It’s Personal Saturdays with Kelly & Christy: Our Complicated Relationship with Bookstagram

Crushed on by Christy Jane, on February 16, 2019, in It's Personal / 20 Comments

It’s Personal Saturdays with Kelly & Christy: Our Complicated Relationship with Bookstagram

Not going to lie, this post is probably one of the most vulnerable and personal posts related to book influencing that we’ve ever done. It’s hard to talk about your insecurities and the delicate balance of engaging in the community and still loving it, while holding on the pieces of your soul. Join us in this conversation!


In 2015, I unofficially joined the bookstagram community. At that time I was a book fan, not a blogger. Just a person who enjoyed their book club and going to events. That changed as I got into book blogging and my personal Instagram converted into a bookstagram.

Blogging has shifted over the last few years, there’s no denying that. When I came on the scene, bloggers seemed like the backbone of the community.

And now we are chopped liver.

I know, I know. It’s not true. But damn some of these recent conversations have left me feeling deflated. This comes after years of in-fighting in the community. The bloggers vs bookstagrammers vs booktubers – we are now at a place where that all blends. Yet we can still acknowledge the limitations of each platform.

We are specifically talking about bookstagram today. I’m gonna be real here – Bookstagram is a tough sell for people who don’t have the steady source of new hardcover books, for people without good lighting or a pretty layout (or props…or the desire to use props), for people who don’t have the pretty aesthetic that some people do, for those of us who have little creative vision (so me), and generally for people who are here for discussion vs just to look at books. It’s like every other day the photos are getting more elaborate and cluttered and it’s just not my scene. I live in the Bay Area and honestly there’s just not space to house extra stuff. Plus I definitely went full Marie Kondo in my place and knick knacks make me cringe.

Yet I stand here with a bookstagram. I actively engage in the community. But it isn’t without the insecurity of never being enough. 90% of the time, I hate the photos I take and post. The state of my feed at this very moment is probably the best I’ve ever felt about it.

Kelly and I are constantly texting our layouts and photos, trying to soothe each other before we post. Is this enough? Are we doing this book justice? Are WE enough?

It’s all so exhausting.

Just this week, there was mass panic about a loss of followers. In the back channels, we have been discussing bookstagram and the feelings of never being enough. Some of us wanted to quit altogether. So we started talking about bringing the fun back to bookstagram.

Here’s what I learned:

    • I followed people I wasn’t genuinely interested in engaging with. This lead to disengaging, which not only missed the point of joining this community but sagging posts. It’s a circular pattern!
      • Solution: Evaluate people you follow. I unfollowed over 1,000 accounts and now can get through my stories, comment more frequently on posts, and – get this – gained more followers AND better engagement. I actually love the people I follow now.
    • I had no pattern on posting. I posted either daily (leading to burn out) or sporadically (leading to decreased engagement in my part)
      • Solution: Pick days you WILL post on. I post Monday, Tuesday, Thursday (for Beat the Backlist/Book Rewind), Saturday (if we have a comic crush or it’s personal post) and Sunday for #SignedBookSundays. I can post what I want on Monday and Tuesday and I can also post the other days, if I want to.
    • Taking photos was a nightmare. I felt they weren’t good enough.
      • Solution: I accepted that my photos are my photos. I read contemporary, meaning I have less typical props. I read a lot of books other people aren’t sharing (because again, contemporary). 75% of the time my photo is JUST THE BOOK and that’s ok. It’s my style.

All in all, I have to remember that I do this for fun and when it stops being fun, I need to reevaluate. I am so appreciative for the friendships and relationships with authors I’ve developed through bookstagram and THAT’S why I do this. 


When I first starting bookstagramming it was mostly giveaways tied into the blog, or author’s posts that I was boosting, or pictures of us with authors at events…things like that. Then one day I started to photograph my books just for the pure beauty of books. Then at some point, it started adding so much stress that I had to rethink this gram life.

I am not good enough.

That is what I feel on a consistent basis. I don’t have enough followers because I am not good enough. People doing this for only a year have more followers than me…I am not good enough. I don’t get as many likes as everyone else similar to me. I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Just typing that was exhausting, let alone the fact that I feel that way daily and for the last few years.

There are many problems with bookstagramming and I will address some of it in regards to myself and how I feel personally. I might make generalizations, but it is all based on my experiences and feelings. Please do not take my insecurities as yours, but I know I am not alone with these feelings.

We all know that some of the big accounts get a lot of stuff for free, so therefore some of us smaller accounts BUY a lot stuff in order to even feel like we can compete. No matter what props I buy, I still hate my photos, I still hate my numbers, I still loathe my interactions. So yeah throwing money at the problem, didn’t help the problem. The problem is me. I CAN’T expect my creativity to be compared to another’s. I CAN’T force people to interact with me. But there are some things in my control and that is where I can take back my account.

