Session: How Authors Attract Readers and Make Money on YouTube
Too often, a writer’s voice is drowned out within the crowd of bloggers producing the same messages on the same platforms. Enter YouTube, one of the most popular media-sharing websites available, yet it’s completely underutilized by authors. It’s no secret why—putting your face on camera is scary—but the overwhelming benefits to setting up an “AuthorTube” channel have many writers summoning their courage and broadcasting their publishing journey for the world to see. Learn how YouTube allows writers to expand their readership exponentially, market their work on a budget, and easily incur multiple forms of income outside of book sales.
Format: Video Interview
Audience: All Levels
This post is part of London Book Fair Self-Publishing Advice Conference (#SelfPubCon2019), an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox. We hope you enjoy this session. Let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic. Visit our Facebook Group and join in the conversation there, or leave your questions and feedback in the comments section below.
Sacha: Welcome back everybody to the self publishing advice conference. I’m Sacha Black and I am joined today with Jenna Moreci. Hello, Jenna.
Jenna: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Sacha: It’s an absolute honour and a pleasure to have you. So Jenna, would you like to introduce yourself, first of all and tell us a little bit about how you made your way to Youtube?
Jenna: Sure. Uh, my name is Jenna Moreci. I am a full time science fiction and dark fantasy author as well as an authortuber aka an author on Youtube. The way I made my way to Youtube is really, lackluster and not as glamorous as people think, pretty much for a really long time I was a blogger, I had a blog going, people would read my blog, that had a small but loyal audience and a lot of people would tell me, “You’re really funny. You give good writing advice, you should start a Youtube channel.” And I thought, “Okay, no, never going to happen. That sounds horrible. That sounds terrifying. I’m not going to do it.” And that went on for a couple of years. And then something personal happened in my life. My now fiance suffered a serious accident.
Jenna: He broke his spine and when you go through something like that, it kind of changes your outlook on life. You know, it changes, it reminds you how much or how little time you have on this planet. And while he was going through recovery, I signed on to be his caregiver and you know, the blog went stagnate because his health came first. And by the time he started getting better and I had time to go back into blogging, I thought, you know what? I’m just going to bite the bullet. I’m going to start a Youtube channel. Everyone says I’d be good at it. Might as well give it a shot. What have I got to lose? We’ve only got one life to live. So I started the channel pretty much with no thought that it would go anywhere. There wasn’t really a community of writers on Youtube at the time. I think I had seen only three other writers on Youtube. So I was just, you know, winging it. I didn’t think it would go anywhere. And then my channel exploded and now there’s a huge community on authortube. It’s crazy. And you know, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t just taken that risk and gone for it so kind of crazy how it all worked out.
Sacha: I think that so true and somebody said to me the other day, “If you don’t take risks you stay still and do you want to stay in the same place you are now?” And yeah, so it’s amazing.
Jenna: Exactly. Yeah. I mean I had no idea it would take off. My goal was a hundred subscribers. I was like, if I reached triple digits I will. And then once I hit a hundred, I was like, I’m going to be very, you know, ambitious and I’m going to go for a thousand subscribers and now I’m at 155,000 subscribers. I quite literally did not think it would ever get to this place where, you know, writing books is my job and Youtube is my side gig.
Question: Can you tell us a bit about YouTube as an author platform? Why could/should we use it and what benefits does it bring?
So the biggest benefit in my opinion of Youtube is the fact that it’s not saturated with writers right now, there is an authortube community, but it’s pretty small, especially compared to other communities on Youtube. And additionally, most writers when they get started trying to build their audience and you know, gain awareness for their platforms, they start blogging and that’s a really obvious choice to make and there’s a lot of benefits to it, but the fact is blogs are highly saturated right now.
