5 Ideas for Using Pinterest as an Author


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Pinterest for authors

Today’s guest post is by Amanda Luedeke (@amandaluedeke), a literary agent with MacGregor Literary, Inc., and author of The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform.


Social media sites come and go, and Pinterest is the most recent one to see a major usage spike. Consequently, businesses and brands and marketing teams are feeling the pressure to infiltrate the site and use it for their purposes of getting you to buy, want, and need things or experiences that you normally wouldn’t consider.

And people in publishing—including authors? We’re feeling the same push to be present on that platform.

Let’s be clear about what Pinterest is: Pinterest is a site that allows users to “pin” images found on the web to virtual pinboards. There’s minimal text involved because it’s a visual site. It’s all about virtual scrapbooking and visual inspiration. To give you a better idea of what/how Pinterest is used, I’d say right now it’s probably the biggest fad among brides-to-be. They can have their wedding pinboards where they gather all of the pretty photos they see online and use them as wedding inspiration.

So, why are authors feeling the pressure? I honestly can’t say, and if you’re reading this, baffled by corporate America’s desire to turn Pinterest into a marketing mecca, then you and I can have a drink sometime and shake our heads at marketing teams who feel they have to have all these online presences. Personally, I think your time would be better spent with more tried-and-true sites.

But if you really connect with this medium and want do some professional pinning, here are five ideas.

1. Create a novel inspiration pinboard.

Tease your fans by creating a pinboard that showcases photos of people and locations that inspired your upcoming book. This would also be a great thing to pass on to your publishing house’s design team. It would give them a helping hand when creating the perfect book cover. (I’ve also heard of authors looking to their fans to help “cast the roles” of their favorite characters. It’s a neat game.)

2. Create a novel comparison pinboard.

Think of the authors within your genre who write stories similar to your own. Gather their book covers, author photos, and whatnots, and put them on a pinboard. This can be your “If you like ________, you’ll also like my book!” board. (If you have a published book, be sure to add it to the pinboard as well!) You never know when it might hook some potential fans.

3. Create an upcoming cover art pinboard.

Fans love leaked images, so when you begin working through cover designs with your publisher (or even if you e-publish!), be sure to “leak” the images to your pinboard. Ask for fan input and make them feel part of the process. Plus, Pinterest is designed to make it easy for users to share images. If you start seeing your book’s cover appear on multiple boards, you know you’ve got a winner.

4. Create a blog pinboard.

Some authors see success with Pinterest when they consistently pin photos from their blog posts. This requires you to (a) maintain a blog, (b) include photos with each post, and (c) properly pin those photos. But the general idea is that if you end up with some photos that attract attention, people will click through to see where they originated. 

5. Encourage wish lists.

This is an idea I stole from the clothing store Express. During the 2012 holiday season, they offered a shopping spree to one lucky Pinner who put together an Express wish list. At the time this was written, Pinterest’s search engine was totally unreliable, so if you try this idea, you’ll need to develop some way for Pinners to let you know their boards exist. But the basic idea is that you ask Pinners to create holiday (or Valentine’s Day, etc.) wish lists in which they pin books that they want, including some of yours. One lucky winner will receive a prize. The ultimate payoff with this tactic is that it encourages family and friends of these Pinners to actually go out and purchase some of these wish list items as gifts. That’s what happened to me. I made my Express pinboards, and though I didn’t win anything, I received three Express items that holiday season from family and friends.

Proper Pinning 101

  • Create great, concise descriptions of each pin, using hashtags, keywords, links, and more.
  • Pin book covers from sites in which the book can actually be purchased.
  • Tag every book cover pin with genre, author, and title information.

What ideas do YOU have for using Pinterest? Let us know in the comments. 


Extroverted Writer by Amanda LuedekeWant to learn more about author marketing? Check out The Extroverted Writer from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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  • http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com/ Esther Aspling

    Thanks for the extra insight. I’ve been using Pinterest to link to my blog, but these other ideas really make the site new again!

    http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/LizCLong Liz Long

    It goes along with your novel inspiration tip, but taking and uploading photos of my city (used as inspiration for novel’s city) is a great way to remind yourself of how things (or people) look when sketching everything out. I shared a few points in my post that hopefully authors can use like yours. http://lizclong.com/2012/10/10/why-pinterest-is-my-new-favorite-writing-tool/

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  • http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn Fiona Ingram

    An excellent example of an author using Pinterest successfully is Lucinda Brant, a Georgian romance novelist. She finds the most incredible images of clothes, landscapes, furniture etc., and links them to characters in her books.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevinlynnhelmick Kevin Lynn Helmick

    I enjoy searching vintage photography there, as well book cover art, movie posters that I like, etc. but yeah, I don’t see it as effective marketing for my books. Just a well of images and art for me to look at and share. I could be missing the point.

    I’ve never thought of using images to illustrate characters and setting of my books, story board. That’s might be useful and certainly fun to do and see if that would equate into attention and sales.
    I doubt it though.
    Like most self-marketing it would probably just eat up writing time.
    In my experience nothing seems to work better than word of mouth by readers and reviewers on selling books. I buy and read based on buzz mostly. And I sell the most that way too.
    Just keep creating a solid product to read

  • Deb Atwood

    I’ve been totally confused by Pinterest. Thanks for providing concrete examples that authors can actually use.

