Pinterest for Authors: What You're Doing Wrong

My single biggest career break through in 2018?

Pinterest.

People in the book world have been universally surprised when I've said this. Plenty have been downright skeptical.

The most reaction I get is curious, with a hint of baffled: "Really? I never had much luck on Pinterest."

I know you haven't. I didn't for the first four years of my career either. And here's why:

Authors, we've been doing Pinterest wrong.

If I had to guess, you've tried using Pinterest in the following ways:

  1. You create boards for your all your books, and then pin "inspiration" pictures to them. Pictures of celebrities whom your characters resemble. Pictures of the setting. Stock photos that represent a particular scene. If you're a romance author, you may have a few pictures of couples looking sexy or romantic to help create a visual for those moments.

  2. You use Pinterest in the same way you do Facebook or Twitter—when you have a new book out, you post a graphic (or the book cover) to Pinterest saying, "new release, no available, go buy!"

Would I be correct in thinking that neither of these have moved the needle much in terms of traffic, engagement, followers, or sales? I know that I certainly didn't see the ROI when I was trying the above two methods!

Now, though? These days, I'm seeing Pinterest as one of my biggest traffic drivers to my website. In my best month in 2018, Pinterest drove 30,000 visits to my website. Now that I know what I'm doing, I expect even better results in 2019 (one of my personal goals this year is to hit 100k visits to my website from Pinterest in a single month).

And now you're intrigued, right?

Here's the single biggest shift you need to make in your mind in order to start getting results on Pinterest:

Pinterest is not a social media platform.

You should absolutely not be thinking about it in the same way you think of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

I know that's confusing. Because, yes, Pinterest is generally listed under the social media section of most website analytics, and Pinterest has followers, much like Facebook, etc.

So why are the above two methods largely ineffective?

Let's start with #1 — those "book inspiration boards." First, I should say, there's nothing wrong with them! I have them for almost all of my books. They're a fun bonus for your die-hard readers who already follow you, and can be inspiring while actually writing the book. But the chances of someone stumbling upon one of those pins during their Pinterest browsing or searching is slim-to-none.

Not to mention, I'm guessing that those pins are re-pins, am I right? Meaning that you searched for hot guy, Chris Pratt, kiss on beach, Emma Stone, New York city, romantic couple on Pinterest, and then re-pinned anything that caught your eye to your book board.

And while you might add your own description, if someone were to click on that image of Henry Cavill within your book board, they wouldn't be taken to yourwebsite, or your book page. They'd be taken to the source of that image (as it should be! Never hijack an image you don't own to drive traffic to your own site! You might get away with it, or you might end up in legal hot water)

That's one of the reason you're not seeing any results on Pinterest—because your'e primarily just re-pinning other people's pins. There's linking them back to your website, your Amazon page, etc.

Now let's talk about Pinterest for Authors Mistake #2:

You're treating Pinterest the same way you do other social media platforms.

If you want Pinterest success, you can't come at it with the same strategy you apply to Facebook and Instagram. Those platforms are geared towards what's happening right now.

This is never more true than on Twitter, where a tweet is old news the second you hit post. The majority of engagement you get on a particular tweet happens within the first hour, am I right? Maybe a day on a more popular tweet.

Facebook and Instagram have a slightly longer shelf life, but not much. Nobody is seeing the release day posts on Facebook and Instagram posts on a book you released just one month ago.

On Pinterest, however, pins last forever. The most popular pins aren't necessarily the most recent pins. In fact, they're rarely the most recent pins. Some of my best performers and highest traffic-driving pins are from nine months ago.

Why?

Because again, Pinterest is not a social media platform.

Dude, Lauren, I get it. It's not a social media platform. So what is it?

Pinterest is a visual search engine.

A what now?

Think of Pinterest as being closer to Google than it is to Facebook.

People use it to search for something.

2 billion searches happen on Pinterest every month. 39% of women choose Pinterest over Google to search. Source.

Even when Pinterest users are merely browsing their home feed rather than using the search bar for something specific, it's still with a different mindset than on Facebook/Instagram. They're not necessarily looking for updates from a particular brand, person, author, etc, but they are looking for something to catch their eye. An idea, an inspiration, a product.

Authors tend to get Pinterest wrong, because we make it about ourselves. “My book inspiration, my book release, my book sale.”

If you want to succeed on Pinterest, you've got to start thinking about Pinterest users who have never heard of you. What are they searching for, what are they inspired by, what will catch their eye?

I'll be having lots more Pinterest tips on the blog throughout 2019, plus a class! To stay up to date, sign up here.

Author CareerLauren Layne