I need to stop caring what others are doing, what others may think of me, or any of that noise. I need to focus on what I enjoy, and that is books and talking about books.

I have insecurities based on other people’s opinions. I hate that I never post hauls because I constantly feel judged by the amount of books I buy. But you know what? So many publishers and authors complain that bloggers don’t buy books. Well they clearly don’t know Christy and I. Most of the times we buy multiple copies of the same book. Don’t judge what I buy. I have a job, no kids, and this is what I spend my money on. I could get my hair or nails done. I could buy new clothes or shoes. I could spend money on more elaborate props or bookish merch. But I don’t really buy a lot of those things. What I really want are overflowing shelves of books…and that is exactly what I have.

Let’s ALL be better. Let’s stop berating people for doing what brings us joy when it hurts no one else. I acknowledge that I spend my money on books (my wife definitely acknowledges it too, lol). I would not judge you for doing the same. I would not judge you for posting the same book 15xs in a month. I would not judge you for posting borrowed books. I don’t care if you are sharing pics of library books, actually I love those accounts, and friends of mine started a hashtag called #LibraryLoveWednesdays. I love the accounts that use their e-reader in such beautiful ways to capture photos of ebooks & audiobooks. I LOVE THINGS that are different and stand out amongst the mundane. I also love photos where the BOOK is the main focus, and I feel that is my style.

I need to own what I love and I need to own my style.

I recently apologized to an author at a signing for bringing so many books, and she was like “Did you buy them all?” I said “Yes, except the ARC of course, but I haven’t ever met you in person, so there are a lot.” She then said, “I have no idea why you would think I would be upset that you BOUGHT a lot of my books, that’s what keeps food on my table, and the opportunity to continue writing.” WELL OF COURSE, but I have been swimming in the toxic waters of the book community that shames us for everything we do, good or bad…and it needs to end.

Why do I bookstagram? Let’s be honest. Even though I get bogged down with these aspects, I am not doing it for the likes, or the follows. Do I want more likes, yes. Do I want more followers, yes. But am I engaging, and enjoying the people I have met and consider so many of them friends. I am doing this bookstagram thing because photos of books actually bring me joy.

I love scrolling my feed (even if it isn’t chronological). I love showering likes on every type of book I see. I love discovering new creative accounts. I love finding new books I should be reading. I love talking to other people about the books I am reading or loving. I love following authors and getting a glimpse of their real lives. I love the authors who bookstagram too…I LOVE THIS PLATFORM. I feel more engaged with instagram, than this blog even.

I learn about so many books on instagram. I am a visual person, so an image will stay with me longer than text. So I can usually recall covers I’ve seen online when I am in the bookstore and it helps me decide if I am buying it. I love shouting about books I love, and posting a photo of the book helps me get those thoughts out there.

As a blogger, I actually don’t enjoy writing reviews *gasps*. Mostly because I put pressure on myself to write something amazing and epic, when really I would rather put up a photo and say in my caption something like “this book broke me to pieces and I think you should be broken too – SO READ IT and we can cry together.” Then I hope people read those thoughts, and decide to try the book.

I feel like people who are like me, need to see something visual, and maybe a line or two of text to help stick in their minds. I want people to want to read the books I loved…that is my main goal. Promote books I liked and authors I love. Should be simple right?

We all have something to say here and there, and bitching and getting things off our chests about the algorithm or losing followers is natural. But re-framing our ideals of what this platform should be for, at least the small folk like myself, is my main goal. I already said I am not a paid influencer, so why do the numbers matter to me, or most people? The real answer is they shouldn’t.

So how can I reclaim who I am and what I like and just try to put these epic books out there and hope they stick and influence other potential buyers?

Next Steps:

  1. First, I need to accept my look and style and stop hating on myself. I am not everyone else, and why would you want to follow 100 accounts who all look the same?
  2. Next, I need to rethink why & what I do. I want to promote books. Books that are both given to me for promotion and the books I buy, own, borrow, or love.
  3. I decided to unfollow a lot of accounts I do not interact with, I started just pushing buttons so if I unfollowed you by mistake, which definitely happened to a few people, please message me and I will follow again. It was too time consuming to open everyones profile, so I just started unfollowing swaths of people whom at the time I didn’t recongnize user names.
  4. Since unfollowing over 1000 accounts, my feed has been a delight! I can see more photos of books of people I like and can now interact more than just dishing out likes but throwing comments out there too! I want to cull it some more, but losing so many accounts at the same time, did hurt, but if we never liked each others photos, why follow me in the first place. I need to have followers who want to follow me and like my photos.
  5. Remembering that numbers don’t matter because I am not a representative for any brands but myself, nor do I care to have that pressure. Do I want to be paid for anything I do? No. I want to be recognized for being a true and honest person, but yes, I still want some books for free, because that is always exciting!! So yes, knowing I have an engaged audience is all that should matter to publishers sending me books.
  6. I want a more engaged audience, and that starts with me. I want to get to know others. I want to comment on more people’s photos and hope they return the favor. If they don’t I will not be offended.

