Happy Friday my fellow readers. Whatever your plans are for this weekend, I hope you have fun. To get your weekend started right, today’s blog post is another collaboration, this time with the incredibly talented artist Stefani Rabideaux. Stefani primarily works in gouache and graphite creating stunning pieces which hark back to another era. Her Gothic Girls evoke a sense of magic and intrigue, and every one has its own personality, it’s own history and it’s own story to tell. That’s what immediately drew me to her beautiful work, the fact that each image seemed to take me somewhere else, to transport me to another place in time or another world entirely. As you can imagine, when she agreed to collaborate I was over the moon. For this story, I was truly inspired by those girls, by the darkness and light present in each piece, the hint at something behind their smiles, something knowing, perhaps something dangerous? That is how Mother Horror was born (shout out to the incredible Sadie Hartmann aka Mother Horror on Instagram for inspiring the name. You are the true Mother Horror). If you would like to check out more of Stefani’s work, and why wouldn’t you, you can purchase from her Etsy shop or head to her Instagram for daily inspiration.
I joined Instagram, or more specifically Bookstagram ie Instagram for book nerds in the spring of 2017. Since then I have grown organically to have almost 13K followers! I have met some amazing people, collaborated with wonderful artists, businesses and authors and I am now regularly being paid to create content. I have loved every second of my Instagram journey and after I was asked for my advice multiple times over the years, I decided to make a YouTube video giving you my advice on how to grow your Bookstagram channel this year! I don’t pretend to be an expert but I am proud of my profile and I am giving you the best advice I have based on my personal experience. So whether you are thinking of joining or you have been there for a while and are frustrated with your lack of growth, check out my video now and don’t forget to subscribe to my booktube channel and follow me on my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bookishmarie/?hl=en
There are plenty of book subscription boxes available these days. You can get them to suit any age and any taste, featuring every genre from Fantasy to Young Adult, Crime to Horror. But every now and then, a box comes along that genuinely causes a buzz and in this case, even starts a whole movement! The Night Worms started off as a group of Horror enthusiasts, determined to promote and review horror, a social media based book club for true horror enthusiasts, before two of its members decided to kick things up a notch and create their own Horror subscription box. But the Night Worms don’t do things like every one else. Instead of seeing the other Horror Book subscription boxes available on the market as merely competition, they decided to corroborate with them and create the #promotehorror movement on Instagram and Twitter. After two very successful boxes, with a third on the way, I chat with the lovely ladies behind the box to get some insight into its creation as well as what is to come…
1) Tell us about the people behind Night worms.
The people behind Night Worms are two female horror lovers, Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann and Ashley Saywers. I review horror for Scream Magazine and Cemetery
Dance Online. I’ve been married for 22 years to my best friend and we have three children. Our whole family recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific North West.
Ashley also lives in Washington with her husband and their son. She loves horror too! Both of us repped for a horror subscription box company and several other bookish companies-developing a really close friendship and working relationship before we ever decided to go into business together.
We love that we live so close to each other and we can travel back and forth to each other’s houses.
2) What inspired you to create the box?
Ashley and I became friends on Instagram through our dedicated #bookstagram accounts. During the course of a few years, our taste in books became more closely aligned. We realized we were reading all the same books. We decided to combine our efforts to read, review and promote horror through a book club with five other horror loving friends of ours. Night Worms was born.
After about eight months or so, Ashley and I decided to expand our Night Worms brand to a book club subscription package so that more people could read, review and promote horror with us. We are different in that we put the primary emphasis on the books and less of a thrust on the promotional merchandise. We find that lots of the bookish merchandise is either extra filler/clutter or sometimes infringing on the author’s intellectual property. Everything we include beyond books is just to promote horror book collecting, a book collector’s lifestyle or an enhancement of their reading experience through a one-time use consumable–that way there’s nothing leftover that needs to be stuck in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. We collect books-not things.
3) What is it about horror that you love so much?
We love that horror is so diverse and that it’s a niche community of people who are very passionate about it.
