The BookTube panel took place at 5pm on Saturday of Summer in the City 2017. With Sanne Vliegenthart as moderator, the panellists included Genista Tate-Alexander from Penguin, author Lucy Powrie, and YouTubers Hannah Witton, Imani Shola, Olly Thorn, and Ariel Bissett.
The discussion covered a variety of topics, from the art of reviewing books on YouTube and expressing opinions online, to the publishing industry and books themselves. An alternative viewpoint was provided by publishing professional Genista, who was able to discuss working with BookTubers from an industry perspective.
The panel kicked off with a light discussion about the books that they’re currently reading, with responses ranging from a tenth reread of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Shirley by Charlotte Brontë and the non-fiction title Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. The conversation quickly moved on to critiquing books online, and whether the panellists feel that the opinions they have are valid. There was an agreement that anyone who reads has the right to express an opinion about what they read, while many of the panellists still feel their own self-doubt, with Ariel saying, “I have an English degree and I still feel that fear”.
Following this, Sanne asked the panellists whether they feel that books help with discussing difficult topics. The responses to this were mixed: while Hannah felt that books were a really useful way to generate discussion, Lucy said that she would sometimes “struggle to read about more difficult things” as she was worried about receiving a negative response online. The conversation then turned to the crossover between BookTube and the publishing industry, and the panellists’ experiences working with book publishers. While Olly has only ever been approached by a publisher once, Ariel said that she often turns down offers from publishers if they’re not something that she’s genuinely interested in, explaining that this way her audience “trust I’m recommending a book I actually liked”. Genista shared her experience of researching BookTubers to approach, saying that she always watches their videos to see what books they like before pitching to them.
In regards to what the panellists would like to see more of in the future, opinions ranged from more books about young people in their twenties to books with more BAME characters, with Imani suggesting more titles with Caribbean main characters. Sanne concluded the discussion by asking the panel how they convince people to read a book. Lucy wished that she knew the answer to this, while other BookTubers said that it was talking about the books they love that really inspires their viewers to pick up a book.
Questions from the audience were varied, with one audience member asking whether the panellists feel that trigger warnings should be included in books. There was much agreement that trigger warnings should be included, with Lucy pointing to the book publisher Hot Key’s use of information wheels on the backs of their books, which detail the general content of the book. The final question asked the panel members what makes a book stand out to them, with the panellists describing a range of different cover styles from minimalist to neon.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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