Jenna: Everyone has a blog, even outside of writing, you know, moms have blogs, nutritionists have blogs, so it’s really easy to be drowned out by all the other voices. When I had my blog, I had it going for a couple of years and I had, you know, like 200 loyal followers and I felt good about that because I didn’t have any books out. I didn’t have any real kind of following outside of that. But I pretty much got to a point where I had plateaued and it was really hard for me to reach new followers because I was competing with a million other blogs out there. With Youtube, it’s not that way. There just aren’t that many writers on Youtube and it’s kind of, obvious why, it’s terrifying. You’re putting your face on camera and you, every, people are getting exposed to more than just your writings.
Jenna: They’re getting exposed to you as a person. It’s a very vulnerable experience and most of us writers are introverts and we don’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do it, so I completely understand why people are reluctant to make this choice. But the exposure you get can be insane. You reach a much wider audience than if you were to just stick with blogging because there’s, I mean, less competition essentially. There are less people drowning out your voice. And it’s a different way to sort of expose your personality, get people not only interested in your writing, but also interested in you as a person. And in my opinion, in the writing industry, one of the biggest benefits of branding yourself is branding you as an author, letting people know who you are. So they are not only a fan of your work, they are a fan of you and I mean that’s worked for J K Rowling, Stephen King, all the big names. People will buy their books just because their name is on it. So it’s kind of plays into that as well. It’s a lot easier to brand yourself if people can see you and get to know you as a person. So Youtube obviously has a million benefits. It’s not for everyone. But I definitely recommend giving it a shot, testing the waters, seeing how it works for them.
Question: Do you feel like your readers get to know you better because they ‘see’ you rather than only read your words?
Jenna: Yeah, I definitely think my subscribers and everything, they feel like they know me. It’s funny because, it gets very personal. You know, everyone on my channel knows about my fiance, Cliff’s back injury. People will write us letters specifically to Cliff just saying, I hope you feel better and I hope your recovery improves. We got a puppy recently and I receive fanart of our puppy Buttercup. I mean like everyone, they’ve given me a nickname. My nickname throughout college was Cyborg and now my subscribers calling me the Cyborg Queen. Like, it’s definitely more than just about the books. You know, they’re are also a fan of, you know, the whole deal. You know, my personality, a lot of people, they know what kind of music I listen to. They know what snacks I like.
Jenna: I’ll receive Red Vines in the mail because I’m a big fan of Red Vines. Yeah, it’s crazy and it’s kind of surreal for me because like I mentioned before, I really wasn’t interested in starting Youtube initially. I’m an introvert and it’s weird that, I mean weird in a good way, that so many people, you know, know about me at this point. And like me, despite all the kooky dorky goofiness, you know what I mean?
Sacha: That’s why they love you.
Jenna: Thank you. I just always, you know, like a lot of writers I’m like, “Oh, I’m kind of a weirdo,” you know? But I think it surprises people to see like how many people can relate to that and you’ve kind of like, when I started my channel I was like, no one’s gonna watch this. I’m just, you know, a potty mouth weirdo.
Jenna: And then I ended up being the reason why everyone liked the channel, you know, so it’s definitely interesting and it’s very heartwarming and touching to see how many people are like, “Oh, you just seem really cool. Like we could be friends,” and I’m like, “Stop it! Thank you!”
Question: As an indie author, multiple streams of income are key to our business stability. What are the different ways you can generate income on YouTube?
Definitely. Well obviously with Youtube there is, there are a lot of different, you know, ways to generate income. The most obvious one is through ad revenue. When you put ads on your video, you do receive revenue from all the ads that play, the bigger your channel grows, the more revenue you take in. So it’s nice to, excuse me, have that extra benefit, especially, you know, as an indie author or as an author in general. You know, authors don’t always, especially if you’re just getting started, authors don’t always make the most money, so it’s nice to have that little side income coming in.
