Nailing it: Using Pinterest as a Writer

Shanna Germain is a leximaven of the highest order, exploring her love of the written word through a multitude of formats and style. She also claims the titles of (in no particular order): girl, gamer geek, wanderluster, flower picker, tire kicker, knife licker, she-devil, vorpal blonde and Schrödinger’s brat. Her website is and you really should check out her pinterest boards.

I’ve always used images as inspiration for my writing. For my first novel, I cut pictures out of magazines and collaged them together. For my second novel, I made DeviantArt pages. Eventually, I copy and pasted images into Scrivener.

Now, I’ve thrown all of that out the window for Pinterest. It gathers all of my images in one place. I can quickly pin them and forget them, at least until I’m ready to use them for a new piece of fiction. But more than that, Pinterest does something wholly new—it allows me to share my inspirations with collaborators, colleagues and even readers.

The way I use Pinterest is divided into three different (but often overlapping) elements:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Collaboration
  3. Promotion



When I started using Pinterest, it was all about “Ooh, shiny,” which I think is typical for most people. I was just adding images that inspired me in some way – potential characters or settings, ideas for plots. I thought it was all for me. But then other authors and artists (and even readers) liked the pins, or shared them on their own boards. Thus, inspiration suddenly became collaborative. As a solitary writer, this was pretty awesome.



An interesting feature of Pinterest is shared boards, where you can invite any number of people to pin to a single board. I’ve used shared boards to collaborate on at least two projects. For the first, Geek Love, we used a number of shared boards that allowed all of the members of the team to pin images. Thus, our inspiration boards quickly grew, all the while giving future readers (and our Kickstarter backers) a glimpse into both our planning process and our geekiness.

For Numenera, a tabletop roleplaying game that I’m working on, we have a private board of inspirational images just for our artists. Because the game is early in development, we’re not ready to share the images with the world yet, but it means that our artists can easily view and comment on the board.

Word of caution: Be careful inviting people to shared boards without asking; I get dozens of invites a week to shared boards that I have no interest in, from people I don’t know, which can be grumpy making.



A lot of promotion on Pinterest seems to happen almost accidentally when you’re using it for inspiration and collaboration, but there are definitely ways to facilitate it. Here are some of my favorites:

Share Secrets: Create boards for your characters, your setting and anything else that inspired you (these are often the same boards as my inspiration boards, so they serve a dual purpose). Readers love to see behind the scenes and to get a glimpse into the writer’s mind. Be sure to tell them about the project. I use board titles like Novel: Published and Novel: Currently Writing so readers can see what I’m working on now and what they can purchase.

Show Off: Create boards that show your book covers, fan art, author photos, publicity events and more. Make sure you provide links so that people can find your books and your website.

Be Searchable: Use keywords in your description that are likely to get searched, title and describe your boards in ways that are both interesting and informative, and include links to purchasing sites where appropriate. Don’t re-pin with someone else’s description (unless it’s perfect); make your own.  If you want more information, check out sites like Repinly, which look at pinning stats like popular categories and searches.

Be Social: Follow people whose pins or products you like. (Tip: Look into following libraries, museums and galleries—many have a Pinterest page, and they’re often full of great book and art pins). Comment, like, or otherwise engage with other pinners.

Be Time-Savvy: This might be the hardest one, oddly enough. It’s very easy to get lost in the shiny world of Pinterest. Once you start clicking and linking, you may never return. However, it’s important to visit regularly, because when you pin items, they go to the top of the general Pinterest page, which increases the chance that people will see you. My goal is to visit once or twice a day, pin a few things that I really love—and then go back to writing.

Share the Wealth: Create boards of books you love, covers that make you drool and anything else that you can think of to support other writers, artists and creative people. Give artists linkbacks or credit when you can.

Spread the Word: Use Pinterest widgets, such as the Pin It Button, which lets readers pin images or follow you directly from your website or blog. You can also post your pinned images to Facebook and other social media (but I would use this sparingly, because people can find it off-putting).


The Downside of Pinterest

Of course, Pinterest isn’t without its flaws:

  • There are some potentially serious copyright issues because most images are posted without permission from or credit to the creator. (Solution: include a link to the source or ask/credit the artist)
  • You can’t pin from Facebook. I have no idea why. (Solution: Download the image, then upload).
  • You can’t upload multiple images, as I discovered when I tried to upload all of my cover images (Solution: Sit there and do them one-by-one or pick only the best).
  • Pinterest’s terms of service are clearly written, but often poorly enforced. I’ve had pins removed for “nudity” because they showed someone’s stomach, while many explicit “adult” sites continue to thrive. (Solution: Read the TOS and post carefully, but expect surprises).
  • There is a new business Pinterest but it’s just out of the gate and it’s hard what the benefits are. (Solution: I’m trying it out. I’ll let you know).


Putting it All Together

If you’re just starting with Pinterest, now would be a good time to think about all of the above and ask yourself what your goal is. This will allow you to organize your boards in a way that’s most useful to you and to your followers (I organize mine in ways that are easiest for me to follow, and that are hopefully intuitive to readers. I use Inspiration: XX for general inspiration pictures; Novel: XX and Short Story: XX for novels I’ve written or am writing, and everything else has simple titles like Shanna Germain’s Books, How to Write, and Fan Art. Each board gets a short description as well).

If you’ve already started, but need to reorganize (the situation I found myself in), board titles and descriptions can be changed easily, and you can organize the boards (I put boards that are for promotion at the top, and more personal boards near the bottom).

Since its inception, Pinterest has grown in unexpected ways. It has already caught up with Twitter in terms of usage, especially among affluent women and hip urbanites. Whether you’re a beginning writer or already on your way, you can use Pinterest to your advantage by finding inspiration, collaboration, and a greater readership.