When you hear the name “YouTube” you probably think more of videos than books, and even Google explains YouTube as “an online video sharing and social media platform.” Based on numbers alone, it should come as no surprise that a social media platform with one of the largest search engines in the world and around two billion users would include a decent population of both readers and writers. What might be surprising is how many authors currently and successfully use YouTube as part of their business strategies. We can’t tell you if YouTube is a good place to expend your author energy, but we can provide some tips.
- What is the goal of your channel?
This may seem obvious, but one great way to start your YouTube path is to set measurable, realistic goals for your channel. How will you know if your channel is a success if you don’t know what the channel is trying to accomplish? One thing to keep in mind is that the goal does not have to be sales driven; in fact, it can sometimes be difficult to see a direct correlation between YouTube views or followers and sales. However, often authors use YouTube to interact and network with other authors (#AuthorTube), share their journey or other valuable insights, talk about their favorite books (#BookTube), host a video blog for their website content, or just for posterity.
- Fancy equipment not required
For most creators, the camera and microphone in your smartphone or laptop are sufficient to start making videos. It’s easy to get so excited about new opportunities that you immediately buy all the tech you think you need to make those new opportunities successful. But before you buy the fancy cameras, lights, editing software, and more, make sure you either really need those items or you are okay with spending that money on something that may not provide a return on your investment.
PRO TIP: There are inexpensive apps and programs, like Otter, that will transcribe audio and convert to subtitles, which is great for accessibility and SEO.
- Provide content you enjoy or find useful
So, you’ve got your goals outlined and your tech set up, but what videos will you actually create and upload to your channel? We’ve all seen sponsored ads or videos where the person in front of the camera is less than enthusiastic about the topic they are supposed to be promoting, and we all know how obvious that can be. In general, if you don’t find any value in your content, your viewer probably won’t either. The vast majority of an audience can read if someone is genuine from a mile away. Bonus points if you truly enjoy making the videos!
- Follow other creators
Follow them, but don’t mimic them. Understand the content being made and the trends, but work to create original video that adds value for the audience you are intending to target. If nothing else, watching the videos of other YouTubers might give you an idea of what not to do; consider it research.
- YouTube is a learning algorithm
Just like Facebook, TikTok, and other platforms, YouTube learns how to share the content you provide to specific audiences over time. Things like SEO, Search Engine Optimization, and hashtags can be immensely helpful with finding your perfect target audience and improving traffic, if that is one of your goals.
PRO TIP #1: Other YouTube users like Cathrin Manning often even have videos dedicated to improving your views and SEO.
PRO TIP #2: Answerthepublic.com is a search engine aggregator you can use to find specific questions internet users are searching about topics you may discuss on your channel. Those questions can be used for hashtags on your videos to ensure you are providing information people actually want to know and improving the searchability of that information.
- Professional Appearance
Much like viewers want a creator who enjoys creating, they also want to watch a video that looks like that the creator put out effort. A professional look to your channel could be the thing that sets you apart from others, and it could be the thing that keeps people watching past the first ten seconds. Appearance is incredibly subjective, but there are basic elements to consider. Is your background cluttered and distracting? Do you have ketchup on your shirt? Is your cat singing the song of their people in the next room? Unless these things are part of your intentional schtick, removing elements that could be distracting or offensive to your viewer is a solid plan.
PRO TIP: You can create clean, legible, branded title cards using Canva or Photoshop.
- Use a script or outline
Pre-planning to include a full script or even just a basic outline is one of the top tips recommended by successful YouTube content creators. This one simple idea can be the difference between a video that takes an hour to shoot and edit versus a video that takes three days to shoot and edit.
PRO TIP: A teleprompter app can provide an easy way to read the script as you take video.
Your channel doesn’t have to be solely book promotion; in fact, that approach might not work well at all—or it might, hence the title of this tip. Your channel can be anything you want it to be, and if something you’ve planned doesn’t work out, change the plot just like you would in a story. Try new things or things that are new to you. More than one YouTube creator has started with plan A but altered course at a later date. And experimentation applies to the videos, the hashtags, the descriptions—everything. Be willing to allow your approach and your channel to evolve.
- Consistently add content
Consistency is what tells your viewers what to expect and can impact searchability. The thing to remember with consistency is that the standard is set when compared to the expectation you’ve outlined with your audience, not when compared to other creators. Whether you plan to post a video once a month or once a day, try to be consistent.
- Keep realistic expectations
The truth is that it takes time to grow an audience on any platform, YouTube included. If you expect to gain five thousand followers on a brand new channel within thirty days, that might not be realistic, but if you expect to gain one hundred followers in sixty days if you are posting well-researched, well-edited videos bi-weekly, that could work.
As indie authors, most of us understand that this business is more like a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to grow your channel, and you could end up with something awesome and beneficial to both your business and to others.