Saturday, 21 March 2015

Why Pinterest is Useful for Writers

Apologies for such a prolonged absence from the blogosphere; I've gained two colds, courtesy of my kids, and a new job, courtesy of a previous boss. All this has massively crunched my writing time, meaning this blog has just had to sit on the sidelines.

Anyway, today I got a query from the amazing Rachael Craw (check out her book, Spark, here). "What is this Pinterest thingy?"

I've talked about social media before and Rachael is an expert at the use of twitter and Facebook, but it just goes to show not even us Rach's know everything. So, a quick summary of Pinterest in this post, just for you, Rach :)

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media platform that acts as a virtual pinboard. Say you're building a house. Instead of collecting pictures from a magazine and pasting them in a scrapbook, with only a click of the mouse you can pin them to your board. All on-line content containing video or image files can be pinned. (You can't pin just text. And it doesn't seem to like Facebook too much, either.)

Pinterest is a bit more than just a pinboard, though. It's social. You can create group boards which other people can pin to.You can comment on other people's images and/or pin images they've collected to your board. You can make secret boards that are private, or you can make your boards public and able to be shared. (Pinterest has a lot more features but these are the ones I use the most).

Why is this Useful for Writers?

I use pinterest in my writing in four ways. Here's the link to my boards.

  • Creating value-add.

I pin links to research used in the creation of a book. I make a note of this board in the links at the back of the book (the back matter). Librarians, teachers and readers can gain a greater insight into the world building and the characters. This has been really useful, particularly when I was shortlisted for the NZ Post Award last year. Literacy Aotearoa did a spread on my book and linked my pinterest board into that spread.

Here's the board for my upcoming novel, A Skilful Warrior

Pinterest Board for A Skilful Warrior

  • Informing Media

I pin links to interviews, reviews and other material on a pinterest board. This makes it easy for anyone doing an article on me to quickly access this material.

  • Collaboration

My cover artists and I - Kura Carpenter and Christa Holland - are both on pinterest. Check out Christa's boards here, and Kura's here. Kura in particular has amazing boards, as in addition to her cover art she's a steampunk fanatic and a period costume designer.

When I've been in the throes of cover design with either of them I've started a group secret board to pin ideas to - covers I like, covers I don't like, font design and so on.

  • Plot Bunnies

I love collecting images that might lead to future stories. There's one board I have, called The Book of the Castaway which is a total story in development. I'm using the images in the board to cue the various narrative elements. It's quite a different plotting process to the linear way I normally work and I'm kind of enjoying the way the story is building.

Pinterest Board for Inner Fire

Other Uses for Pinterest

  1. Make a board for each character: their music, their clothes, where they live, their hobbies. Recipes they use, cars they drive and so on.
  2. You can list books you like, books you're reading (I started doing that, but now I just use goodreads), books you want to read or books that are similar to yours.
  3. Social context. Some people use this extensively, especially historical writers. House decor, fashions, current events, music, videos of a period can all be pinned to a board.
  4. Place. I had a whole board on castles, just so I could get the feeling of a castle, all that damp stone and narrow passageways
  5. Cultural vibe. Pinterest is a good way to quickly see which images are trending: which TV shows are popular, which books are doing well, which fashions are coming. (Spark, with its beautiful cover is really popular). Pinterest is quite an interesting marker of a culture. And it's changing quite rapidly, as the platform is becoming more international.
  6. Promotion. Through clever use of images you can (in theory) drive traffic to your books, or to your website. Personally, I'm a bit slack at that, but a good friend of mine, Roomie, uses it really cleverly to link to her blog and her design business.

Couple of things to be aware of:

  • Copyright. Where possible, I have attributed images in A Necklace of Souls and Inner Fire (my novels) boards. I have also add a line to the board requesting the owner of the image to contact me if they wish to have an image removed or re-credited. Never use an image for your own commercial use without purchasing a license.
  • Comments. Like all social media, keep comments positive.
  • Content. Don't rely on the pinner's commentary to be accurate (this is really important if you're looking for historical material). Always check the original source.
  • Image counts. The better the image, the more attention it will get. 

You can find out more information about Pinterest here Just beware - Pinterest is addictive!

So, Rachael, hope this is helpful! And enjoy!