Is social media killing bookstore sales? Quite the opposite, believe it or not. “BookTok” is sending old and new books to the top of the bestsellers list changing authors careers and influencing a community of bibliophiles.
“BookTok” is a community on the social media app TikTok, focusing on everything books and literature. Creators make videos about books they read that are either reviewing, discussing, recommending, or joking about them. “BookTok” now has over 41.8 billion views on the app, and is creating a real impact.
Five years ago, young adult and science fiction author Adam Silvera released a novel entitled They Both Die at the End, which landed at the top of New York Times bestseller list.
In August of 2020, Silvera’s publisher noticed a significant sales bump which landed the book at number one spot of monthly bestseller list in April of 2020 where it still reigns today. However, Silvera was clueless on where the sales spike was coming from.
“I kept commenting to my readers, ‘Hey, don’t know what’s happening, but there’s been a surge in sales lately, so grateful that everybody’s finding the story years later,” Silvera said. “And then that’s when a reader was like, ‘I’m seeing it on BookTok.’ And I had no idea what they were talking about.”
“BookTok” has boosted in popularity over the few years and the hashtag #TheyBothDieAtTheEnd has an amazingly 75.3 million views.
However, Silvera isn’t the only author who received a sufficiently great increase in popularity and sales.
According to publishing industry NPD BookScan, in the past few years book sales have increased by 9 percent to 825.7 million. Claiming to be the highest count since NPD BookScan started following book sales back in 2004.
Popular bookstores such as Barnes and Noble have even dedicated a display table for well liked books on TikTok and making people say “BookTok made me buy it!”.
For Carissa Luna, a 20 year old bibliophile, “BookTok” has given her the opportunity to add numerous new novels under her must read list.
“BookTok opened up the possibility to read different genres I never thought I’d be into,” said Luna. “I think to myself ‘I would have never thought about reading this if it wasn’t advertised to me correctly’.”
When quarantine first began it allowed people to fill their free time jumping back into the hobby of reading and putting their real life on pause. And for Luna that was exactly how she scrolled her way into “BookTok”.
“BookTok just popped up on my feed one day and I liked one video,” said Luna. “After that I just went deeper into the trend. Now I have to refresh multiple times if I want to see something different.”
For many, “BookTok” has allowed them to voice their passion for books and literature that soon formed a sense of community instead of feeling like you’re reading on their own. Although, Luna is tied between if she really belongs.
“It’s 50/50. I see people on there that read ‘current reads’ in one to two days, but I don’t have that kind of free time anymore due to being a full time student and employee,” said Luna. “Although, I do know more good books to read compared to my friends who are just starting to get into reading.”
Despite longing the feeling to binge read again, Luna still sees many benefits to being a part of the “BookTok” trend.
“Reading all these different genres can help you to possibly gain more insight on your life and what you want out of it,” said Luna. “It can also help people find a sense of relatability to characters and help find a sense of community.”
American novelist Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo experienced the same sales bump when the hashtag #thesevenhusbandsofevelynhugo went viral on “BookTok” with over 81.4 million views.
Because of “BookTok’s” suggestion, Luna picked up the novel and by the end it became her new personal favorite.
“It’s a genre I would have never picked up on my own. The character Evelyn I find very admirable. She’s definitely made some mistakes in her life, but she doesn’t shy away from them or try to make excuses for them like some people,” said Luna. “She also has a ‘take what you want’ attitude that I like about her.”
“BookTok” changed the game for book sales. Social Media became the power tool for bookstores, publishing industries, and authors to thrive especially during quarantine. All while allowing bibliophiles like Luna to enhance their imagination and dive deeper into their passion.