  • Anne R. Allen

    How do you deal with copyright issues for Pinterest? If, as you suggest, you use the photo of an actor you’d like to cast in a movie of your book, do you write to that actor’s agent for permission? The film studio? How about getting permission to use another author’s cover image? Do you write to the publisher? I know bloggers have been hit with hefty lawsuits for using copyrighted material. Does Pinterest get some kind of blanket waiver? If it doesn’t, a lot of these ideas might lead to trouble.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    Pinterest’s terms of use specify that people should only pin material to which they have rights/permission. As far as I can tell, the large majority of Pinterest activity involves pinning images one does not own outright, because that activity is in fact encouraged & welcomed by hundreds, if not thousands, of commercial entities. (Marketing & promotion, as Amanda points out.)

    Using photos of actors, book cover images, etc—these are rarely problematic if the images are meant for publicity in the first place, and if they are widespread online.

    I don’t deny there are murky waters here, but the most important thing is: Don’t make it appear that you own someone else’s work when you don’t, and don’t try to profit off it (e.g., publish it). That’s what leads to big trouble.

    Pinterest advises, “We strongly encourage people to pin from the original source or permalinks, give credit to the content owner, and include a thoughtful pin description. If a user notices that a pin is not sourced correctly they should leave a comment so that the original pinner can update the source. Many publishers have also added Pin It buttons to their site, making it easier to identify content that is okay to add to Pinterest.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Martin/1412656154 Donna Martin

    Hi Amanda!
    This is a FABULOUS post! I’m just starting to become more involved in Pinterest and your list give me great ideas on how to highlight my (and other authors) writing. I think I will share this post on FB, Linkedin, Twitter and any place I can think of…;~)
    I sent you an email about possible post dates for my blog and can’t wait to see what other writerly wisdom you will share with my readers. Thanks Jane for hosting this!
    Donna L Martin
    http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

    Thank you for reading!! I’ll check my email :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

    You have to do what works for you, Kevin. Marketing is a huge component these days, but recognizing when to NOT pursue a particular avenue will save you a lot of hassle and time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.luedeke Amanda Luedeke

    I’ll have to check her out!

  • Emily Scott

    I had never thought of using Pinterest this way! What a awesome idea!

  • Emily Scott

    Thanks for the tip!

  • http://twitter.com/rachelleighgeek Rachel Leigh Smith

    I use Pinterest for images that go with my WIP’s. Each novel has a board where I pin character templates, settings, important clothes, even a house floor plan if necessary. It’s mostly for my own use, but somehow I’ve managed to get over 400 followers without doing anything. Less than a hundred of them are Facebook friends.

  • Marquita Herald

    I love Pinterest and have been using it since the early days when you had to score an invitation to join. In addition to the tips you’ve provided, authors can create boards that visually depict the themes they write about – say horses or particular periods in history. Of course posting big beautiful images of food is a no-brainer for those who write about recipes or food in any way shape or form! I’ve also seen writer’s with boards that share bits of their creative process, what their offices look like, and even a few dreams with readers – for example exotic places you’d like to travel on a book tour.

  • http://twitter.com/justShauntelle Shauntelle H.

    I literally just had this conversation with a writer friend of mine on Friday! She told me she was studying up on a Pinterest marketing book and I told her that her time was better used in some other fashion… I believe someone shared the statistic at one of this year’s Digital Book World Conference sessions that only 1% of readers polled found books via Pinterest, while something like 20% found books via FB. (Don’t hold me to these statistics since they come from my faulty memory… but I’m sure this was the gist of the data!)

    I LOVE Pinterest and have been a member since the early days… but it’s a place for discovering tips, recipes, gorgeous clothing, and beautiful design… if your books cover these subjects, Pinterest could be worth your time. If not, as I told my friend, it’s not something you should invest time into unless you already LOVE the site and the concept.

    Remember folks, the most effective social media is something you actually enjoy using!

  • Karoline Kingley

    One of my friends recommended some of these tips to me last year, and whenever I feel like some corresponding images would help me in my writing, I go on pinterest and pin them to my board “Visual Aids for My Novel.” It’s quite handy when trying to maintain images for a made up world in different times.

  • http://twitter.com/NinaAmir Nina Amir

    I love Pinterest as a way to give my blogs a bit of extra promotion. Whenever possible I post the photos to boards with their titles as descriptions. I then send to Twitter from there.

    I joined because someone told me it could serve as a “vision representation” of an author. I liked that and use it that way, creating boards that show a bit of my personality and interests.

    I also use it to promote my books in a variety of ways–boards specific to them.

    I tell novelists to create boards that bring their characters to life. They can pin photos of what their characters would wear, where they would go, what they would eat, for example. They can pin pictures of places where their book takes place as well.

    Pinterest users spend more money than users of other social networks–they buy more stuff. So, if you can find ways to promote your book and the products you create related to your book on Pinterest, you just might sell more of them.

