Interview with The Android’s Conundrum

I am sitting across from a book cover, behind which is hiding mysterious booktuber and reviewer Katherine from The Android’s Conundrum.

SCy-Fy: Katherine, getting into booktubing is a recent move for you, isn’t it?

TAC:  I’ve only been making YouTube videos for about six months now, but I’ve been writing book reviews for years. When I started making YouTube videos it was because I wanted to interact with people in a way that just wasn’t happening on my blog. But I realised that in terms of content I wanted to stick with reviewing books, so I just write out my book review and I use that as a sort of script for what I say in my video.

SCy-Fy: Where to from here?

TAC: I can’t say that I have anything exciting planned. For the most part I just want to keep on reviewing science fiction and fantasy books and interacting with people who read those books and want to have interesting discussions. That was my goal when I started making YouTube videos and I am quite happy to continue working towards that. Every now and then I do try to make different types of video.

SCy-Fy: Such as?

TAC: Within the community on YouTube there are a lot of standard videos that people make, such as tag videos, book haul videos, TBR videos and discussion videos. I think my niche is definitely book reviews but I do like to try my hand at other things from time to time.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the biggest future challenge for SFF booktubing?

TAC: I think in terms of the book community on YouTube, I would like to see a lot more SFF readers. The community is definitely growing, but at times it does seem to be dominated by people who read mostly YA fiction. I try to find people who make videos about science fiction and fantasy and follow those people, and personally I am only really interested in that SFF corner of the community. Even amongst the SFF readers, fantasy definitely dominates though, and I would love to see more people reading science fiction, too. So I think one challenge is encouraging more SFF readers to engage with YouTube and carve out a space in the community so that there is more diversity and variation.

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

TAC: I think if anyone is interested in starting to make YouTube videos, the main advice I would give people is to go ahead and try it and to find the style and format that works best for you. My own YouTube videos are rather unusual in this regard. Most people take the traditional approach of appearing in front of the camera, but I don’t do that.

SCy-Fy: Why is that?

TAC: I actually started watching YouTube videos a long time before I got around to making my own videos. I wanted to be part of the community but I felt that I couldn’t make videos because I didn’t want to appear on camera. I’m just not comfortable with being on screen. But eventually I decided to take my own approach, and now my videos are simply pictures of the book covers, with my audio commentary.

SCy-Fy: I waited a long time for you to appear on screen before I realised it just wasn’t going to happen!

TAC: I know that some people don’t like this format and I am undoubtedly limiting my audience by doing this, but I’ve also had positive feedback and some people have said that they are happy to watch my videos like this and it’s sort of like listening to a podcast. I’ve found a way to make videos that works for me and that I’m happy with, and while it may not be the traditional approach, it still allows me to participate in this community which I really enjoy.

So my advice would be that anyone can make videos, even if you don’t want to appear on camera, even if you don’t have a lot of fancy technology, you can find a way that works for you. My advice is ultimately don’t be afraid to try it and don’t be afraid to do things a bit differently from other people.

SCy-Fy: What is your best resource?

TAC: My biggest resource for making videos is the rest of the community on YouTube. I watch a lot of other videos and I interact with those people through leaving comments on videos and connecting with them on Goodreads and Twitter. Through those other people in the community I learn about lots of books that I want to read. I couldn’t make videos if I wasn’t in the first place reading great books that I can then review and talk about, and I find a lot of those books through other people on YouTube.

SCy-Fy: Is there a downside to that?

TAC: While the community is a great resource for finding books, there is a risk of certain books and authors getting over-hyped, and when everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and reading the same books, it can become a bit of an echo chamber. So while I do love finding out about books through YouTube, I think it’s also important for me to have other sources too, so that I’m not just reading the same books as everyone else, and I can talk about new books that perhaps other people haven’t heard of yet.

SCy-Fy: You mentioned that you started booktubing because you wanted to interact more with people.

TAC: With my reviews on my blog I was never really sure that anyone was reading. On YouTube there seems to be much more opportunity for feedback and interaction. I try not to care too much about how many views a video gets or how many likes or dislikes it receives. But comments are what I absolutely want to see on my videos, so that I can talk to people about books and make connections with people who like to read the same books as I do.

I know that in general on the internet, YouTube comments have a bad reputation, but the book community on YouTube is actually a very friendly place to interact with people. I do find that most of the people who leave comments are also people who make videos themselves, and I really wish more viewers would reach out and leave comments and get involved in the community.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

TAC: I’ve not really encountered any controversy on a personal level. Occasionally I have had people disagree with my reviews, usually if it’s a book that I’ve disliked and someone wants to defend it, but this is never done in a negative way. As I said before, people in this community are generally very friendly and polite even when they disagree. I also know that some people dislike the format of my videos as I discussed in a previous answer, but again I am happy to do my own thing.

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

TAC: I think my most popular video is actually the first video I ever posted, which was a review of the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. I think there is a lot of interest in that series because of the upcoming television adaptation. It’s a bit embarrassing because it was the first video I ever made and so it’s not of great quality compared to some of my more recent videos, I was definitely still finding my feet, but I am glad people still seem to find it worth watching.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a personal favourite?

TAC: My personal favourite video that I’ve made is probably my video about Iain M. Banks and the Culture series. He is one of my favourite science fiction authors and I love his books. I made a video which was sort of an overview of Banks and his work, particularly the Culture series, because I wanted to share my enthusiasm for him and his books. It’s one of my more popular videos and I do hope I’ve encouraged some people to pick up his books.

SCy-Fy: I’m sure you have. What have been the best books you have read recently?

TAC: Limiting myself to books that I’ve read over the past couple of months, I have been working my way through the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold and I love that series. The most recent books in the series that I have read are Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance, which were both fantastic. I have also read a couple of great fantasy series recently. I really enjoyed the Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan, which I thought was an incredibly inventive flintlock fantasy story. The other standout fantasy series I’ve read recently was the Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan, which was just such a fun series to read.

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

TAC: I am desperately looking forward to Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, because I utterly loved Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. I think it’s such an excellent science fiction series and I can’t wait to read the next book. I am highly anticipating The Price of Valour by Django Wexler and Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan. Those are both the third books in their respective trilogies, and both are fantasy series that I’ve really been enjoying. I am also looking forward to the new Neal Stephenson novel Seveneves, although I’m not sure quite what to expect from that one.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Katherine. I’ll leave now so that you can come out from behind that book.

TAC: Thank you very much for asking me to participate!

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