Scifi Thriller and Fantasy author PT Hylton launched his career as an indie author a year and a half ago with the publication of his first book Regulation 19. Now he has five titles under his belt and more on the way. In this week’s interview, we talk about his journey so far, and how he’s using BookTube, a YouTube community of enthusiastic and hardcore readers, to connect with readers.
BookTube News – BookTube Advice + Tips Masterpost (*additional resource)
Previous to launching his indie author career, PT Hylton ran a popular podcast for eight years called “Six Strings Bliss.”
Following its “natural conclusion,” PT says he was riding around in the car with his daughter who was six years old at the time, talking about her dreams in life, and she asked him, “Do you have any dreams?”
“I want to be a writer,” he told her.
“Well, then why aren’t you doing that?” she wanted to know.
So PT set out to write a novel…and he did so by giving himself an ultimatum and announcing it publicly on YouTube: He was going to write a novel in three months, or he would have to delete whatever he had written on the novel and never use that idea again. It would be gone forever.
It worked. Three months later, he had completed the first draft of Regulation 19, Book 1 in the Deadlock Trilogy. He started querying agents right away, but soon abandoned that path after discovering the world of indie publishing. He quickly hired an editor, and three months later, it was published in March of 2014, and now boasts 120 reviews with a 4.5 star rating.
To market the book, PT tried to leverage his podcast audience, but discovered there was very little crossover between the two audiences. So he turned to book promotion sites. He started out with BookSends, getting his first reviews through a 99-cent sale; then moved on to Ereader News Today; and landed a BookBub spot after two tries, resulting in 23,000 downloads and a nice spike to the Amazon algorithms that carried out for some time.
Looking back, PT notes his biggest mistakes were not having an optimized email subscriber signup ready to capture the audience generated by his book promotions, and not coming out with the next book for another five months. However, in the 10 months since that second book came out, PT has published three more titles, finishing out his Deadlock Trilogy, and has released the first two titles in a planned six-book fantasy novella series Zane Halloway, with another installment due to come out shortly.
PT followed up his self-served video ultimatum with more videos on his YouTube channel talking about his writing, but says no one watched them. But once he started talking about books he read, he soon discovered the giant community of readers on YouTube called BookTube. BookTubers are passionate, voracious, enthusiastic readers who love books so much, they want to share and discuss and talk about them.
As PT continued to put out more videos reviewing books that were similar to his, BookTubers started noticing him and giving him shoutouts and telling other other BookTubers to check him out, building his YouTube following to over 700 subscribers so far.
PT is quick to point out that YouTube is a social network first and foremost; in order to build a following, you have to offer content, consume and comment on other people’s content, and be an active participant in the community. He doesn’t talk about his own books constantly. He has a 10-to-1 rule where he’ll mention his books every 10 videos, focusing more on sharing good reads with other enthusiastic readers looking for the next awesome book to experience.
There are several common types of video posts that BookTubers like to create: a monthly TBR (To Be Read) list, Top 5 topics promoted by a goodreads group, and shout-out videos to point viewers to other BookTubers. PT says BookTubers like to keep titles consistent so that viewers can find that specific content easily; for example, the naming convention of month and topic, “September 2015 TBR,” allows readers to find the September 2015 TBR for all the BookTubers who titled their post that way.
PT also says a great place to find great BookTubers in the scifi/fantasy genre is on Twitter, using the hashtag #BookTubeSFF.
BookTubers tend to favor physical books over ebooks, PT notes, adding he sometimes makes as much money selling paperback copies direct from his site as he does from his ebook sales. To sweeten the deal for his readers, he not only signs the books, but will flip through the book and add four or five annotations in the margin, something that takes him minutes to do, but readers find to be awesome!
He’s also experimented with creative blog post series, like asking his readers weird questions, like, “If you could have a Super Google with 100% accuracy, would you want access to answers relevant before 1944 or after?”; or sharing story ideas for other writers to take and run with.
Another marketing avenue PT is interested in pursuing is making videos to display on his product pages to help pitch the book to interested readers similar to Blake Crouch’s Video Introduction on Product Page (scroll down to Related Media) – “Wayward Pines in 15 Seconds.”
Comic Book Conventions
Recently, PT’s wife talked him into renting a table at a local comic convention. While the actual income made selling books might not have been worth it, he says the face-to-face marketing experience was invaluable. You have 30 seconds to convince a convention attendee to buy your book, he says, and he very quickly learned that he sold more books by appealing to people emotionally: “You ever get the feeling that people are keeping secrets from you? That’s the feeling Frank Hinkle gets when he returns to his hometown after being unexpectedly released from prison. Something terrible has happened, but no one will talk about it.”
The emotional appeal versus pitching just the concept or premise is so strong that PT intends to evaluate and optimize his product sales descriptions to better appeal to readers’ emotional resonance with the story.
Next Big Thing:
PT Hylton will be teaching a workshop at the Speculative Fiction:Southeast 2015 convention (September 25-27, 2015) called BookTube 101: Using YouTube to Connect with Readers. You can also expect to see a new novella from him each month in his swashbuckling fantasy series Zane Halloway.
On building an BookTube audience: “I think the number one thing that the YouTube audience looks for is just authenticity and passion. Like, they don’t care if you – I’ve shot many of my videos just on my phone. I’ve used my web cam for a lot of videos. They’re not necessarily looking for the highest, most polished videos. What really comes through is just your passion and your authenticity. I think that’s what wins you viewers on YouTube.”
On dealing with haters: “I learned that the things that they hated about the book are the same exact things that some people really love about it.”
Action Steps to Start Building a Presence in BookTube:
- Make a short video review of your favorite book and throw it up on YouTube. (Estimated time: 30 minutes.) Don’t overthink it, don’t script it, don’t worry about production value…just make a video of yourself talking about a book you love and share it with the world. Tell people what it means to you and how it maybe inspired you in your own writing.
- Share your To Be Read list in a video and post it to YouTube. (Estimated time: 30 minutes.) Again, don’t overthink it. Just grab the next four titles you plan on reading, turn on the camera, and share your list.
- To start, watch five BookTube videos, subscribe to the ones you enjoy, and leave a friendly comment. (Estimated time: 30 minutes.) Be prepared to make friends and add to your TBR list.
- Shout Out Your Favorite BookTubers. (Estimated time: 10 minutes.) It takes only seconds to acknowledge someone’s review on Twitter or share their video on Facebook. You can also make a short video to spread the word about your favorite BookTubers.
Indie Authors, what is your most effective content-marketing strategy to date? Is it blogging, making videos, podcasting, giving away free books? What content do you find most enjoyable to make, and what content does your audience most enjoy and respond to?
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