Jenna: Once your channel gets to a certain level, you also start to receive a sponsorship requests. Um, I’m always a little wary of sponsorships, mostly because they can be a huge benefit to your channel, but some people get very sponsor happy and it’s like anyone who comes to them, it’s like, “Yes, yes, yes, pay me. I’ll advertise your product.” You know? And that’s basically how sponsor works. They pay you to mention your product or mention their product in your video. But you’ll receive sponsorship requests from companies that have nothing to do with your channel, like perfume, jewelry, just the most random stuff. I won’t get into all but gaming apps, things like that. And it’s like I have a writing channel, I get people writing advice. So this is not relevant at all. But some people, you know, they’ll just taking whatever they can and it’s easy to see why, you know, it’s extra money.
Jenna: But I personally would advise against taking any sponsor that comes your way because you know, you have to keep in mind your audience first and foremost are the reasons that you’re here. They’re the reason that you’re able to do what you love for a living, so you should respect them. And so for me personally, I have taken on a few sponsors, but I will only take on sponsorships with companies that I would personally recommend to a friend. Either way, if they were paying me or not, I would tell my friend, “Yes, I like this company. You should use them.” And it has to be relevant to my platform. But once you get to a level where sponsors are coming in and they are relevant to your platform and you do feel strongly about the company, that’s another great source of income.
Jenna: It’s just kind of like putting a little tiny commercial at the beginning of your video. Another source of income is affiliate links. This is something that a lot of bloggers have as well. So I’m sure a lot of writers who are tuning in or familiar with affiliates, it’s the same deal on Youtube. You can have the affiliate links in your description box and you get a cut of whatever, you know, profit is encouraged through that link. And then the last option is through merch. I’ve seen other authors who create little merch stores, you know, like tee shirts with their book, mugs, things like that and usually they don’t get a ton of traffic because they don’t get as much traffic through their website or, or wherever else. With Youtube, it’s a lot easier to generate a merch store because it’ll display right beneath your channel.
Jenna: You have that option to have the merch shelf, which will be right beneath your video. So it’s kind of always there. And also once someone becomes a fan of your channel, they start requesting the merch, they start saying, you always say “But Jenna” in your videos, can we get a “But Jenna” mug? You know? And so you start being able to tailor your merch specifically to what people are asking for because they are quite literally commenting it. And so those are just a few of the revenue streams that you can incur by doing Youtube. And it’s, I mean it’s, it’s definitely helpful to supplement the author income that way. From my experience.
Question: You also mix Patreon with YouTube, can you tell us more about that income stream?
Jenna: It’s kind of a funny story because I had heard about Patreon for a long time, but was very reluctant to create an account. And for anyone who’s not familiar, Patreon is a website where you can support creators directly through donations.
Jenna: And in return you get little rewards. And it was something that I had heard about and I was kind of reluctant to do it because I just felt weird about the idea of accepting donations. You know, I just, it just felt a little uncomfortable, but it got to a point where I was receiving tweets and emails and comments saying, where’s your Patreon, I would like to donate, where is your patreon, where is your patreon? And I was kind of like, “Oh, I didn’t know this was a thing that other people requested.” I thought this was just a thing that the creators were like, “Please help me.” But apparently the fans and the readers want to do this. And that made me feel a little bit more comfortable with the idea. So I created the Patreon and it’s actually been super rewarding. I’m so glad I did it mostly because it creates a kind of a little community of, you know, close readers and subscribers and whatnot who chat with you and you get to know them and it’s become really, really fun.
Jenna: Like, my $1 reward tier, which is the lowest tier, is I have a private writing group specifically for my patrons. And, so I get to chat with them all the time. I have the writing group up while I’m writing every single day. And so I’m constantly chatting with my patrons and getting to know them and I become friends with a lot of them and it’s just been, it’s been super rewarding and I’m glad that I finally bit the bullet and did it. But of course obviously it’s another great source of income. Pretty much a hundred percent of my Patreon funds goes toward my channel and my platforms. So I originally was just filming on my Facetime camera on my laptop. Now I have a professional camera, I have lighting equipment, I have a backdrop, things like that that was all funded by Patreon. So it’s nice to have that one avenue of revenue where you know everything that’s coming from it. It’s going right back into the platform. And so I’m not having to like dip into the bank to upgrade everything.
