On Being a Reluctant YouTuber
by Vaughn Treude
These days it seems like everybody and their little brother wants to become a YouTube personality. Too bad Andy Warhol didn’t live to see his 1968 prophecy come true: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Perhaps it’s no coincidence that 15 minutes is YouTube’s max length for “non-verified” accounts. In any case, I have no doubt Warhol would have had his own channel.
I never cared for the scripted fakery of reality TV, which began as a sneaky way to get around the Hollywood writer’s strike of 2007-08. Nowadays the Internet gives us something much more genuine. I subscribe to dozens of YouTube channels that cover many different topics, from science to politics to entertainment. Some of the content is surprisingly polished and professional looking. That’s a testament to the democratizing power of computers.
In many cases, the channels themselves have become newsworthy. Richard Meyer’s “Diversity & Comics” channel sparked a vociferous reaction from pro artists and writers who weren’t accustomed to seeing their work being ridiculed. It also did something much more important: it gave Meyer the notoriety he needed to crowd-fund his own comic series. If he can leverage his videos to achieve his goals, so can I, though I have no illusions about the path being an easy one.
The ironic thing is that I have no desire for that kind of fame. I’m OK with public speaking, but I’ve never exactly enjoyed it. For me, it’s always been a means to an end, a way to promote my projects. All I really want is to write my novels and make a living doing it. If that means putting myself in the spotlight, it’s worth the discomfort.
Since my Steampunk Desperado blog centers around book reviews, I began by scouting out a few of the many book-related channels on YouTube. This informal collective calls itself “BookTube” and is dominated by young women. Most of the books they’re reviewing are recent releases in the young adult, romance, and urban fantasy genres. Men also do reviews, mostly focusing on movies, video games, and comics. Therefore, I reasoned that my Steampunk Desperado channel would occupy a unique niche.
Judging by the number of channels out there, you might be tempted to think breaking into the video game is easy. It’s not – at least not if you want to do a good job. Anyone who’s ever spoken to an audience knows it can be challenging to keep your focus and speak extemporaneously. Why not just read from a script? Because unless you’re a great actor, doing so makes for a lifeless delivery. I always thought I was good at public speaking, but in reviewing my early recordings, I realized I said “um” about 500 times over the course of 15 minutes. After several more takes, I got my “um” count to less than 10 in a 10-minute segment. Even so, I rambled at times, which is where video editing comes in handy. It’s a cheap trick, but I’ve found that inserting relevant still images is a good way to mask the places where I’ve made cuts.
Though I’ve never thought of myself as charismatic, I try hard to be animated and maintain a high level of enthusiasm for my video talks. The fact that I love the subject matter makes it a bit easier. However, I also realized that I needed to have guests so that the audience wouldn’t get bored with me. My wife Arlys, a fellow steampunk enthusiast, was an obvious choice. We did the second video as a team effort and for a change, I enjoyed doing it. Arlys has a unique outlook and a quirky sense of humor that makes for a great interplay between the two of us. Though it’s more convenient to do solo videos, I think they’re much better when she’s involved, and we plan to do many more in this fashion.
As frustrating as it was at times, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to produce and edit these video. So far we’ve published two and created three more, so expect to see new content soon. You can watch out my introductory video, “What is Steampunk?” Check it out, and please like and subscribe!
Vaughn Treude grew up on a farm in North Dakota. The remoteness of his home, with few children nearby, made science fiction a welcome escape. After many years in software, he realized that the discipline of engineering could be applied to writing fiction. Check out his works at VaughnTreude.com and visit his exciting new website, SteampunkDesperado.com.