Instagram: The New Publishing Platform

From left to right: David Jones, Rupi Kaur, Robert M. Drake

When we hear the word Instagram, we usually think of iPhone photography, selfies, and artistic expression. But what if I told you that Instagram has served as a platform for authors to share their work and set a foundation for their careers for quite some time now?

Instagram has nurtured a community of once obscure poets, authors, and literary in-betweens and offered them a platform to thrive and connect with an audience they never knew they had. While it is an unlikely platform for authors, it has proved to be one of their most useful resources because it gives them the opportunity to portray their work visually through photos.

Before the internet, authors waited weeks, months, and even years for their work to be noticed and accepted by a publication. Even then, there was no guarantee that their work would be edited or received by their audience the way they had hoped.

Most of us know the unbearable reality James Joyce endured during the publication of Ulysses. But could you imagine the instantaneous acclaim he would’ve gained if he had an Instagram account? The creative control he would have had if he didn’t need to receive approval from editors, publishers, and even printers before the publishing process began? He would have given the Kardashians a run for their money.

The beauty of Instagram is in the name, it’s instant. Writers can instantly reach their audience, and readers feel a closer bond with the authors because the publisher is no longer serving as an obstacle in between the two. I have discovered a few of my favorite poets through Instagram. Rupi Kaur and Robert M. Drake are two of the most notable Instagram success stories, and also two of my personal favorites.

Kaur reading passages from Milk and Honey in Toronto. Photo credit: Kp Kaur

Kaur, an Indian poet who is known for unveiling the beauty and perceived hideousness of womanhood, debuted her career by performing in obscure locations across Canada. However, her career as a poet, performer, and artist only began to thrive when she harnessed social media by its artistic reigns. She posted several of her poems on Instagram and started to gain a following, which then encouraged her to work on self-publishing her first collection of poetry, Milk and Honey. After her follower count continued to grow, she was approached by an Andrew McMeel Publishing representative who expressed the company’s interest in publishing her collection. She is currently on a worldwide tour connecting face-to-face with those who helped jumpstart her career with an online connection built on ardent likes and comments.

R.M Drake’s complete collection of self-published work. Photo credit: R.M Drake

Although Robert M. Drake’s career as a writer began similar to Kaur’s, his success story has headed in a different direction. He too started publishing his work on Instagram as an experiment. And while his career has flourished as beautifully as the sublimity of his words, he has chosen to stay away from the traditional publishing sphere. He has declined several offers from various publishers, most recently from Random House, because he feels like his work is better portrayed when it’s transferred straight from his pen to his readers.

Aside from the intimate environment Intagram has fostered for readers and authors, it also provides a space for free marketing and publicity. Authors can post about upcoming events, launch dates, and any other news involving their work. Fans will also naturally repost the events or works they’re excited about, which helps authors gain immense exposure at no cost.

Both poets caught the eyes of less than likely but ultimately commercially beneficial fans. Kaur’s poems have been reposted by songstress Ariana Grande and American actor Mark Ruffalo. While R.M. Drake has made an appearance on many popular accounts including hip-hop recording artist Ludacris and several of the Kardashian sisters. These celebrities would have never discovered Kaur or R.M. Drake if it wasn’t for social media. And their millions of followers would have never experienced the beauty of R. M. Drake’s and Kaur’s words if it wasn’t for the exposure they acquired as a result of the countless reposts from other influential social media users.

We are currently embarking on a turning point in publication. Authors opt to self-publish because they crave creative control. Readers identify with “instapoets” because they have an eloquent way of publicizing internal thoughts. Similar to the way the printing press transformed the publication process, social media platforms like Instagram have created innovative ways to share literature. Authors and readers are no longer dependent on publishers, which has supported the flourishment of an independent environment where authors and readers are equals and no longer separated by profitable boundaries.

This isn’t the first time literature has tested its own boundaries. Authors have continuously pushed the limits of literature when they write, share, and publish in inventive ways. What will the next innovation in literature be? How will creators continue to test their limits? We can watch and wait to see what new spheres literature will slowly edge itself into next or we can actively search for new ways to push the boundaries ourselves.

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