Social Media for SCBWI Writers: What Can YouTube Do For You?

I don't know about you, but I was surprised when one of the speakers at the Winchester SCBWI Conference last November said that when schoolchildren were asked where they look first for information, the answer was YouTube.

Not parents, not the library, not even our well-beloved Google: YouTube!

As a result, there are several new paths for a children's writer, and especially YA writers,  to attract attention. In YA, in particular, "booktubers" are incredibly influential now. And don't limit yourself to booktubers in the UK– the English-language market is far bigger.

Young readers love video! Give your book a boost online.
–You can make a short book trailer of your book and post it on YouTube*.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on this. The average teenager these days can make a decent video. Ask your favorite teen to recommend a friend who's really good at this and then pay that person more than they expect (it won't be too bad) and get some children or teens to act out the parts for a short extract you write. You will be surprised at how good this can look and at how much attention it can bring to your book. SCBWI UK's own social media wizard Candy Gourlay has a couple of posts to help you, starting here. YA Book Trailers, a channel by the Children's Books Council, has 234 trailers for you to watch.

Mary Calhoun Brown, who wrote a children's "time slip" novel about a mute child with autism who goes back in time and discovers she can speak, got a few children she knew to act in her video trailer and discovered that when she makes school presentations, the video attracts the interest of even the non-readers.
Marquis did not want to hold Elizabeth's hand for the trailer. "I was just sure he wouldn't do it," says the author. 
"I tried to ensure everything was in keeping with the 1910s. The music was one of the first things I researched. Then I focused on costume and locations. Using heritage farm was appropriate because there weren't visible power lines, and everything had a rustic look. I crawled through a bunch of old trains until I found one with the interior I was looking for. The exterior train scenes were shot at a different location because I needed train tracks. The videographer was a student, and he edited everything and spliced it all together."

–If you like or don't mind performing, you can make videos yourself, even very short ones filmed with your mobile phone, and gradually build up an audience.  It might surprise you what people are interested in watching. (Do you know there is a Swedish gamer who has 37 million subscribers who just watch him play video games online, and he makes $4 million a year? PewDiePie must be fun to watch.)

For a good example of what works, see John Green and his brother Hank's channel Vlogbrothers.
Their most-viewed video, How and why we read, has had more than 1,444,000 viewers.

A successful U.K. vlogger is Tim Bowler with his short videos in the Bolthole Bulletin. Its success took him by surprise.

–If you don't have a performer's bone in your body– and let's face it, many writers don't, and are more at home alone at their desks– you can get some video publicity if a popular vlogger or booktuber will review your book online. Remember that they are usually doing this as a hobby, so be polite and considerate. (For more information on this route, see Larisa Villar's Words and Pictures feature on vlogging.)

You may not have heard of Christine Riccio but her YouTube book reviews as Poland Bananas Books have had 23 million+ views.

Here are some influential booktubers for (mostly) YA, with some who also review younger children's books:
Jesse the Reader 
Poland Bananas Books
Books and Quills
The Readables 
Ermahgerd Berks 
Beth June 327
Padfoot and Prongs 
Little Book Owl
A Book Utopia 
Epic Reads (Harper Collins runs this channel for YA readers)

If you are thinking about being a booktuber yourself, here are some tips from Bookables and Little Book Owl.

–You can even write directly for YouTube. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are an adapation of Pride and Prejudice.

As Larisa says, the secret of success, whichever path you choose, is to focus on adding value, rather than on self-promotion. The audience is out there, and they love to read!

*Technically, Google owns YouTube, but they were originally two different companies and are run separately.
The picture at the top of the article is from Stick News on the Daily English Show.

Julie Sullivan


  1. Thanks, Julie, great post. My teen (and husband) love YouTube, too. Something we have to think about.

  2. Fascinating, Julie - thanks! Incredible to think that YouTube is the go-to place for kids to find out stuff...although it's where I go to find out how to change a tap :-)

    1. Some great GCSE revision help on YouTube too!

  3. Cool! I'm a big fan of Tim Bowler's vlogs. Olivia Kiernan has a great series on the go too. Candy is my idol, as she's way ahead of most of us with videos! :)

  4. Very interesting Julie, thanks. I must take a look at some of the vlogs you've suggested. It's not a medium I've really looked at.

  5. Thanks for the mention. I love making videos . They do take time but every little helps.

  6. Thanks for the mention. I love making videos . They do take time but every little helps.

  7. Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks. Social Media Posting


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