Interview with Books and Pieces

My guest today is booktuber Elizabeth from Books and Pieces, a Youtube channel with more than 5,000 subscribers.

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show, Elizabeth?

B&P: The amount of preparation needed for a video really depends on the content. Something simple like what I’ve been reading in a month is pretty minimal, but anything factual or requiring interesting visuals needs a lot more planning and prep. This could be anything from research and scripting to shopping for costume props!

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

B&P: I’ve got a lot of plans for the future because I’m at this weird point at the moment where I really want to take my content to a more professional level and spend a lot of time on it but I just can’t do that yet because my job is pretty full-on and I’m doing a Masters degree as well. Time is a precious commodity!

I will be making another multi-part series in the summer – complete with many ridiculous costumes and educational fun like my Science Fiction History last year. And there’s a plan for a different sort of series with readalongs and interesting history stuff that I’m still plotting out.

Plus I’ll be starting some interviews with people from the SF community – I guess much like you’re doing here, so this is your warning to expect an interview going in the other direction!

SCy-Fy: I can’t promise much in the way of costumes, though…

B&P: And I’m hoping to start making a lot more use of my website and blog that I started in January but haven’t had the time to do much with. I’ve got a list of plans for that as well.

One area I’d really like to work on is to do more collaborative projects. Whether that’s interviews, guests on the videos, readalongs, joint blog posts, or research projects, I want to make fun things with nice people!

I should stop talking about plans now, I’m starting to sound like Dr Evil.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for online presentation in future?

B&P: There’s the general challenge that we all face of making sure that we’ve got something relevant to say in an environment that’s always filling up with new voices. But I think that’s really a good thing – more to enjoy, more niches, more inspiration. Also, I think video is still finding its foothold in the wider media landscape of SFF. Online video as a whole is becoming a big industry but in the science fiction world we’re still a tiny and fairly unknown little world. It’s just a few individuals having a go and enjoying themselves, so there’s plenty of room to grow.

Probably the main challenge that most of the SFF video people face is how to grow and improve their content. Balancing the work, time, and funding needed to improve content is going to challenge a lot of people, but I think there are lots of possibilities out there.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give to anyone presenting?

B&P: Firstly, be aware that video can take a lot of time to create. A relatively simple five minute video might take me four or five hours to create and something more complicated can be a process of a day or two.

Secondly, give yourself time to figure it out. There are a few people who have arrived on YouTube with incredible professional quality videos that just blow me away (I’m thinking of the Marvellous Reading Room) but for most people they’re learning how to present and edit as they go along. You’re allowed to not know what you’re doing for a while – you will figure it out! I think video is way behind podcasting in terms of professionalism and whilst that can occasionally be frustrating it’s also great for just jumping in, having a go, and learning as you create.

SCy-Fy: What are your most useful resources?

B&P: The SF Encyclopedia is always handy when I need a fact-check, but most of the time I’d say that Twitter and YouTube are my best resources. It sounds daft, but twitter is my lifeline – if I need to find a useful app, know what’s being talked about in the SF world, or just catch up with people it’s my place to go.

And other YouTube channels are always going to be the best place to get ideas for improving your own content. Every video I watch gives me ideas for the future.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?

B&P: If you start a new channel, then be prepared for a million offers to join a partnership network – ignore them. Unless you’re in the big leagues, they don’t offer anything you need.

Don’t get too sucked into what other people are doing. ‘Booktube’ has its own conventions and familiar ideas that suit its pre-existing audience. But it’s good to take a step back and think about what you really want to make. Make things you love and you’ll want to keep making it and you’ll find an audience who love those things too.

SCy-Fy: Things that keep you going?

B&P: Every time someone leaves a comment or tweets me about my videos – it’s crazy but so heart-warming when anyone tells you they like your content. Plus the fact that so many comments and tweets have developed into real friendships and these great networks of interesting people. I can’t believe the amazing people that I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of years.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

B&P: Very little. I’ve had a few negative comments on videos about things like challenging your reading habits, but otherwise nothing. Clearly I need to make a bit more noise!

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

B&P: My most popular video is an old one – my very first recommendations for SFF books. I think it was just one of the first times that topic had been covered on YouTube (which is kind of hard to imagine) so it got a lot of hits.

SCy-Fy: Your personal favourite?

B&P: My personal favourite is still the Science Fiction History series. I loved making it and researching it and it still makes me laugh when I look back at all those costumes.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?

B&P: I’m nearly done with Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon at the moment and it is really wonderful. Oh, and Kameron Hurley – I started with Mirror Empire and I’m now working my way through the Bel Dame Apocrypha and I just love the worlds she comes up with. They’re so unusual.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading or watching?

B&P: I am excited about Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie in October because more time in that world will make me so happy. But I’m also kind of dreading it because it’s the last of the trilogy and that means an end! Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (Three Body Problem #2) because all the Chinese fans have been telling me that it’s even better than Three Body Problem. Oh, and also The Philosopher Kings which is the next book in Jo Walton’s Thessaly series (beginning with The Just City). It’s not often that I have so many sequels queued up!

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

B&P:  A thank you to you for inviting me here, an invitation for people to check out my Youtube channel or website and a general encouragement for more SFF people to try making video – join us!

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Elizabeth, and good luck with everything!

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