Question: What’s involved in actually recording, editing and getting a YouTube video live?
Jenna: It takes a long time. I’m not going to lie. It is really long and painstaking, but also I let it be known. I am a perfectionist, so that could also have something to do with it and currently I do everything. Me and cliff, we do everything ourselves. That will change in the near future as I start hiring staff. But right now it’s all on us. But, I script all of my video talk topics ahead of time and, I never cover a topic that I personally don’t feel confident or well versed in because I don’t feel it’s fair or authentic for me to give writing advice about something that I have no authority or experience in. Like I’m not about to give, you know, a ton of nonfiction writing advice when I’ve never written nonfiction. So I script all my topics and even though I feel confident in the information I’m giving, I’ve made sure to research it just to make sure that what I believe in, what I have learned kind of matches up with sort of, you know, other experts.
Jenna: So that right there can take several hours. When I script it, I make sure I’ve scripted in sort of the way that I speak. You know, not, it’s not like a normal script where you’re making it grammatically correct and everything like that. I write it in a way where I would feel comfortable saying the words and you know, it reflects my personality. Then there’s the actual filming, setting up everything. It takes a while. Cliff is my camera man. He handles all the equipment. I don’t even know how half of this stuff works. So he takes care of that. And then the actual filming, I would say each video takes, each topic takes about a half hour to 45 minutes to film and each topic, once people, the video goes live, it’s usually 10 minutes. So there’s a lot of extra footage, there’s a lot of mistakes.
Jenna: There’s a lot of, you know, me messing with my hair or taking a sip of water, my dog, so that when the editing comes into play and the editing is what takes the longest, you know, cutting everything, trimming it down, adding the effects, adding music, things like that. That’s what takes the longest. So, I think one video could probably take a couple of days of work. I try to, yeah, I know, I try to film in bulk so I will film like three videos in a day and then, you know, spend the next day editing all of them. So that kind of speeds up the process a little bit. So it’s like three videos in two days. But yeah, it can be really, really time consuming. But also keep in mind that most people who are getting started with authortube, they don’t have the equipment they need to fiddle with. They are using their webcam. That makes it a lot easier. I’m just at a position now where it’s, you know, a little bit more time consuming and a little more involved.
Question: Are there any considerations authors should make when using images, music or jingles in videos?
Jenna: Definitely. For a effects, there are a lot of websites where if you want like fancy effects and things like that, plugins, that sort of thing. There are a lot of websites where you can buy that material. But a lot of stuff is available for free and it’s royalty free. Like the music that I use in my videos, it’s all royalty free and it’s available through Final Cut Pro. It’s available through Imovie, things like that. A lot of the transitions I use, it’s available through Final Cut Pro. It’s all, you know, free to use. You just want to, if you’re using anything from online, anything from the Internet, make sure it’s royalty free and make sure it’s free to use and free to download. But most of the stuff I use, it’s all from the editing platform itself. Usually if I’m adding pictures or things like that, it’s of other authors or other youtubers, because I’m talking about them on my channel and in that case you’ve just gotta make sure it’s okay with them.
Jenna: It’s usually okay with them because it’s free advertising. But yeah, I mean there are definitely things to consider, especially if you’re going to be using music from like, you know, a popular artist. That was something, I have a few videos where I’ve used, you know, music by Nine Inch Nails or whatever. That was something that I had to research and look into because it can get a little tricky there. But most of the time it’s so easy to find royalty free music. There are youtube channels devoted to royalty free music and you can just download it right from the channels. So it’s definitely something to consider, but it’s really easy to get around it. It’s, you’re fine.
Question: What equipment does an author need to start a YouTube Channel?
