The Publishing Industry and BookTube
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
We’re all familiar with the explosive success of platforms such as Bookstagram and BookTok. As early as 2010, readers were enthralled by their common predecessor, BookTube (YouTube’s book-specific community). Since then, BookTube has grown exponentially, with new BookTubers joining the platform every day.
Publishers were quick to recognise the unique marketing opportunities of BookTube, and many of the larger publishing houses such as HarperCollins and Pan Macmillan regularly gift advance reading copies (ARCs) to BookTubers in exchange for promotion on their channels. When asked about using BookTube as a publicity tool, Valerie Wong, Digital Marketing Associate for Little Brown Books, explained, “For book marketing specifically, it’s a good way to get faces behind books and give books and authors some more credibility.”
BookTube’s marketing success could be attributed to the large volume of BookTubers offering to promote the latest releases and also the sheer range of content available on the platform. Popular videos include wrap-ups, bookshelf tours, readalongs and haul videos, with the conversation often continuing past the video into the comments section.
‘Unboxing’ videos have become a staple in the BookTube community and provide an opportunity to showcase the products available in a range of subscription boxes in particular. Similarly to clothing and makeup hauls, BookTube has followed this trend used by vloggers across YouTube. As a virtual ‘try before you buy’, these videos have a huge influence on our buying habits. Subscription boxes sold by companies such as Book of the Month (BOTM), Illumicrate and Fairyloot regularly appear on channels, coinciding with the mailout to fellow subscribers. For Book of the Month, subscribers can choose five books per month, delivered in the signature royal blue box. The spine features the BOTM logo, and on occasion, exclusive covers are offered as an incentive to readers. Other subscription services offer books of a specific genre, merchandise and other added extras.
From a marketing perspective, this area of YouTube is a community of readers across the world who share their opinions on the latest reads and bond over a love of books. For subscription box creators, BookTube is an ideal avenue to promote their businesses, combining social media marketing with word-of-mouth recommendations. A popular BookTube vlogger unboxing their particular selection for that month influences a wide variety of viewers, from those who want to explore a new author or genre, to those who wholly trust the opinion of the vlogger. An unboxing video is also beneficial to the authors and publishers themselves, as it is the perfect opportunity to showcase new titles. A viewer might be drawn to a particular title and add it to their shopping cart; another may be an avid collector of a particular series and could be excited at the chance to collect a variety of cover designs. This buying habit is particularly prevalent among Young Adult/Fantasy fans, a genre that is frequently highlighted as one of the most popular on BookTube.
It didn’t take long before the publishing industry was incorporating these online personalities into book events as well. While honest reviews and unboxing videos can help build buzz around a genre or boost the sales of a particular title, book launches and interactive book clubs allow another level of interaction and brand development. In recent years, we have seen BookTubers do cover reveals on their channel, sponsored book clubs on livestreams and interviews with authors. YouTube itself has even joined the hype, creating an eighteen-episode YouTube Original Series “BookTube.” In this mini-series, renowned authors like Margaret Atwood, James Patterson and Michelle Obama are interviewed by BookTubers. Avid watchers are able to see their favourite influencers, such as Ariel Bissett, Sasha Alsberg (ABookUtopia) and Jesse George (jessethereader), take a look behind the scenes and dive deeply into why these books are special to them.
But nowhere is the BookTuber influence more prominent than in the Young Adult Fantasy genre, a subgenre that has always had strong followings of passionate readers. BookTube has allowed these authors to build a closer relationship with their online fandoms. In an unprecedented move in 2018, BookTuber Christine Riccio (polandbananasbooks), sometimes described as the “original” BookTuber, was given the opportunity to reveal the jacket cover for bestselling author Cassandra Clare’s latest release. In the years since, Riccio has collaborated with a myriad of authors and their publicity teams. Interviewing Twilight author Stephanie Meyer and playing games with other big names in the fantasy genre is just the tip of the iceberg. Riccio has now become a regular participant in panel discussions at BookCon and moderates events on Sarah J. Maas’ book tour.
Riccio represents the potential success of involving influencers in future book events. Mixing the publishing world with the close-knit BookTube circles is a clever way of engaging readers in a book launch. Viewers are able to join in with the excitement and feel more connected to the author through the familiar BookTuber personalities, and the lasting connection they have with these creators helps to foster a positive association with the author’s brand.