First steps with vlogging and booktube

Posted by Lara Williams

A vlog is a ‘video blog’ – essentially, a short and sweet piece of video content. The most popular format features a vlogger speaking directly to the camera, as if they are sat across a table, speaking to a friend. There are other formats for the more camera shy, too, and so don’t be put off if being on-screen is not for you. Vlogs are mostly hosted on the video-sharing websites YouTube and Vimeo, with YouTube being the most popular.

Vloggers usually have an area of expertise, and vlogs can be themed on wide-ranging subjects – from beauty tutorials through to politics. But a very lively corner of the ‘vlogosphere’ is dedicated to the discussion of books and writing. There is an ever-growing community of vloggers who talk about all things literary – dubbed ‘booktube’.

Booktube is vibrant community of YouTube vloggers making books and video content. With a lively sense of eclecticism, booktube has something for everybody: with booktubers posting vlogs on every style and genre of writing under the sun. There is also a real sense of diversity in the format of booktube vlogs: from more traditional vlogs in which a booktuber might review a specific novel or poetry collection, through to more inventive styles – such as stopmotion animation, interviews with authors, or a ‘behind the scenes’ look at a booktuber’s life.


How to get started

If you’re thinking about dipping your toes into booktube, begin by getting familiar with the world of vlogging, and with what else is out there. There are a number of ‘tags’ associated with booktube, which you can search on YouTube, taking you through to relevant videos and vlogs. These include ‘booktube’, ‘booktube newbie’ and ‘booktube uk’. Spend some time viewing different types of vlogs and thinking about the sort of vlogs you might like to make yourself.

Setting up a YouTube channel

Once you have an idea of the sort of content you might be sharing, start by setting up your own YouTube channel. One of the great things about venturing into YouTube is that there are a multitude of tutorial videos demonstrating how you can set up a channel, how you can edit a video, and how you can do just about anything else you might need to do, available on YouTube. Find out more about how to start a YouTube channel, and what you might need to have ready ahead of this, such as images and a channel description, here.

Your brand

Once you have set up your YouTube channel, begin thinking about your brand, your personality and the sort of vlogs you would like to make. It might be helpful to have a certain ‘USP’ – for example, some booktubers review books while cooking a meal, while others incorporate a kitsch aesthetic into their vlogs. Think about what might make your vlogs a little distinctive. Think about what makes you you.

In terms of visual branding, ensure your channel looks clean. Name the channel after yourself. In the channel description, outline the sort of content you will be sharing, the sort of books you will be talking about. Write this in your own voice. Give viewers a sense of your personality.

YouTube is also varied and eclectic, and you can diversify and include your other interests, too. Above all, do not start a channel to promote your own books or just to promote yourself.

Making vlogs

Do not be put off if you do not have a top-of-the-range digital camera or editing suite – most YouTubers film vlogs just using their phone camera and free video editing software. Search YouTube for tutorials on how to use the editing software that comes free with your computer, or even how to edit videos on your phone. You can also download video editing software for free: find a list of free editing software here.

For your first vlog, you might want to film a ‘booktube newbie’ vlog. A booktube newbie vlog involves answering a series of questions in order to introduce yourself to the booktube world. It’s a great route into booktube as it gives your first vlog a sense of structure, and people search for the booktube newbie tag, and so you will find an audience. Watch this video to find advice for booktube newbies.

Film in the daytime using natural light, with the light behind the camera. Do not overthink where you might film your vlogs: you are perfectly fine filming a vlog sat on the sofa, perched at the foot of your bed, or in front of your bookcase. Try to keep the setting relatively clean. Your vlog should be between five and ten minutes long.

While some booktubers memorise a kind of script, it is perhaps more natural to just jot down or make bullet points of the sort of things you want to say. Aim to be natural on-screen: booktube is all about authenticity and viewers can tell if you are not being yourself. Make eye contact with the camera. Perhaps film with somebody you know with you in the room – that way, they can help to make sure you are not putting on a persona. And remember, you need only upload it when you’re totally happy with it – so feel free to do a few takes. Spend time on getting better. If it takes a while to do, let it take that time.

What next?

Titles are important, and so title your video as obviously as possible. If you are reviewing a particular book, include the name of the book in your title. If you are making a monthly book haul vlog, include the month and ‘book haul’ in your title. Find out how to make your titles more searchable.

When picking a thumbnail, use a picture of your face, but allow for subtle changes between different thumbnails, so people know it is a new video.

Be wary of copyright: reading out loud from a story or a poem or book might be a copyright infringement, and so it is better to link to books or extracts in the comments.

Once you have started making vlogs, reach out to others in the booktube community, as this is the best way to get seen. Comment on other people’s videos. Do shout outs to other channels. It’s all about being part of a conversation.

You can monetise vlogs, either via YouTube or by including affiliate links. If you reach over five-hundred subscribers, reach out to publishers and ask for free books to review.

Finally, vlogging is a time commitment: and so set aside time to film, edit and upload your videos. Attempt to upload content consistently: some vloggers produce videos in batches, while others make them one at a time.

Jen Campbell's Top Tips

Jen Campbell is an author and consummate book vlogging pro, with over 60,000 subscribers to her booktube channel. Here are her top booktube vlogging tips…

1. Make sure you have good audio and lighting (but that doesn’t mean you need fancy equipment). Search YouTube for videos on how to edit videos using free software.
2. Film videos about things that you are passionate about. Be genuine.
3. Research the types of videos you’d like to film. Watching videos is what reading is to writing.
4. Engage with the community you’re trying to be part of. It’s all about conversation.
5. Make a tag video introducing yourself to vlogging, using the ‘Booktube Newbie Tag’.