How YouTuber Jack Edwards went from making college content to becoming a top book creator
Jack Edwards has amassed over 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube with book videos.Hector Gutierrez
Edwards diversifies his business as a book-content creator with brand deals tangential to reading, public speaking, and...

How YouTuber Jack Edwards went from making college content to becoming a top book creator

Edwards diversifies his business as a book-content creator with brand deals tangential to reading, public speaking, and...
  • Jack Edwards, who calls himself "YouTube's resident librarian," has amassed 1.3 million subscribers.
  • He's built a business that includes brand deals, speaking gigs, and YouTube ad revenue.

Last year, the Booker Prize — one the UK's biggest literary fiction awards — was livestreamed not only on BBC's Radio Four, but also on YouTube. Hosting the livestream was Jack Edwards, one of the country's most popular BookTubers.

As the self-proclaimed "resident librarian" of YouTube, Edwards has amassed 1.3 million subscribers on his main channel and almost half a million on a second one with videos discussing books and reading.

But while he's recently built a reputation as a BookTuber, Edwards didn't start his YouTube career with book videos. Between 2015 and 2020, he was more of a college YouTuber, publishing content about university life and studying tips. When the pandemic hit, and he found himself at home from school, Edwards decided to focus his content on reading, one of his lifelong passions.

His pivot came at a magical time in social media, when people were spending more time at home consuming content, and BookTok — the book-focused TikTok phenomenon that swept the publishing industry — was starting to gain traction.

BookTok has been credited with helping generate the highest sales in US publishing in 20 years. It has allowed some authors to skyrocket to fame and boosted the careers of creators who review books. Edwards was already present on TikTok and other social-media platforms from his college-focused content days, and slowly began to pivot his content toward books there, too.

To ensure he stood out in the crowded BookTok niche, Edwards prioritized concept-based videos and made bespoke content for each platform he posted on to cater to different social-media users.

"The way to succeed online is to be able to offer people something that they can't get anywhere else," he said. "The content people were generally making on BookTube was 'Books I want to read in April,' and then 'Books I read in April.' By mid-May, that content is no longer relevant. A lot of the content wasn't evergreen."

Instead, Edwards tried to tap into pop-culture moments, like analyzing book recommendations from celebrities like Harry Styles or Taylor Swift, or books mentioned in popular TV series like HBO's "The White Lotus" or "The Simpsons."

"I hope these are just as interesting to watch today as the day that I uploaded them because they're still interesting as concepts," he said.

Sponsored book reviews are not really a thing, so diversification is key to the business

Building a business as a BookTuber — or a book creator on any platform — can be tricky.

It's uncommon to strike brand deals with publishing houses, for two reasons: publishing budgets for influencer marketing are lower than in other verticals, despite the BookTok phenomenon giving book creators a high level of credibility; and most importantly, a sponsored book review wouldn't come across the same as a genuine, unpaid-for reaction.

"The authenticity is the framework that we build everything else from," Edwards said.

For Edwards, that's meant that brand deals have come from fields "tangential" to reading: he's partnered with language-learning company Lingoda, with Listening.com (a tool that turns written words into audio), and with the online-learning platform Skillshare.

"I've also had some really exciting partnerships that I never expected," Edwards said. "I have a partnership with Valentino. It's been so magical to see how the storytelling of fashion collides with the storytelling of literature."

While most of his income is built on brand deals and AdSense —YouTube's ad-revenue share program — Edwards has also been exploring other avenues to diversify his business, especially presenting and public speaking.

"If YouTube was my only platform and it shut down today, I would be stuck," he said. "It's been important for me to make sure that I'm still pursuing things in mainstream media and in other avenues, and networking."

Recently, he hosted a Q&A with the cast of the Netflix show One Day — based on David Nicholls' bestselling novel of the same name — as well as the Booker Prize livestream.

How YouTuber Jack Edwards went from making college content to becoming a top book creator
Edwards at the premiere of "Argylle" in London in January 2024.Kate Green/Getty Images for Universal Pictures

It's been hard to give up creative control, but the business is reaching a tipping point

In the eight years he's been creating content, Edwards hasn't hired much help — he's always been his own on-screen talent, scriptwriter, video editor, and thumbnail designer.

"I find it really hard to think of it as a business. There's always this disconnect in my brain where I think this is just me talking to the viewers," he said. "Anything that comes between that is something I feel very reluctant to partake in."

The only outside support he's received has been from his management, which takes care of his partnerships and business deals.

But as his channel continues to grow, he thinks it may be time to bring on an extra person to take some of the workload and help him maximize output.

The one thing he won't forego is the actual reading — he treats it like the core part of the job, and he said he spends most of his days in the library plowing through novels and essays.

"One time I reviewed a book on my channel when I still had a hundred pages left, and the amount of anxiety that gave me, I could never talk about anything that I haven't actually read," he said. "There has to be the emotional response. It will always, always be me who's doing all the reading, and it'll always be my response to the books."