TikTok is taking the book industry by storm and retailers are taking notice


Author Adam Silvera published the young adult sci-fi novel “They Both Die At The End” four years ago, which met with success and landed on the bestseller list for a few weeks. New York Times.

But years later, in August 2020, Silvera said her publisher noticed a significant increase in sales, the start of a trend that would send the book to the top of the New York Times young adult paperback. bestseller list in April, where he still reigns. Silvera had no idea where the increase in sales was coming from.

Adam Silvera’s “Both Die at the End”.Harper collins

“I kept commenting to my readers, ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but there has been a surge in sales lately, I’m so grateful that everyone is finding out about the story of years later, “Silvera said.” And then that’s when a reader said, “I see it on BookTok.” And I didn’t know what they were talking about.

“BookTok” is a community of users on TikTok that publishes review and recommendation videos of books, the popularity of which has exploded in the past year. TikTok videos featuring the hashtag # TheyBothDieAtTheEnd have collectively racked up over 37 million views to date, many of which feature users reacting – and often crying – to the book‘s emotional end.

BookTok’s impact on the book industry has been notable, helping new authors launch their careers and propelling books like Silvera’s to the top of bestseller lists years after their original publication. Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles”, E. Lockhart’s “We Were Liars” and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands” by Taylor Jenkins Reid – all published before BookTok began to dominate the industry – are among the other books. which have found popularity on the app years after their initial release.

Retailers like Barnes & Noble have taken advantage of BookTok’s popularity to market popular titles on the app to customers by creating specialty shelves showcasing books that have gone viral.

“We identify these trends as great opportunities,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “Therefore [Barnes & Noble store managers] say, “let’s make a table, let’s make a shelf, let’s make a statement because I know I have so many customers coming in and saying, ‘I’ve seen this trend on TikTok’.

DeVito said Barnes & Noble started noticing an increase in book sales last summer, particularly the “wholesalers” of “Achilles’ Song” and “They Both Die at the End.” Since then, she said, almost every Barnes & Noble store has had BookTok tables or shelves on display.

The app has been essential in introducing a younger audience to reading, DeVito said, as well as introducing older titles to new readers and helping new authors find an audience. The BookTok phenomenon has also coincided closely with the Covid-19 pandemic, which DeVito attributes to people eager for an emotional connection with others whom they have satisfied through reading.

Silvera found a new audience for her 5-year-old novel thanks to TikTok – but for some new writers, the platform has been instrumental in launching their careers.

“These Violent Delights”, by Chloe Gong.Simon & Schuster

Chloe Gong published her first novel, “These Violent Delights”, in November, during her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania. A tale of “Romeo and Juliet” set in 1920s Shanghai, her book made her a New York Times bestseller. But first, Gong built up an following on TikTok.

Gong joined the platform in April 2020, making videos about books she had enjoyed reading and previewing her own upcoming release. As her publication date neared, Gong said TikTok users would leave comments on her videos telling her they were pre-ordering her book – a feat she credits the TikTok algorithm, which showed her videos. to users who may not have followed her in the first place.

“Before the release, I was able to reach a lot more people than I could have imagined,” said Gong. “On Twitter and Instagram, you mainly reach people who already follow you. But I did notice that on TikTok I was getting loads of comments from people who were generally interested in books or generally interested in young adult fantasy or the kind of storyline I was writing about.

TikTok shows users videos on their pages specially designed for you taking into account the videos they’ve engaged with in the past, weighing factors like the hashtags and songs in each video. The #BookTok hashtag is frequently used by the creators of BookTok: Videos with this hashtag have been viewed collectively 12.6 billion times.

Gong now has over 77,000 subscribers on TikTok and regularly posts videos featuring his book and upcoming sequel, “Our Violent Ends,” slated for release in November.

Author Alex Aster also used TikTok as a way to find audiences after releasing his first book, the mid-level novel “Curse of the Night Witch,” last year. Her sales struggled, she said, until she changed her personal TikTok account to be more BookTok-focused and started posting videos about her own novel, some of which attracted attention. considerable attention, increasing both its profile and its sales.

“My sales, I think, were like five times what I had done in an entire year. I did that five times in a month,” she said, after making several BookTok viral videos. .

The buzz generated by TikTok for her book has been particularly significant for Aster as a breakthrough woman of color in the book industry.

“You can’t buy this,” she said of her viral videos. “There are a lot of publishers, and unfortunately the resources don’t necessarily go to [people of color] or smaller books.

The personal nature of its TikTok content has made readers feel connected with Aster, which has over 355,000 subscribers. She said some of her sales have come from followers who have established a connection with her and believe in her.

Aster has a young adult fantasy novel, “Lightlark”, release scheduled for fall 2022. Although she had already published her first book by the time she got her last book deal, she credits a viral TikTok video for making the publication of “Lightlark” a reality.

Following a series of rejected book offers, Aster took to the platform on March 13 to ask his subscribers if they had read “Lightlark” in a video with a brief summary of the novel. The response was overwhelming and immediate.

“When I went to bed that day, there were only 1,000 views,” Aster said. “And then I woke up, and in 24 hours he had over a million views.”

The video has been viewed over 1.4 million times to date, and users excited about the book have left over 8,000 supporting comments. Aster said the young adult fantasy genre was saturated and difficult to penetrate even for established writers – but once her video went viral, her agent sent it to publishers, who secured her a book deal. six digits the same week.

Aster’s book offering indicates the strength of the BookTok community, which is fueled by the readers themselves.

Silvera also has a TikTok account, but he doesn’t post often. He has found TikTok to be unique among social media platforms for the way it empowers readers and showcases their experiences.

“The readers are the stars,” said Silvera. “They’re the ones who create bestsellers in ways that we can’t organically produce for ourselves.”


Lucas E. Kelly

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