Instagram for Authors: The "Checkerboard" Grid
Today I’m walking you through a second popular Instagram grid strategy:
You’ve probably seen it before, even if you didn’t have a name for it, and it’s as simple as this:
You alternate one photo post with one graphic (non-photo) post.
The result looks something like this:
from The Female Hustlers:
Pretty, right? It makes you look like a total Instagram baller with relative ease!
“Yeah, but Lauren, don’t I still have to create the non-photo parts?”
Okay yeah, you do. The light pink boxes in The Female Hustlers example does require a separate work flow than just hitting up your iPhone’s camera roll for the latest and greatest, and I give you some tools at the end of this post to help with that.
But even with the extra step, checkerboard is my top recommendation for authors who also want to share their books (not just their life) on Instagram.
Why? Because the trickiest damn thing about having a great Instagram feed as an author is:
I’ve seen some killer Instagram grids of influencers, celebrities, photographers, designers, small businesses. The grids are all shades green, or all black and white, all pink, or all bubbles, all bright whites, or rainbow pattern, all sunset colors, or everything features a horse, or a skyline or a Corgi. These feeds are gorgeous and perfectly cohesive, which is the Instagram Dream.
We authors can’t do any of that.
Because the second we post our new book cover with the orange font and tanned hero into an Instagram feed that was previously all shades of Tiffany blue, we just janked up our grid. Because a book cover is usually a multitude of colors just by itself, not even factoring in what happens when you have multiple book covers in different styles and colors.
Book covers, on Instagram, are very, very hard to work with if you’re aiming for one of those consistently pretty grid.
Does this sound at all familiar? Let’s pretend your brand color is a soft mauve, and you’ve been dabbling with posting the occasional motivational quote here and there. And it’s pretty, but haphazard. And then on other days, your book goes on sale, so you post the cove of that book. Only, Instagram prefers square posts, and your book cover is rectangular, but whatever, you make it work. And then you put a selfie the next day, because your hair was on point that day.
It might look something like this:
It’s not awful! I’ve seen worse. But now see what happens if I implement the checkerboard theme:
So much better, right? Note that I’m still incorporating my book covers, but because I incorporated my imaginary mauve brand color, the book covers look to be part of my Instagram strategy, instead of an exception to the strategy.
Note: You can use any color for the background of your graphics! I use mauve above, but if you don’t have an established color, you can absolutely use white as your base! In fact, I recommend it to start with, as it brightens up your feed and goes with everything!
And now, for extra credit, let’s see what happens when I combine the Grid Strategy from last week (consistent filter filter) with the Checkerboard strategy:
Dramatic, right? And it’s a look that’s likely to get you more consistent followers because it tells people you know what you’re doing, and that if they follow you, they can count on you for a consistent and attractive Instagram experience.
To recap, the Checkerboard Grid involves alternating photo posts (pictures of your life, yourself, your dog, your lunch, your book signing) with branded graphics.
Worried that you won’t have enough content for those non-photo posts? Don’t be. The mauve squares in my example above are perfect for:
Sales on your books
Teasers from your upcoming books
Excerpts from your backlist (perfect for throwback thursday posts)
When in doubt, hit up Google or Pinterest for inspirational quotes, and put those on your graphic. Fast, easy, universally liked, and there are hundreds of options.
Instagram Tools for the Checkerboard Grid
I freaking love Canva. It’s a free design service (though I highly recommend Canva for Business which costs a nominal fee, but is great if you want to get serious about your branding!) and it’s great for creating those “non photo” graphics in your checkerboard. It’s what I used to create the mauve pictures in my checkerboard example. Designers tend to sneer at it because it’s “no photoshop!!” and it’s not. But honestly, it’s a pretty great for what 90% of us authors need a design platform for. You simply pick what sort of design you want to create (Instagram Post), select your preferred background color, upload your book covers (or add a text box if you’re doing a quote). Drag stuff where you want it, hit download, and DONE!
If you’ve tried Canva and it still feels a bit out of reach, don’t worry! I’ve got something coming for you!
PS: For that final checkerboard / filtered example I did in the very last image of this post, where the colors are all very soft and muted, I applied The Nordic filter from Canva to everything. It’s one of my favorites! Though in general, it’s faster to add a photo editing app like A Color Story, or even using the built-in Instagram filters.
Planonly was a huge game changer for my Instagram strategy. It allows you you to upload all of your Instagram posts ahead of time, and then drag/drop so you can see what looks the best next to each other. With some of their plans, you can even schedule your posts ahead of time, which is great for those deadline weeks when you know you won’t have the chance to post to Instagram consistently! Click here to try Planoly.