How TikTok’s BookTok craze is ‘making reading cool again’

From Big Issue:

Welcome to BookTok. TikTok’s book recommendations, reviews and releases have amassed 185 billion views, making it one of the platform’s most active communities. According to the Publisher’s Association, 59% of 16- 25-year-olds have rekindled their love for reading thanks to the trend.

This is true for BookToker Nicole Murphy, who has 42,000 followers on the app.

“I stopped reading as I got older. But when I stumbled upon BookTok, it seemed like a positive space and I started reading more. I wasn’t part of a specific community and thought it’d be nice to be part of,” she tells The Big Issue.

“It’s made reading cool again,” Murphy continues. Addressing BookTok’s reputation for competitiveness she says, “Someone might say ‘I’ve read 30 books this month’, but they haven’t said ‘I’m better than you because of that’. It’s internal pressure people get from seeing this, like with anything online.”

There are hundreds of articles dismissing the platform for the competitiveness it allegedly fuels by promoting unattainable reading quotas and goals. GQ complains BookTok is “shallow” and has made being a reader more important than actually reading. Dazed speculates it has “sucked the joy out of reading”.

Signs are there. Some videos suggest “listening to audiobooks at 1.5x speed and skimming long passages of text”, while others show TBR piles (stacks of books that have yet To Be Read) taller than most people’s whole collections. But Murphy is quick to defend BookTok against criticism: “I urge people to spend more time on BookTok and look for what they’re genuinely interested in, not what they want to bash.”

. . . .

Another unexpected benefit of this renewed enthusiasm for reading is that it’s providing a boost for bookshops.

“So many books become bestsellers after going viral,” say Leah Caffrey and Alice Treadwell, from House of Books & Friends, an independent bookstore in Manchester. “You can see when certain backlist titles are having a moment online and many trending books have stayed consistent in our weekly sales; sales which were certainly boosted by TikTok for some titles.

“BookTok has encouraged younger generations to read more and find an online community to share their enthusiasm with. This can only be a good thing. It is creating generations of future readers.”

Link to the rest at Big Issue

PG picked a BookTok video at random. The following video had more than 17,000 views when PG embedded it.

3 thoughts on “How TikTok’s BookTok craze is ‘making reading cool again’”

  1. I know I’m not the target audience for BookTok as I am older than dirt, most of the marketing things people don’t tend to work on me if you’re an author trying to sell me your book. I definitely resemble the remark that 50% of marketing is a waste, and if anyone figures out which 50%, they could make a fortune.

    As a reader, I don’t care about the cover. I don’t care about blurbs. BookTok ONLY interests me if it is the author telling a story about how they researched/wrote the book, interesting backstories, or are telling me what the book is about.

    I need the description of the story. I need to know what the book is about, and I don’t care if James Patterson loved it. For blurbs, there is a great scene in the TV Series Castle where, Richard Castle the novelist, gets a bunch of books to blurb and he isn’t planning to read them, no need. Instead, he holds one up to his head and declares it a “Tour de force in suspense”. Or something similar. There are many big authors who are in the “blurb ‘ho” category cuz if they actually read all those books they supposedly did, they’d have no time to write their own books. Oddly enough, I think Stephen King actually DOES read everything he shills.

    BookTok is just another review, and I rarely care about reviews. I care about ratings, only in the sense that research showed as a surprise 15 years ago — even bad reviews are good for business. It shows that people are engaging with the book, even if they didn’t like it. I look to see if there are lots of people reading it and reviewing/rating it. I’m looking for momentum, in a sense. If I’m on the fence for some reason, but I see that 5000 people are reading it, I might give it a go. Most of the time? I don’t care. Either the description works or it doesn’t and I move on.

    If the author or publisher covers the front and back with blurbs, and the inside flaps in a store are only about the author or blurbs? I won’t get any further as I have NO IDEA WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT.

    And yet, if I see that someone in a different situation has some link to some group I’m in, or whatever, and they’re an author, I’ll buy a book. Are you coming as a guest speaker? I’ll buy your book. Are you posting regularly in a group I’m in? I’ll check out your book. If you randomly show up in my feed once and it just so happens you’re posting about astronomy but I see you wrote a book about strange facts related to biology, I’ll look up your book.

    The “intentional” sell doesn’t work very well. But if you just put a book under a box with a stick, I’ll crawl in every time so you can spring your trap. It’s why I can’t be trusted in bookstores. I’ll go through a section pulling books off the shelves almost randomly if it’s an obvious series or it’s new so I can read the descriptions. 🙂

    I ingest videos and reels daily, sometimes for hours. BookTok has never once snagged my attention for long.

    • When looking for readers, I ask one question: what OTHER books do you like? I have a list which has served me well: if someone likes Dune, Rebecca, and On The Beach, it is likely they will have the capacity and depth needed to like what I write.

      I’ll ask: Have you read Jane Eyre for pleasure? Or Ursula LeGuin? How about Snow Falling on Cedars? Or A Canticle for Leibowitz? Or The Thorn Birds?

      The list is wide and covers many genres and includes a bunch of classics. I rarely find a reader who only reads thrillers and needs the James Patterson type of adrenaline kick – but, ah!, if you have read most of the Travis McGee novels of John D. MacDonald, you might be one of mine.

      Makes it tricky to do mass marketing – and I haven’t mastered the process yet – but the connections have been deep and solid. And lasting. And really hard to quantify.

  2. Blurb ho?
    A term to remember.

    I wonder if they see it as marketing *themselves* by keeping their name out in front of shoppers and maintaining (the illusion?) that their opinion matters.

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