I listen to several podcasts when I’m not writing, such as Reply All, Mystery Show, Planet Money, and the gold standard of smart, entertaining North American spoken journalism, This American Life. But a couple of months ago I also discovered Rocking Self-Publishing, a highly listenable and professional podcast produced and hosted out of Prague by an Englishman named Simon Whistler. In every episode of RSP Simon shares snippets of info on the indie publishing world, followed by an in-depth interview with an industry player, usually a successful author.
One such author, P.T. Hylton, has had success finding an audience through BookTube, and you can listen to his RSP interview by clicking on the image here:
Not a website in itself, BookTube is simply a community of people who talk about books on their YouTube channels. Typically a BookTuber will be a young person who speaks on camera about the books they’ve recently read and their TBR (To Be Read) pile. They skew towards Young Adult books, often receive ARCs (Advance Review Copies) from major publishers, and rarely seem to talk about independently published books.
I discovered book review channels on YouTube earlier this year and even requested reviews (to no avail, although one BookTuber sent me a rate card of how much she charges per mention, tweet, review, etc.). Needless to say, charging for reviews is a poor business practice, because it means that viewers can’t trust the opinions being expressed by the reviewer-for-hire. Talking peppily about newly released books in front of a bedroom bookshelf must seem like a wonderful way to make a few extra bucks for a young person, but any BookTuber worth his or her salt should take the long view and build an audience through genuine reviews, then monetize the channel in whatever way they can, such as advertising.
I’m sure that the vast majority of BookTubers started out simply because they love to talk about books, so it would be a shame if a minority of profiteers spoil the fun for everyone else by diminishing their trustworthiness as a source of honest, independent reviews. It would also be a shame if the indie publishing community is unable to access this new and potentially powerful route to discoverability, the main obstacle to competing on a level playing field with traditionally published books.
PT Hylton ultimately decided to start his own YouTube channel and he does a great job of chatting about his own work and books in general. Maybe that’s another way to go. I’ll start taking guitar lessons!