An Indie Author’s Social Media Primer | YouTube

You already use it to watch every video your friends send you on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and elsewhere.  Chances are, nine out of every ten video links you’re ever going to click (in this decade, at least) will link to something on YouTube.  It’s about time that indie and self-published authors get in on the action, don’t you think?  Only, wait a minute: they already are!

YouTube Screenshot

But before we dive into just how you can use YouTube to launch your self-marketing campaign, let’s address some of the basics.  What is YouTube?  It’s a video storage and hosting service which allows pretty much anyone who signs up for a free account to upload video files for public consumption (or private; like every other good social media platform, YouTube allows its users to toggle a number of privacy settings for each individual video as well as for their profile pages).  Once a video is posted to YouTube, fans and followers can distribute the link themselves, which makes it a great platform for viral campaigns.  And because videos are visceral in a way text sometimes isn’t, they make a fantastic impact on viewers’–and readers’!–imaginations.

Debunking the Great YouTube Myth: “It’s all cats, cats, cats.”

While I’m not above clicking a link to a good cat video every now and again (see what I did there?), I do think we’re doing a great disservice to the platform by claiming it’s all cats, because pretty much anyone who is anyone worth knowing about has a YouTube channel.  I’m talking VICE, John Green, Oprah, CNN, The New York Public Library … the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on … ad infinitum.

Top 5 Best Practices:

1. Post a book trailer.  We here at Self Publishing Advisor have written about the merits of book trailers before (here and here), but I just can’t emphasize enough how awesome a book trailer is–especially as regards your self-promotion and self-marketing agenda.  A book trailer provides a bite-sized (or “eye-sized”) bundle of information about your book to new readers for easy consumption.  A good book trailer will add drama and flair to your book’s public image … and it will also reach far more people.  YouTube’s algorithms will ensure that its users will stumble across your book whenever they search for similar videos or book trailers by other authors in the same genre.  Just make sure to take advantage of the metadata!

2. Post regularly, if not weekly.  You may or may not be familiar (and comfortable) with the term “vlogging,” internet slang for “video blogging.”  Authors like John Green verge on being professional video bloggers, in that they post videos of themselves with updates on their writing, answers to readers’ questions, or more generally, responses to fans, fandoms, and greater cultural trends.  You may not be a titan of Young Adult Literature like John Green, but you can definitely walk away with a few ideas from his channel.  Namely: provide new content on a regular basis (feed your followers!), consider tweaking your on-camera surroundings so that posts are well-lit and free of visual clutter (keep it simple!), and edit your posts before they go up in order to re-craft the posts for easy consumption (keep it short!).

3. Ask to join an existing station as a guest speaker.  Many channels such as Self-Publishing Roundtable will invite authors to serve as “guests” on their YouTube channels, in part to promote variety, and in part because they welcome the opportunity to provide new authors a voice.  Run a quick search on YouTube for channels to do with self publishing, navigate to that channel’s “About” page, and then click the “Send Message” button to contact the people on that channel directly.  You have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting out feelers for folks who might be interested in helping you launch your new (or existing) book.  A few might say “No,” but there are (as my grandmother used to remind me) plenty of fish in the sea.

4. Pay attention to the details.  I mentioned lighting, time length, and editing before.  A good way of figuring out how to frame and film your first couple of YouTube posts is to watch a whole bunch.  Not just Lady Gaga music videos, mind, but videos that are doing something similar to what you aim to do.  Find those self-publishing-related YouTube channels and see what they get up to in terms of audio quality, clutter, editing techniques, and so forth.  You can always choose what to take and what to leave from these videos–they’re just a sounding board, not a structured guide, but they’ll still give you ideas.  You’re not chained to anything that they do!  Just make sure that you’re making conscious and conscientious decisions about content and presentation.

5. Don’t overdo it … on your first video, or any following video.  You’ll notice that some of the most successful author-related YouTube channels preserve an element of spontaneity, of freshness, and of personality.  You definitely don’t want to scrub your YouTube videos of what makes you you.  But another, less acknowledged quality of successful YouTubers is that they pay attention to length.  A long video, even a long and professionally-made video, is daunting to the average watcher.  In 2014, Adweek ran an article full of infographics about the ideal length of everything digital (I’m not even kidding), from Twitter tweets to hashtags to YouTube videos.  And what did they find?  That of the top 50 videos on YouTube at the time, the average length fell somewhere close to 2 minutes and 50 seconds.  Amazing.  Any longer, and the video is no longer “eye-sized” and runs the risk of losing a new reader’s interest.  Once you have built up a substantial network of faithful YouTube subscribers, you can fudge around with limits and goals and things, but for a newcomer?  Stick to a quick hearty blend of style and substance that will hook new readers in without taking up too much of their time.

Most Overlooked Feature:

Without a question, the most feature most authors forget about when it comes to YouTube is the playlist.  What’s more, there are plenty of great resources out there that will walk you through the minutiae of how to set one up (this one, for example).  It’s not an “undiscovered” feature for hearty and dedicated YouTube users, but it is overlooked by many content providers.  Essentially, a playlist allows authors to group together videos to be played by others in a specific order.  It creates a narrative out of your video collection, and helps a lot with the whole “findability” thing.  They’re sharable on social media just like individual videos, and they’re easy to create and edit.  Really, there’s no reason not to use playlists to organize your files on YouTube.

I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

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