During the Covid-19 pandemic I rediscovered my love of books, something that had been lost after too many hours spent writing essays in the library. A major factor in this was finding the book community on the app TikTok, most well-known by users as Booktok. During the Bookseller’s 2021 Children’s Conference, industry professionals discussed Booktok as a social space for readers, an innovative marketing strategy for publishers, and a creative space for authors during a live recording of the podcast Chapter and Verse.
For anyone who does not know what Booktok is, let me explain. During 2020, the app TikTok rose quickly to be the most popular form of social media, overtaking Facebook and WhatsApp. There are many sides to TikTok, with Booktok being one of them. Users can find themselves on these different sides depending on the content that they like through the app, and it does not take long to find content to suit you. Charlotte Eyre, the presenter of the event, confessed that after only one day of scrolling through the app her feed had changed from haphazard videos to ones that related more personally to her. Booktok is a side of the app where likeminded individuals can create and consume content about books, whether it be recommendations, reviews, or even weekly roundups.
“Essentially it’s a massive book club you can be part of.”Georgia Henry
Booktok gives readers a space where they can feel accepted and be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Faith Young, @hellyeahbooks on TikTok, mentioned that she had always felt like she was not “cool” for reading, but that Booktok gave her a haven to enjoy books and share them with others who also enjoy reading. It is giving a bigger space for diversity in books, with POC authors and readers able to contribute or promote their work as easily as anyone else. Booktok is also bringing backlist books back into the spotlight for new readers who missed the initial hype. Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End is currently number two in the YA Bestseller list, despite having come out four years ago.
Young believes the success of Booktok is partly down to how easy the app is to use, and how quickly you can find yourself surrounded by content that is interesting to you. All you need is your phone, with Young even mentioning that having more of a homemade feel to your videos is another key to success. The app very quickly shows you the content that it thinks you would enjoy, so instead of searching for recommendations, they are readily available whenever you want them. Creators, publishers included, can easily create organic content that promotes their books or shares their thoughts and opinions, and people want to listen because it feels like you are getting recommendations from friends instead of strangers.
Booktok is here to stay, and Georgia Henry, Children’s Specialist Campaign Manager at Rocket, believes that everyone in the book industry – publishers, authors, and readers – should gain a presence on the app. The power it has on the publishing industry is immense, and that power is only going to grow in the years to come.