BookTube Basics for Marketers

What is BookTube?

BookTube is the segment of the YouTube community dedicated to reading and reviewing books. Like any other community on YouTube (like gamers or beauty bloggers), BookTube has its own celebrities, norms, and unique quirks. The bulk of BookTubers read primarily YA novels, although not exclusively. BookTubers are enthusiastic, and tend to be quite high-energy.

According to YouTube, the BookTube community has over 200 million views of videos, and engagement is growing. Comparing July 2017 to 2018, engagement with BookTube videos is up 40%. This demonstrates both the reach of BookTube, and its effectiveness. Because of the intimate nature of these videos, reviews feel like recommendations from a friend rather than from an impersonal cultural gatekeeper.

Who are BookTubers and their audience?

Most BookTubers are millennials, and, like the rest of the trade fiction and YA market, skew female. The BookTube audience comprises primarily millennial and teen book enthusiasts. Marketing teams at children’s or YA publishers and imprints work with BookTubers to gain access to an audience of enthusiastic young readers who are already active on YouTube, as opposed to other media outlets, or even other social media platforms (i.e. Facebook or Twitter).

What is a BookTube video?

There are many different kinds of BookTube videos. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Book Haul: The BookTuber will go through the pile of books that they recently received, or purchased. It’s a roundup of what titles they are most excited to read.
  • Book Tag: Book Tag videos are centered around a specific theme or challenge, for example “Out of My Comfort Zone.” A BookTuber will respond to all questions in the tag, and then tag other BookTubers to participate as well to keep the conversation going.
  • Bookshelf Tour: BookTubers show their own collections of books. These videos show how a BookTuber organizes their books; by color, genre, To Be Read, and more.
  • Readathon: Readathons are interactive reading marathons hosted by one or more BookTubers. Often they have special challenges and rules, and integrations with other platforms, like Goodreads and Twitter. These readathons take place over set period of time The BookTubeAThon is an annual readathon hosted by multiple BookTubers.
  • Reviews: BookTubers give their impressions of a book, including a summary. Similar to any other kind of book review.
  • Unboxing: A popular style of YouTube video even outside of the BookTube community. BookTubers will open boxes of books, often sent to them either by a publisher or by a book subscription service.
  • Wrap Up: Wrap up videos are recaps of books that BookTubers have read during a given set of time. Often, these will be annual. They can function as a BookTuber’s “Best of” list.

How do I find the most relevant BookTubers for my titles?

Research BookTubers the same way that you can find relevant influencers on other platforms. Searching hashtags like #BookTube or #BookReview will give you a good overview of the community, but might be too broad for truly targeted searching. If you are publishing a YA dystopian title with a Latinx protagonist, try searching for BookTubers who have engaged with similar titles, or searching #YADystopia or #OwnVoices. Then, see who has high counts of followers and strong engagement from their audience in the comments section.

Once you have identified a few key BookTubers for your needs, consider looking at who they have listed under “My Favs” on their profile. Or, keep an eye on who BookTubers are tagging in their Tag videos. Learn who BookTubers are following and communicating with to gain a better grasp of the community landscape.

How can I engage with BookTubers to reach their audience?

Many major book publishers are already working with BookTubers to meet an enthusiastic market of young readers where they already are, with popular BookTubers receiving many requests from publishers and authors. WhittyNovels offered some tips about how publishers and authors can increase their chances of having their titles reviewed by a BookTuber.

Publishers should send print or digital galleys to BookTubers as they would to any other influencer (most BookTubers post contact information in the About section of their page) but the video format does offer some unique opportunities that publishers can take advantage of to drive creative strategic marketing decisions.

Publishers (or retailers) can also work with BookTubers to sponsor unique content. For example, Barnes and Noble sponsored a book haul with Linh Truong. Publishers can send galleys in special packaging to encourage BookTubers to feature their titles in unboxing videos, as Simon & Schuster did for the release of Lady Midnight. Or, work with BookTubers directly to create an unboxing video, as Penguin Teen did with JesseTheReader for A Map of Days (see right). Consider asking BookTubers to feature your titles for a readathon to boost awareness and enthusiasm, or work with multiple BookTubers to create a themed Tag video around your upcoming title. BookTubers grow their audience by consistently providing entertaining and creative content. Offer something new and exciting that will keep their fans engaged, and build a mutually beneficial partnership.

Stay tuned for more BookTube coverage!

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