On this week’s episode of Working, Rumaan Alam spoke with Jordan Moblo, the creator of the Instagram account Jordy’s Book Club, where he posts book reviews, giveaways, and conversations about new books. They discussed how his account exploded from zero to 69,000 followers, the process of finding his aesthetic, and why he won’t publish negative reviews. This partial transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Rumaan Alam: What are the conventions of how you present a book on the platform of Instagram?
Jordan Moblo: Everyone has their own different aesthetic. There are people that use food. There’s a great bookstagrammer, Pie Lady Books, who creates pies with every book—these gorgeous, ornate pies. It’s incredible. I don’t have that talent. So for me it’s like, well, what can I do? What am I good at? If you look at mine, I have this great slab of marble that I post a lot of pictures on with a coffee mug, or I use a lot of books in the backgrounds of my photos. When I started, I had this very industrial loft that we lived in. It was very gray and black and white. I loved using those backgrounds and then letting these beautiful book covers pop on the foreground of the pictures.
I’ve always let the book dictate what the post looks like, depending on the cover. If you look at today’s post, it’s a picture of this book called Revelator. It’s a big black-and-white book, so I used all black-and-white imagery. I kill all the plants that come into our house, but I can use coffee mugs and really beautiful pictures of books. That’s always been my focus, but if you go on Instagram and you look at the hashtag Bookstagram, you’ll see so many amazing and beautiful pictures, whether they’re stacks of books, or covers, or they just have a stark white background—everyone is so creative. I do actually use a lot of the accounts to find my own inspiration as well. That’s been really fun, identifying people and how creative they can be on the platform.
I noticed that your handle for your account, Jordy’ Book Club, includes the word club. I would be so curious to hear you talk about the way in which Instagram can function in the way that clubs do, as an actual community. Was that part of your goal, or was that a pleasant discovery after the fact?
It was for sure a pleasant discovery. Honestly, when I created the handle, it was just that probably half the names I tried to pick were already taken. So it was like, what’s left? And I thought, I’ll do “Jordy’s Book Club.” I didn’t even use my full name, because I didn’t want anyone to find it—how embarrassing, my book account! Obviously now it’s my pride and joy, and we have T-shirts, but it was a pleasant surprise, the community and the book clubs that have resulted from it.
A lot of people have these things called “buddy reads,” where someone will post a story and say, I’m going to read this book. Does anyone want to read it with me? And they create a messaging group on the side where they talk about the book. A lot of people now run their individual book clubs.
I run a book club right now called Mystery Book Club, which is a hybrid mix of a book giveaway and a book discussion group. A friend and I reach out to the publishers with their upcoming titles, and we host a giveaway where we don’t tell anyone what the book is, but they will win a copy of it and join this discussion group, and we will talk about the book and read it together. That became really successful in the last 18 months where publishers send us 33 copies of a book, we send it to all the winners. They agree to post about the book on Instagram to help give the author and the publisher some free promotion. We have a discussion group for the month where people chime in, talk about the book, talk about their lives, and post recommendations based on the book. Sometimes we can get the author to come do a Q&A.
That’s been really fun and really rewarding to feel very involved in the community. And there are tons of those groups doing that every day, and on any book, any genre, anything. You post it, and you can usually find someone who will read it with you.