Pinterest for Authors

Hi. Barb here.

I originally heard about Pinterest from one of my kids (in this case my daughter), which is how I hear about most new websites and stuff. I took a poke around and thought–“I don’t get it. What would you use this for?” Which is always my first reaction to new things. I remind myself regularly that it was my exact first reaction when a long-ago boss proudly handed me a prototype of a new 3M product he’d been asked to test–sticky notes. I simply couldn’t imagine what you would do with them. Which is why you should never, ever take investment advice from me.

Now I can’t get through a day without sticky notes and I’ve also come around on Pinterest. Pinterest allows users to create digital pinboards. It also has social media functions that allow you to “follow” other people’s boards so you can easily see what your favorite pinners have put up that day. And you can repin images from their boards onto yours or  “like” or comment on their images.

As an author, I started using Pinterest to help me visualize settings I was making up. For my new Maine Clambake series, I knew what my harbor town looked like–basically Boothbay Harbor with parts of Southport Island, East Boothbay and Damariscotta thrown in. But I also had to create a private island to have my clambakes on–and I had no idea what that looked like. I didn’t know how big it was, or how far out to sea, or what the buildings on it looked like. So I started collecting Maine island scenes and trying them out. And as I found these images all around the web, I stuck them on Pinterest so I could find them again.

That first pinboard expanded to be called “Maine Harbor Scenes” and to include exactly that. You can see it here.

Since mine is a culinary mystery, I also knew I needed mouthwatering descriptions of Maine-themed food. To inspire me, I started a board called “Food Images for Maine Clambake mysteries.” You can see that here.

So my first use of Pinterest was for research and inspiration. The second use was communication. I got an e-mail from my editor a month or so ago looking for cover ideas for CLAMMED UP, the first book in the series. So I described what I consider to be the central visual image in the book, but I also provided links to my Pinterest boards for him to forward to the art people. I have no idea if they’ll find inspiration there, but it was very handy to be able to serve up the links when asked. I hope it helps.

I also use a Pinterest board to promote Maine Crime Writers. I noticed the blog was getting a bit of traffic from Pinterest, so I started pinning up the images all the crime writers put on the blog. It takes a couple of minutes each morning. I like doing it because we all work hard finding the images and it makes sense to leverage them. You can see that board here.

Other authors go much further. For example, here Cleo Coyle who writes the terrific Coffee House mysteries promotes a book giveaway on Pinterest. Maybe I’ll do that sort of thing once my book is published.

I also created two boards that have nothing to do with Maine or writing. One called “Just ’cause” which is a place to put striking images I just like. And one called “Scrapbook ideas” because that’s a hobby of mine, although I’ve yet to find the motherload of scrapbook ideas I know must be somewhere on Pinterest. You can access all my boards here.

There’s been discussion on several listservs about the copyright situation with Pinterest. As I writer, I care about intellectual property protection. As I understand it, the company generally maintains that pinning the images to your board constitutes fair use because the software requires you to comment on the image. I think (with my vast and detailed knowledge of copyright law–i.e. on no basis whatsoever) that this is a bunch of hooey. However, I also think that, in the main, if you’re maintaining the links back to the sites where you got the images so you’re helping drive traffic to those sites, it’s probably okay. If that changed and it became a Napster-like situation, I could walk away from Pinterest tomorrow and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Needless to say, my daughter who started me down this path has long ago moved on. She recently rented a new apartment and spent hours on the web looking for furniture and decorations. “Are you putting all those ideas on Pinterest?” I asked. “Nope,” she answered without looking up from her laptop.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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11 Responses to Pinterest for Authors

  1. Deanna says:

    Good thing it is Saturday morning I just spent lots of time on those boards and added some to mine! It’s a fun time-waster. Dee

  2. Joan Emerson says:

    I haven’t gotten involved in the whole Pinterest thing, but I did enjoy looking at your boards . . . I absolutely loved the “I’m not to be trusted in a bookstore with a credit card” button shown on your “Just ’cause” board!

  3. Lea Wait says:

    What timing you have, Barb! Two days ago I listened to Katie Davis, a children’s author on the west coast, give an on-line seminar on Pinterest, and how authors (primarily children’s authors) could use it. Interestingly, she’s done all sorts of statistical work — the most popular images to “pin” and “re-pin” today are fingernails — and Ryan Seacrest. O-Kay. 80% of those on Pinterest – which is the 3rd largest social networking site, after Facebook and Twitter, and gaining – are women – and the majority of those live in the mid-west. I found it fascinating. Authors posting craft projects and maps and pictures – as you’ve done – relating to their books, homeschoolers posting lesson plans, crafters posting projects. The challenge is to think visually instead of in words, as most authors do. Love that you’ve plunged in. Not sure I’m ready. But now I know who to go to for advice if/when I do! Great post!

  4. Sherry Harris says:

    Okay, now I miss Maine and want a lobster roll! Very creative — what a great idea. I think you need to add a picture of beach plums. I’d never seen them until I went on a trip to Maine.

  5. Kris Bock says:

    I asked about the copyright issue on a writing blog where the blogger is a lawyer in “real life.” She believed the pinning function on Pinterest would not protect you from copyright infringement. I generally upload my own photos and pin other authors covers – I can’t imagine an author getting offended because you are sharing her cover art. I imagine most companies would be happy to have you share anything that could be considered publicity for them as well. But be careful about pinning work from photographers or illustrators without permission.

    I’m at

  6. Barb Ross says:

    Kris–I believe most author contracts give you the right to use your cover for publicity. It would be pretty silly if it didn’t.

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