    I enjoy Pinterest–and it’s one of the easiest and least time consuming social networks around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LucindaBrant Lucinda Brant

    Thanks so much for the mention, Fiona. I’m so pleased you enjoy my 18th Century Pinterest boards.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LucindaBrant Lucinda Brant

    Here’s the link http://pinterest.com/lucindabrant Enjoy!

  • http://about.me/anastasia.ashman Anastasia ASHMAN

    I have a board for a memoir WIP which is a way to keep it active as a project (and something others can peek into the themes of) even when i am not writing. On my board I have comparable titles, I have images of people who remind me of characters, I have expressions and sayings that capture major themes, I have images that capture what it feels like to be writing the book. I have pinned news items and fashion pictures that would be of interest to my subject (my best friend, who’s deceased). I have pins of settings in the story, and figures she liked and things she’d be interested in today. In this way, the project is alive. The subject is alive. The whole thing can be interacted with, now, before it has been published. And, the transmedia storytelling is taking place right now. Here it is: http://pinterest.com/anastasiaashman/work-in-progress-a-memoir/

  • http://www.facebook.com/LucindaBrant Lucinda Brant

    As an historian and author of historical romances and mysteries all set in the 18th Century, I’ve found Pinterest to be a wonderful tool to showcase my novels (each book has its own board) and my fascination, enthusiasm, and expertise about the 1700s.

    Pinterest is a fabulous repository for visual knowledge about the 18th Century (or any era or subject you care to name!), but I also want my readers and followers to trust that when they re pin from my boards, they are assured of the image’s authenticity and provenance, so I carefully curate each image before I pin. This then allows pinners to re pin from my boards with confidence, and the more an image is repined the more my brand is seen in the wider Pinterest community.

    For ease of use, boards are alphabetized so followers and pinners can easily find a category that interests them. I also offer 18th Century Inspired boards that highlight how the 1700s has influenced us today, with boards on fashion, interiors, and modern media, to name a few. The “something for everyone” approach.

    Think beyond your expertise as to how you can attract followers to your boards. For example, people who are not necessarily interested in history but love fashion pin from my 18thC Inspired Fashion board.

    I also have a couple of boards that cover aspects of the Georgian era I find particularly quirky and entertaining, and debunk the myth for many who find history to be stuffy or boring, such as my 18th Century Power Paunch, 18th Century Big Wigs, and Georgian Gits boards.

    Pinterest is just not for calorie-laden recipes, dream weddings and future fashion wardrobes any more. It is being used increasingly by museums, art galleries, research centers, and experts in all manner of fields in a more methodical and curatorial way to showcase what they know and have to offer. As authors, we can do this too!

    Does Pinterest take up gobs of my time? Sure, but I’m researching my next book and coming up with ideas as I pin. Do I sell more books? No idea. Have I connected with my readers? You bet! Have I gained new readers through pinning? Absolutely. Am I getting more exposure because of Pinterest? Most definitely. I have attracted over 5000+ followers in 12 months, and connected with readers, costumers, authors, educators, museum curators, etc from around the world; one museum has even incorporated the use of my boards in their educational programs for school students.

    Don’t underestimate the Power of the Pin! ☺ Enjoy!
    http://pinterest.com/lucindabrant/

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  • http://twitter.com/CarmenConnects Carmen Amato

    Pinterest is a unique marketing tool, for sure, and can be a very useful part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. I have set up boards that illustrate my books, using character attributes as the starting point. This allows me to connect back to a wide variety of pinners–those interested in history, art, design, and Mexico, as well as mystery readers. I make it a point to add both my own content (photos, book covers, etc) as well as finding others’ content to comment on and repin. Sharing pins on Twitter and connecting back to my own website completes the circle. The only downside is getting lost in the fun, especially when accessing Pinterest from my iPad!

  • http://twitter.com/CarmenConnects Carmen Amato

    Authors who have blogs–remember to write a post now and then to tell readers what’s new on your Pinterest boards, especially if they illustrate a work in progress, a book location, etc. And have fun with it, too!

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  • Stacey Haggard Brewer

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been trying to think of effective ways to use Pinterest. This will be a big help. I especially like the idea of a “Novel Inspiration” board.

  • http://twitter.com/TheCheekyGinger Evelyn Stice

    On my novel inspiration pinboard, I also created and uploaded maps and layouts of locations, such as houses and rooms. I use it as a reference while I’m actively writing, and it helps me to move about in the physical space seamlessly.

  • Meg Kirsic

    LOVE the idea of creating a novel inspiration pinboard. Not even to market yourself, but to collect some visual inspiration, I don’t know why I never thought of it. Great post!

    wordcafe.typepad.com

  • http://twitter.com/Renegade_Image Keith Skinner

    Since I am also a photographer, Pinterest has long been a place I refused to go. However, these are great tips and I think your first tip could work for my historical novel in progress. I had planned to write some articles about historical figures and locations, so I may tie that into Pinterest. Thanks for the great ideas, Amanda.

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  • Tanner Murphy

    I use Pinterest in all sorts of ways. Being in a college English class, I have used it to gather ideas for projects and used pictures to post on my blog. Pinterest can help anybody from trying to sell their products to even getting ideas for your wedding.

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