The social media platform with the biggest potential for 2023—and the foreseeable future—is YouTube, according to marketing guru Adam Erhart. It’s the second most visited platform in the world, and over the past three years, YouTube’s partner program has paid out $30 billion to content creators.
BookTube is a thriving subset of YouTube channels that discuss all things bookish. Thousands of online creators, or BookTubers, share videos about books they love, literacy, fandom, and every passion for reading imaginable.
As an author, there is boundless potential within BookTube to not only promote your own books but champion those of fellow indie authors as well. We’ve scoured the internet and compiled ten tips for anyone contemplating jumping down the rabbit hole that is BookTube.
1. Define Your Goal
Put all that time and energy you’ve spent defining your purpose as an author, figuring out your brand, and developing a vision for your business to good use by applying it to your BookTube channel. As with all other aspects of your author business, make a plan and set your goals. Be clear on your end goal. Do you want to sell your books, raise your profile, or satisfy your need to be in front of a camera?
BookTubers make videos about everything bookish, from their favorite authors and series to their most beloved book covers. What’s your niche going to be? If you’re a romance author, devoting space in your content to political memoirs is probably not useful. Keep your content sweet if you write sweet. If you’re the Queen of Smut, invest in a red backdrop.
If your end goal was to make your fortune as a BookTuber, say this listicle comes with a caveat: The vast majority of us will never make money doing it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Establishing an accessible platform for readers to find and share your work and brand is always a win.
Pro Tip: Reedsy has compiled a list of more than one hundred BookTube channels at https://blog.reedsy.com/booktube-channels. Watch everything from book hauls to book reviews and recommendations for ideas and inspiration.
2. Give the Viewers What They Want
You know your readers, so make sure you are giving them a taste of what they love within your genre or niche, as well as a good balance of the content people are searching for that will entice and entertain a new audience. Here’s a quick overview of the types of content audiences are watching on BookTube: book hauls; book un-hauls of the books they didn’t love; sped-up reading sessions; shopping trips for this month’s reading; unboxing a subscription package, which can be lots of fun, especially if one of your books is in there; exploring other people’s reading rooms/libraries; reading a book out loud; reviews; bookshelf reorganizing; trope-specific videos; genre-specific videos; challenge videos; new release lists; discussions of new “book boyfriends” (as if anyone could ever replace Mr. Darcy!); and the list goes on.
Pro Tip: The YouTube algorithm loves numbered lists like the “top ten Crime Fiction novels” or “ten kick-ass heroines.” Don’t make every video a list, but put them out occasionally.
3. Make Use of Equipment You Already Own
Who doesn’t have a smartphone? That’s all the equipment you need to get started on BookTube. Film directly on your phone and use whatever editing software you are comfortable with. If you’ve made TikToks, Instagram Reels, or YouTube Shorts, you already know the basics. Choose a comfortable spot, block all unnecessary sound, turn your ring light to gorgeous, and do your thing. Spending a little time preparing for each video is always helpful. Develop a script that you can refer to if your brain freezes once the red light starts flashing.
4. Keep an Eye on the Length of Your Videos
Thanks to BookTok and the attention spans of most people shrinking daily, BookTube is moving to shorter, easily digestible content in contrast with the hour-long vlogs and three-hour live shows people used to publish. The goal is to have your videos watched all the way through—it touches the algorithm in just the right spot! If you can reliably record and edit together a ten- to twenty-minute video every time, and post new videos once or twice per week, you’ll see bigger and more steady growth on your channel.
5. Master the Algorithm
Basic marketing principles apply to all platforms, especially if you want to tickle the mighty overlord of all social media, the algorithm:
- Make your audience feel something. Refer to Tip One for inspiration.
- Post consistently. Figure out what that looks like for you. Is it weekly? Fortnightly? Going more than a week without posting is probably not advisable, but something is better than nothing, and you can always try to batch-create content if it works better with your schedule.
- Hashtags make the social media world go round. Do some research and find out which ones are trending. Unlike metadata, such as video titles and descriptions, YouTube tags aren’t visible to viewers. Because tags are hidden, it will require some work from your side to discover which tags your competitors are using.
- Use search engine optimization, or SEO, in your video titles to make sure people can find them.
- Make a good thumbnail for each video.
- Give it time. Overnight sensations are a myth, even in the world of social media.
6. Build Your Audience
Talk to BookTubers on Twitter and build your own community. Let your friends know about the channel you’re starting. Use your channel to follow other BookTubers who share your interests. Find BookTubers who are new, like you are, and connect to help each other grow. Respond to comments on your videos. Be yourself, always.
7. Make New Friends
Starting a BookTube channel doesn’t need to be a solitary venture. As authors, we know a lot of other authors. When you’re planning your BookTube channel, think about the people who would make great guests. Authors, editors, reviewers, cover designers, subscription box or online bookstore owners, and readers are all great guests and make for great content. They are also good for cross-promotional opportunities. Think of it as newsletter swaps on overdrive!
8. Promote, Promote, Promote
Speaking of newsletter swaps, be sure to promote your BookTube channel on all your existing platforms and anywhere else you might be: book fairs, multi-author signings, launches. Have a link or QR code at the ready to direct new fans to your channel. Why not film the event and give people another reason to check your channel out? Few of us are immune to the draw of fifteen seconds of fame, especially if it involves a favorite or newly discovered author.
Pro Tip: Definitely promote your own books on your channel; however, be sure to balance that with other reading recommendations and content. Unless you’re publishing a new book every week, your audience will need some variety, even if your debut is the greatest book ever written. The trick is to get other BookTubers to talk about your book for you.
9. Be Yourself
Don’t compare yourself to other BookTubers, authors, or creators. It’s a basic rule for getting through life, and it certainly applies in the world of BookTube. Put your time and energy into creating content you are proud of rather than trying to emulate someone who might have more subscribers, views, or comments. You do you, boo. No one else can.
10. Don’t Feed the Trolls
Like any social media platform, BookTube is not without its drama and controversy. It’s been the epicenter for ongoing conversations around consumerism in book buying, online bullying, and diversity, racism, and lack of representation in literature and in the YouTube community. Have a plan for how to deal with this, especially if you unwittingly become a target. The people who talk you off a ledge when you get a bad review, when your book sales are down for the month, or when impostor syndrome is rampaging through your self-esteem are the people whose feedback and advice matter most, not the social media trolls.
Getting into BookTube doesn’t mean you should abandon all other social media platforms. In fact, it could—and should—provide you with a plethora of content for all your social and marketing channels. Short vertical videos, like Reels and Shorts, are great for reaching your audience on any platform. Recording content on your phone will allow you to edit and package it to suit all these sites, from long-form content on BookTube to fifteen-, thirty-, or forty-five-second grabs on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
Pro Tip: AI software, such as Munch (https://getmunch.com) and Lately (https://lately.ai), can take your long-form video and scroll through to find the best clips to use on other platforms, which is a great time-saver.
If you’re looking for a social media platform to conquer, BookTube might just be the next mountain to climb.