Jenna: When I first got started, I used my Facetime camera on my laptop and natural lighting from the window. There are plenty of channels that do this and are doing okay. And please, when I say that, don’t compare where you’re at to where I’m at with 155,000 subscribers. I’m saying this because a lot of people will look at my channel and be like, “Okay, I need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment.” I didn’t get this set up until I had surpassed 100,000 subscribers. I was using my Facetime camera for the first hundred thousand subscribers, the first four years or whatever that I’ve been doing this. So please don’t look at my, you know, backdrop and all that stuff. That was because of my patrons that I was able to afford it. So you can certainly get by with a Facetime camera and natural lighting. So long as the natural lighting is decent.
Jenna: But there are definitely tricks and tips to help you up your game. A really cheap, as far as lighting goes, a really cheap light is to go for is a ring light. I have a ring light as well. I also use box lights and a backlight, but again, you don’t have to go that far yet. I would also recommend investing in a nice microphone because it’ll make the listening experience more pleasant and it will prevent your voice from peaking. So if you are going to buy equipment, those are the two things I would recommend. First, a ring light and a microphone even before the camera. Because I think those are the things that bother people the most more than the image quality. It’s going to be changes in the lighting and the way your voice sounds. So the end of the day they’re listening to you and if your voice sounds grating, that’s going to be what makes them turn it off.
Jenna: If you decide to, if you’re, you know, if it’s working out for you and you decide to invest in more, there are a lots of cheap cameras available that you can get. But like I said, just getting started, I just use my laptop and window lighting and it works fine for me. So you really, you really don’t have to invest that much to get started. And there are a lot of people who will invest a ton in equipment from the very beginning, and then the channel doesn’t pan out and that’s fine. That happens. It’s not for everyone, but you don’t want to be in the hole over an experiment, you know what I mean? So I would recommend if you’re just getting started, just go the cheap route and figure out if it’s going to work for you before you invest all the cash. That’s just my opinion.
Question: What three things do you wish you’d known before you started your channel?
Jenna: Okay. I’ll start with the first mistake that I made. And that was that when I first started, I was very nervous obviously and I was trying really hard to be professional, like people need to take me seriously. And so I was, I was talking a lot more professionally and a lot like with maturity and I would slip in a joke here and there, but my channel wasn’t really going anywhere. And that went on for a few months and I just got to a point where I was like, whatever. And no one’s watching anyway, so I’m just going to be myself. And I made a video that was filled with curse words cause that’s how I normally talk. And it was very sarcastic because that’s how I normally am. And I was just making lots of jokes and it was because I was like, “No one’s watching. So who cares?”
Jenna: And then that was the video that suddenly launched my channel and my growth just grew exponentially. And it was funny because I released the video and then the next day I went off to my sister’s bachelorette party, which was in Disneyland. And I am, we all wear those, you know, like the bachelorette party groups in Disneyland, they wear like the tutus and they have the ears. I’m standing in line in a tutu and Mickey ears just staring at my phone. Like it was crazy and I’m supposed to be there celebrating my sister and I went from like 200 subscribers to 9,000, you know, and it was all because I had finally released a video where I was being authentic and that is the number one piece of advice I would give is just be yourself, be authentic. If yourself is kind of weird and awkward, that’s fine.
Jenna: Weird and awkward is great. So many writers are weird and awkward. Be weird and awkward. If yourself has a potty mouth and is sarcastic be that, you know, and don’t try to emulate what someone else is doing. I say that because a lot of people, they’ll look at what’s working for someone and be like, “Oh, she cusses a lot on her videos. I’m going to cuss a lot too.” People can tell when you’re faking it or you’re trying to be like someone else. So really the key is to just be yourself. It translates, it’s relatable and people like authentic people, people like people who aren’t afraid to look a little silly or a little goofy and we are all a little silly and goofy and you know, research the other authortubers who are doing well and see what they’re doing. And you’ll see that everyone has a completely different personality.
