Pinterest: A Visual Marketing Tool for Writers and Bloggers

Nobody needs yet another social network, but Pinterest is actually really fun! I use it to create boards for my fiction under J.F.Penn – here’s my ARKANE series research and inspiration.

pinterest jfpennI just have a ‘Pin It’ link on my browser toolbar so it’s very easy to add images I find to the boards without being logged in. But I am certainly not a power user, so in today’s post, Melissa Donovan explains how to use Pinterest more effectively.

When Pinterest hit the Internet, everyone was buzzing about it. I decided to check it out and discovered a social media site for collecting, organizing, and sharing images.

My blog is about writing, which isn’t exactly a visual topic. I didn’t see how I could use Pinterest as a marketing tool and the last thing I needed was another online distraction. It didn’t seem like a place where writers would hang out, so I decided not to sign up.

Imagine my surprise a few months later when I discovered Pinterest was sending a significant amount of traffic to my site. I wasn’t even using it, and some weeks, it was the top social media site referring traffic to my blog. Obviously, Pinterest is a place where writers hang out.

I set up an account and started experimenting. As a result, in 2012, Pinterest ranked fifth in sending referrals my way with relatively little effort on my part.

Tips for Using Pinterest as a Marketing Tool

My experiment with Pinterest continues, but I’ve rounded up some tips and best practices that have proven helpful in using Pinterest to promote my blog and my book. Here are some strategies I’ve developed over the past year:

  • Brand your profile: Use your logo, or if you’re an author, use your headshot. Include a short but clear bio letting people know who you are and what to expect from your pins.
  • Know your audience: Set up themed boards that reflect your readers’ shared interests. For example, if you write fantasy novels, your readers might like images of castles and dragons.
  • Keep it clear: Use descriptive rather than cryptic or creative labels for your boards so pinners can find you when they conduct searches.
  • Set up board covers: Pinterest is a visual presentation, and your boards look a lot better when you choose vivid and compelling images for their covers.
  • Stay focused: If you write cookbooks, you can pin anything food-related from vegetable gardens to table settings. But if you want to pin fashion and celebrities for your personal interests, set up a separate, personal account.
  • Speaking of accounts, get a business account. This is a new offering from Pinterest; business accounts include analytics that show how many people pinned from your website, repinned your pins, and other useful data that will help you decide how to best use Pinterest to achieve your goals.
  • Be pinnable: Make it as easy as possible for people to pin your stuff. Include images on every page and blog post throughout your website and include Pinterest in your social media share buttons (at the bottom of every blog post). Make sure your websote logo (or header image) is pin-able (many aren’t). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pin an article but couldn’t because there wasn’t an image to pin!
  • Choose images wisely: It doesn’t hurt to study the rules of good image composition, and then fill your boards with enticing images that inspire other Pinterest users to repin. Pay attention to typography too.
  • Check links and captions: This is something I’m still working on. It’s easy to quickly repin a bunch of attractive images but the best practice is to click through to check the link and make sure you want to promote that content. It’s also worth it to take a few seconds to check (and possibly rewrite) the caption.
  • Repin: As with Twitter’s retweets, repining on Pinterest is how you get new followers and find new boards to follow. It’s also how you pay it forward and it’s what makes the site social. Do not limit your boards to your own content!

Pinterest for Marketing and Inspiration

pinterestAs it turns out, Pinterest can be a lot more than a marketing tool for writers and bloggers. I often discover quotes on writing, articles about writing, and writing tips, and ideas that I can share with my readers. In fact, Pinterest is abundant with inspiration and creative opportunities.

Several authors I follow have set up storyboards as well as boards for characters, plot, and setting. Pinterest is an excellent tool for creating vision boards and it’s a useful tool for collecting, storing, and organizing ideas.

Pinterest is a free, simple, and fun service that writers can use for marketing and as a creative tool. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it.

