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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pinterest: Ten Tips for Authors

Recently I've been experimenting with Pinterest as a means of promoting myself and my books and courses, and also as a money-making method in its own right.

For anyone who may not know, Pinterest is a pinboard-style social networking/publishing service. Users create boards where they pin things they like from around the web, with everything represented by images.

Pinterest has become hugely popular in a short space of time, and according to a recent report from Shareaholic now drives more online traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Bing.

Pinterest users also spend on average 405 minutes per month on the site - the same as Facebook, and vastly more than any other social network. You can see more interesting stats and demographics on this web page.

With this high level of user engagement - and the site's particular popularity among females - Pinterest is clearly a site no author can afford to ignore.

If you'd like to see what I've been doing so far, you can visit my own Pinterest profile here, and my Writing Information and Resources Board here. A section of this board is also shown in the screen capture at the top of this post.

Based on my experiences to date, here are my top ten tips for writers on making the most of Pinterest...

1. You no longer need to be invited by an existing member to join Pinterest - just click on the "request invitation" link at the top of the Pinterest homepage. You won't receive one instantly, but my own arrived within 48 hours.

2. You can (and should) create multiple boards devoted to different things that interest you. To avoid your page looking incomplete, I recommend creating at least five different boards with at least five pins on each. This will ensure that when someone visits your profile, it looks busy and active. Any less than this will leave 'empty' boards and pins showing.

3. You will probably want to have one board devoted to your books. That's fine, but be sure to have other boards as well devoted to books and authors you like and totally different topics that interest you. You want to avoid giving the impression that your Pinterest profile is being used solely for self-promotion.

4. For Pinterest to work, any page you pin MUST have an image on it (where there are multiple images, you can choose which one is shown). With books, a good place to pin from can be the sales page on Amazon or some other online bookstore. You can, of course, pin your book's cover image from here.

5. It's also possible to use affiliate links on Pinterest - if you're an Amazon associate, for example, you can use your affiliate link and potentially earn commission as well as royalties on every sale of your book. Don't overdo this, though - Pinterest have become sensitive about this since one user boasted about how much he was earning stuffing his boards with Amazon affiliate links. The occasional such link should be OK, though.

6. Write descriptions of your pins as well. Many Pinterest users omit to do this, but well-written descriptions can attract more visitors and may also bring you search-engine traffic. Make a point of including any keywords or phrases in your description you would particularly like to attract visitors for.

7. Add hashtags to your descriptions, e.g. #fantasy. Hashtags are used for searches on Pinterest – so in this example someone searching the site using the term "fantasy" would see your pin in their search results. Avoid using obscure words as hashtags, as few people will search for them. Commonplace, frequently used terms are the way to go here.

8. Add the Pinterest bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmarks bar. This is a huge time-saver, because it will allow you to quickly pin things you find around the web without going to the Pinterest website first. To get it, visit the Pinterest "Goodies" page and drag the "Pin It" button to your browser toolbar. Now, when you're browsing the web and see something you want to pin, click the bookmarklet and you'll be prompted to create a new pin.

9. If you're pinning an image from a website using the Pinterest bookmarklet, you can highlight some of the text on that page before you hit "Pin It" and the text will automatically show up in the description box. This can be a great time-saver, though I still recommend editing it and adding hashtags (see item 7) as well.

10. You can also tag other Pinterest users by using the @ symbol followed by their Pinterest user name. You have to be following at least one of their boards for this to work. Doing this will draw that user's attention to the pin, and also make their profile name in the pin description link to their Pinterest profile. In this way you can start to build a community of fellow Pinterest users who help promote one another's pins, boards and profiles.

Speaking of which, if you are a member I'd be delighted if you were to follow me on Pinterest, and I will of course return the favour.

If you have any comments or questions about this post - or any tips of your own about Pinterest to share - please do leave them below.

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Anonymous Raine Thomas said...

Great tips, Nick! Just followed you. I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict. LOL

4:44 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Raine. Will follow you back.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Vivacia said...

Hi Nick, I too found pintinterest to be a great resource for sharing and connecting but lately have stopped using it mainly due to the terms and conditions as they relate to copyright. Surprisingly they state you need to own the rights to the images or have permission to use them and that pininterest take no responsibility for what you pin. It's up the pinner to get permission...

