Quick take a selfie … no, wait, take a shelfie!
For those not in the know, a shelfie is literally a picture of your bookshelf, preferably demonstrating just how good you are at organizing your books in an aesthetically pleasing manner—maybe by height, by color, maybe accented with a candle, a cup of tea, a cat. The hashtag shelfie (#shelfie) is definitely trending, with over a quarter of a million uses on Instagram. In general, there are millions of pictures of books on Instagram, almost always posed to foster warm, fuzzy feelings about reading; just search #bookshelf, #instabook, #bookstagram, or #bookworm on Instagram and revel in the bookish goodness.
Because of the increasing popularity of the shelfie and the love and excitement for books driving social media users to post them, publishing companies have created Instagram accounts. At this point, all of the big five publishing houses, the majority of their imprints, and most independent publishing houses have Instagram accounts, as well as other social media accounts, that post content related to their authors, events, and, of course, books. For some publishing companies, there has been a steep learning curve to Instagram, and they thereby miss out on the opportunity to promote books and increase reader engagement. By noting the current book trends on Instagram, such as #shelfie, publishers can research what books and trends are currently popular and position their titles in front of readers who are already actively engaged with books on social media.
The shelfie is a marketing treasure trove because it allows publishers to promote their books on a massive scale in a way that makes a reader want to rush out and buy a book. In general, Instagram posts are not accompanied by much explanatory information, let alone a full synopsis or review. The content of the post is primarily the image itself, and the content of a shelfie or other book-related Instagram posts is typically the book cover. No longer limited to brick and mortar stores or online book retailers, the dissemination of the book cover via Instagram amplifies the importance of a publisher crafting well designed, eye-catching, sellable covers. Seeing a cool cover of a book on your Instagram feed is another point of contact for a publisher who’s trying to make a sale. Like reader-created book photographs, a publisher, by focusing on the aesthetic appeal of their books through well-crafted photographs, is selling the reader on both the book and the romanticized reading experience itself.
The ease of digital interaction is phenomenal for increasing a post’s exposure and engaging readers. See an Instagram post you like? Double-tap it to like. Have a thought about the picture? Type out a quick comment, heck, throw in some emojis. Really feeling the book love? Search a couple of hashtags. The hashtag organizational system offers a way to explore new books, connect with other readers, and generate buzz around a book. Simply put, shelfies make readers excited about book and reading, and that’s awesome.
Taking or viewing a shelfie may lead to highly contagious feelings of love and excitement for books and a desire to cuddle them. Be warned, cuddling books can lead to papercuts.