The Writer’s Guide to Pinterest

Lately we’ve heard a ton of buzz about online pinboard Pinterest: how it recently hit 10 million U.S. monthly uniques and how savvy brands and publishers are using the site for content marketing. And yes, there’s been some backlash over how the site is monetized and whether pinning an image might violate copyright law. (Websites can now add some code to make their images unpinnable, but of course they’d also miss out on potential traffic from the site.)

That doesn’t seem to be slowing down millions of devoted Pinterest users, many of whom blog about weddings, fashion, or DIY. It’s quickly spreading to other niches as well. Ebyline talked to several freelance writers and bloggers about how they’re using the platform to inspire and promote their writing.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas. Freelance writer Terri Huggins joined Pinterest in search of inspiration images for her new home, but she also discovered that pins could inspire ideas for articles. “I look for pins that are out of the norm or non-traditional that could possibly make a great angle for a story,” she says. “For example, I found an interesting pin of bridesmaids holding gorgeous, huge paper flowers as opposed to a real bouquet of flowers. It caught my attention because in the wedding world it’s taboo and frowned upon to not have real flowers at a wedding, but yet I found a unique alternative that completely went against tradition. I found a way to craft that into an interesting pitch.” While on the site, Huggins also looks for motivational quotes about writing and life to keep her going on tough days.
  • Organizing ideas. Tara Bellucci, who writes about quirky interior decorating ideas for the Apartment Therapy blog, used to look for ideas and products via Google, but she’s since switched to Pinterest. “I love that Pinterest links automatically to the origin of the pin, where even if it’s not the content creator, it’s a good lead,” she says. As Bellucci searches for products that might work well together for a “mood board post,” she organizes them into pinboards, where she can “easily collect web clips and see what works and what doesn’t.” For instance, she used this board on Pinterest to create this resulting post.
  • Thinking visually. Leah Ingram, a freelance writer and the blogger behind Suddenly Frugal, discovered Pinterest when several readers repinned a photo from one of her posts, generating traffic to her blog. That piqued Ingram’s curiosity about Pinterest, so she clicked over to the site to check it out. Now that getting “pinned” can mean a boost in traffic, bloggers like Ingram give more thought to the images they use. “Whatever ideas I have, I try to think of how I might photograph them and how I can include those photos in my blog post so someone will pin it,” she says. The post that originally sparked her interest in Pinterest instructions for DIY laundry detergent and continues attracting pins. Ingram says she’s seeing more and more traffic via Pinterest.
  • Building your platform. Bethanne Patrick, Executive Editor of Book Riot and author of two nonfiction books, sees huge promotional potential for authors, but more in a creative than an overtly self-promotional sense. “One novelist I know, Randy Susan Meyers, has created boards characters in her novel: hair color, the way she dresses, places she would live,” says Patrick. “Her novel came out two years ago, so it was postspiration if you will, but now I’m seeing people put together inspiration boards for books that they are working on.” Authors or publicists could also create boards of favorite books, places they’ve visited during a book tour, or even artwork created out of books, giving readers a glimpse of the images that inspire them. “It puts a lot of control back in the artists’ hands,” she adds.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor,, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.