4) If readers are new or unsure about the genre, but looking for a book to start off their horror journey with, which one would you recommend? What would your horror book for beginners recommendation be?
A lot of horror authors can write in very different sub-genres so if a reader was unsure because they didn’t want to be scared, horror author Robert McCammon has a few books that teeter on the edge of horror but never cross over like, BOY’S LIFE or THE LISTENER. Stephen King also transcends the horror genre and wrote books like, 11/22/63 which is not traditional horror but more like a time travel, thriller. I would also recommend his newest release, THE OUTSIDER which is like a crime thriller. Paul Tremblay has a book called, THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK which has horror undertones but definitely a bit lighter than his book, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS which is pretty full-on
Grady Hendrix is also a great place to start with his clever, light and sometimes humorous stories in the horror genre. A book like MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is a great place to start.
5) How do you pick the books and items you feature in your boxes?
Ashley and I hear about a lot of new releases through authors and publishers and sometimes we see a theme or a common thread between certain books so we build a theme around those releases
6) Tell us about the #promotehorror movement? What inspired you to start it?
Basically, horror is a neglected genre in the grand scheme of things. It’s largely ignored for big literature awards due to the fact that people assume it has to be scary or gory to be good and many people aren’t interested in being scared. Many readers of horror actually do a disservice to horror sometimes by rating quality written books lower than they deserve just because they weren’t “scary”. We promote all aspect of the horror genre to help snuff out some of the stereotypes and misinformation out there about horror so that our favourite genre can continue to see an uptick in success.
7) What’s next for the Night Worms?
We have some BIG months coming up. Our February package sold out and it’s going to be a spectacular offering so we are very excited about the unpackagings to go out on social media. April is our Kealan Patrick Burke exclusive package which is generating a lot of buzz and then we have even more signed books and exciting themes coming up for the whole year!
8) How do readers become a part of the Night worm family?
Simply visit our website and click on the most recent, available listing. Add to cart as a one time purchase or click “full details” to subscribe. Join our horror movement on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you so much to Sadie and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and agreeing to be featured on my little old blog. Whilst this box is currently unavailable outside of the US, the team are hoping to expand to an international audience down the line, so fingers crossed people, because I am DYING to get my hands on one! Go on to their social media and check them out, particularly Instagram, so you can discover some new horror books and authors and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest reviews, collaborations and articles.
Happy New Year! It’s my very first post of 2019 and I am really excited for the year ahead…so many books to read, stories to write and people to meet! I decided to start the year with my personal ‘How To’ guide to Instagram. I have been asked so many times what filters and applications I use for my images, how I have built my profile etc, so I thought the simplest and easiest thing to do would be to create this blog post with all the bits and pieces you need to know to get started, or to improve the profile you already have. Let me caveat this by saying I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I the biggest account out there with millions of followers. What I have done however, is organically grow my account to over 10,000 followers in less that two years. I have created a profile which I am proud of (check it out here). Every Instagrammer has their own techniques and tricks of the trade, and these are simply mine, imparted to you in the hopes that you may find them useful. I would also like to say, that even after 20 months, I am still learning myself so feel free to comment with your own tips for the benefit of myself and my readers.
Let’s start with how to build your profile then at the end I will give you the specifics on how I create my own images including the apps I use etc.
- Find your Niche.
Instagram has something for everyone. Whether you are a fitness freak or a book worm, a traveller or a fashionista, there is an account out there for you. I, as a writer and avid reader, naturally gravitated towards the Bookstagram community. The trick is to base your profile around something you are passionate about. There are some accounts out there which have a little of everything too, but I have found the ones which cater to specific hobbies or interests are the most successful. Create images and captions about the things your loves and interests, and your passion will shine through. Finally, I would suggest choosing a profile name which clearly demonstrates what the account contains, so people can easily identify it as one containing their hobby or interest. For example, my name is @bookishmarie, clearly identifying mine as a book based profile.