Jenna: They are all different extremes and that’s because they’re all, you know, being themselves. That is the number one piece of advice I would give. The second piece of advice I would give is to pay attention to what people actually want, to, you know, what are people actually looking for? I give writing advice because a lot of people ask me for writing advice. That’s what they wanted. And I give writing advice on topics that I feel knowledgeable and also that people are specifically requesting a lot of authortubers. We’ll start with a video saying, “Hi, my name is Jenna Moreci. This is what I’m about. I like to do this. I like to do that. I have a dog, I listen to metal, blahdy, blahdy Blah. No one knows who you are. No one knows you and they probably don’t care. So if you’re starting with that, if you are opening with an intro into you, no one is going to watch it because they don’t know you.
Jenna: So you got to start with what people want. You start with the advice and as your channel grows and as you give more advice and they get to know your personality, that’s when they’re going to start to say, “Hey Jenna, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” So, so open with the goods, the information, open with what makes you a valuable platform and then go into pitching yourself, pitching your work, things like that. Because it’s only once people start to get to know you and start to relate to you and your personality that they are going to start to care about what you’re about. I’m trying to think of a third piece of advice because those are very important. Oh, get to the point in the videos because you’ll see a lot of videos where it’s 20 minutes and then at the end they’re like, basically what I mean is x, y, z. No one wants to sit through the 20 minute video to get to the Xyz, make the video as short and compact as possible, cut out all the ums and uhs and just deliver the information because people have very short attention spans and their patience is waning. So cut out all the dead space and just get to the information.
Question: You often give writing tips in your YouTube videos. How can authors market their books effectively on YouTube?
Jenna: Well, I give writing advice specifically for fiction writers and I usually focus on the content that I am most comfortable with the content that I, myself, write. So usually my advice revolves heavily around fantasy, romance and Sci Fi and a lot of the people who tune into my channel, as I mentioned before, they, as they’re watching more and more videos, they become, you know, interested in me as a person. And that translates to being interested in what I’m working on. And a lot of people, as you mentioned, they grow fond of my voice, the way I give information and the way I speak. And so they think, “Oh, that’ll probably translate into her writing.” And so they check out my work that way. Also I give writing advice alongside giving updates for my personal publishing journey. So people are fully aware of where I’m at in the process.
Jenna: Right now I am writing the companion novel to my dark fantasy novel. Everyone’s aware of that. Right now I’m working on an audio book for my dark fantasy novel. Everyone’s aware of that as well. They’re all kept up to date and I’ll make videos dedicated to my books, I hold giveaways dedicated to them. I give out free copies of my books. I hold one giveaway a month and it usually is revolving around some milestone regarding my books. So I can with 100% certainty say I would not be a full time author if it wasn’t for my Youtube platform because Youtube has given me the biggest, easiest source of marketing and 90% of it is completely free.
Jenna: Of all the expenses I have in my career marketing is my smallest expense because I have this big Youtube platform and I can easily just say on my platform, “Hey guys, I’m releasing a book. You can preorder it down below.” You know, it’s such an easy way for me to reach readers because most writers are readers. And when I started my channel, I was writing my debut novel, a noodle Sci Fi novel, Eve The Awakening. I released that novel. And since then I’ve been able to make, you know, writing and Youtube my full time job. And I never in a million years thought that I would be doing writing full time after one, two books. You know, I thought, “Okay, maybe 10 books down the road. I could make it a full time gig.” But it’s my full time job now. And that’s because I have this Youtube platform, which makes it so easy for me to reach so many readers.
Question: Where can we find out more about you?
Jenna: You can find me at youtube. My channel is called Writing with Jenna Moreci. It’s at youtube.com/jennamoreci. I’m also at jennamoreci.com and I’m all over social media, Twitter, Instagram, everywhere. You will find me at jennamoreci and don’t forget to check out my books. My most recent one is The Savior’s Champion, which is a dark fantasy novel, and I’m currently working on the companion novel, The Savior Sister, and you can find The Savior’s Champion everywhere. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Nook, The Book Depository, wherever, wherever books are The Savior’s Champion is there too.
Sacha: Amazing. Thank you so much, Jenna.
Jenna: Thank you.
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