Entrepreneur and Biz: Jen Campbell

Tilt: BookTuber

 Primary Channel:  YouTube (61.8K)

Other Channels: Podcast, Patreon (475), Instagram (28.6K), Twitter (22.5K) 

Rev Streams: YouTube, sponsorships, Patreon, writing workshops, events, speaking engagements

Our Favorite Actionable Advice:

  • Create something you like: Your first audience is you. If you aren’t interested in the content, your (potential) audience probably won’t be either.
  • Mix it up: Jen doesn’t restrict her content to books. She uses her platform to educate people about her genetic condition as well as her love for fairy tales.
  • Reuse your content: Though Jen found a publisher interested in turning her original blog, Weird Things Customer Say in Bookshops, into a book, you can package your blog content into a book, an e-book, a podcast series, etc.

The Story 

The first BookTubers started reviewing books and talking about the publishing industry around 2010, according to Book Riot’s history of book-loving YouTubers. And in 2014, when Jen Campbell launched her BookTuber channel, it was a small but growing community of dedicated content creators.

At the time, Jen, who lives in England, was already a pro in the publishing industry with experience creating viral content. She’d been working as a bookseller for years and had four books published. 

A little back story about her book origins: In 2011, Jen Campbell had a series of blog posts called Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops that went viral, triggering a book deal. The first book was published in 2012 and was a Sunday Times bestseller; a sequel was released in 2013. “I was already a published poet and short story writer at the time, but this branch of writing was different for me, and it was fun to do,” she says.

.@jenvcampbell turned a series of blog posts, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, into a bestselling book. #BookTube #contententrepreneur #creatoreconomy Share on X

Though she shut down that blog in 2012, her YouTube channel became a new outlet to share her interests.

“I began my YouTube channel because I’d started working in an antiquarian bookshop, and I missed recommending new releases to customers,” Jen says. “So, I decided to start a channel to talk about that and also talk about the publishing industry, the representation of disability, and take people behind the scenes of book festivals.”

Fostering love, generating discussion as a BookTuber

Today, Jen’s YouTube channel has grown to more than 61K subscribers. She offers a steady stream of content that covers everything from the books she reads each month to the history of fairy tales to explainers about her own disabilities, which led her to books and writing in the first place.

Jen was born with a rare genetic medical condition called EEC syndrome, which she explained in a video in February. Because of it, Jen’s fingers were either missing or fused together at birth. And as a child, she spent a lot of time in the hospital having her hands “crafted,” as she explains in another video. It was in the hospital that she fell in love with books. Her first poem was published at age 11.

“My aim (on YouTube) is the same as it was when I was a bookseller, to help foster a love of reading and generate conversations around books,” she says. “I also do a lot of disability advocacy work, so of course [I] would like viewers to learn more about that.”

#YouTube channel from @jenvcampbell is designed to foster a love of reading, generate conversations around #books, and do a little education on disability advocacy. #contentbusiness Share on X

 Jen is busy online and offline, and she earns a living from a variety of sources. She’s also published children’s books and short story and poetry collections. Her next book, The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers, features 14 “gruesome tales” and comes out in October. She teaches writing workshops. She offers editorial services for authors and publishers, gives talks at schools, universities, and book festivals, and writes book reviews. And she has a podcast and a Patreon page to support her work.

Her social media pages on Twitter and Instagram weren’t originally part of any business strategy. “They’re still only partly that; Instagram, in particular, is just a platform I enjoy,” Jen says.

The same goes for her Booktuber channel, where she occasionally has sponsored content. Its popularity has been a welcome outcome. “It wasn’t a tool to help further my writing career, but I do also recognize that it is helpful to have a platform as a writer, so I am grateful for that,” she says.

Advice for content entrepreneurs

Jen shares some tips for new content creators who are eager to find success online. 

Be genuine and consistent: That’s how she’s managed to build her social media following. On YouTube in recent weeks, for example, she’s shared videos about everything she read in August – the good and the bad; how she organized her overflowing book trolley, and tips for getting out of a reading slump, which she shared in the video was one of her most-asked questions.  

Don’t forget the basics: To grow her online workshops, she’s learned it’s important to think about all the standard elements. “Practical things to consider are the SEO of your website for search engine results for those looking for writing workshops and making sure feedback from previous participants is readily available for anyone browsing,” she says.

Focus on the passion: To nascent content creators, finding success comes when you’re doing something that excites you. “You have to create content that you enjoy,” she shares, “and your driving force must be that you’re creating because you want to be part of the community.”

Your driving force must be that you're creating because you want to be part of the #community, says @jenvcampbell. #BookTube #contententrepreneurs Share on X

About the author

Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.