Decide on a name
A good place to start is with the name of your channel. You can go straight-forward like Read with Cindy or tie in a signature style like Bowties & Books. My advice is to think about how you envision your channel, the sorts of books you’ll cover, and what other videos you may want to post. Find a name that encapsulates that, and don’t worry because you can always change it in the future if you’d like!
Once you have a name you feel strongly about, Google it. This will ensure that you aren’t using the name of a Booktuber who already exists—which is both considerate and avoids confusion for readers.
Design a logo
If you’re new to designing artwork, I’d recommend signing up for a free Canva account, which offers graphics and photographs as well as design templates and will allow you to create something that perfectly fits your channel. Canva also allows users to upload their own files—but make sure any images you’re using in your design are free to use, or that you’ve obtained permission from the artist. Some readers commission art for their designs—though I’d recommend first getting your channel started and considering custom artwork once you’ve found your rhythm.
Any design you create for your channel can be used in both your videos and as the banner at the top of your page, so consider how a design may look in different places when creating it.
Set up contact info
On your channel’s About page, you have the ability to add an email address. Publicists often reach out directly to Booktubers that they want to work with. Setting up an email account associated with your channel offers them a way to contact you and for you to reach out to them. This email should also be associated with your NetGalley account, making it easier for publicists to send you pre-approved widget links.
You can also use the Description section of your About page to both explain your channel and to outline if you’re currently accepting review copies, the genres you cover, the formats you read in, and a list of the platforms you use to promote books.
Find the right equipment
You do not need any fancy equipment to start a Booktube channel. When you’re new, I’d recommend starting out with the equipment you already own (such as the camera on your phone or computer) and building from there. As you film, you’ll get a sense of the areas you’d like to improve and you can decide if you want to invest in a DSLR camera (a favorite of many Booktubers), a microphone, lighting, or more.
Start by testing your equipment with a few short videos. This will give you a sense of the quality of the video and sound, but also allow you to test things such as your own positioning in front of the camera and the lighting in your space (natural light is your best friend!).
Create a backdrop
Wall-to-wall bookshelves do make for a nice background, but they are not a requirement for a successful video. So don’t fret if your space doesn’t allow for a bookish backdrop. As long as the space behind you is mess- and distraction-free, you’re good to go!
Don’t be afraid to film a few test videos (where you chat for five minutes about a favorite book) in different locations to give yourself a sense of what the final product will look like and to help you grow comfortable talking in front of the camera. For Booktube videos, framing is important and there are multiple factors you’ll need to consider: Is the background distracting for viewers? Is the lighting too harsh or too dim? Is the space you’re filming in creating any odd acoustics?
If you own a PC or Mac, you should already have access to the video editing software that came with the computer. As you grow more comfortable editing and filming, you can consider if you need to invest in other software.
Members of the book community love to help each other, and many of them have created videos about their equipment, editing tools, and more that can help you as you get started on your own journey. I really love this playlist from Lauren Wade if you’re looking for a place to start.
Thumbnails are the images that viewers see when your videos appear on your channel page or in YouTube feeds (see My Name is Marines’ channel for an example). You’ll notice that many YouTubers have a signature style they use for their thumbnails—including specific colors and fonts. The thumbnail text should complement (but not necessarily match) the title of your video.
Thumbnails can be made using a still from your video or a photo you take, and then edited in free software like Canva. Experiment to see what colors and fonts you like to use, and know that your style will evolve over time so don’t stress about finding the perfect fit on your very first thumbnail.
Explore the backend
Once you’ve created your account and have a test video shot, spend some time exploring YouTube’s backend. Practice uploading a video, click through all of the Settings tabs, and familiarize yourself with the process of publishing a video. A test run can ensure that you’re prepared before you’re ready to officially launch your channel, and looking through the backend thoroughly can also help you discover tools you didn’t even know were available to you!
Once you have your channel named and the tools you need, it’s time to think about the books you’ll feature. Many Booktubers focus on books they’re currently reading and share reviews of ARCs and digital review copies from NetGalley. It’s important to remember there are a lot of responsibilities that come with requesting and accepting books on NetGalley. I’d recommend focusing on the books you’re most passionate about or are most relevant to your profession.
But you don’t need special access to ARCs or tons of disposable income to be an active Booktuber. If you’re looking for other ways to receive early copies of books, check out BookishFirst, our giveaway platform for consumer reviewers, or Goodreads giveaways. Your local library and Little Free Libraries are great free options, and you can find discounted gems at used bookstores.
While new and upcoming books get a lot of love on Booktube, there’s plenty of room for backlist favorites as well! Don’t be afraid to share books that are a few years old on your TBR or books you’ve read in the past that you’re still thinking about.