Needless to say this means legally you're in a bit of a difficult position when repinning from someone else's board (did they get permission?) or even pinning off the web. I think it's a resource that can still be used but for all prospective pinners out there the message should be: "be aware of copyright law". Especially if you're using pininterest for business reasons, as those are the people companies and rights owners are more likely to chase for compensation.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Vivacia.

I'm aware that concerns have been raised about copyright, but personally I think if you use Pinterest with commonsense (and in the way described in my post) you are very unlikely to encounter difficulties.

In my view, pinning with a thumbnail image and link back to the site concerned is much the same as posting a link to your Facebook or Google Plus pages. Both these networks also incorporate any image they find at the URL concerned. In my view this would count as Fair Use in legal terms.

Where you need to take special care is if you link to a different site from the site where the image is hosted, or (of course) if the copyright owner has specifically requested that people do not pin his/her image on their boards.

In my view, the many benefits of using Pinterest sensibly outweigh the very small theoretical risks involved. Just my opinion, of course!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Vivacia said...

Thanks for your reply Nick.

I too think if you only use thumbnail images then it should be covered by fair use, and can't see that being a problem. The issue though is with how easy it is to just pin an image to your board in its original resolution - unlike Facebook and Google + where you click a link to see the original and only see a thumbnail until you do.

I'd highly recommend reading Kirsten Kowalski's post about Pininterest and copyright on - very insightful and worth considering before people agree to the terms of service on Pininterest.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Vivacia. Interesting article, although it doesn't change my opinion about the balance being in favour of using Pinterest as long as you do so sensibly. Nobody is going to object to an author pinning their own book cover, for example. But I do take the point that anyone pinning high-quality images by professional photographers needs to be careful they are not committing a copyright infringement.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Hi Nick,
I have just started following you on Pinterest.

Your tips are great and I learned a couple of new tricks.

I, too, am concerned about copyright and pin images where the blog owner has placed a Pin Marklet (is that a word?). That way I know that he/she wants us to pin their image.

I also create my own graphics and posters, linking those to occasional affiliate sites.

My other concern is the affiliate links themselves. I've heard claims that Pinterest redirects affiliate links to their own account, thus depriving the 'Pinner' of commission.

What is your take on that?

9:26 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Karen. Glad you liked my tips!

Creating your own images to pin with affiliate links is a great idea. Nobody can object on copyright grounds to an image in a link if you create it yourself!

Pinning images where the blog owner has included a 'pin this' icon may give some reassurance, but of course it's no guarantee that the blogger concerned has permission to reproduce the image in question.

Personally, as I said before, I think that as long as you use common sense about what you pin, you will probably be OK. In the worst case scenario, if someone objects you can simply apologize and remove the link concerned. I find it hard to believe that anyone would be so petty as to pursue a prosecution through the courts for an honest mistake immediately rectified. Yes, it could happen, but what are the chances really?

On your other question, I have also heard stories of Pinterest changing affiliate links to its own. I believe this occurred in one case where an individual openly boasted about how much money he was making by stuffing his boards with Amazon affiliate links.

I have a few affiliate links to Amazon and other merchants among my pins, and have had no problems so far. Also, I just checked again and the affiliate link to my home-based business book on Amazon is definitely still mine!

Nobody knows for sure, but I think that if you use affiliate links sparingly you shouldn't really have any problems. There is also a good case for cloaking such links using a service such as or tinyurl.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Teaching and Learning Tips Blog said...

Thanks for the information snd insightful comments on Pinterest.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Lynne Watts said...

Great tips. I had no idea about the affiliate links and has tags for instance. Glad I can make my Pinterest time justified and worthwhile!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, both. Glad you liked my post.

Re. affiliate links, recently I've noticed that Pinterest is blocking links that use some URL shorteners such as So it may now be better (or essential) to use uncloaked affiliate links instead. Amazon affiliate links still seem to be OK, for example.

Alternatively, you could link to your own blog posts and/or squeeze pages and forward visitors via your affiliate links from there.

6:34 PM  

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