Do you use Pinterest? Please share your boards and how you use the tool in the comments below.

melissa donovanAbout the Author: Melissa Donovan is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas. She has also authored a book of creative writing exercises and works as a web designer and copywriter. You can find her on Pinterest at

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  1. says

    I’d love to use Pinterest–both for my platform and personal interests–but I’m concerned about copyright. Typically, you don’t get permission from the person who owns the image, and Pinterest in no way absolves you of that responsibility. I know many authors who continue using Pinterest anyway, but my fear is that there’s nothing stopping someone from suing you because, essentially, you illegally used their image. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Great question, Ilana. There are two sides to the copyright issue: the legal side and the commercial (copyright holder’s) side. I can speak to the way it works in the U.S. with our DMCA law. I’ll explain it in the context of Pinterest but it’s applicable to other platforms for sharing and distribution as well. Also, I’m not a lawyer, so this is not official legal advice.

      It is my understanding that an individual cannot be sued or penalized for posting content to Pinterest. The legal process requires the copyright holder to issue a DMCA notice to Pinterest, which is essentially a letter telling Pinterest that it is publishing copyrighted content and requiring them to remove it. If that happens, Pinterest (and most other social media sites) will remove the content. Pinterest has pretty clear policy statement on this:

      It’s also important to look at it from the copyright holder’s perspective. If I own the copyright to my book cover and someone posts it on Pinterest, I do indeed have the right to demand that Pinterest take it down. If they don’t, I can take legal action. But that would be a foolish business move. As a copyright holder, you want to get your work in front of people. When someone posts my book cover on Pinterest, I get exposure and that leads to sales.

      As a fan, I post stuff to Pinterest to support and promote creative work that I love and want to share with others. As a copyright holder, when other people share my book cover or blog post images, I appreciate that they are giving my work greater exposure, and I wouldn’t dream of issuing a DMCA.

      • says

        Thanks, Melissa, for your thoughtful reply! I do agree Pinterest could be great for authors (not to mention horribly addictive fun). And as an author, of course I want my book-related images to be anywhere they can on the net. It’s just that I’m not seeing anything that absolves Pinterest users of liability for pinning (I did see that copyright notice before, but thanks for link). Sure, copyright holders could go after Pinterest–or they could go after me. I could take down the offending pin, and they could still sue. I know you’re not an attorney, so of course you can’t give legal advice. But I think I’ll wait until I can actually talk to one to see what their take is. If they think it could work, I would love to be more involved in Pinterest!

        P.S. As authors, we’re thinking mostly of book covers when we discuss images. But what if we pin a photo someone else has the copyright to? These are the kinds of legal questions that keep me up at night!

        • says

          One place you could start would be researching DMCA and getting a basic understanding of the law in this area. Also, research Fair Use laws, which address how non-copyright holders are allowed to share and use copyrighted material legally. My understanding of Fair Use is that it is legal to share movie and book jackets (and other promotional materials).

          You seem to be concerned that if you post something like a book jacket, the publishing house (or author) might try to sue you. My thinking is — if that were really a concern, Pinterest would not exist. If its users suddenly started getting sued and prosecuted, the site would die.

          I do think it’s wise to look into DMCA and Fair Use (talking to an actual lawyer is probably not necessary–the information is publicly available to anyone) and to pin content judiciously. I have come across cool stuff online that I didn’t pin (or pinned to my private boards) because I thought the copyright holder might not want their property on Pinterest.

  2. says

    Awesome post–thank you so much! We are just learning how to use Pinterest for our business. We had a “crossover” board when Pinterest had only personal pages, and now we’re transitioning to a business page. Some of the boards are not relevant anymore. Others have uncompelling covers and captions. I’m going to go clean up a few things! Thanks to this post I have a “to-do” list for Pinterest and our website pages :)


    • says

      Marie, I recently finished a similar project. I converted my account to a business account and cleaned up all my boards. I retitled some, changed the captions on lots of pins, and basically reorganized everything. It was a lot of work but it was also fun (I love playing with Pinterest) and through the process, I learned how to better use Pinterest and I found tons of inspiration!

  3. says

    There have been a spate of articles and discussions about Pinterest for authors lately. These tips are a great starting point and are helping me to grow the buzz about my books on that site. Currently I have boards that illustrate my books, using a mix of repins and my own photos, but expanding my boards to include more content from my blog and current events which inform my mystery novels is the next step. Thanks for the post and the encouragement.

