Pinterest: a tool for writers?

Piu Eatwell, author of the true-life historical mystery thriller The Dead Duke, his Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse (Head of Zeus/WW Norton), explores an under-utilized but potentially exciting social media tool for authors…

Even the most technophobic and recalcitrant dinosaurs of the writing world these days will – at the very least – have an author website. Most writers nowadays will also have a Facebook page, Goodreads and LinkedIn entries, and likely a Twitter handle. Writers of young adult and teen fiction will almost certainly post to Instagram. But what of that final, perhaps least-known member of the Big Five social networking sites, Pinterest?

Founded in 2010, Pinterest is a networking site where users can ‘pin’ a vast assortment of images and videos gleaned from the Web onto their personal selection of ‘boards’, which can then be followed by other users. I had always dismissed the site as a hang-out for unemployed advertising executives and recipe-swapping housewives, until I recently discovered its huge potential to inspire and assist in the creative process of writing.

As a writer of historical non-fiction, my visual inspiration used to come from the photograph plates of history books, photocopied and flagged with an unholy mess of post-it notes on my writing desk. Not so any more. Using Pinterest, my new practice is to create ‘mood boards’ for each of my books in progress – that is, ‘virtual pinboards’ where I collect together useful images for future reference when describing a particular locale at any given time. Thus, if in a particular scene of a book, one of my characters is hanging out at a 1950s soda fountain, wearing a poodle skirt and bobby socks, I can collect together all the visual references I need to describe the scene vividly and authentically.

Mood boards on Pinterest can be public or private: you can keep them for personal reference whilst you research your book, swap them amongst a limited group (for example, ideas for a cover design with your publishing team), or make them publicly available to your ‘followers.’ Once I’ve finished a book, I like to make my boards public, for they then transform from a useful research to a great marketing tool. Mixing images of your book cover (in all its editions) with beautiful and atmospheric images from the web on a Pinterest board can bring to life dramatically the ‘world’ of your book, tantalizing potential readers (especially if your followers re-pin the images). A pinboard can also be a handy tool for marketing to movie companies interested in optioning the film rights of a book, as it brings to life the visual potential of the book’s universe without the film producer having to spend too much time reading (something they are generally loath to do).

The latest figures show that, whilst Facebook users have stabilized, Pinterest is the second-largest growing major social network, with a jump of 7% in the past year (just behind Instagram at 9%). Interestingly, whilst the typical profile of Pinterest users has traditionally been women over the age of 30 with children (therefore a great target for writers of commercial and women’s fiction and non-fiction), the number of younger users has increased dramatically, reflecting a general trend in favour of image-based over textual social media. Pinterest, therefore, is a forum that writers across the board (sorry, no pun intended….) should be taking seriously. And, with its great potential to plumb the massive visual resources of the Worldwide Web, what, in internet parlance, is ‘not to like’?

Piu Eatwell’s mood boards for her various books, in progress and completed, can be found on her Pinterest page at https://fr.pinterest.com/piueatwell/

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Piu Eatwell

Piu Eatwell is based in Paris, France.  She writes historical true crime as well as books about her adopted home country. Piu was born in India, of mixed Anglo-Indian descent. She studied English at Oxford University, graduating ‘summa cum laude’ with a starred First Class degre...More about Piu Eatwell