Think about your content
Reviews are an important part of Booktube, but filming a review is harder than it looks. You’ll want to clearly describe the plot for any viewers who may be unfamiliar with the book, and share your opinions. Writing down a quick summary of the book and a list of the characters can help get you started. I’d also recommend looking up the pronunciation of the author’s name and their pronouns before you film. Don’t be afraid if you mess up while filming—start over or continue from a point you know you can smoothly edit.
When filming, you’ll want to be mindful of what you can and cannot share in your videos. Reading the book’s official summary is a good way to succinctly explain the plot to your viewers, and it’s always wise to give a clear warning if you’ll be sharing spoilers. When discussing ARCs in particular, publishers ask that you not share direct quotes or artwork, which may change before the book is published.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already a member of NetGalley (though if you’re a newbie I’ve got some tips for you here!). As a member of NetGalley, you’re expected to share reviews for the books you’ve been approved for. Writing your review down before you film your review video can help pull your thoughts together, or you may find that filming first gives you insight into your written review. Test out both methods and find what works for you! If you aren’t sure where to start, I have some tips here on writing reviews, writing critical reviews, and writing audiobook reviews. And don’t forget to include the link to your review video when you submit your Feedback in NetGalley!
In addition to reviews, there are tons of other possibilities for Booktube content: beginning of month TBR lists, end of month wrap-ups, Booktube tags, unboxings, and reading challenges—just to name a few. It’s important to get a strong sense of the kind of content you want to feature and to have a vision in mind of what your channel might look like months, or even years, down the road. Think about the kind of content you enjoy watching, and the kind you’d be most interested in creating.
Start a schedule
With a Booktube channel, you’ll need time to film videos and to edit them. I’d recommend creating a schedule that gives you plenty of time for both as you learn the ropes. One to two videos a week is a good place to start, and it can be helpful to have a specific day of the week set aside for filming, another for editing, and a third for posting. This consistency can also help your subscribers—who can then anticipate that you always post videos on a particular weekday and make room in their own schedules to watch.
As you grow more comfortable, you can fill out a schedule that includes videos such as wrap-ups at the end of each month, TBR stacks at the beginning, reviews of new books close to their publication dates, and more. Using a spreadsheet or organization app can help keep you focused and on track. Check out this interview with Lili from Utopia State of Mind to read her tips for organizing her TBR and review schedule.
The first place you’ll do this is on your About page. Check out Perpetualpages for a great example. They list a little about themselves, the books they’re interested in, and what viewers will find on their channel.
Next, consider following Robin Reads’ example and having your very first video be part of the Booktube Newbie Tag, where Booktubers answer a specific set of questions about why they’re starting their channel.
Caption your videos
Make your videos accessible to all bookworms by adding subtitles or using YouTube’s automatic captioning feature. You can learn more here about how this works.
Your channel is ready, the videos are live, and now all you need to do is share! You can always use your existing social media channels, but my recommendation is to create social accounts with handles that match your channel, so they’re easy for readers to find and recognizable to your followers. You can even change the name of your existing social channels if you’d like. Having multiple platforms to promote your channel also ensures you reach different audiences. Here’s an article with tips on creating a Bookstagram account if you need help getting started. Just be sure to add links to all of them in your NetGalley Profile!
Stay in the know
Follow publishers and authors on social media to be the first to know about new and upcoming releases. Being connected to the book world also ensures that you’re able to make responsible and informed choices about the types of books that you promote. For example, you might learn that a book you were planning to feature includes harmful representation. When considering a book that focuses on experiences or identities outside of your own, be sure to see what reviewers who share that background are saying about it.
Think about your goals
As a NetGalley book advocate or industry professional (reviewer, book trade professional, librarian, bookseller, educator, journalist or member of the media), a Booktube channel offers you a place to review and share the books you’re approved for. When considering requests, publishers are looking for as much information as possible. You can find a specific publisher’s approval preferences on their Publisher page, and you can read this interview with a book publicist to learn more about the stats they’re looking for.
In addition to including a link to your channel in your NetGalley Profile, consider which Booktube stats you’d like to share and how often you’ll update your NetGalley Bio with current numbers (setting a calendar reminder can help you remember!). As you grow more comfortable tracking your subscriber count and the viewing average of your videos, you can take time to think about the kind of growth you’d like for your channel.
Find your community
Chances are you’re starting a Booktube because you’re already a long-time viewer. If you have friends in the community, let them know about the channel you’re starting. Use your channel to follow other Booktubers who share your interests. Find Booktubers who are new, like you are, and connect to help each other grow. Leave comments on videos you like, and respond when comments are left on yours. Before you know it, you’ll have an incredible group of bookish friends who are always there to swap tips, recommendations, and more!