Industry News / Uncategorized

Insights into Booktube: an interview with Jen Campbell

Research into the influence of the Booktube community on the publishing industry lead Publishers Inc to seek out more personal insights, we interviewed Jen Campbell on the topic hoping to shed some light on the matter.

 Booktube provides a type of publicity which breaks down the barriers of time and release dates.

Jen Campbell is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops series and The Bookshop Book. She’s also an award-winning poet and short story writer; her poetry collection The Hungry Ghost Festival is published by The Rialto. She runs a Youtube channel where she discusses all things books. 

What led you to create a personal video channel about books? How did you first go about it and what/who were your sources of inspiration?

I had run a written blog for six years before setting up a Youtube channel. It seemed like a natural extension of that; I’d been watching the Booktube community for a while. Whilst you can get involved in the comments I wanted to take part by making videos, too, and I figured I might be able to bring something a little different to the discussion (as I’m an author, bookseller and have worked in the publishing industry).

I was rather nervous to set up my channel (due to having a genetic condition called EEC Syndrome which I was sure would mean I’d encounter some odd comments – it’s the internet after all!) but Leena over at JustKissMyFrog invited me on to her channel to make a video together, and that gave me the confidence to start my own, and I’m very glad that I did!

How has using video (as a medium to create content) affected your relationship with books?

I’m not sure that it has – watching other people’s content highlights books I might not have heard of before. But I don’t think it’s affected the way I read or the amount I buy. It has made me discuss literature more, though, which is great.

You are a published writer and bookseller – how has video blogging affected your work? I’ve noticed that you have recently launched a podcast – what inspired this decision? A number of literary journals have also made this shift ex. New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast

Do you think this is because today many literary magazines are based online and podcasting is simply an extension of their presence? 

It’s definitely increased my visibility and accounted for some book sales, but I was an established writer before I started my channel, so it’s hard to tell what feeds into what. All of my work (freelance writing, publicity, writing workshops, book writing, bookselling, making videos, podcasts, freelance business consultancy etc) centres around books, everything is linked. I started a podcast because I wanted to do longer episodes, where I interviewed several different people on one subject. I think if an episode is going to be an hour long then just audio works better; people can have it on in the background when they’re cooking/commuting etc. It also means they can download the file and take it with them on the go. I’ve done radio work before, so it was a logical step and simply a means to facilitate what I thought wouldn’t be practical in video format.

Personally I am a big fan of Book Tube. As a reader, I appreciate that it is easily accessible and am particularly fond of the human factor. This form of reviewing is slowly taking over and it’s success, as I understand, is founded on trust. The viewer relates to the personality, taste and opinion of the video blogger, as well as the altruistic nature of the commitment. The reviews then are seen as honest, personable recommendations. In addition, most book tubers discuss books/events/authors of personal interest and have a policy of announcing any sponsored content or sent-for-review copies. This generates not only trust but also commitment. It follows that your channel is very likely to affect your viewers’ financial investments and reading habits. (I am certain they have affected my own!) 

On account of this, do you think your online presence and video-reviewing affects individual publishers and the publishing industry as a whole? If so, how? Have you ever cooperated with a publisher?

I haven’t worked specifically with a publisher (bar review copies) so far, but I have promoted books that have had a significant impact. Reviewing John Burnside’s The Dumb House when it was reissued last year created a #Burnsided movement across Twitter, Youtube and blogs – which was rather fun and sold a lot of books.

Likewise, when I read The Exhibit by Lauren Eggert-Crowe (which is published by a tiny poetry press in the U.S.A who hand-bind every chapbook), that generated hundreds of sales. Those hundreds of sales were very significant for a business run by one person and for a poetry book – which doesn’t usually see the biggest sales – that was published several years ago. Booktube provides a type of publicity which breaks down the barriers of time and release dates (the three month span in which publishers push their books).

I completely understand why publishers push for publicity at the same time, and why newspapers are reviewing the new releases, but Booktube allows readers to chat about everything they are reading; the consumer doesn’t care if the book came out yesterday or last year. So we can bring attention to a lot of backlists.


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