Think of the BookTube community as a large online metro area, visited by millions of people, and dedicated to reading and writing books. Most of the BookTube community resides on YouTube, in the form of of hundreds of channels, each hosted individually. These channels often contain dozens or even hundreds of videos, and many boast subscription bases in the tens of thousands of visitors.
BookTube is only loosely organized, but since 2012 there has been a BookTube Network which calls itself a “unified collaborative project channel owned and maintained by members of the BookTube community”. You can also look into the BookTube Wiki (still in primal stages) for general information about the group, and a BookTube Lovers group at Goodreads, with 615 members.
A Large Enthusiastic Community
The activity is large enough that at least one of the Big 5 publishers, HarperCollins, maintains its own book review channel (called Epic Reads, with more than 100,000 subscribers).
Over on Tumblr, you’ll find BookTube News, one of the best overviews and featuring a lot of submitted videos. There's a bunch of advice here on how to start book tubing. The proprietor also runs elizziebooks on YouTube.
There is even BookTube-a-Thon, an annual summer event that includes a week-long reading challenge, not only in the number of books read (the usual target is one a day for the week) but also in certain categories. In 2015, for example, it included "1) Read a book with blue on the cover. 2) Read a book by an author who shares the same first letter of your last name.3) Read someone else’s favorite book."
The defining characteristic of the community, however, is not numbers as much as passion. This alone is useful for book marketers, because here you can listen to dedicated readers talking about exactly what makes them so excited about various books.
The hosts are mostly young, with more females than males. Many of the founders were fans of young adult (YA) fiction, and that still is a major interest on BookTube. Other top fiction genres such as romance, fantasy and science fiction are popular among the reviewers, but a wide range of other interests can be found as well.
The community is becoming more varied. One of the most biggest and most distinctive sites (with almost a half-million people subscribed) is FightMediocrity, which focuses on self-help books, some of them decades old. What’s unusual here is the video animations illustrating the points in each book.
What to Look For
You should evaluate the channels for reviews or for following by who hosts the channel (some hosts are anonymous), what interests them (mainly, which genres), what type of reviews they deliver, how much traffic their channel receives, and how you can contact them. You can get a good check on the numbers through the number of subscribers YouTube reports, visible on each channel. Because the sites ordinarily center around a single host, that host’s personality affects how the books are perceived and reviewed; sometimes the personality overwhelms the books. The book subjects and types of activities they launch (which can include reading contests) generally are easily evident from the main and “about” pages on each site. Check them out one by one.
Most hosts provide some kind of contact information, often through a message form or an email address. Some are active on comment sections as well. Most are also on other social media, and some are frequent reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon. If you’re interested in a particular channel host, look them up on Goodreads, and you can see what they’ve been reading and how they review those books.
If you’d like your book to be considered for review, first visit the channel you’re targeting and see what restrictions if any are noted. Some will say they don’t accept review suggestions or copies. Some channels do accept advance review copies (ARC's), or certain subjects or genres but not others, but the rules for each can change, so check for yourself. Some channels accept submitted videos as well. Be sure to inquire, with a short description of your book, before sending a manuscript file, or even sending an embed link.
Here’s another option: If you’re a writer who also reads steadily, start your own BookTube channel. The area is still in growth and development, and many book subject areas (much of nonfiction, for example) seems to be underserved by the channels now in place. Several popular BookTube hosts have posted videos offering advice on how to start; one of the best introductions is by the Australian host Catriana (of the channel Little Book Owl).
But first, have a look at some of the book channels for yourself. A tip for finding many more: Most of these will have a separate page labeled “channels” for links to other channels similar to theirs or which they follow. If you like one channel, explore the channels its host likes. Here are a few especially notable channels:
The BookTuber carries a number of interviews with authors, some of them well-known; one recent add was an interview with the novelists Rick Riordan and Marie Lu. Actual book reviews seem scattered, but this may be good publicity, since this channel seems to get solid traffic.
Abookutopia, operated by Sasha Alsberg, carries fewer reviews than some of the other major sites, but its traffic is large; she has almost a quarter-million subscribers. Young adult and fantasy fiction is prominent here, but she also reads alternate histories, romances and other novels.
Little Book Owl is one of the most popular channels (162,104 subscribers), and focuses on genre fiction. There’s also a lot of information on this Australian site about reviewing books on the tube, which may be worth a view. It isn’t accepting new book suggestions at present, but keep watching; things could change.
ClimbtheStacks, managed by Ashley Riordan, is less oriented to the genres that dominate many of the other channels, and will review literary fiction and some nonfiction. She doesn’t accept books for review.
Jesse the Reader is also highly popular (173,116 subscribers) and is especially prolific, uploading new reviews nearly every day.
PolandBananasBOOKS, is operated by Christine Riccio of Los Angeles, who describes her site: “I love comedy and reading fantastic books. I make what I like to think are funny videos every Tuesday and other days of the week too ... I usually upload more than once a week—about books and book related pop culture stuff!”
Book selling has a lot to do with community, and you’ll find few more passionate communities than on BookTube.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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