Finding Your Voice on BookTube

A few years ago, I discovered this thing called “BookTube” on YouTube. It sounds just like it is: a YouTube community focused on books. I first discovered the community from typing “writing” into the search engine, since I was working on a project and wanted some guidance. The first thing that popped up was a video from Christine Riccio’s writing series. Curious, I started watching her videos. I soon realized that Christine is a BookTuber and publishes videos not only about writing, but also about books, and mainly young adult books. She has video series of all sorts and brands herself as a book reviewer and comedian. Her channel is one of the largest channels on YouTube; she has a subscriber count of 391,000 people and she’s considered a social media influencer.

I was soon sucked into the BookTube trenches. I found other BookTubers such as Regan from Peruse Project, Sasha Alsberg from abookutopia, Jesse from Jessethereader, and Hailey from Hailey in Bookland. One thing was clear: young adult books rule BookTube. There are BookTubers who talk about other kinds of books, but young adult is the most prevalent category. This was exciting to me, as young adult books are my speciality. Types of videos are diverse, but there are “BookTube classics” that BookTubers post monthly. Examples of classics are monthly wrap-ups where people review the books they read that month, TBR videos where they discuss what books they plan to read, haul videos where BookTubers show off their recent purchases, and so on.

If you’re interested in making videos about books or even talking about your writing process on Youtube, BookTube a great place to build a platform and market yourself. Videos are becoming more popular as people read less online and watch quick clips; it’s often easier to have a video playing in the background while cooking than read an article for ten minutes. People like to relax on the couch and watch videos because it requires little effort but remains informative and interesting. It’s interactive in ways that other platforms aren’t because watching videos is overall more intimate than reading a Twitter post. Additionally, vlogging is becoming increasingly popular. Many people like to watch videos like “Day in My Life” or “Reading Vlog!”

BookTube is also a large community that offers support for new creators. People buddy read books together, comment on each other’s videos, become online friends, and collaborate. If you read a book and have a lot of thoughts on it, you can rely on BookTube to have content about it. Dylan Lee said in this article that his reason for loving BookTube is because it’s a place to talk about books he’s read; when he reads a book, he can share his love (or dislike, even) with other BookTubers. Additionally, while some communities on YouTube can have a host of negative comments, Booktube doesn’t suffer from this nearly as much. Ultimately, BookTube is a place to make connections, and that’s an important part of a writer’s career.

That said, how do you start a BookTube channel? Here are a few tips.

1. Lighting is everything.

Before you start your channel or even think about posting, get good lighting. Christine Riccio has said this before in past videos: no one wants to watch a video with bad lighting. You don’t want to only use your natural light from windows unless the natural light is reliable and even around your face and your background. There are a few options for lighting, so do some research. Ring lights are very popular because they have a nice ring that appears on the pupil, but be aware that you should likely wear contacts.

2. Sound is everything, too.

If people can’t hear you, they just won’t want to watch your videos. It’s as simple as that. If you use a camera, make sure to get one that has a microphone connection so that you can plug it in. It’s important for people to hear you loud and clear, and often cameras don’t offer sound that’s good enough for video.

3. You don’t need a fancy camera. An iPhone is just fine.

Speaking of cameras, don’t splurge on one! If you have an iPhone that’s more than enough. Many BookTubers talk about how they started on iPhones because a large camera is an investment. I recommend getting a mount for your phone so you can place it in front of you. If you have a newer iPhone, the selfie mode is good enough for high-quality video. A lot of people are watching on their phone and so having impeccable video isn’t important until you get a larger following. Just made sure your eyes and face are in focus.

4. Your first videos should probably be BookTube classics.

What do you want to make videos about? I usually recommend that newbies start with videos that are known well in the BookTube community—BookTube classics. There is a “BookTube Newbie Tag” that is popular, and many people start with that. It’s easiest to get visible in the community by making videos that other people recognize, and then making more creative content once you start deciding which way to take your channel. There’s also AuthorTube, where people discuss their writing process; some BookTubers have a channel that offers both kinds.

5. Edit, edit, and edit your videos.

Don’t leave awkward gaps in your videos. It’s only human to say “um” and “like” while talking, but make sure to cut those things out when you edit. You want your videos to be concise and flow well.

6. Tag, tag, tag.

Let’s say that you made your first video and you went with “The BookTube Newbie Tag.” It has good lighting, good sound, and is well-edited. It’s time to use the tags. Tags are how people will find you on YouTube! I recommend tagging “BookTube Newbie Tag” and then doing research on what other tags are common for the video you created.

7. Do not use a thumbnail YouTube offers. Create your own.

If I’m being honest, YouTube’s thumbnails aren’t great. And you need a great thumbnail for your video. That’s the first thing people will see when they are scrolling, so you want it to be eye-catching. A blurry picture of you isn’t going to grow your channel. If you don’t know how to make a custom thumbnail, there are great tutorials online that can teach you.

8. Have fun with it.

Viewers can tell when you’re not having fun. So make it fun for yourself!

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