    • says

      That’s great, Carmen. I don’t think it hurts to create a board that features your books, especially if you have a lot of product or a deeply loyal fan base. Another way to share your books is to create broader boards and include your book amidst other, similar titles. For example, my book is a collection of creative writing exercises, and I have pinned it to my “Writing Resources” board, which I also use to share other books that I recommend on the craft of writing. The end result is similar to sites that have “If you like that, then you’ll probably like this” or “Customers who bought that also bought this…”

  4. says

    Pinterest is my latest passion. It’s sending more contacts my way than any other social networking site. Here’s what I do. I pin pictures related to my book ‘Hot Times in Goa’. Then I write a line of dialogue or action from the book and tweet it; it also goes to Facebook. Sometimes I use the ‘Embed’ button on Pinterest to import pics to the book page on my website: It’s important to have other boards, too, so that potential readers can relate to other aspects of you and should then find their way to your book without too much pressure. I thoroughly recommend it.

    • says

      Great strategy, Linda. I would go a step further and say it’s not only important to have other boards but to create boards that include your content amongst other, similar content.

      For example, if I wrote zombie books, I would start a board of zombie books and I’d fill it with every zombie book I could find. I would include my own book among them. What happens is that pinners who love to read about zombies will follow the board and when you pin your own book (you can pin it repeatedly–once a month is good), they will be exposed to it.

      Keep in mind, pinners can search the site for “zombies” and then choose to look at pins, boards, or pinners. The trick is to create entire boards that appeal to your potential readers, not just your hardcore fans.

  5. says

    Linda, that’s a very innovative way to connect your book with all sorts of pins. Following you now :) Carmen, what is your Pinterest ID? I’d like to see your book boards too. Such cleverness! Our books will be nonfiction about various rural living topics but now I can see some ways to create boards around them.


      • says

        Hi Carmen, I just looked at your boards and I wanted to share a couple of ideas with you. One would be a “political thriller” board where you pin books and movies in the genre (including yours). Another thing you could do is a more general political board–not an opinion board but more along the lines of sharing stuff that relates to your books. I’m thinking “political scandals throughout history.” People who are into that will probably also be into your books.

        The trick is to put yourself in the shoes of your typical potential reader–notice that I refer to “potential reader” rather than “loyal reader.” What kind of stuff is your target reader interested in? If you can curate boards filled with content they like, you get them into your stream and then you have an established platform you can use to get your books in front of them.

        • says

          Melissa, the notion of creating a board of mystery and thriller books in my genre is a terrific one. This way I can build a “If you liked these books you’ll like these as well” message. Taking it a step further I can link to the mystery and thriller book reviews on my blog and/or my reviews on Goodreads, as well as short stories and blog posts by my “tribe” of other mystery authors. I could even make it a group board.

          A related subject matter board is also a good one and I’ll have to give some thought as to how I would frame that one.

          We must have all been on Pinterest today because the site was acting quite finicky. I tried to upload several pins and while they appeared on my “all pins” page they did not appear on the individual boards.

          Thanks so much for taking the time to stay on the thread and offer suggestions. This was really helpful–and a great visual break away from the editing ball and chain!

  6. says

    I’ve been pinning for sometime. I write hist.fict and hist.fantasy and so have themed my account essentially to medieval/Renaissance pins. However because I’m a writer with books published, I have also included visually inspirational boards to me and (I hope) my readers. In addition, because I love books of all sorts as a reader and writer, I have included relevant boards on those aspects. And because I love gardens and embroidery and that inspires me to write as well, right at the end there are two boards that reflect me – the writer who gardens and sews.
    I love Pinterest. There isn’t a day goes by where I haven’t been inspired – recently, when looking at pins of Famagusta for the second in my hist.fict series, the plot took a sudden u-turn from a pin!
    However, what I am really interested in, Melissa, is yours and Jo’s idea to have a Pinterest business account (I see one can convert). Do you think it will really drive readers to one’s books?

