Interview with Nicole Poweleit (Nicole’s Adventures in SFF)

My guest today is booktuber Nicole Poweleit from Nicole’s Adventures in SFF.

SCy-Fy: Nicole, your channel has grown quickly to have more than 2,000 subscribers. What are your impressions so far?

NP: Overall, creating a booktube channel has been a great experience for me. There are some positives and some negatives to youtube as a platform, but for the most part I’ve loved it. In the year and a half I’ve been on booktube the community at large has grown drastically, and the SFF reading segment has grown as well.

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

NP: Broadly speaking, I think the book reviewing section of youtube has all the same troubles as other segments of youtube did 3-5 years ago. Booktube has grown a lot in popularity in the last 2 years or so, and we’re starting to see issues with how to appropriately monetize content, what sort of relationships with publishers are acceptable, etc, that a lot of other youtube communities have gone through as they grew.

There is also the more nebulous problem that most content is hosted exclusively on youtube and if the company ever decided to make any sweeping changes to the platform or when they experience random outages or whatever, it greatly impacts creators and viewers.

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

NP: First is: just do it. Creating youtube videos can be intimidating, but once you get into it and find the types of videos you like to make it’ll be a lot of fun.

The second piece of advice is to create things within your own ability. If you have the skills and resources to create high production quality videos, that’s great, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re like me and don’t. When I first started filming, I was using the built-in web cam on my computer and Windows Movie Maker.

SCy-Fy: What are you using now?

NP: My current editing software is Wondershare Video editor and I have a Canon SX170 IS camera for filming videos.

SCy-Fy: You were talking about advice to youtube presenters…

NP: Don’t put pressure on yourself to read more than you can or be funnier, happier, meaner, smarter, etc. than you are. Basically, try and keep video making fun for yourself and don’t stress about an internal yard stick comparing you to other booktubers.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for on youtube?

NP: There are really two sides to youtube: the viral video, pop culture, celebrity side which basically everybody interacts with, and a side which more closely resembles other social media platforms.

The majority of booktube is on the social media side of things. It’s more of a fandom community than anything else, and while a small number of booktubers do have large followings, the vast majority of people are filming in their living rooms for fun and to talk about something they’re passionate about with others who share their interest.

The best way that you can build a community around your channel is to take part in the community which already exists. Watch other booktubers, comment on the videos, and take part in readalongs, these are the best ways to meet people and have fun. I love statistics and youtube provides an enormous amount of viewer data to content creators, but becoming too fixated on statistics will ultimately detract from your experience.

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

NP: I have a little notebook where I write down any books I will need and/or answers to tag questions. I attempt to make myself look presentable for the camera. That’s about it, I know some booktubers like to script their videos or at least try to have a few bullet points set out in advance for the books they’ll be discussing, but I tend to forget to do any advance planning.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

NP: I’m going to be hosting a read-a-long for the Hugo Awards this year which I’m pretty excited about – Goodreads group for the read-a-long if you’re interested in joining is here. This is my first year as a Hugo voter and I want to try and read as many of the nominated works as I can. I also thought it would be a fun project to undertake with other SFF fans.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

NP: Making videos which I would like to watch in 10 years helps me keep going. For me, booktube is partially about documenting my reading and opinions. I’d like to be able to watch my videos later on in life to refresh my memory about books I may have forgotten.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

NP: For me, no. I do occasionally get rude comments, but that’s kind of just the nature of youtube. By and large, booktube has a very active and positive commenting community, but occasionally some of the more typical youtube trolls wonder in. For example, on my American Gods review I had someone post spoilers for the end of the book in bold print, all caps. Another example: after my fiancé appeared in a video with me, a commenter would ask “Are you married yet?” on every subsequent video until I got creeped out and blocked them.

For the most part, the comments on booktube are a very positive and fun place. I love my subscribers and my regular commenters who I’ve been able to build up a relationship with over time, but I think it’s worth acknowledging that the broader platform of youtube has a pretty toxic comment culture, and sometimes that seeps in. My advice is to accept that some people are just jerks and try not to let them affect your experience.

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

NP: My most popular videos are the review series I did for The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. After that I have two videos recommending fantasy and science fiction books with great female protagonists which have done very well.

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

NP: For SFF books, I’ve been making my way through The Culture series by Iain M Banks and have really enjoyed it so far. I read Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer earlier this year, which was unique and great. Non-SFF books, I read my first Mary Roach book this year and she’s quickly become one of my favourite authors.

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

NP: My most anticipated is the same as a lot of people, Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. I’m re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird right now, and it’s at least as good a book as I remembered it being, if not better.

For SFF, Doors of Stone whenever Rothfuss finishes it. Things which are for sure coming out this year I’m anticipating include the new Neal Stephenson book because it sounds cool, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie because I’ve loved the series so far, and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

NP: There’s a lot of space on booktube for people interested in creating content or who just want to hang out and chat in the comments about books. I hope you’ll come check us out.

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