The Publishing Post
Literary Instagram Accounts
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
Social media has become a key instrument in the marketing tool kit over the last few years across the commercial world, and the publishing industry is no different. From book blog tours to bookstagram read-alongs and cover reveals on Twitter, authors and their publishing teams have taken advantage of these evolving digital channels to reach a new generation of booklovers. But sometimes the world of hashtags and gifs can feel oversaturated and impersonal. Finding new ways to stand out and create a lasting connection with readers is an ongoing challenge for all book marketers.
However, one particular author of note has come up with an innovative solution. Hanya Yanagihara, the acclaimed author of A Little Life and the recently published To Paradise, has set up unique Instagram accounts for each of her books, sharing a behind the scenes look at her writing process, the decisions made in production and the books on-going reception by readers. Quite a personal and time-consuming approach, this is not a marketing strategy we see often, but creating a social media presence that connects readers more intimately to the original work could be just the thing to establish an author brand that will endure the test of time.
Yanagihara describes the main audience of her work as being “those who consider being a reader to be a key part of their identity – is looking for a more immersive and intimate relationship with a book.” The dedicated Instagram account @toparadisenovel, run by Yanagihara and long-term collaborator Leonora Mamanna, aims to do just this. The unique strategy of creating a literary Instagram account to promote her work places her audience at the heart of the marketing campaign and creates an intimate exchange between the author, her work and her audience, even months prior to publication.
Reflecting the time and effort put into writing this 720-page tome, Yanagihara hasn’t skimped on attention to detail across the marketing campaign for To Paradise’s. Allowing readers an insight into her creative process, Yanagihara has shared numerous images depicting different representations of the “paradise” that inspired the book. Yanagihara explains her choice of cover, “l’okepa, Hawaiian Fisher Boy” by painter Hubert Vos – whose wife was Hawaiian-Chinese-American – as being selected for its timelessness, appearing both old-fashioned and contemporary, perfectly portraying the generational format of the novel.
Yanagihara wanted proof-holders to “feel like you were moving backwards in time,” and so each proof is housed in a box reflective of the one constant throughout the book’s three timelines – the house on 13 Washington Square North – and lined with tissue paper printed with maps of the three different Americas.
After six years of silence since the publication of A Little Life, fans had high expectations and the marketing campaign leading up to the publication of To Paradise was eagerly received. Yanagihara has become a “read before you die” author, and part of her success is due to her ability, through effective marketing, to create an intimate and passionate community around her works. A Little Life continues to experience a skyrocket increase in attention and popularity and it will be interesting to see if To Paradise leads in the same direction.
A Little Life
The Instagram account for To Paradise is modeled on the success of @alittlelifebook, which shares “scenes and moments” inspired by Yanagihara’s 2015 hit novel. Verified with the blue tick, the account continues to be regularly updated, sharing content with 31k followers. Maintained by Leonor Mamanna, Senior Photo Editor at Bloomberg and Yanagihara herself, this feed is a testament to A Little Life’s enduring social media success.
A Little Life has been dubbed a “modern-day classic” and a BookTok hit. It continues to remain popular with readers and was shortlisted for several accolades between 2015–2017, including the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Following four friends as they move from Massachusetts to New York, the novel’s themes of friendship, trauma and abuse have clearly resonated with readers. By word of mouth, the popularity of A Little Life continues to grow, and has become a staple read amongst the Bookstagram and BookTok communities.
@alittlelifebook puts a unique twist on dedicated accounts that you might see promoting a new television series or movie, for example. It blends fan art, literary landmarks and even tattoos. It is not only an ode to A Little Life, but it also celebrates its growing readership and enthusiastic fanbase. The account provides a link to all followers allowing them to create their own #ALLbookswag. Sharing this enables followers to print the design onto items such as t-shirts, tote bags and other accessories, which are frequently shared on the platform. Yanahigara also seems keen on the #BookFaceFriday trend, in which readers pose with popular covers in front of their own faces across book blogs and social media. Owing to the cover design of A Little Life, this has enabled the novel to dominate this popular trend.
For anyone questioning why Yangihara’s writing has become so popular, this account has the answers. It is a testament to Yangihara’s attempts to continue resonating with her readers beyond the pages, creating an ongoing collage-like tribute to A Little Life.