If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is priceless. Millions of individuals have created an online visual presence and reaped the benefits of doing so in their personal and professional lives. Although traditionally text-based, the writing community has discovered the rewards of having a unique presence online via video and has created communities to cement their places in cyberspace. Two such communities that have established solid international footholds are BookTube and AuthorTube. These YouTube groups focus on the reader and writers’ perspectives to unite and enhance the digital literary world.
Having launched around 2010, BookTube is essentially a virtual coffee shop where written-word lovers review and talk about all things related to reading. It is full of individuals who love a good book and use the platform to propagate “worthy” pieces for the masses. While no official rules exist about what can be discussed or posted, three of the most popular styles of BookTube videos uploaded are Reviews, Tags, and Book Hauls. South African BookTuber, Tshegofatso Motlhake posted a video in 2019 further describing the purpose of BookTube and these categories.
To summarize —
- Reviews: Reviews include literary criticism, personal opinion, and popular reaction. The goal is to share your own thoughts and feelings about a particular piece of literature in hopes to either persuade or deter other readers to interact in kind with the same book.
- Tags: Tag videos are socially driven. The one posting will typically ask questions for a fellow BookTuber to answer. Topics can be a literary challenge, a response to one of their own posts, asking their opinion, or simply starting a conversation. This is meant to promote ongoing dialogue and a stronger sense of camaraderie.
- Book Hauls: Book Haul videos are when individuals share the books they have found and purchased, usually without reading them yet. These are simply another way to connect with other BookTubers and promote excitement around newly published or obtained pieces.
One significant benefit of joining a community of readers is that it allows mass promotion of material. If anything requires marketing, video shares are a highly effective way of advertising. A good reader makes a good writer, and many authors obtain beta-readers through connections made on BookTube and so expand their reader base to global proportions. Arthur Gutch, from the blog Opyrus, explains the leverage one can have by using vloggers to boost a writing career. He states, “Book vloggers need new material every week just like book bloggers do. They rely on authors who submit their work in exchange for an honest review of their work.” Using these vloggers to advertise is smart networking, and the BookTube writing community was formed bearing this potential in mind.
Soon after the establishment of BookTube, another literary group snuck onto the scene. Realizing that on the other side of readers are writers also needing a social community and professional outlet, vloggers started posting to a new forum — thus, AuthorTube was born. Writers, editors, and other literary professionals and wannabes started posting helpful information and insight regarding the writing and publishing world, including tips they have learned themselves.
Novelist Courtney Young (under the pen name Lyra Parish) has been one of the leading vloggers in the AuthorTube community for several years, with over 6.26K subscribers. Her channel, The Courtney Project, is a multi-faceted channel that showcases in-demand topical material. From writing tips and encouragement to burnout and marketing, she — as well as other successful vloggers — attempt to make the field a bit more straightforward than the chaos it can be when starting out.
Writers are not the only individuals posting on AuthorTube. Having an impressive variety of amateurs and professionals post their thoughts to the public serves to enlarge the cache of knowledge and experience available to the up-and-coming. The writer of Penchant states,
I’ve actually found it much more illuminating to watch videos from editors and agents than from aspiring authors. Writers like to talk about writing — often about their own processes. Editors and agents know what constitutes good writing and bad writing.
While some that post in these online communities are young adults aspiring to be famous YouTubers, just as many, if not more, have notable and reliable information to share.
The literary community reaps substantial benefits from networking and maintaining a consistent visual/video presence online through digital forums such as these. Engaging with other writers provides a considerable measure of accountability and encouragement to keep pressing through the writing process. Tricks of the trade can also be picked up from those who have been in the same position and have pushed past their shortcomings. Author Learning Center dives into several more advantages of plugging into these YouTube groups, including:
- Access to the video-watching demographic
- Access to one of the largest search engines on the web
- High discoverability as an author
- Ability to form a substantial following and engage with like-minded people
According to Hootsuite, YouTube logs more than 2 billion monthly users — a staggering number of people to have open access to. YouTube boasts impressive localization in over 100 countries and can be accessed in over 80 different languages. Connecting with a group that extensive, to glean wisdom from and market towards, provides resources that can save a literary professional caught in a sink or swim situation. When the writing slump hits or when facing a unique publishing problem, the ability to access a storehouse of information in one location is invaluable. These are just a few of the rewards of establishing a literary presence in a video-based platform with global renown.
The digital community relies heavily on video presence, making information and marketing relatable and easily accessible by various devices. It may be challenging to read a 5-page article on a topic via smartphone, but watching a BookTube or AuthorTube channel on the same subject is as easy as tapping play. With informal access and virtual interaction with countless individuals, professionals become friends, and work becomes play. Communities thrive on personal interaction, and networking cannot be fully taken advantage of without consistent communication. Online communities provide that consistency and are reliable venues for readers, authors, editors, and lovers of all things “bookish” to come together and thrive in a welcoming and growing environment.