Every author knows that a picture is worth a thousand words.  A 90-second to three-minute video can reach thousands of people in your targeted audience per week and many more in the months to follow.  Equally importantly, that same video can be found by traditional media, including national television and print.  What does this mean to authors and the publicity teams who support them?  It means YouTube’s video marketing is a crucial option to tell your story and sell your books.  Let’s talk about how to do it well and make the most of this opportunity.


Start by Setting Up Your YouTube Channel

  • Open an account and name your channel. This is an important step in being found via search engines, so ideally the channel name is your name or your recognizable brand title.
  • Post visuals. Grab attention for your channel with artwork related to your book/book series/brand.  This will include custom thumbnails of your videos after you start publishing them.
  • Pick your channel’s region, genre, and keywords.

Genre Pro Tip:  There are about a dozen “official” genres on YouTube.  Pay attention to the hundreds of self-labeled sub-genres to be more targeted.  Sub-genres are key because how you label your video exponentially helps it be found.


Production Preparation

For now, we’re discussing videos of you speaking to the camera.  More sophisticated videos shot on location or edited with other footage will be covered later.

  • Camera (your smartphone, or iPad, is fine, or splurge on a camera that fits your budget).
  • Tripod (use a tripod to hold the camera steady or set the camera on a height appropriate table).
  • Microphone (the microphone on your phone should be fine or get a mic that you can plug in).
  • Backdrop will be visible during the video, so it should help tell your story and look clean and appealing (i.e., shelves displaying your book, a promotional poster for your book, or another visual that conveys your style and message).
  • Lights (soft ambient lighting is most flattering).

Equipment Pro Tip:

Great portable starter light:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074Q6TFJC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

If you’re getting more serious about the lighting:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0785QD52L/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Setting up a Backdrop (heavy duty background stand):  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NIDQ5Y6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Shooting Your Video

“Practice Makes Better.” Comparing this to traditional ‘media training’, your first 10-20 videos won’t be great.  You’re learning.  As difficult as it is to say, it’s a rite of passage.  Watch the videos and learn from them.  Study your body language, pace of speaking, smiling, eye contact with the camera lens, and camera positioning.  As your videos get better, they will get more views.  The YouTube algorithm will rank your videos with the most views higher than the others.  As a result, your good videos will quickly and organically rise to the top and get thousands of views, while your less-watched videos will get less.  Don’t remove any videos.  From our experience, if you remove a video, your ranking is penalized because you’re taking away content. YouTube thrives on more content, therefore they reward you the more you publish (and the more frequently you post).

Book Trailer Pro Tip: Consider making a snazzy ninety-second “trailer” about your book to put at the top of your YouTube homepage.  If you don’t have the expertise to shoot the film, add graphics, use good music (that you have the rights to), and edit sharply, this is the place to consider hiring an inexpensive freelancer with experience to do it for you.


Time to Publish

In six short steps, your video is ready to publish.  The big things to remember are 1) Google owns YouTube, so the search results of this video are based on the words you use, and 2) If you love blogging, you’re going to love this.  It’s the same format as WordPress and the same results.  Fill this page out just like a blog entry.

Under “Info and Settings:”

  1. Create a headline for your video. This is the large print that will be above your video clip.  It’s SEO-friendly, so make sure your keywords are included.  Also, if you’re sharing knowledge, hint towards that (i.e., “How to…,” “Learn about…,” or “Understand why…”).
  2. Create your body summary.  Like a blog post, 300+ words is great.  You’re encouraged to be redundant by repeating the information you share from your video (don’t forget, your video is spoken, not read, so use those words here).  Imagine this as the summarized transcription.  Start with a written reminder to “SUBSCRIBE!” Why?  Because YouTube wants people to subscribe to your channel; that shows them that you create value for your audience and helps them rank your videos.  Reminding people to ‘subscribe’ isn’t annoying.  Verbally do so in your video, then again remind them at the start and end of your summary.  Also, be sure to include your book’s name, your name, your publisher’s name.  Include all of your social media addresses and include links to every website where someone can purchase your book.
  3. Keywords. How do you want someone to find you on YouTube?  Think about the words or search items you’d use, then reverse engineer the process.  As always, start with your book’s name, your name, your publisher’s name.  If you wrote a business book examples are “how to write a business plan,” “start a business,” and “grow a business.”  If you wrote a travel book, try “affordable travel,” “best European vacations,” or “ways to visit Europe.”

Under Enhancements:

  1. Trimming. If you haven’t used video editing software, YouTube offers options. Here you have the ability to make minor video edits and minor visual adjustments.  You can trim away the beginning or end of the video.  You can add additional light.  You can also stabilize the image if the camera is shaky from being handheld.  The reality is each of these tasks is better done in a third-party editor like iMovie or Final Cut Pro.  With that said, Joe has used both trimming and lighting here and been happy with the results.
  2. Audio. If you want to add copyright free music under your video, YouTube has great options.  The important piece here is that it’s an opportunity available for you.
  3. End Screen and Annotations. We highly recommend this, especially as you build up your video series.  This is an important way for a viewer to be invited to subscribe and/or watch more of your videos. Choose “Use Template”, then select the layout you want to use at the end of your video.  Options are a logo (when a viewer clicks it they subscribe to your channel) and up to two video windows.  The video windows “tease” different options from your channel that a viewer can also watch.  Such as Choose Playlist, Best for viewer, Most recent upload.  When your video ends, this populated layout will pop-up offering your viewers more ways to watch your content.


YouTube Advertising

To get visibility, especially in the beginning, it’s well worth spending a few dollars to promote your videos on YouTube:

  • Add your YouTube link
  • Create your three-line headline and sub-headings
  • Choose your target audience
  • Choose your daily budget
  • For as little as $1-5 daily, you can reach thousands of people per week

Equally importantly, that same video can be found by media avenues such as blogs, local newspapers, national and global press.  What does this mean to authors and the publicity and marketing teams who support them?  It means YouTube’s video marketing is a very viable option to reach and sell your books.


Final Note

Now it’s time to create content that’s relevant to your target audience.  YouTube is exploding in all genres — art, beauty, tutorials, fiction, comedy, wine/food, travel, and many others.  The audience believes and values UGC (user-generated content) more than promotional content, so viewers will appreciate the intimacy of you speaking to the camera, with valuable information that is expressed in a passionate and enthusiastic way.  Now it’s your turn to be a YouTube star.


Joe’s Comments on Filming Your Videos

For me, this is the scariest moment. I freeze as the red light comes on. I talk too fast and my body language is atrocious. Here’s what I learned. Your first goal is to be friendly and charming. Force yourself to smile and relax. Take your time. Speak slower. Speak as though your words matter and you want everyone who’s listening to *hear* you. Second, be aware of your body language. Sit up straight and lean towards the camera. Next, look right into the lens when you speak. It evokes confidence and trust. Lastly, smile. I mention smile a few times because it’s really important. I shot a video where I was excited and happy, but my face didn’t convey it. I looked downright angry which isn’t helpful. Keep reminding yourself to smile.


You’re an author.  You’re a passionate expert on the story and ideas you want to share. The information is valuable. With a smile, eye contact, and speaking in a calm, listenable pace, your audience will want to listen.


This isn’t a graduate class for attendees to become masters at your topic. This is a “meet and greet” for your fans to get to know you better. Stay light, stay happy, and keep your audience wanting more. The biggest mistake I’ve made in the past was by trying to cover too much in three minutes. I’m a self-confessed nerd. I love to learn. But most audiences want to receive less.

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