Use YouTube videos to promote your textbook

Textbook videosLydia Cline, a drafting professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and the author of five text and trade books, said she has found that posting short videos on her books’ topics to YouTube can be an effective way to promote them.

She originally created her channel, ProfDrafting, to post classroom topics for her students. “They enjoy the videos as a supplement to their text,” said Cline. On the advice of her TAB/McGraw-Hll editor, she added book content videos. In less than a year she collected 137 subscribers and over 31,000 views, even though she does no promotion beyond telling her students about it. “The channel has returned benefits in ways I didn’t anticipate. With YouTube’s amazing analytics, I can see how long viewers watch the videos, which videos are popular, and which are ignored. My observation is that once a channel starts attracting views–mine were initially from my students–YouTube starts promoting it via the Suggested Videos sidebar and the videos also appear in a Google search. I can see who the subscribers are, and most are NOT my students. They’re from all over the world. I knew YouTube had a global audience, but wow, my subscriber list really hammers that home to me.”

The amount of time a video is watched is also significant, she said, as she interprets a fast click-off to mean the video didn’t deliver the information wanted, the viewer got the information wanted in the time watched, or the content was delivered in a boring manner. “All this informs my writing; I remove, rewrite and enhance content based on how many views a subject receives and how long they watch the video.”

Cline said it takes her about 30 minutes to create each video, which she does when she has the time and inclination, which is often at 1 a.m. She currently has 68 videos on her channel. “I made an additional 39 videos to accompany my SketchUp book, but they’re on the Wiley site because as detailed as they are, we worried that putting them on YouTube might cannibalize sales,” she said. “My YouTube videos are shorter, less detailed, and the book sells well, so if the videos are hurting sales, I can’t tell. I prefer to think they’re helping sales. When I remember to, I put an image of my book’s cover at the video’s beginning. But I don’t like being promotional. I prefer to just give some good content away and list my books in the About section.”

Cline shares this additional advice for others wanting to start a YouTube channel to promote their books:

  • Purchase a quality microphone that plugs into a USB port. “Good sound is essential. A quality mike will capture your voice and filter out small noises,” she said. “One can be bought for about $70. Mine is a Blue Yeti.”
  • Use a good editing program, not the free one that comes with your OS. “It doesn’t have to be top-shelf; I use Camtasia Studio,” she said. “Once you get over its learning curve, editing is fast work. I find making videos kind of fun, actually.”
  • Keep videos to 2 minutes or less, although longer ones will be watched as long as they’re good and succinct.
  • Set your screen to a low resolution (1280 x 720) before recording. It will make menus more readable.
  • Study competitor videos for what you like and don’t like. “I personally hate sitting through introductory chatter, so I get right to the video’s subject,” she said.
  • Videos can be a sales tool for any book. “While software is an obvious subject, I think any content could have videos made about it; you may just have to brainstorm the non-obvious subjects,” she said. “A colleague teaches accounting and his YouTube channel has over 17,000 subscribers!”
  • Don’t be discouraged if there are already many other YouTube videos on your subject. “There are probably a bunch of books on your book’s subject too, but I daresay you wrote yours because you thought you could do a better job,” she said. “Maybe you can do better videos too.”

Do you use YouTube to promote your textbooks? If so, share your story here. What tips and tricks do you suggest for other textbook authors considering this strategy?

About Kim Pawlak

Kim Pawlak is Director of Publishing & Operations for the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA). She has been writing about the textbook and academic authoring and publishing industry for 20 years.