2. Find your style.
I learned early on how important it is to have your own style on Instagram and to stick to it. However, I also learned very quickly just how hard that can be. My moods and tastes change so often and my photos can often reflect that. If you go to my profile and swipe through from the beginning to now, you will see my style has changed dramatically over 20 months. It took me a good while and hundreds of pictures to discover my own personal style and even now, that continues to evolve. It’s ok if you aren’t sure what you want your style to be, you can experiment until you get it right. Again, just like picking your theme, this will involve looking at your loves, your hates and your interests. I love all things vintage, so my profile was always going to have a retro vibe to it. Perhaps you love all things vibrant and bright or maybe you are all about tasteful monochrome. Start with what makes you happy and work from there. The most successful profiles have clear styles. You can identify a picture as belonging to them from one quick glance- that’s the aim!
Once you settle on a style you like, stick to it! The more successful profiles not only have a distinct style but their style is also consistent. An easy way to do this is to have a colour scheme, for example my page is mostly muted autumnal tones. You will find your style will naturally lead to a colour scheme anyway.
3. Make the Effort with your images.
I work very hard on each and every one of my images, placing every item carefully, moving and shifting until it’s just so. If I’m not 100% happy with an image, I won’t post it. It’s clear to anyone swiping through the millions of images on Instagram when a photo has been half assed. Why in that case would they bother to read the caption, like it or follow you? Instagramming can be quite time consuming so it’s not for everyone, but if you really want to build a profile then you’ll have to work at it. But as with everything, practice makes perfect. Most importantly, have fun with it and create the type of images you want to see.
4. Interact with your fellow Instagrammers.
It sounds obvious, but a lot of Instagrammers simply post images without interacting with their fellow users. The best way to organically grow a following and to get people to visit your page, is to find other users with similar tastes, interests and styles and to interact with them. For clarification, when I say interact with them, I mean in a genuine way. Don’t just copy and paste ‘nice photo’ under countless images. If you see an outfit on a fashion page you really like, then tell them. If you see a beautiful creature with perfectly applied makeup, let them know how great they look. Ask questions, discuss common interests and most importantly be kind- no one will follow you if you are a critical jerk leaving snide comments under their pictures. It’s a great way to make new friends and to in turn, have people check out your profile who maybe wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I also find engaging under your own pictures is a great way to meet new people and grow your profile. Don’t just post an image and leave it at that, ask a question, start a discussion or present an idea. Give people a reason to comment and to continue coming back to your page
Whilst only around 10% of visits to my images are from hashtags, they are still a great way to promote your post and to drive traffic to your page. The best way to find the hashtags that will work for you, is to find accounts similar in theme and topic to yours and check out what hashtags they are using on their images. Instagram will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags per image. I advise taking note of the amount of images related to each hashtag and using a mixture of more popular hashtags and less used or newer hashtags. For example, #bookworm has 13.1 million pictures using it as I type this blog post. That is a lot of images and whilst that makes it popular for people to search by, it also means your image could easily become lost amongst the millions of others. The hashtag #bookishgirl on the other hand only has 104,000 images at this stage, so it is more likely your image will be spotted and your page visited. I also recommend participating in photo challenges, as they are not only a great source of inspiration for your images, but a great way for people, mainly the others participating in that challenge, to see your page. There are also feature accounts on Instagrams. These are literally accounts which feature the best of a particular theme or topic. In order to get featured, you more often than not need to use a certain hashtag. Some of these accounts have HUGE followings and it’s a great way to get noticed by users who otherwise wouldn’t have encountered your image. Finally, searching relevant hashtags is also a great way to do research and to see what’s out there, what is working and what’s not. Instagram gives you the option to follow certain hashtags and I recommend doing so in order to get regular inspiration.
