In Spotlight, we interview people who’ve popularized books on different social media platforms. The Indian Booktuber has close to 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. Manpreet posts wonderfully detailed reviews, TBR lists, monthly recommendations for readers. She also patiently answers all book-related queries in her comments section. Today we discuss her journey.
There’s a perception that Indians don’t read too much. So, what made you want to start your channel?
When I thought of starting my channel, I wasn’t thinking about my possible audience. I was thinking about myself. I wanted to make YouTube videos and I loved talking about books. Add to it the fact that nobody in India was making videos about books, then. To me, starting a Booktube channel seemed like the obvious thing to do.
But of course, I did my research and found out how the Indian publishing industry is going through a big change. There are so many new readers who have just discovered the amazing world of books. So many, new and different, books are being published. I was lucky I started just on time.
What kind of equipment or set-up does one need to make a YouTube video?
The common answer is – just a basic camera. Even your phone’s front camera is good enough. It’s true. When you are struggling to get your first video up, that’s all you need, but only if you’re taking this up as a hobby.
If you are looking for an audience, lots of subscribers and recognition, I believe you must invest in a good DSLR camera, microphone, lighting equipment, background and editing software. And oh yes, you need to be prepared to buy and read a lot of books, if you’re going to talk about books on YouTube.
What do you do when you’re not reviewing books on YouTube?
Mostly, reading books so that I can make more videos about books. Other than that, I am a blogger and marketer. So, I work a bit on that too.
How do you choose the books you review?
One of the reasons I got into reading was to experiment. So, any book, that’s different than what I have already read and seems interesting from what it says on the back cover, works for me.
How many books do you read in a year, and how do you choose your books?
Last year, I read 58 books. This year, the plan is to read more than 100 books. To me, the experiences matter, not the number of books I have finished reading.
My audience influences my decisions a lot these days. I am always picking up books according to what they want to see. Some recommendation video is always in the pipeline, which involves lots of research and lots of books. Then, there are books people specifically request for reviews. And then, I have my pile of feel-good books, which attract me with their covers and overall vibe. It’s honestly a mix of a lot of things. In the end, I pick what I feel like reading at that point of time.
Do you have a list of absolute must-reads? Could you give us your top 3 all-time favourites?
That’s so tough, especially because I feel one book cannot be liked by everybody. It doesn’t matter what book it is. The book has to be right for YOU.
But still, I absolutely love Brida by Paulo Coelho. Please don’t make me pick more.
Do you have a personal reading list and a different work-related list of books you’d like to read? Also, how do you balance between books published in the past and those that are new releases?
It’s chaotic. But, luckily, my personal reading list is my work-related list. That’s the beauty of it. I always get to say, in the end, what book I really want to read and I like to keep it that way.
I don’t discriminate between books based on the year of publishing. Haha.
I remember when I started out, a lot of people discouraged me from putting up reviews of old books. There’s also the FOMO attached to not reviewing a latest release on time. But, to me, it doesn’t matter when the book was published. If I am in the mood to read that book and if I feel my audience wants to see it, I post the review.
Based on your views or comments, what is your opinion on the burning question ‘What do Indians like to read?’ Do you see more readers respond to a particular kind of title you’ve recommended or put up?
It totally depends on the readers. A majority of my audience consists of young readers, who recently got into reading or are slowly getting into it. They need some easy, light reads. They need something that will give them the thrill, something full of entertainment.
For them, I believe authors like Chetan Bhagat, Durjoy Datta, Nikita Singh, Ravinder Singh are great.
All of my subscribers have different tastes, so their response is according to that. But I was amazed with the response my audience had to a Hindi book I featured on my channel and started reading. That’s a sign how a lot of us are craving for books originally written in our regional languages.
In the context of Indian publishing, what kind of books would you like to see more of?
Something, truly Indian. Indian books must bring the authentic Indian feel. That’s what makes us unique.
Lastly, tell us about the books you’re anticipating the most this year!
Thanks for the toughest question in the end. I am eagerly waiting for Raavan by Amish, the third book in the Ram Chandra series, and the sequel book to the Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan.