Bethany Bailey, third year English Literature student, chats with the brilliant brains behind BookishBronte, one of the most successful ‘Bookstagrams’ currently around. Bronte Huskinson talks about her accomplishments and commitment to “basically a full-time job” while studying for her bachelor.
Bronte Huskinson is an Instagram and Photoshop phenomenon as well as a third year Creative Writing and Publishing student at Bath Spa University. Unlike most students she has amassed 40.1K followers on her Instagram account BookishBronte, where she posts photos of herself and her books every day.
Bronte is rightfully proud of her posts’ fame and she is clearly popular with the community of ‘Bookstagram’: “you get so much support and people are so lovely.” She is still somewhat baffled at people’s reactions to her success, because “really, I’m just normal,” she says.
From working with some of the biggest publishing companies like Penguin Random House and Quercus Books to smaller companies, Bronte finds the world of ‘Bookstagramming’ exciting. Although, it does come with difficulties, and one of those is assessing whether a collaboration will truly fit with her content.
In the past, she has had to turn down products and subscription book boxes. “Sometimes I have to say that it’s not right for me but that I can mention them in my story.” That way she doesn’t compromise what she’s created and because “they could find someone who works a lot better for them,” she says.
Bronte also has a very strong sense of the difference between copying and inspiration. If she’s inspired by someone she will always try to put her “own spin on it” and tries “to make sure it’s not an exact copy,” always thinking, “how can I make that booky?”
It’s hard to get Bronte to talk about some of the struggles of BookishBronte, but she admits that there are some. Although running the account brings joy, it demands a great amount of time and dedication, like a full-time job but “it doesn’t pay with money,” it’s run on an exchange basis. “In exchange for getting a product, you write something or do something about it, but it takes up so much time.”
For one photo or sponsorship, she has to set up the photo, edit it (one of her longest took 5 hours) as well as having to write a blog post. The pressure on Bronte is building to keep up with new and exciting content for her ever-growing fan base, but Bronte embraces this: “I wouldn’t change a thing, I love it.”
In the beginning, she says, “I was running it for a couple of months, not really knowing what I was doing,” until about February 2017 when she stumbled upon the ‘Bookstagram’ hashtag and its wider community and started to “really get into it.”
If you scroll back far enough, you can see for yourselves that BookishBronte used to have a colour theme each month, but now Bronte’s a little more relaxed with her themes. It is through Photoshop and editing where her photos really come to life (in some cases literally, through stop motion).
She describes being featured by Instagram around Christmas last year as the moment “when everything blew up. [It] made me step it up a bit more and lead to it becoming what it is now.” University has also been instrumental in the creation of BookishBronte, she “wouldn’t have ever touched Photoshop if it hadn’t been for Publishing.”
What stands out the most when talking to Bronte is just how hard she works. Although she does occasionally get help from her mum when a tripod just won’t cut it, all the editing, posting and writing comes from her.
Photos are taken “in batches, and sometimes it’ll be weeks before I get the chance to post it,” she tells me. Editing them can then take anywhere from 45 minutes to hours when everything works right. Sometimes she has to “re-take the photo and do it in a slightly different position” which can take her “pretty much the whole day.” This is perhaps one of the only three seconds of the interview where Bronte hasn’t been smiling.
BookishBronte has also succeeded at a time when a lot of other Instagram accounts are failing due to algorithm changes, creating jumbled timelines and a lot of people not seeing the accounts they normally would. Bronte says she prefers “not having a linear algorithm” as her photos “get more likes over a few days,” and says, “older photos have helped my account get attention”.
The introduction of Instagram Stories has really helped Bronte too, as it creates a “how I do my photos” section, which saves her replying to multiple people asking this every day. It’s “an identifiable thing for my account” which makes it easier to share knowledge with the ‘Bookstagram’ community.
The big question is, how does she balance third year and BookishBronte? “I wish I knew,” she explains, “it’s fine now because I don’t really have any assignments to do” and the vast amount of her followers have come in while university work hasn’t been at peak. In terms of organisation, Bronte shares how her diary and planner are a “life-saver a lot of the time.” Every week she has “to plan … down to a T to get everything in.”
It was a pleasure to talk to Bronte and shows us all that success really is the result of continually working each day towards a goal. Bronte’s main words of advice, should any of you want to create like she does, are to “just keep going with it … it will get there if you keep going and put a lot of effort into it.”
Words by Bethany Bailey
Bethany Bailey is a third year English Literature student, originally from Cambridge. She loves to write, whether this be for SpaLife, her personal blog or her dissertation (maybe not the last one). When not writing, she is usually exploring any parts of Bath she hasn’t seen yet, drinking copious amounts of tea/coffee or doing a face mask while doing the work she promised she would do while drinking a copious amount of tea/coffee.