6. Tag People.
I am not advocating tagging dozens of random people in every post you put up, but tagging relevant people can be a great way to get your account noticed. Being a bookstagrammer, I most often tag authors, publishers and businesses which sell bookish merchandise. This has lead to large businesses re-posting my image of their product, ensuring it’s seen by thousands of new potential followers. Publishing houses, publicists and authors who I have tagged have approached me to review and feature their books. It also helps spread the word and promote small businesses to a wider audience and provides them with lovely images for their own page or stories, so it’s win win for everyone. Don’t get me wrong though, if you are going on Instagram just to get free stuff, you’re joining for the wrong reasons. This is mostly about community spirit and mutual promotion and while free stuff is great, it shouldn’t be the driving force behind your account. The beauty about Instagram is that it creates a way to connect with individuals and businesses you otherwise would never have discovered.
7. Be Patient.
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Instagram can be a fickle place. People will follow you just to unfollow you a day later. I have had 10 new followers and been very pleased, just to check my phone a few hours later to find my follower count down by 15….one step forwards, two steps back. It can be frustrating and confusing and on more than one occasion, I wanted to pack it in. I didn’t explode overnight or go viral, gaining thousands of followers in a matter of weeks and whilst that is possible and I’m not saying it can’t happen to you (well done if it does), it’s more likely that you will gradually grow and build a following over time. Like I said, it took me 20 months to gain 10,000 followers and I am so grateful for every last one! You can of course buy followers but frankly I don’t understand why you would. To me, that’s like ‘winning’ the marathon by taking a short cut…it’s a hollow victory. Just persevere and keep doing what you do, and you will get there in the end. Remember what Instagram is really about. It’s about community and friendship and discovery. The follower count doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The most important thing to do is to have fun with it. If you aren’t enjoying it, then why bother in the first place?
So How do I take my images?
Equipment: All of my pictures are just taken on my Samsung Galaxy phone. On a side note, one of the things I love about smart phones is that you can have a high quality camera everywhere you go now, so it’s easier than ever to take up photography. Whilst specialist equipment isn’t needed, I do use a photo box for my flat lay images. For those of you unfamiliar with these, they are basically like a small portable photo studio in a box, with bright lights on the inside and a black out fabric covering complete with little magnetic openings of various shapes and sizes at various points around the box to allow you to take a picture from various angles whilst maintaining consistent lighting. They aren’t overly expensive (I think mine was around £80) and are available on Amazon. But you don’t need to buy one of these to get consistent lighting. You can buy small photographic lights now fairly cheap or you can simply the area in your house which gets the most light and work out what time of days is best to take your images so as to get maximum lighting.
Apart from my phone and photo box, my other essential items of equipment are my many and varied props. My antique typewriter is one particular prop which features very frequently in my images, but I have a vast collection of random knick knacks and thingamabobs which I have gathered over the years. I find the right prop can really bring a photograph to life and give it real depth and interest. You don’t have to spend a fortune either. The vast majority of mine came from charity shops and literally cost pennies. Alternatively, you can use things you already have lying about the house or even find them in nature, for example another of my most frequently used props is my collection of dried autumn leaves and pine cones I collected from my local park.
Applications and Filters: I personally don’t use the filters on Instagram. I prefer to use the application Snapseed to do the basic editing of my images, such as cropping and rotating. I like it because it’s super easy to use and features lots of great ways to tweak the image, like the ‘healing’ option allowing you to effectively erase small parts of the image and cover it over with a sort of ‘mirror’ of the surrounding area which I use regularly to fine tune my images. I then use good old VSCO to add filters. The best way to find the style you want to use is to play around and see what you like best. If you change your mind, that’s ok. Every now and then, I change the filters etc I use as do many of the largest accounts out there, so you can evolve and learn over time…practice makes perfect.
As I said in the beginning, I’m no expert but this is my attempt to impart a little experience with all of my lovely readers and I really hope you find it useful, even in some small way. If you have any tips or advice of your own, I would love to hear them! Just leave me a comment. If you have Instagram but we have never had the good fortune to cross paths, or if you start a new account, please give me a little follow (@bookishmarie) so we can stay in touch! Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts and book reviews. Happy Instagramming!!