This is a review of last night’s BookTube event by Abbie Headon. Abbie is Commissioning and Digital Development Editor at Summersdale Publishers. Her book Literary First Aid Kit was published by Summersdale in August 2015.
Everyone in publishing knows one thing: that BookTube (as the community of book vloggers on YouTube is known) is important. What most of us don’t really know is how we can use it to bring our books to a wider audience – or even how book vlogging actually works.
On 29 March 2017 we were treated to a fact-packed presentation from YouTube star Sanne Vliegenthart, aka booksandquills, at The Library Club in London, here are some of her tips.
Tips for making great BookTube videos
- If you’re a total beginner and don’t know where to start, the first thing to do is watch videos and start learning the language BookTubers use, such as ‘TBR’ and ‘book haul’, to get a sense of the kinds of structure you could try.
- Reach out to vloggers whose work resonates with you. BookTubers like talking to newbie video makers, and there are often meet-ups where you can connect with people who’ll be happy to share their expertise with you. You might even make friends with someone who will work with you on a collaborative video that you can share, connecting their audience to yours.
- Be as clear as you can about what viewers will find on your channel, such as books on a specific genre. You don’t have to only vlog about this topic, but having a central theme will help you build an audience who are into the same stuff as you.
- Organising your content into thematic playlists is a great way to showcase your content. It means people won’t only see your latest videos when they go to your profile page: you can have a playlist of Book Hauls, or vlogs about a specific book genre, for example.
- Creating good thumbnail images with a consistent style will ensure your channel is instantly recognisable. You don’t need Photoshop to create stylish thumbnails: free online resources such as PicMonkey do the job just as well.
- Always post on the same day of the week, with a minimum of one video every week.
- Don’t feel obliged to vlog about the books that everyone else is talking about – the internet is vast and there’s space for every interest, whether it’s Dutch fiction, the classics, or whatever you feel most passionate about.
Tips for publishers who want to work with BookTubers
An impressive £45,000-worth of books have been sold through affiliate links to The Book Depository on Sanne’s channel, plus an unknown figure through other bookshops. This is an exciting opportunity for publishers, but we can’t just bombard vloggers with books and expect instant success.
- Take the time to research vloggers and find out who is most likely to be interested in your book. Don’t contact somebody until you’ve watched at least three or four of their videos: you need to know what makes them tick before you get in touch.
- Send a personal email, telling the BookTuber about your book and why you think they will like it. This is much more effective than just sending a press release. And always always email before sending anything: it’s a waste of your marketing budget to send books that a vlogger isn’t interested in.
- Think of specific events coming up that they might want to vlog about, and suggest how your books fit into these. (It helps if you’ve done your research and you already know the vlogger always makes videos about Valentine’s Day reads, for example.)
- Offer suggestions, but be open to vloggers’ ideas: it’s not your job to tell them what to put in their videos. (Remember, nearly all BookTubers are making videos as a hobby around their full-time jobs, from sheer passion.)
- Vloggers like backlist as well as frontlist, so don’t ignore jewels in your back catalogue from previous seasons.
- Remember the BookTube community is small and well-connected, so don’t pretend you’re offering someone an exclusive if you’re actually not – you will be found out!
- Ebooks are easy to send but have nothing to offer as a video experience. A beautifully produced print copy, maybe accompanied by relevant goodies such as a postcard, bookmark or edible treat, will work much better on camera.
- What can you offer vloggers? Of course, BookTubers love books, but you could think outside the box and offer a personal, fun experience that relates to the book, which in itself becomes material for the BookTuber’s social media output.
- There are lots of views on whether payment is necessary or appropriate. Sanne says that if you’re just offering books or an experience, there’s generally no need to pay. But if you’re setting a specific date for the video to be published and specific guidelines about the content, then yes, you should pay. Remember, you’re not just paying for the vlogger’s time (Sanne puts in at least 8 hours per video, not including time spent reading the book she’s vlogging about) but also the access to their audience.
There’s a world of fabulous book vlogs out there, and I’m sure the BookMachine community has plenty of budding BookTubers in its ranks. I hope these tips inspire you to explore Sanne’s YouTube channel and the wider world of BookTube – and maybe even to set up your camera and join in! If you do, we’d love to hear from you. Lights, camera, book… and… ACTION!