Dead Presidents for Dead Trees?

One day, I was flipping through my emails as per usual, endless Amazon order confirmations, some school assignments I've emailed to myself, and of course, a few review book requests from the last few days. These emails are always very generic starting with "Hi Booktuber! Love your videos. I think *insert book title* by *insert author name* would be a great fit for you to review on your channel." A lot of these are easy to reject automatically, I mean, who really wants to read a novel from a .PDF file, but I came across one review request that was slightly different than the norm. This was clearly the author's first time attempting to market her novel on BookTube, so she had asked me if there was a surcharge in addition to being sent the book to have it reviewed. As a BookTuber who has only ever been offered an ebook or physical copy to review, this caught me off guard. I had always had a loose idea that the booktubers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers were paid to review books, but it never occurred to me that they chose the prices themselves, or that anyone of my BookTube status would charge to review a book. Naturally, I told her I didn't charge to review books (did people with less than 10,000 subscribers really do that?) but since then, the concept of receiving payment to review books has been on my mind.

I've had tons of discussions with my BookTube friends about charging publishers and authors to review books, just so that I could get a feel for what other people closer to my subscriber count were thinking. I feel like this topic can sometimes be a little touchy concerning the book community, especially considering any controversial topic on BookTube causes an uprising, so I thought it would be better to discuss this on a smaller scale rather than make a whole video dedicated to it. 

As BookTubers on the smaller end of the spectrum, we always have a ton of questions pertaining to growing our channel and working with publishers. "How does someone convince a publisher to send them a book to review?" "Are there susbcriber quotas for different companies?" "Do we ask them or should we wait for a publicist to come to us?" While some of the more popular BookTubers will include these tips in videos, they tend to stop giving out information as soon as it hits the financial portion of marketing on BookTube. As always, money makes things more complicated, so I really don't blame any of them for not sharing their experiences concerning being paid to review books. But that doesn't change the fact that as smaller and growing BookTubers, we don't know these things. "When do we start charging publishers to review books?" "What is a standard price to charge?" "Is it categorized by the length of the book or one price for all?" It's easy for us to learn how to film and edit videos, and I personally feel it's pretty easy to work with publishers once you've been exposed to that experience. But what do I do once I decide I want BookTube to be an official job? How am I meant to learn these things without the aid of those more knowledgeable than I?

There's also the question of, is it okay to receive payment to review books? In the situation I'm currently in, I'm quite content with just being able to keep the books I'm sent. I don't think that my channel is anywhere near the caliber of those that get paid. Of course, every reader wants to get paid to lay in bed, drink coffee, and read books, and though I prefer my reading material with a cup of tea, that's my eventual goal, too. As much as everyone else and I want it, I feel like there are some BookTube viewers out there that would have a problem with that. It's understandable that some people might be weary of trusting a sponsored review, because when money is involved, who knows if they're saying they love it because they honestly do, or if they're just being paid more to hype it up. I have also heard of situations where a BookTuber will have been sponsored to review a book but leaves that bit of information out (which is a BIG no-no in the world of YouTube) so that's one of the many reasons why some people believe BookTubers shouldn't be paid at all to read & review a book. We all would like to give reviewers the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes it can be unclear what's more important: the loyalty and honesty to your viewers a.k.a your reputation, or your bank account balance? I personally don't have a problem with BookTubers being paid to review books on their channel. Hey, I might not have been exposed to a certain book if they weren't! But I do feel that whether you're receiving payment or not, you must be honest about your feelings towards the book because your viewers should come first.

Concerning the price of reviewing, who determines it? I know that even if I were at the point where I felt comfortable charging for books, I probably could never pick an amount I was comfortable with. "Do I charge $2 per book?" "Is $100 too much?" "Is it even worth it to charge for books if you aren't receiving a decent payment?" "What should the prices be based off of? Page number? Popularity?" "Is reading, reviewing, filming and editing all factored in or is it just for posting a review?" In my experiences with larger BookTubers, I have heard whispers and rumors of how much people get paid for certain things, though I don't know how much help they'd be if I ever began to put a price on my reviews. Should I ask a publisher for what price they feel is fit, or just outright say "I'm not reading this book unless you give me one million dollars." Clearly, that would be more ideal in a more polite way, and probably including a price that looks less like a phone number, but nonetheless, those of us who are smaller BookTubers have very little information on how to begin making BookTube an actual occupation.

Now, I don't plan on charging for books any time soon. I definitely am starting to refine the qualities I look for in a review book or in a relationship with a publisher, but for now, my eyes aren't filled with dollar signs. Hopefully one day, I'll feel like I'm at the point where I'm comfortable and the situation feels appropriate enough that these reviews I'm doing for experience can turn into an actual exchange of goods and services, but I'm happy with the free book that comes my way every so often. If you, yourself, have any opinions on the controversy that is paying BookTubers to review books, feel free to share them in the comments below because I'd love to know how others perceive the situation. For now, I feel extremely blessed to be at the level I am right now, starting to establish contacts in the publishing world and gaining viewers at a steady rate, but even without all that, BookTube is about the fun of sharing my love for books and the friendships, the confidence and the love that comes from it.