BookTok Owns the Industry

Updated: Oct 1

Social media giant TikTok created a platform for everyone to express everything from their political beliefs to funny cat videos, but another, more niche category of TikTok acts like a virtual book club. Named “BookTok” by its users, the community has aided in pushing new books to become bestsellers and reviving the sales of older books. However, it has also provided a place for like-minded individuals with similar interests and passions to connect on a worldwide scale and find comfort through literature and each other, especially during the pandemic (Murray).


The phenomenon of BookTok functions similarly to platforms like Goodreads. TikTok users who have read a book can review books in the time frame of 60 seconds, which seems like a short amount of time, but has proven to be more than enough to boost sales and gain followings. Videos have also included a series of quotes from books, like ones “that say I love you, without actually saying I love you,” and feature a list of books that adhere to the highly specific subject matter (Flood). Another trend, “books as outfits,” allows users to see the aesthetic of multiple books through clothing (Henry). BookTok’s recommendations are almost never-ending and specialized in new and exciting ways, which attracts many to the community.


Memes are also used to amass a following, and BookTokers utilize this medium well. BookTokers use trends like “being the main character” and popular audios to make relatable content for readers. This gets them on the “For You Page,” or the page of recommended videos based on an algorithm that TikTok creates for every individual account.


One of the more interesting, and arguably most beneficial, facets of the BookTok phenomenon is its focus on social justice and representation in media. According to one BookTok member, the deeper you get into BookTok, the more books you find that represent you. For example, this user had only read about heterosexual couples before joining BookTok, and now one of her favorite series features a bisexual protagonist (Flood). There are also BookTokers who specialize in recommending books by BIPOC for BIPOC (Jones). This can boost the sales of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors in an industry dominated by heterosexual white authors and help readers consume content that mirrors their lives.


As for the publishing industry and other book social platforms, it seems that BookTok has some tips to increase revenue and boost sales. Though publishing houses likely will not post videos of themselves crying as their employees finish a book, they can follow suit with sellers like Barnes & Noble, which has a BookTok section on their website (Murray). Publishers might also incorporate BookTokers’ techniques into their marketing. Utilizing lists of quotes or even sending books to BookTokers to review could generate revenue for BookTokers, publishing houses, and the author. Even if publishing houses are not directly making videos on BookTok, they can collaborate with BookTokers in creative ways to cause a boom in the industry.







Works Cited

Flood, Alison. “The Rise of BookTok: Meet the Teen Influencers Pushing Books up the Charts.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 June 2021, www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jun/25/the-rise-of-booktok-meet-the-teen-influencers-pushing-books-up-the-charts.

Jones, Zoe Christen. “Meet the TikTok Creator Helping Black Readers Find Their Main Characters, One Recommendation at a Time.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 27 May 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/kendra-keeter-gray-tiktok-creator-black-characters/.

Murray, Conor. “TikTok Is Taking the Book Industry by Storm, and Retailers Are Taking Notice.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 6 July 2021, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tiktok-taking-book-industry-storm-retailers-are-taking-notice-n1272909.

Rocket, Georgia. “Embracing BookTok.” The Bookseller, The Bookseller, 1 Feb. 2021, www.thebookseller.com/blogs/booktok-basics-1234251.







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