TikTok phenomenon sees book sales skyrocket

The rise of ‘BookTok’ is pushing teenagers and young adults into bookstores in numbers not seen since the Harry Potter years, according to the Waterstones manager.

Sales of new books are skyrocketing after being recommended by influencers on TikTok, the social media app – but some classics are also becoming unlikely viral sensations.

“Over the past three or four weeks in the United States, Ulysses by James Joyce has been a big seller because on TikTok, children are on fire,” said James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones and general manager of the American chain Barnes & Noble. .

The #BookTok hashtag has had 37.4 billion views and popular influencers tend to be young women, mostly recommending books by female authors.

Daunt said they helped make bookstores popular with young people, reminding him of the decade 1997-2007 which saw the publication of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

“It’s the return to that kind of energy in our stores. Our challenge now is that we absolutely have to keep those customers, like we did with the Harry Potter generation. It increased booksellers and book sales,” Daunt said at a bookstore conference in Italy, reported in The Bookseller.

Waterstones runs its own TikTok account as a marketing tool and Daunt explained: “It’s about fun, fun and excitement and the people who do it brilliantly are from the same generation – they’re our young people. booksellers and we let them continue.”

He joked, “We’ve generally found that people with blue hair do better than people with reasonable haircuts.”

Barnes & Noble has dedicated a section of its website to recommended books on TikTok. Even WH Smith groups some of his books under the tag “TikTok made me buy it!”

Books that have benefited from the TikTok effect include The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Read, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Hoover’s book sold 21,000 copies when it was released in 2016, but sales picked up in late 2020 when TikTokers started posting about it. By summer 2021, according to Publishers Weekly, it had sold 450,000 copies.

Normal People by Sally Rooney and the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara are also frequently recommended. The Barnes & Noble list includes classic titles The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights.

Lucas E. Kelly