Smile, if you're on YouTube
Updated: Feb 13
More people than ever are watching videos on YouTube and other Internet sites. Does that mean authors should use more video to reach potential readers?
Here are some facts about the potential reach:
· Statista says people stream an average of almost 700,000 hours of YouTube videos every hour. That’s more than Netflix and Facebook combined.
· Brandwatch says 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Most of it comes from businesses, not individual authors.
It’s not surprising that authors are creating and using videos to promote their books, or at least thinking about it. Even before COVID changed almost everything, the website for New York Book Editors posted a very good article in 2019 discussing how authors can use video to increase visibility and sell books.
After COVID restrictions canceled personal appearances, some authors I follow weekly are using more videos to promote their books.
Canadian Andrew Hallam, a financial journalist, has a YouTube subscriber channel with a personal one-minute video to promote his 2022 book Balance: How to Invest and Spend for Happiness, Health, and Wealth. His channel has several videos of interviews to promote his previous books, and one video for his 2017 book Millionaire Teacher has attracted more than 65,000 views.
Investigative journalist Sam Quinones has several YouTube video interviews to promote his 2021 release The Least of Us about the fentanyl crisis, which is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. He also has created a two-minute personal video about the book for his Facebook author page.
Even authors with older books are using videos successfully to promote books. Luis Alberto Urrea has several videos on YouTube from news interviews from when he launched his 2018 book The House of Broken Angels, including an eight-minute segment on PBS.
A stirring six-minute video on BBC about the San Patricios soldiers in the Mexican-American War features Irish-American Historian Michael Hogan and his 1997 book The Irish Soldiers of Mexico. It’s narrated by Liam Neeson and has attracted more than 36,000 views. Hogan also has many lengthy videos that originated in interviews, including one from AuthorsVoice.net to promote his 2016 book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico.
Edie Littlefield Sundby has a YouTube subscriber channel with several videos of national TV appearances and book trailers promoting her 2017 inspirational memoir The Mission Walker. It's about her surviving stage IV cancer and then walking the entire El Camino Real–a 1,600-mile trail originating in the 18th century that links 21 missions from Loreto, Mexico, to Sonoma, California. In addition, her website has a tab titled “News” with links to several of her TV appearances.
In 2020, Sundby hired a professional to create a three-minute bilingual video for the book and it has attracted more than 33,000 views. Her Facebook author page is a key part of her book promotion efforts and has more than 30,000 followers—far more than any other author I follow. On the page, she has posted many video outtakes from her walk.
Hallam and Hogan and Sundby are video superstars among the several authors I follow. One reason they are successful is probably that they integrate videos across YouTube, their websites, and Facebook.
Several other authors I follow have used videos from external sources to populate their YouTube subscriber channels. And a few authors I follow have included short book trailer videos in their subscriber channels. They include Carmen Amato, DV Berkom, and Joel Dennstedt.
If you’re interested in trying to create videos by yourself, Hubspot has a good article discussing the best tools to create and edit and post videos, whether on YouTube or elsewhere.
Perspectives: Not all videos by authors attract a large number of views. Some interview videos about books by Quinones and Urrea have fewer than 1,000 views. Four of Hallam’s videos posted during the past year have fewer than 500 views. The AuthorsVoice 47-minute interview with Hogan has fewer than 400 views. Some video interviews with Sundby have fewer than 200 views.
Videos that fail to identify the book and the author may not motivate people to buy the book, especially if they don't show the cover or give people a good sense of the contents. One author I know published a 2019 anthology with individual contributions from 27 women who moved from the USA to Mexico. CNBC featured her in an eight-minute interview about ex-pats living in Mexico, and the video on YouTube has attracted 648,000 views. It was fantastic personal PR but it didn’t identify her book or discuss the contents.
Brandwatch also says that YouTube has become the second-largest search engine, just behind its parent company Google. I use YouTube to search for music videos by title or performer, but I never used it to search for books until this week. It works well when I search for a book title or an author by name, but it doesn't work as well if I search for a book by subject matter. Google searches work better.
Searching for books by me is an example of why authors might want to create and post videos. My 2011 book I Love Baja! is in the top results on the first page of the Google search for “books Baja retirement.” But the same search on YouTube has no results for my book or me because I don’t have any videos.
Hmmm. I need to think about that…