookstagram.

What is challenging about Bookstagram?

Balance. Trying to find the right amount of reading time and photo/scrolling time. I often find myself on Instagram thinking… “I should be reading/writing right now.” It's one thing to chat with people about books and to like their photos and another to put it all aside and delve into a good book.

What's your favorite book that you've read in the past year? Or what are you reading now?

I have been enamored with Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season series. She is an incredible writer (one I found through Bookstagram) and I can't get enough. As of right now, I'm also reading her latest The Priory of the Orange Tree!

How do you get that perfect book cover shot?

Creativity is key for me (I mean, it's in my account name!) so I try to be as creative as possible combining elements either from the book or the cover. I am also a little different in that I don't have a specific "theme" for my feed. I let my creative "eye" take the lead and create an image that makes me happy. People often comment and say they can tell it's one of my photos by the style, but that's not something I set out to do. I think it's like writing. Every author has their own voice; I'm letting my creative voice out through my images.

Follow @createexploreread on Instagram.