So basically I am tired of people tearing others down, we should all show off the books that make us happy and be proud of what we accomplish. I have more people tell me they bought a book because of my instagram photo and caption, more than anything else I do as a book influencer. So I am going to keep doing that, and start breaking down my own boundaries while I am at it.

It is hard to put your insecurities out there, but I hope some of this hits home. Tell us in the comments, we would love to hear your experiences or have ours validated.

If you are interested, please feel free to follow us on Bookstagram – Kelly @bookcrushin & Christy @diamondxgirl

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20 responses to “It’s Personal Saturdays with Kelly & Christy: Our Complicated Relationship with Bookstagram

  1. Bookstagram is my nemesis – there are days where I struggle horribly so I appreciate your honesty. The hardest for me is the cliqueyness of some of the ‘groups’ it makes it hard to really connect with others outside your own people!

    • I get that too, and with the algorithm you need interaction to help the posts too and I get self conscious commenting on some accounts. It’s so silly sometimes.

  2. Mama Reads Blog

    I love you two! This is such a great discussion, I honestly think about this a lot. So many times I just don’t have the energy to post or talk to people, and I’m finally (mostly) ok with it. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Sarah

    I used to feel so guilty about how much I don’t post but honestly life doesn’t allow it. And even though I consider myself creative, “bookstagram” styling is really hard for me, so I keep it simple. I hate that I don’t have time. I hate that I have the worst house to take photos in, I hate that I can do more BUT I’m also not beating myself up about it anymore. It is what it is and my favorite thing is interacting with everyone anyways, so my posts come second. It’s always been about the community first. I’ll admit it sucked when everyone transitioned to IG because I love Twitter & I had spent so much time building there and it still feels like starting over. But I’m grateful to be humbled and I do love meeting new people and following new accounts. Thanks ladies for always putting the community, books and authors number one. You are my inspiration! ❤️

    • I love your natural photos. They always turn out gorgeous and I wish I could do outdoors all the time but it feels like it rains 85% of the year lol

  4. This is such a great topic and something I’ve struggled with myself! I refuse to rep and I’ve even stopped using the props I have. The best thing I have learned {even though it’s hard to remember} is to keep my eyes on my own paper. I can’t be angry at the results of something I don’t want to do. Sure, recognition would be nice, but I would rather be authentic.

    Thank you both for sharing this!!

  5. Thanks for talking about some of the issues I’ve had with bookstagram!
    When I was starting I used to be so insecure because I never took elaborate They stress me out so much just looking at them makes me feel tired, lol.
    It took me a while but I’ve also accepted the fact that I don’t have a theme and I love simple photos.
    I don’t mind when people unfollow me because I may have a small follower count, but I regularly interact with a handful that I have a genuine connection with.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this! It’s so easy to get down on yourself on instagram and work so hard on photos/posting but to see minimal results because of the algorithm these days. It’s also frustrating to see blogs declining in popularity in favor of platforms such as instagram (which I love, I just wish blogs weren’t being seen as declining in popularity/importance too). I love instagram because I do get to interact regularly with a lot of wonderful people, but it can be demotivating feeling like you’ll never hit a “certain” number or be recognized enough for the work you put in due to follower count.

    • So well said Cristina! It’s sad to see the blogs starting to lose favor for the apps but there are still here and some of us are fighting for relevance on both platforms and that’s hard to balance too. Thank you for commenting!

  7. Joanna

    I love this post! It’s so honest and refreshing! Bookstagramming really gets exhausting and is no longer fun once it becomes pressured and stressful…

    There have been times where accounts will post gorgeous photos with lackluster captions, leaving me absolutely no detail or insight into the books and I just feel like the books have not been done justice. I have actually bought/read more books from seeing and reading posts and recs from your accounts more often than any other accounts, so please keep the amazing work!

    • Thank you so much Joanna. It seems that so many of us feel this way, but all we really focus on is the algorithm and we need to move past it since it isn’t changing.

  8. I think it’s fair to say that we ALL struggle in some way. I’ve had accounts message me asking why I unfollowed them, or don’t like their pictures. I am 1 of 35k, what does it matter?? But it does to them. Also, it’s very… cliquey.

    That being said, I think it’s hard for me to grow because I don’t do elaborate pics, or edit. like, at all. There are some I do staging yes, but that’s about it. I love accounts with more natural photos. I also, don’t read really long captions and I am sometimes (not always) put off by them. Instagram is a visual platform, to see how we create and show off pretty things! Not to have a conversation on. I know that’s an unpopular opinion. For those reasons, plus more, I will never make it HUGE there lol

    Anyway, I love your accounts! Keep doing what you are doing. 🙂