TikTok, which was initially a dance video-sharing app, has evolved over the years to include short and long videos spanning various genres and topics. Ever since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, TikTok birthed yet another trend called BookTok. BookTok, which revolved around the reading and reviews of many hidden gems and forgotten treasures in the literary world, among current releases, boomed in a short span of 2 years and is here to stick around. Readers and TikTok subscribers simply cannot get enough of BookTok and are always on the lookout for new releases in the romance, fantasy, and thriller genres, among others. So much so that BookTok has surpassed conventional publishing tactics and boosted the sales of several authors and publishing houses like Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and others. BookTok has even revived the love for print amidst the sweep of digitisation and digital books. Let’s traverse through the journey of BookTok, the consequent increase in readership enabled through TikTok, and what it means for book enthusiasts.
Tiktok made me buy it
Those days when authors only had to rely on publishing houses or newspaper publications to make their books get noticed are behind us, if not completely obsolete. With TikTok in the game, publishing houses have reported book sales going over the roof. Official stats from the company NPD Bookscan indicate that TikTok was responsible for the sale of around 825.7 million books in 2021, a big leap from the numbers before 2020. For many authors, this meant being recognised and getting massive sales. Take the example of US writer Colleen Hoover who made young adult fiction fans gaga with her novel “It Ends With Us” and her recent sequel (Volume II) “It Starts with Us”. Hoover was at first a self-published author who started acquiring a dedicated fanbase on TikTok for her extremely compelling books that tugged on readers’ heartstrings. Now, Hoover has been signed with a reputed publishing house, and her books have sold over 20 million copies, thanks to TikTok.
LGBTQIA+ and minority representation
One of the best things that TikTok and the hashtag BookTok did was shed light on the brilliant stories of underrepresented communities in the world of literature. Through BookTok, readers were able to source books from authors of different genders, races and sexuality. The LGBTQ+ community felt heard and seen, especially thanks to the heart-warming books Song of Achilles and Heartstopper. Song of Achilles, written by Madeline Miller in 2011, caught the attention of the BookTok community of readers because of its riveting plot. The novel showcased a fusion of Greek history with elements of romance between Achilles and Patroclus. The book is written and narrated from the perspective of Patroclus, which is a fresh change from literature revolving around Achilles. Heartstopper too portrays a coming-of-age love story between two young male protagonists. It became an instant hit with audiences, so much so that it got picked up by Netflix for a Netflix series.
The influence of BookTok on cinema and future readership
BookTok has not only influenced numerous readers from GenZ but also caught the eye of online OTT platform giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime, among others. These include coming-of-age plot lines like ‘The Summer I turned Pretty’, which was greenlit by Amazon Prime and Heartstopper, which was selected by Netflix as a Netflix series and is in the running for season 2. The cinematic portrayal of these TikTok fan favourites only steered the spotlight towards the changing trend of BookTok finds. Readers got to see their favourite characters come to life. Other TikTok hits that are being adapted into movies or web series include ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid, ‘It Ends with Us’ by Colleen Hoover, and ‘They both die at the end’ by Adam Silvera.
Wrapping it up:
You might think that TikTok has played a huge role in influencing GenZ to become readers; however, it was the other way around. GenZ, in fact, influenced their fellow GenZ and millennials to grab onto books by expressing their love and reviewing their current reads through compelling video content. When it comes to India, we know that TikTok is banned here. But through Instagram reels, Indian readers are still able to find TikTok bestsellers and purchase them easily. This goes to show how powerful TikTok has been in increasing global readership.
Written By Tanya Jain, Writer and Design Strategist