By guest contributor, Jen Baker
BookTok is revolutionizing how book nerds are interacting on the internet, but if your TBR pile is already out of control, you should probably steer clear.
The internet has brought readers together since the first Harry Potter fansites created a place to talk about theories and complain about what the movies left out. Fansites with discussion boards soon gave way to places like LiveJournal and Tumblr, which then gave way to Twitter and YouTube.
Readers soon dragged their favorite authors into the online fray, so it’s normal for writers to use blogs and social media to interact with their fans, posting everything from exclusive excerpts to writing tips to playlists.
But the power of BookTok is changing the game for authors, readers, and even publishers.
What is BookTok?
BookTok is one corner of the popular video-sharing app TikTok.
Let’s take a second and talk about TikTok in case you’re already lost (we were). On TikTok, users can create and share 15-second- to three-minute-long videos. Once you’ve recorded your video, you can add music, sound, and filters as well as add hashtags.
Once you share, people can react to your video or record a duet, where they insert a video of themselves next to the original video interacting with it (like the sea shanty videos from during the pandemic). As you watch and interact with videos, an advanced AI algorithm starts recommending new channels and videos for you, and it’s actually pretty accurate.
So let’s get back to BookTok. It’s actually not its own app like a lot of people think.
#BookTok is one of the most popular hashtags used on TikTok with more than 15 billion (yes, you read that right—billion) collective views. People post videos of reviews, recommendations, reading time lapses, shelfies, fan art, reenactments, and more. Just like the discussion boards on those Harry Potter fansites, BookTok is a place where readers go to connect and nerd out about their favorite books.
Most BookTok-ers started posting videos during the pandemic as a way to connect with others about what they were reading while isolated in their homes. Young adult fiction is the most popular genre represented, with a hefty chunk of the discussion centered on romantic fantasy series.
Why You Should Get on BookTok
Many of you may be saying you don’t want yet another social media account, and we get it. We don’t want another one either. But if you do it right, BookTok exists as a way to communicate with other readers, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a new book to read.
Find Out What Everyone’s Talking About
Refinery29 referred to BookTok as the “last wholesome place on the internet,” and it became a safe haven for readers during the pandemic. When the world was falling apart around them and they were unable to leave their homes, readers escaped into fiction, and BookTok gave them a constant source for new books to read. In fact, BookTok is considered relatively free of trolls, which is a nice change for a social media app.
The best part of BookTok is the book recommendations. You will find books in your favorite genre that you’ve never heard of, and you’ll also learn about books you’d never think about reading otherwise. BookTok-ers often share unconventional book lists you won’t find anywhere else, like Books with Evil Women by @kateslibrary.
You won’t just hear about new books on BookTok, either. It’s been known to put older books back on bestseller lists. Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End was on the bestseller list for a few weeks when it was released in 2017, but randomly in 2020, the publisher noticed sales increasing. By April of 2021, the book returned to the bestseller lists, all without any marketing by the author or the publisher. The book’s surge in popularity was due almost solely to reaction videos posted on BookTok. (If you haven’t read it, it’s a tearjerker, and sobbing on BookTok is a normal thing.)
Chances are, if you walk into a physical bookstore or library, you’ll see a display of books that are popular on BookTok. Even GoodReads has gotten in on the action with their BookTok Recommendations List.
Connect with Your Favorite Writers
It’s a great way for writers to connect with their readers as well.
Here are just a few authors you can follow on TikTok right now:
- V.E. Schwab (@veschwab)
- Victoria Aveyard (@victoriaaveyard)
- Rick Riordan (@rickriordan)
- Marie Lu (@marieluthewriter)
- Nicola Yoon (@nicolayoon)
- Becky Albertalli (@beckyalbertalli)
Help Shape the Future of Publishing
If you’re interested in becoming a writer, you’ll want to get on BookTok and start posting now since a lot of publishing companies want to see you with an already-established following to increase book sales. Chloe Gong, the author of These Violent Delights, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai, had a steady following for her BookTok account (@thechloegong) before she published her first book. During the publishing process, she was able to interact with her followers, share updates, and get people talking about her book before it was even published.
The app even impacts what publishers decide to publish in the first place. Alex Astor wasn’t able to get a deal for her second book, so she posted the synopsis for Lightlark in a BookTok video asking if anyone would be interested in reading it. A few weeks later, she had a six-figure deal, and the book will be out next year.
Many BookTok-ers address inclusivity in their videos, whether by talking about books with diverse characters or by calling out writers and publishers who they feel need to do better. By joining the conversation, you can have your voice heard about what you want to see in future books.
Start Your BookTok Journey with These BookTok-ers
Remember, BookTok isn’t its own app. It’s really a hashtag. So to get started, join TikTok and then search #BookTok. Once you start interacting with some videos, the AI algorithm will do the rest and find you other BookTok-ers to follow. We suggest you start with these five BookTok-ers:
Abby has a sense of humor, and it shines through in her videos. Based in the UK with 145,000 followers, she expertly blends popular memes with books in a way viewers are sure to appreciate.
Kate has 136,000 followers, and once you follow this seventeen-year-old, you’ll understand why. Her videos are fun, and she covers a wide variety of topics, like character names she loves.
With more 218,000 followers, Cait is the person to follow if you want book recommendations. She also runs a book club, so you can join her for conversations with authors and other readers.
Jaysen shares hilarious content with his 389,000 followers, but he also focuses on how to diversify your reading. If you like fantasy and young adult books or just like to laugh as he pretends to destroy a book (the ultimate BookTok sin), give him a follow.
Ayman is every one of us when we talk about books we love: We talk too fast and get way too excited. She is hilarious and passionate about books, and her reviews when she loves a book will make you want to run out and grab the book ASAP.
Want to get in on the action? Here are some tips to start your own BookTok account.
Once you’ve lurked on BookTok for a while and figured out how it works, get involved! Add your voice to the #BookTok discussion, but keep the following advice in mind:
- Keep videos short; shorter videos tend to get more views.
- Pay attention to TikTok trends (sounds, music, etc) and incorporate them at appropriate times.
- Make it personal or unique—viewers love it when creators get real and talk about what they are passionate about.
- Use hashtags (but not too many).
- Post frequently.
- Interact with others.
Article by guest contributor, Jen Baker
Jen Baker is a former English teacher who quit to live her dream as a professional writer. She’s currently a freelance content marketer based in Columbus, Ohio. She loves to read anything she can get her hands on, but her favorite authors are Sarah J Maas and V.E. Schwab. You can find her on Twitter at @Jen_WritePlace.
We decided to join in the fun and created our own BookTok account. No videos yet, but give us a follow and we’ll follow back! @bookseriesrecaps on TikTok