Will Eagle, Read This If You Want To Be YouTube Famous author: On authenticity, attitude and audience
“Video is an acquired skill,” explains Will Eagle, author of Read This If You Want To Be YouTube Famous. “It’s not the same as Instagram – anyone can take a picture and apply a filter.”
Eagle, who spent four years as a brand strategist at Google working primarily on the video platform, put together his new book based on a survey which found three quarters of young people interviewed wanted to become YouTubers. Yet long gone are the days when switching on your webcam and spouting forth in a dingy bedroom would suffice.
Eagle (left) recalls that while working at Google he would find many folk he spoke to said they wanted to become YouTubers. What sort of videos did you want to produce, came the reply? “The answer was always ‘make-up tutorials’, and I replied that [was] not really going to cut it,” says Eagle.
The book – part of a Read This… coffee table series from Laurence King – therefore has a variety of different YouTube stars adorning its pages offering advice and best practice galore. From Laurie Shannon, otherwise known as @TheIcingArtist – 3.7 million subscribers at the time of print – to the pseudonymous figure behind the 7 million-plus strong Bad Lip Reading account, there has been a certain amount of inspiration, alongside an awful lot of perspiration, to build these channels.
Indeed, the best advice Eagle says he found among his dozens of interviews was from Shannon, who said to test as much as possible. “One of the things that came out was a lot of people who started on YouTube a few years ago would make their videos, and then it was only at some point when one of their videos really spiked that gave them the clue as to which direction to move in,” he says. “Laurie always tested. She grew quicker than almost anyone else I interviewed.”
The balance which needs to be sought between business and pleasure is evident throughout the book. “Unless it’s pure artistry, any creative endeavour is a mix of the rational and the emotional,” says Eagle. “Yes, you want to allow yourself to really create and get into that flow, but it also helps to reflect and say ‘well, is this what my audience wanted?’”
This is evinced in another critical piece of advice from the book, as explained by @CasuallyExplained (2.1m subscribers at time of print). “He says you must commit to the process,” says Eagle. “Your focus should be about making the best piece of content you possibly can, and every time you ask yourself [that question]. I like that kind of iterative approach, always thinking about the content and making it better.”
While the make-up tutorial train has probably left the station by now, the good news is that there is a world of topics to explore. Don’t ever think that something may be too niche. “Because YouTube is so ginormous, absolutely massive, when we’re talking about niche we’re still talking about millions of people, potentially,” explains Eagle.
Alongside the interviews are a series of one-page briefs outlining the more practical to-dos. Finding your topic of choice is a case in point. If you need inspiration on going more specific with your niche, then autofill search is your best friend. If you need confirmation that this niche is going to fly, check the recent videos. Is there a community bubbling underneath it? Could you do it better?
As part of a series, the book naturally has a uniform feel, but Eagle wanted to make sure there was ‘real meat’ behind the coffee table-esque exterior. “Particularly with regard to the technical challenges,” he explains, “of course you can go and search for a lot of the nuts and bolts, but this is supposed to be dip in, dip out. It can be inspiration, but it can also be practical.”
The book’s layout aims to take its reader on a journey, from the first steps and amateurish recordings all the way through to the day when – in theory at least – you can tell your boss where to stick their job and make a career out of it. Even if the latter might remain a fantasy, there is plenty of solid business advice from those at the sharp end.
The key however is you can run it how you choose to run it. Some interviewees, such as @JustDestiny, factor that into their entire plan. The account, with 1.7 million subscribers, focuses on topics that other YouTubers might avoid if they don’t want to be demonetised. Others, like Gizzy Gazza (1.9m subs) have a very business-like vision. “His advice is actually [to] run it like a company,” says Eagle. “He has a team – if he doesn’t work, they don’t work, he treats it very seriously, like a revenue-making business. You can definitely make different choices about how you want to use it, for personal expression or for more of a serious concern.”
Ultimately, Read This If You Want To Be YouTube Famous will give any prospective reader an expressive landscape into the wide and varied world of YouTube creators. Being true to yourself is key to success; indeed, Eagle notes every interviewee proffered this advice initially, and had to dig down further to avoid a very repetitive book. But make no mistake about the hard work involved.
Eagle is currently doing contracting work and, through those projects, thoughts naturally turn to the next generation of video. TikTok, Eagle finds, is ‘very appealing.’ Will there be a Read This If You Want To Be TikTok Famous tome anytime soon? We’ll have to wait and see – but perhaps the generation native to that platform won’t need guidelines.
“TikTok makes content creation accessible to almost anyone in a really, really easy way,” says Eagle. “YouTube can be a little bit inaccessible – hence the book.”
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