게시물 상세



From YouTube to Books




It was common to find books written by YouTubers on bookstore shelves in Korea this year. It is a phenomenon that has been around for a couple of years now, when publishers realized that they could turn subscribers into readers, and quickly started to sign popular YouTubers as authors. Even if you have never heard of the channel before, it is not hard to tell that the book’s author runs a YouTube channel. This is because, among other things, the copy on the book’s cover, “YouTube channel ○○○ with 10 million total views,” emphasizes the author’s experience more than anything else. I have a YouTube channel with 130,000 subscribers, and my new book has never been without a copy like this. It seems to have become one of the most important tasks for editors to draft a copy with up-to-date total subscribers and total views every time a new book is published.


일러스트 이미지



The vast sea of content called “YouTube”


For the past two or three years, Korean publishing editors have been searching the waters of YouTube for video content that could potentially become books. It is a common sight to see editors watching YouTube videos at their desks during the workday with their earphones in. For them, watching YouTube videos has become a job, not a hobby. While their purpose is different from that of regular YouTube subscribers who open the app to relax and enjoy channels that cater to their tastes, it’s not much different from the way they spend more and more time on the site, trying to discover brilliant video content and creators.
Discovery is just the beginning. This is because the majority of YouTubers have never written a book before, which means that the planning process needs to be differentiated. While all YouTubers have their own content, the reason why not all YouTubers can become book authors is the specificity of the planning process. This is where a book editor’s skills come into play, as the content is recognized as valuable when it goes through a unique and professional planning process. The process of turning video content into a book goes through the following steps, which are different from the planning process of a typical book.


Step 1: Discover a YouTuber-writer


First, look for creators of popular channels that already have a large fan base on YouTube. The topics they cover and the way they tell their stories will appeal to readers and be a good fit for book adaptations. The fact that their content has already been proven by their subscribers is very attractive to publishing editors.


Step 2: Plan what to put inside the book


Not every video on a channel can be a book, and it doesn’t have to be. In order to turn a free YouTube video into a paid “book,” you need to identify the main ideas from the YouTube content. This is the role of editors and planners. For example, if you are a cooking YouTuber, you can cover specific recipes, how to use certain ingredients, food culture, and more, but you don’t need to put all of that into a book. This is where the power of planning comes in, focusing on the topics that are most relevant to the subscribers and, therefore, most likely to lead to book purchases.


Step 3: Convert and supplement the content


To turn YouTube content into a book, it is imperative to add extra information, more in-depth content, images, diagrams, and more. Since YouTube focuses on the visual aspect, it is up to the author, the YouTuber, to translate the same subject matter into text in a natural and insightful way. Of course, they’ll need the advice and help of an experienced editor.


Step 4: Design the book’s composition and visuals


Since the content is based on a video, the organization and design are what sets it apart from a typical author’s book. This is because you can actively utilize screenshots from YouTube videos, reactions and questions from video comments, photos of the creator, and QR codes of videos to enhance the visual appeal of the book.


The synergy effect created by YouTube and books


What are the results? It has been three years since the video-based ideas and content on YouTube began to expand into the text-based world of publishing, and the results have been remarkable. From a form perspective, video (YouTube) and text (books), which seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, have come together to produce satisfying results. The two types of content have become complementary and synergistic, creating success stories that have created a new nickname for YouTubers as authors or author-run YouTube channels. Not all YouTubers and publishers are successful, but the list of success stories is constantly growing.
One of the first Korean YouTubers to become an author was “Korean Grandma (Park Mak-Rye),” who started her YouTube channel at the age of 71 and has reached 1.22 million subscribers. Her new career as a YouTube creator, once thought to be reserved for young people, was enough to make her a sensation, but Park’s YouTube channel grew to the point where she published her first book. In 2019, Park and her granddaughter, Yura Kim, PD, co-authored an essay titled Makrye Park - I Can’t Go Just Yet (Wisdom House). The book was also selected as the book of the year by Korean online bookstore Aladdin that year.
Another book, Lucky Draw (Dasan Books), an essay by YouTuber “Drawandrew” on self-improvement and economic freedom for Gen MZ, reached the 10th print within a week of its release and became the No. 1 book in the self-help category, with cumulative sales exceeding 50,000 copies in the year since its release in 2022. Also, YouTuber “Jachung”’s self-help book Counter Your Life (Woongjin Jisik House), which is considered to be one of the best books of 2023, continues to be on the bestseller list three months after its release. Considering that it is hard for first-time authors to sell more than the initial print (usually 2,000 copies), the impact of YouTubers on the publishing world is unimaginable.


『박막례, 이대로 죽을 순 없다』

『럭키 드로우』


Makrye Park - I Can’t Go Just Yet, Lucky Draw, and Counter Your Life



These examples are just the beginning, and popular YouTubers publishing books has become one of the biggest trends in the entire publishing industry. There’s even a joke that if you want to publish a book, you should start with a YouTube channel. The discovery of YouTuber authors is revitalizing the stagnant Korean publishing market, thanks to sharp-eyed editors at publishing houses who used to scan blogs for book-worthy content. This is evidenced by the sales of these authors, many of whom are publishing their first books, but are no less popular than established authors.
YouTubers who introduce specialized knowledge that modern people are curious about, such as science, finance, and personal financial investment, have also become popular authors. For example, the 480,000-subscriber life science channel “Fishy Fish” conveys biological knowledge through dissection videos of organisms such as spoon worms, sea urchins, and sharks. In April 2023, Fishy Fish’s Real Anatomy Science Book (Arte) was published, which is a series of reorganized versions of the channel’s popular videos.
It is worth noting that it is not just about sales, but also about expanding the field and making new attempts. It is not just about textualizing video content. In April 2023, “Yeosu Unnie,” a mukbang YouTuber with 630,000 subscribers, published the essay To You, My Spring Day (Noll). Using the concept of comforting her subscribers with daily stories while eating food, she shares warm words to comfort and support her readers. And, as fans of famous creators have a desire to know more about the creators’ stories and perspectives, this kind of book, with an inside look at their favorite YouTubers, serves to fulfill that desire.


『수상한 생선의 진짜로 해부하는 과학책』

『나의 봄날인 너에게』

Fishy Fish’s Real Anatomy Science Book and To You, My Spring Day



All of these things were possible because video and text, two very different mediums, have something in common: content. Content is the answer to the question, “What are you talking about?” and this is why it is possible for a video content creator, a YouTuber, to become a text content creator, a book author. Through the process of textualizing the content that they wanted to tell, share, and introduce through videos, they released them to the world in the form of a book. It is hard to deny that the keen eyes and fast movements of publishing editors are a big part of this process. Traditionally, book publishing has focused on academically recognized authors, such as university professors, politicians, and professionals, and their content. In contrast, the process of discovering YouTuber authors has increased the chances of success by targeting not only their content but also their attractiveness and fandom, and the number of outstanding examples is growing rapidly.


A high-quality book requires talented planning skills of the editor


The rise of these YouTuber authors has revitalized the Korean publishing industry, which has been experiencing a long period of stagnation. Of course, the size of the channel did not directly correlate with the sales of the book, but the success of a number of big bestsellers that would not have been published without YouTube is proof of this.
However, it is worth noting the challenges that come with new attempts and trends. As I mentioned earlier, I am one of those authors with a YouTube channel, and I have had quite a few editors come to me sharing their concerns over the past six years. One editor told me that in the past two or three years, a lot of editors have been looking for authors who are YouTubers, but there have been too many books by YouTubers who aren’t necessarily qualified to write books. She even said that last year, one of her colleagues, an editor, had to write, organize, and complete a book for a YouTuber who was busy making videos. I wondered what her intention was in telling me, an author, about this, but I soon realized. She was suggesting that she could help me textualize the video whenever I needed it, since I am a busy YouTuber author with a similarly busy manuscript schedule.
That is not the end of it. In the past year alone, I have received dozens of emails from editors who want to publish a book with me. It seems that more and more editors are willing to take a chance on authors who have a YouTube channel, a strong promotional outlet, and a subscriber base that has the potential to turn into book buyers, even if they have to offer a very generous contract. I have also gotten a lot of rude offers from editors who want to meet with me and talk about the book, regardless of the subject matter, field, or concept. I politely turned them down. I was only surprised by the strong will of publishers to publish books by YouTubers, even at the cost of lowering the quality of the book, because it guarantees a certain amount of sales.
In this regard, it is worth noting the remarks of book critic Pyo Jeong-Hoon in an interview. He said, “Publishing popular content of new online media has been a phenomenon since the days of blogs.” He added, “However, unlike blogs, when it comes to bringing a video-based YouTube book into a book, editors need to make efforts to make a high-quality book.” As a YouTuber author, I deeply empathize with him. The number of subscribers and book sales are not necessarily proportional. Subscribers often buy books as “merchandise” to support their favorite YouTubers, and it is often just a flash in the pan. I’ve seen subscribers turn away from YouTubers who constantly mention their books because they think they’re using them to sell books, so I am more cautious than ever when creating videos to introduce my new books. It is easy for readers to see through a poorly thought-out book that tries to capitalize on a YouTuber’s popularity. In an age where we are not spending money on books, readers are becoming increasingly discerning. Readers aren’t going to open their wallets just because their favorite YouTuber wrote a book.


A YouTuber’s popularity doesn’t always lead to book sales without a well-thought-out plan.


The need for meticulous and well-thought-out planning is more important than ever to ensure that the revitalization of the publishing market brought about by video content does not end in subscribers’ disappointment. As one of the YouTuber authors, I would like to appeal to the domestic and international publishing industry that YouTubers who risk their lives to create video content should not be perceived as authors who can sell their books. To ensure that the recent trend is not limited to one or two exceptional success stories, we need the support and encouragement of both the publishing industry and subscribers to help YouTubers establish themselves as book authors with rich and genuine books that go beyond their videos.
I also support the editors who endure exhausting eye strain and wrestle with proposals to discover beloved authors on YouTube. I would like to express my deep gratitude and respect for their efforts to organize the scattered content of creators into a book with a single theme. As one of the YouTuber authors, I hope that the publishing industry, which has experienced large-scale bestsellers through YouTuber authors, will take a new leap forward after a long recession with the help of YouTube.



Written by Lee Eun-Kyung (Writer, Lecturer, and YouTuber (owner of the channel “Wise Elementary School Life”))



Lee Eun-Kyung (Writer, Lecturer, and YouTuber (owner of the channel “Wise Elementary School Life”)

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