After Morgan Hoit finishes reading a book, she doesn’t simply close it and put it back on the shelf. Instead, the 26-year-old snaps a pic and curates a post to share with the #bookstagram community on Instagram. Hoit’s Instagram account, @nycbookgirl, and her entry into the bookstagram world began as a hobby to help her keep up with all the latest book releases, but it also eventually opened the door for her current job as a marketing manager for an imprint of publishing company Simon and Schuster.
Even with free books constantly showing up on her doorstep, Hoit still calls herself a "serial book-buyer," and she’s as involved as ever with bookstagram, a community of people coming together over their love of books (which also happens to have over 54 million tags on Instagram as of Jan. 20). Scrolling through Hoit’s account, you’ll see images of funky independent bookstores, stacks of her monthly reading pile, and snaps of Hoit doing what she loves most: reading.
Oh my God, there are way too many books being published in the world; I’ll never get the chance to read them all.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English and theater studies from Duke University in 2016 — and mainly reading books for school assignments — Hoit was itching to get her hands on new reads. When she got a job as an assistant to Broadway producer Jill Furman in November 2016, Hoit began devouring new books when her workload would allow. "[I was] going through that thing that every reader goes through, like, 'Oh my God, there are way too many books being published in the world; I’ll never get the chance to read them all,'" recalls Hoit.
She began following bookstagrammer @bookwormstatus in 2017, and it was actually while meeting up for coffee with Ashley, who runs the account, that Hoit learned about bookstagram. "I didn’t know there were more bookstagram accounts out there, I just kind of thought she was the one doing it," she says.
Hoit dove right in, creating her @nycbookgirl Instagram account and accompanying blog in June 2017. "I was like, 'Wow, that sounds awesome. I am 22 and living in New York, and books are a huge part of my budget,'" she explains. "I just kind of threw myself into it with books I was buying and using my iPhone as a camera, sharing what I was reading and my life in New York," Hoit shares. "I was not doing it in any way to become an influencer."
The IG account saw its biggest bump in followers the next year, following a very personal experience Hoit had shared on the blog. In the summer of 2018, Hoit experienced a health scare — an abnormal result on her annual pap smear. During that time, she was also reading Georgia Clark’s The Bucket List, which follows a woman struggling with a positive cell mutation and a family history of breast cancer. "It really hit hard for me that I was going through this health stuff and then reading this book that also centered around women’s health and I talked about it online," she says. "I just woke up one day and wrote all about my experience," explains Hoit.
Books are such personal things. We react to them because we bring to the table our experiences.
The blog post, which she also acknowledged on her IG account, along with her openness about her struggles with anxiety, led to the most interaction she'd seen up to that point. "It was just an incredible outpouring of support," says Hoit. "I think [the account’s growth] came from this one moment of talking about myself and having other people talk about themselves in return," she adds. "Books are such personal things. We react to them because we bring to the table our experiences. So, it just felt so vulnerable and honest." Hoit went from having 10,000 followers to 35,000 that summer.
Even as her account grew, Hoit continued working as an assistant to Furman until the summer of 2019. "I absolutely loved her work and working with her — but I knew that wasn’t the career I had in mind," she says.
Then, Hoit was approached with a new career opportunity. "Simon and Schuster was opening a brand new imprint called Avid Reader Press and they were looking for someone to do marketing and social media," explains Hoit. Forming a near-instant connection with her future employer and the rest of the team, Hoit took the job as marketing manager for Avid Reader Press in June 2019.
Although Hoit does take an occasional campaign with other brands that relate to her bookstagram aesthetic, she says it wouldn’t be enough to make her quit her full-time job. "As opposed to other types of influencers, like lifestyle and fashion, bookstagram definitely doesn’t pay as well, or at all in some cases," she says. "There are just a few publishers who are able to pay influencers." So, Hoit's IG account remains a passion project.
At the beginning of the pandemic, my anxiety had me down for the count, so I used Instagram as a space to talk about that, to talk with people who [were] feeling the same way.
Hoit especially likes how the platform helps her act as a "book fairy," recommending her favorite reads to the entire community — recent recs include Passing by Nella Larson and The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans — but it can still stress her out. "It’s stressful because I recognize the impact I have on other people, and I recognize how I want to use my voice and put a lot of thought into everything that goes out — so it takes time and it takes thought," she explains. Hoit attributes her being a Virgo to the struggles she experiences with being "good enough" and admits her work-life balance isn't perfect.
Even so, Hoit loves what she does and is grateful for the friendships she's made in the bookstagram community. "I think those friendships are really real ... so that part’s incredibly positive," she says.
Bookstagram has also helped her cope with the pandemic. "At the beginning of the pandemic, my anxiety had me down for the count, so I used Instagram as a space to talk about that, to talk with people who [were] feeling the same way," Hoit says.
Hoit also created a free library in her parent’s neighborhood in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “Even though I wasn’t speaking to the people who were taking the books out, I left a notebook inside … so anyone who took something or left something could leave a note,” she explains. Eventually, Hoit noticed other people were leaving books as well, and it made her feel a sense of community in such an “isolating” time. “It gave me a sense of purpose,” she says.
The people on Instagram are the best — the most wonderful people in the whole wide world — and they’ve taught me so much about being an intentional reader and setting goals for myself.
As of Jan. 20, 2021, Hoit’s @nycbookgirl account has nearly 53,000 followers, so you might be surprised to learn there's no set method for how Hoit plans her content. She likes to keep things "in the moment," and thinks of her account as having different categories: book recommendations, New York ~moments~, indie bookstore shoutouts, and her personal life.
What Hoit does have a plan for is her reading schedule, making specific goals for her "to-read" pile — something she learned from the bookstagram community. "The people on Instagram are the best — the most wonderful people in the whole wide world — and they’ve taught me so much about being an intentional reader and setting goals for myself," says Hoit.
Another goal for Hoit is to read more "across genre and across race." Although she says "conversations about being an accountable reader have been happening on bookstagram for years," the racial reckoning in the United States during the summer of 2020 helped bring the conversation to the forefront. "[It] propelled me further into making changes about how I support Black authors, how I patronize Black-owned independent bookstores, and how the publishing industry needs to change," Hoit shares.
She also points out that "books aren't a substitute for making change." In addition to donating to relevant causes and having tough conversations about racism, Hoit also suggests diversifying your feed. She recommends Traci Thomas' podcast and Instagram account, @thestackspod, and Lupita Aquino's Instagram @lupita.reads.
For anyone looking to join their fellow bookworms on Instagram, Hoit says the best way to get into bookstagram is to not “hold yourself back” and stay true to your reading tastes. It's also important to nurture friendships within the community. "Find the readers that read the way you read or challenge the way you read," Hoit says. "Be a part of their community, and then you’ll find your community as well."
In Elite Daily's Life Behind the Likes series, we talk to the people you know on the internet to find out who's really behind the screens. Read more here.