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BookTok community on TikTok drives book sales to new heights

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TikTok is more than just a way to kill a few minutes – or hours – during a work break. It has become a vessel for finding community and, therefore, for advertising and marketing.

One of the biggest market-based communities on TikTok is the one you might have even seen creeping into the real world lately: BookTok.

BookTok, a sub-community of the TikTok video app, focuses on books and literature through related videos and hashtags. Creators make videos reviewing, listing, or making jokes about the books they read, by genre.

Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes and Noble, said many people who frequent BookTok range from teenagers to “under 40 audiences”, with a common theme of romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy and books for young adults as main subjects.

“There are a lot of genres of escapism,” DeVito said. “When we take inventory across the board, we order a lot more backlist titles.”

Backless titles are those that have been out for over a year. DeVito said BookTok’s popularity really started with some older books “which exploded in the summer of 2020”, namely “The Song of Achilles” and “They Both Die at the End”.

Since then, authors like Colleen Hoover – whose “It Ends With Us” was published in 2016 and spent 45 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list from 2021 to 2022 – have seen huge increases in sales through the platform.

This free marketing from creators to subscribers not only created a community for authors and readers, but took offline steps to start influencing the book selling industry so that even sellers now have store accounts. on the app.

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Back on demand

A local favorite in Jacksonville, Chamblin’s Bookmine has begun to see BookTok trends impact books in demand at both stores in 2020, said Cari Hamoui, manager of Chamblin’s Uptown.

“I was seeing much younger people (middle and high school age) coming in with their friends and buying books,” she said. “It was enough for me to notice and think, ‘What’s going on?'”

Hamoui said increases in purchasing young adult fiction have become more evident at the store “and not just teenagers,” she said, “but adults who buy it and become completely obsessed with these series fantastic, especially that of Sarah J. Maas.”

Chamblin had to change the way he ordered books “astronomically” because of what was becoming popular online, Hamoui said.

“We deal with a lot of used books, but with TikTok’s influence in the market, the demand for newer books and recently published books has changed a lot,” she said. “We had to start ordering new titles. We need to keep ordering those same titles that people want to get from TikTok. This influences the market and consumer choices for books.

Chamblin’s, who logged into his own TikTok account and started creating videos to promote the store, also became the backdrop for some of BookToker Justin Baumann’s local videos.

Creator keeps it local on BookTok

“Chamblin is the best filming location,” Baumann said. “People loved the second-hand bookstores on BookTok, and Chamblin’s is a quintessential and overcrowded hidden-gem-finding bookstore. I don’t think I’ve ever had a video where I filmed there doing harm.

Baumann, 28, of Jacksonville, or @justinsbooknook on TikTok and Instagram, said he started creating content for BookTok about a year ago to log the books he read. Since then, he has attracted nearly 11,000 people and caught the attention of some publishers who will send him free books in exchange for TikTok reviews.

“I wanted to get back to reading and I wanted to make it into a diary, like a blog,” Baumann said. “I started talking about the books I was reading in a very unprofessional way, and it picked up steam. I found some decent bestselling authors I didn’t like, and it got really took off.

Baumann’s videos average 2,000 to 5,000 views on weekdays and between 10,000 and 30,000 views on weekends, he said, which is highly variable due to TikTok’s algorithms that reward people. who post more frequently.

“I would say that BookTok strongly influences non-creators [to purchase books]”, Baumann said. “There are two books I’ve written that have had over 100,000 views, and I could tell from my comments section that people are buying books that I’ve reviewed. promotion. I like it because I promote queer books and books that don’t get as much attention.

Baumann said that while he doesn’t think he’ll make BookTok a full-time career, he said he’d like to see local bookstores interact and promote BookTokers more like content creators do for stores.

“Why don’t you invite your local BookTok person to organize this table?” He said. “I don’t feel paid enough for my time. One thing currently happening with the biggest BookTokers is that they should be legitimized by bookstores and publishers.

BookTok magic reacts, does not influence

Barnes and Noble, for example, does not want to get involved in direct advertising on TikTok, DeVito said.

“We have our own TikTok channel and many of our stores have their own TikTok channel,” she said. “We just engage and join the conversation. We really don’t push anything.

As soon as someone tries to monetize something or make it look like an advertisement, she says, that’s “when the magic of BookTok dies.”

“It builds an online community that we’ve had in our stores,” DeVito said. “The last thing I want is to be the uncool uncle in the media conversation.”

For now, just stock up on books that popularize more organically, she said.

Likewise, Chamblin’s looks at customer demand and responds to it rather than trying to drive it, Hamoui said.

A table displays signs with #BookTok, at a Barnes and Noble in Scottsdale, Arizona, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. TikTok, an app best known for its dance videos with 1 billion users worldwide, has also become a shopping phenomenon.  National channels are setting up TikTok sections.  (AP Photo/Tali Arbel)

Many Barnes and Nobles, who create their own pinboards and tips to suit their markets, have implemented “As Seen on BookTok” tags to help the public find what they’re looking for or discover something. again based on what he has already seen.

“We’ve also created an online page for titles you see trending and titles that are on the app with specific hashtags,” DeVito said. “It’s really gratifying to see young audiences discovering reading as a very beautiful version of escapism or rediscovering reading.”