How the Publishing Industry Is Cashing in on Influencer Culture

A shelf tour by popular BookTuber Ariel Bissett. Ariel Bissett/YouTube

Sure, you know about influencers like Instagram models and beauty vloggers on Youtube, but what about the online communities that don’t so readily lend themselves to image-heavy social platforms—is there room for them, too? Chief among the industries taking advantage of personality power is publishing. The closely-knit but avid circle known as BookTube is filled with book lovers who have stormed platforms like Youtube and Instagram to share their takes on recent reads that are about to hit shelves across America. And behind the scenes, there’s an industry doing everything it can to grow this new form of engagement.

BookTube is a rather unchartered community on Youtube, full of bookworms making videos that range from from reading recommendations to shelf tours. They easily draw comparisons to beauty vloggers’ “makeup collection” or “closet tour” videos, except with enviable stacks of bestsellers, classics and YA fiction. Some of the most popular BookTubers include Christine Riccio (408k subscribers), Sasha Alsburg (365k subscribers), and Ariel Bissett (166k subscribers). Their channels are decorated with colorful or classic fonts and enhanced with cartoon drawings. This community is made up of eccentric personalities that are reflected in their content and you can find a BookTuber for every genre.

Are you a huge Sci-Fi geek who loves fantasizing about the apocalypse? Only want to read cheesy YA romance novels? Just search on Youtube and you’ll find your BookTuber guru.

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Many of these BookTubers have actually had their own novels published, or are in the process of doing so. BookTuber Christine Riccio’s novel Again, But Better has a 4.1/5 star rating on bookseller Barnes & Noble. How smart of a marketing strategy is that? Riccio’s book had a fan base before it was even published.

BookTuber Christine Riccio discusses her book. Christine Riccio/YouTube

But this network is more than a ton of bibliophiles sharing their thoughts on books with the Internet. The book industry uses BookTube as a marketing tactic by sending free copies to these influencers to be reviewed. In turn, BookTubers will read the book and make a video sharing their thoughts and opinions on the novel: Should you buy it? Should you read it? Will you like it? By the time the new title has been delivered to bookstores and libraries, the good (or bad) reviews have circulated—the hype exists even before they hit shelves. Like with any other product, this system helps to market and advertise to a larger audience than with traditional advertising. People are talking about the book. People are excited. People are anticipating it. There is already a fan base—much of it thanks to BookTube.

Youtube has even capitalized on the success of what was once a catchy nickname for a niche industry, turning it into a trademarked name for a Youtube Original Series, “BookTube.” In this mini-Youtube series, renowned authors like Margaret Atwood, James Patterson and Michelle Obama are interviewed by BookTubers.

Selections from Sasha Alsburg’s feed. abookutopia/YouTube

For consumers, this community is beneficial because you establish a relationship with the person whose videos you watch. You enjoy the same books and genres so you trust their reviews and recommendations. You find a community in the comments section—it’s like a mobile, Internet version of a book club.

The community extends itself onto other platforms, like Instagram. In fact, there’s an entire community referred to as “Bookstagram,” where people post “shelfies” (Shelf-Selfies). Bookstagram is similar to BookTube in that readers share their reviews and recommendations but through perfectly composed photographs instead. You can scroll through hours of beautifully photographed bookshelves and cover art to get inspired.

BookTube and Bookstagram are profitable little secrets that are far more than just a bunch of congregating bookworms. Keep these communities in mind the next time you need to share your shock over a plot twist, commiserate over the death of your favorite character, or are just looking for a good recommendation.

How the Publishing Industry Is Cashing in on Influencer Culture