    • says

      Hi Prue,

      The marketing side of my brain says don’t mix your author boards with personal interests but I’m not sure how much it really matters. If you’re using Pinterest in a low-key way to stream your content into Pinterest, it’s probably not a big deal. On the other hand, if you want to create more of a reader experience and establish a space where fans of your books will hang out, it’s probably better to separate personal stuff from your marketing content. Personally, I prefer to have a separate business account. I have a wide range of interests and I don’t think the people who want my writing advice care to see boards showcasing my favorite recipes, music, and TV shows. As for converting, yes. If you are in any way using Pinterest for marketing, the business account gives you access to analytics, which are quite useful.

  7. says

    Hello Melissa, I got completely sucked in to your boards and followed all. I have 2 accounts. One is a resource for Fantasy writers with exotic flora, fauna, people, artifacts etc to draw inspiration from: and then I have just started one which is only about books for young adults, separated into genres:!

    Ps. I have had people re-pin my book just because they liked the cover, so I think Pinterest works.

      • says

        Your boards look great, Karen. I followed several of them.

        A lot of marketers become primarily concerned with sales. I’ve heard authors argue that Pinterest doesn’t generate sales, but it reality, it generates something that could be more important: exposure. I know that I have to see a book several times before I buy it. Books often sit on my wish list for months. Repeated exposure to books I want to read often pushes them to the top of the list. This is typical consumer behavior. So while sales are the goal, it’s definitely beneficial that Pinterest users are repinning your book covers, even if they don’t click through and buy — they may eventually.

    • says

      Your boards complement your book perfectly! My only suggestion would be to incorporate words and phrases related to LOTR in every board title. For example, you have a board called “Places to Go.” If that board pertains to LOTR, then it could be called “Places to go in Middle Earth.” Most fans also use the acronym “LOTR,” so I’d try to get that in a few board titles as well. This will make your boards searchable, so when people look for LOTR-related content, they’ll find yours.

  8. says

    Excellent idea. I know that people are highly visual creatures, but I’ve never been one to get too much into the Pinterest dealio. It’s just not my gig. However, I can see a great opportunity for not only my writing, but also my music (videos screen shots, for example) to be utilized here.

    Thanks for sharing this concept. :)

  9. says

    I’ve tried creating an account with Pinterest several times. It always says, “We could not create your account at this time. Please try again later. ” I finally gave up.

      • says

        Thanks. I finally managed to create an account, and some boards, and some ‘pins.’ One of the boards is for my books, and the others are for fun. I did a Doctor Who one – because there are so many great quotes from that show.

  10. says

    Such a great post. Thank you.

    I was first thinking if I really needed to get involved in another social media site. But is it really helpful with marketing your books?

    If so, would it be helpful for me? My new title is, well, you’ll see: The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work

    thank you so much…and thanks for this great blog..i’m definitely going to follow it


    • says

      I do think Pinterest is a great way to get exposure for a book. As with any social media marketing, if you can log on and find your audience, you can use it to market your products. I have found heaps of writers and writing-related boards on Pinterest. The bonus is that I can simultaneously use it to collect ideas and information that pertains to my (future) books and blog posts. It’s a win-win.

  11. says

    I thought book promotion was a chore until I discovered Pinterest. I’m getting so many ‘follows’ and ‘likes’ through it now. I have a number of boards reflecting all my interests: film noir, crafts, gardening and two for books. One of these relates specifically to my current book: for which I find pictures that relate to specific scenes/characters/settings and tweet them with a line from the book, remembering to add the hashtag #novelines. I’m going to start one as a storyboard for my current WiP but I enjoy it so much that I’m afraid I’m not actually going to get around to doing any writing.

  12. says

    Another tip for Pinterest:

    Install the Pin it button on your computer & any mobile tablets / phones. This will let you pin content easily from your devices.

    If you have a Mac, you can even use iCloud to transfer the bookmarklet code for the pin it button to your iPhone or iPad / iPad mini.


  1. […] Make it as easy as possible for people to pin your stuff. Include images on every page and blog post throughout your website and include Pinterest in your social media share buttons (at the bottom of every blog post). Make sure your websote logo (or header image) is pin-able (many aren’t). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pin an article but couldn’t because there wasn’t an image to pin! Pinterest: A Visual Marketing Tool for Writers and Bloggers […]

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