I am happy to introduce my interview with Mike’s Book Reviews! Mike is a BookTuber, talking about fantasy, science fiction, horror, historical fiction and more on his channel.
I discovered your channel a few years ago when you were reviewing The Wheel of Time as I had just started reading them too, and it was great to read along with you (until I gave up!) How did you get into reviewing books online, and why?
Well, it was an accident really. I decided in early 2019 I was going to try The Wheel of Time finally. Since it’s such a long series, I started recording personal “video diaries” to help me remember the events of each book. I already had a YouTube channel for the podcast I currently did and I just decided to upload them. The next couple days I realized they had like 500-1000 views and I was like “what the heck?! I never get this many views.” That urged me to look around on the Tube a little and I discovered that BookTube was a thing and I had no idea. I thought to myself now this is something I could do and I gave it a whirl. Here we are almost 4 years later.
How have you found being a part of the book community, talking with authors/reviewers etc?
I think one of the main reasons I leaned into all of this is because I knew no one in my real life that read the kinds of books that I did, if they read at all. So discovering that there were others out there like me that views books as their primary form of entertainment has been the best. I decided early on I wanted to build a positive community and I like to believe I have achieved that.
What makes you pick up a book? Is it the cover art, the author, premise…?
A little of everything, I think. Word of mouth, recommendations, something that has been on my reading bucket list for years, etc. But a sharp looking cover never hurts. I get so many recommendations or hear great sales pitches from people on my Discord constantly and that has an influence because I want to be able to join those conversations.
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
My first book without pictures was The Hobbit, of course. I think that’s the answer from most that were into the genre from my generation and before. Without a doubt Tolkien was the gateway to many other worlds than these. I’ve read Lord of the Rings 7 times and Dune by Frank Herbert 13 times. And I would read them again.
What are your favourite books/authors?
I think if we’re talking all time it would be hard for me not to say Tolkien and Stephen King. But more modern times (even though King is still trucking along) I’d say Joe Abercrombie really just “gets” what it is I like about modern fantasy. John Gwynne and Pierce Brown are quickly climbing that ladder though.
You do a lot of book hauls! How do you find the space for all of those books, as the bookshelves look like they’re pretty full already?
If I had an answer for that my wife sure would like to know. I am grateful and eternally thankful that viewers and authors want to send me books and other gifts. It is such a blessing and I hope they know how much I do not take that for granted. As for space, not everything gets a home in my main office recording space these days. Some have been delegated to a different room in the house. Many that are sent by publishers or duplicates I gift to others looking for them or I donate to the local state prison, which has gotten tremendous feedback from the employees there.
What do you like to do outside of reading and creating content online?
Well there is no better job than being a dad. I have two boys, 10 and 7, and they are the most important things in my life. As someone who grew up with divorced parents and no real father figure in my childhood I wanted to make sure I was always there for them. So there is a lot of gaming, movie watching, and Play-Doh in my free time.
Who are your go-to content creators?
There are too many to name, really. I love that the BookTube community is for the most part incredibly welcoming and not at all competitive. Most of them truly are there just because of the love of reading. Outside of books, I’ve been a viewer of Jeremy Jahns YouTube channel since like 2010. I constantly joke that he and I share a brain because we always seem to align on movies, TV, and video games. I never miss anything he produces.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a BookTube/Bookstagram/Book Review website?
Ah, one of my most frequently asked questions. I say it is a combination of three things; Be consistent, be honest, and be yourself.
So many new BookTubers seem like they’re just trying to emulate their favorite BookTuber. Thing is, viewers can see through that right away. So I always suggest being yourself and don’t try to copy anyone else. It’s perfectly fine to play a character, if you will, but be original.
With consistency I say just communicate with your audience about your output and stay true to it. If you say you’re going to do 2 videos per week, do 2 videos per week. Viewers understand we have real lives, too, but disappearing for weeks at a time will make viewers lose interest.
With honesty, there are a lot of content creators who “chase the clicks.” And you know what, I can’t blame them because they’re making quit your job money doing it. For me, I just couldn’t. I’ve had the “unpopular opinion” video now and then because it seems like I’m the only one who dislikes a book. But “rant” videos and simply being dishonest about liking something only because you know it’s popular is cheating your audience, in my opinion. Your viewers can appreciate if something just didn’t work for you as long as you’re honest about it.
If you could be any fantasy character, who would you be and why?
I don’t know, things rarely end well for the fantasy characters I like. Plus I need air conditioning too bad to live in the swords and shields genre. So it would have to be something futuristic like from Red Rising or Sun Eater (even though these are more sci-fi than fantasy). Because at least then I’d have the opportunity to see other planets with my own naked eye and take all that in.