The video app TikTok has popularized many new trends such as dance moves, fashion styles, and music. It has also popularized the posting of book critiques or recommendations on the app. Many young people on TikTok regularly upload videos about books and authors. This is “BookTok.”
TikTok shows you content based on previous likes and watches. If someone watches a lot of videos with dogs in them, they will be in the communal flow of people who also watch and make dog videos. They are now on “DogTok.” BookTok works the same.
BookTok influencers make videos about new books, old books, overrated books, problematic books—you name it. Each influencer has their own flavor. Some focus more on humor while others simply provide a running list of books that you should read and why. This Vogue article does a fantastic job at highlighting different influencers and giving a short summary about their page.
Many places in the bookselling or publishing industry are using BookTok to their own advantage. Barnes & Noble started putting up a section dedicated to selling BookTok’s most favored recommendations, like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid or People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Even local bookstores have jumped on the trend like Boston’s Trident Cafe and Booksellers who have a BookTok shelf display. A lot of writers have also found a place on BookTok either to share their latest project or to join in the reading fun themselves. Authors like Victoria Aveyard of the bestselling Red Queen series have become very popular on BookTok for sharing publishing and drafting advice as well as hinting at future projects for fans of her work.
Popular literary blogger, “Caitsbooks” delves into the history of BookTok in this article. Cait, a BookTok creator herself, stated that in 2019, there was little to no book related content on TikTok. There were a few creators such as herself and a few others, as well as publishing houses’ corporate pages. It wasn’t until March 2020 that Cait’s page started blowing up, gaining 204.5 thousand followers and 8.1 million likes overall. Clearly, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown caused readers to venture onto TikTok for recommendations.This not only helped Cait’s channel, but also many other proto BookTok influencers. BookTok’s influence skyrocketed, landing on thousands of people’s “For You pages” and becoming more popular. Cait writes in her blog, “Publishers are starting to realize the impact BookTok can have. Not only are many of them on the platform themselves, but they’ll send BookTokers early copies of books so they can discuss them on their page, as well as pay BookTokers to make videos about books they’re looking to promote.”
That being said, Cait as well as many others on TikTok have foreseen future consequences of BookTok. Frequent TikToker Emily Roberts had this to say about BookTok: “With BookTok I think you have to get lucky. It’s so saturated with the same recommendations from so many users that it gets annoying sometimes. But, every once in a while you find a hidden gem that calls your name.”
Cait made a similar statement in her blog. She writes, “With large influxes of new creators, authors, and publishers, I imagine oversaturation of creators might become an issue. And now that the marketing successes of BookTok has gained attention, I can also see more promotional content being made, which might cause those who joined for authenticity to lose interest. However, I don’t think these issues will permanently affect BookTok.”
BookTok has certainly encouraged a lot of people to read, as well as transformed readers into reviewers and influencers. Its future at the moment is undecided, but Booktok is changing the way books reach readers and how publishers see feedback as well as providing a platform to to explore people’s different tastes and opinions on books. If this article made you curious, just download the app TikTok and search the hashtag “#BookTok” to get started.