There are more than 60 million videos and hundreds of thousands of people who watch them. #BookTok is a game changer for the publishing industry. The sales of print books recommended by #BookTok are soaring.
But some question the quality and literary pedigree of suggestions made by people on social media.
What Is Booktok?
#BookTok is the TikTok equivalent of Bookstagram and Booktube.
For a community of readers and influencers who regularly use the hashtag #BookTok, it's a portal to an alternate dimension. One click on the hashtag, and a world of fantasy, romance, and romantasy opens up to you. You will find people who post videos of them live reacting to books, falling in love, and crying bitterly over fictional heartbreaks. It is a haven with millions of videos dedicated to all things books.
Whats more, it’s a world with its own rules, art, and literature. #BookTok’s influencers and target audience are primarily teenage girls. Contemporary young adult fiction finds a lot of attention here. Romance, fantasy, and romantasy (romance+fantasy) are popular genres on #BookTok. You will often encounter videos of young influencers swooning over the latest scandalous little beach read.
Some are comparing it to the Twilight craze, since the movement is apparently spearheaded by young women. Of course, anytime a piece of literature or its fans becomes mainstream, there will be people who question its quality.
Effect of #Booktok
Take the case of Colleen Hoover. Hoover is a mother of three and a former social worker. She lives in small-town Texas, and she is considered the queen of #BookTok. Her book, It Ends with Us, was released in 2016. Years later, at the tail end of 2020, it suddenly exploded in popularity. Every influencer on #BookTok was reading it, reacting to it, gushing, crying, and swooning. Today, It Ends with Us has sold more than 3.4 million copies. Hoover has written 24 other books, and all have found popularity with readers and especially #BookTokers.
But the romance and thriller author isn’t the only one whose life has changed due to #BookTok. According to data analysts at Statista, nearly 80% of TikTok users in Maine claim that they are reading more due to #BookTok.
The creators and the audiences of #BookTok are seriously shifting the status quo, taking the focus off of classical literature – often Anglo-Saxon-centric literature. Instead #BookTok highlights contemporary works.
Multiple bookstores across the United States now stock #BookTok’s latest favorites. While critics may say that #BookTok’s all about the next romantasy, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is just as popular on BookTok as The Ulysses by James Joyce.
Mainstream or not, reading and collecting paperbacks are cool again, and we have #BookTok to thank for it. People are reading more, with serious market implications.
Publishers fight to stay ahead of the trends and find the next #BookTok favorite before the market shifts again.
Social media, through the years, has handed fame to multiple artists. People have gone viral, and some have found lasting fame. The books that are trending now on #BookTok may succeed, or their authors may never be heard from again.
Despite some criticisms, #BookTok is excellent at few things. It brings attention to diverse genres and kinds of books; even self-published books, largely ignored by many in the general public. After all, anyone can publish their book! #BookTok has given a platform to different creators to advertise their books and get recommendations for others’ stories as well.
For now, #BookTok is giving voice to those previously unheard of in the book industry. While major publishers try to stay ahead of trends and integrate #BookTok into their social media marketing plans, the decision of what sells and what goes viral in the literary world lies with a bunch of teenage girls.
Books Recommended by Booktok
Colleen Hoover, with her 2016 novel It Ends with Us, may be the current queen of #BookTok. But what other books, genres, and authors does #BookTok like? The TikTok 2023 Book Awards Shortlist purports to have the answer to that question. Without further ado, here are #BookTok’s favorites of the year.
BookTok Books of the Year
Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola, Lies We Sing to the Sea by Sarah Underwood, Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart, and Maame by Jessica George.
BookTok Authors Of The Year
Dr Suzie Edge, Lex Croucher, Holly Jackson, Bolu Babalola.
Best BookTok Revival
One Day by David Nicholls, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and 1984 by George Orwell.
Best Book to End A Reading Slump
The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell, My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, and The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
Best Book I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman, Normal People by Sally Rooney, and Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson.