IIn August 2020, Kate Wilson, a 16-year-old from Shrewsbury, posted on the social media video platform TikTok a series of quotes from books she had read, “that say I love you, without actually saying I love you” . With a brooding soundtrack, the short video plays as Wilson, an A-level student, holds up copies of the books with the quotes superimposed. “You have been the last dream of my soul”, of A tale about two cities. “Whatever our souls are made of, yours and mine are the same,” from wuthering heights. “Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as mine”, from Jane eyre. It has been viewed over 1.2 million times.
Wilson’s TikTok Mango, @kateslibrary, is among the increasingly popular accounts posted on #BookTok, a TikTok corner dedicated to reading, which has amassed 9.6 billion views and continues to grow, and has been described as the last healthy place on the internet. Here, users, mostly young women, post short videos inspired by the books they love. Those that do it best are the fun and nimble versions of literature and the reading experience. “Books where the main character was sent to kill someone, but in the end falls in love” by @kateslibrary. “Things that bookworms do” by @abbysbooks. “When you were 12 and your parents caught you crying over a book” by @emilymiahreads.
These publications can attract millions of views and rekindle an appreciation for books in young readers. “I started reading again after six years when I first came across BookTok last October,” says 15-year-old Mireille Lee, who, with her 13-year-old sister Elodie, now runs the @alifeofliterature account on TikTok.
The idea started after Mireille convinced her sister to try the young adult novel. The selection by Kiera Cass; “I did not want to read. I liked games, “says Elodie. But once it started, she couldn’t quit and set up her own TikTok account, through which she shared videos inspired by the mood or “aesthetics” of The selection. When one of Elodie’s videos received 1,000 likes in one day, Mireille decided to join her, and the sisters now have about 284,000 followers and 6 million likes; one of his biggest hits was on By E Lockhart We were liars, which shows photos of dramatic and glamorous scenes on a beautiful coastline, summarizing the content of the book with exciting music. As the sisters say, it is about “convincing you to read books based on their aesthetics.”
While this may seem like a reductive way of talking about books, the sisters know that these memes are an effective ruse to attract readers. “I think it all comes down to the fact that when you look at a book, you think, ‘no more homework, thank you very much,’” says Mireille. “I tried to influence my friends to collect The selection, or Red Queen [by Victoria Aveyard], and they just weren’t having it. “Instead,” we showed them a bunch of images with really popular music, and that was a huge hit. People loved it and we’ve continued to do so. “
Adam Silvera’s novel of 2017 They both die in the end is one of the books that has benefited from the BookTok effect. Users recently began filming themselves before and after reading the book, sobbing as they reached the finish line. In March, it shot to the top of the teen fiction charts, selling more than 4,000 copies a week. The book has sold over 200,000 copies in the UK, with more than half of those arriving late in 2021, after thousands of posts about it (#adamsilvera has been viewed 10.8 million times).
The editors are watching with interest. “The pool of people who are guaranteed to buy young adult books is limited to a few thousand dedicated lovers of the genre, but BookTok is exciting, with its short and entertaining videos providing a powerful new opportunity to reach out and attract new people. non-readers, to create more book lovers, ”says Kat McKenna, a brand and marketing consultant specializing in children’s and young adult books. “These ‘snapshot’ visual advancements are making books cinematic in a way that publishers have been trying to do with book marketing advancements for a long time. But the way TikTok users are creating images inspired by what they are reading is so simple and clever. It is that of giving life to the pages, showing what is obtained from a book beyond the words “.
At Simon & Schuster, marketing and advertising manager Olivia Horrox, who worked on Silvera’s novel, is now looking at another of his titles, Tracy Deonn’s. Legendborn, taking on a new life on BookTok. “It has become a trend that other users want to take advantage of and start creating their own content,” he says. “Like the ice cube challenge that used to exist on Facebook, these TikTok trends turn into a challenge in the same way, and you don’t want to miss the zeitgeist, so you get the book everyone’s talking about.”
BookTokers captures the “gut reaction” to a book, which does not appear in a written review, says Horrox. “There is something about the fact that it is less than a minute. People who consume this content want things that are faster and more agile all the time – you watch a 32-second video and someone says, ‘This book has LGBTQ romance, it’s really heartbreaking, it’s speculative fiction. And then viewers think, ‘Oh, okay, those are all the things that interest me. I’ll go buy it. ‘
The emotional life of a teenager can be unstable, going from intense ups and downs to noisy lows, and the books that offer a cathartic scream are the most popular. “Romantic books and sad books seem to be really important,” says McKenna. “If you pull a string from the heart, it is likely to hold the user’s attention.”
Ayman Chaudhary, who is 20 years old and at the University of Chicago, found that his likes skyrocketed when he posted a video of your answer – loud (and hilarious) wailing – to finish Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. “There’s this trend where you talk about a book and maybe even add a clip of yourself crying while reading the book,” says Chaudhary. “It makes people curious, like, what could make this book so good or so sad that it can make you show your emotions and be so vulnerable to the public? The books that can make me cry instantly have my money. “
However, not everything is romance and tears. American teenager “ccolinnnn” has 21.7 million likes for its humorous publications, which are often trailers for live broadcasts in which you read children’s bedtime stories. Emily Russell, who has 1.2 million likes on her @emilymiahreads account, found she really took off after a post about a bookstore she loves to go to. And some of the funniest videos poke fun at literary tropes: “How do white people write East Asian women,” or “What dress are you wearing to run romantically through a castle to your lover?” “How I think I look when I readversus how I really look ”.
Chaudhary says it was during the lockdown that she began posting BookTok videos, spurred on by the “boredom of quarantine. I never planned to do content. I didn’t think she had anything special or new to say. “Today she has 258,000 followers and 16.2 million likes for her. @aymansbooks account.
Wilson also entered BookTok during the lockdown. “I love finding even more people to talk to about my favorite books,” he says. “In fact, some people at my school that I had never talked to before came up to me just to talk about books and my TikTok account because they had found it.” By December 2020, publishers contacted her regularly, that they had realized that TikTok “really sells books.”
Russell, a 21-year-old science student, began receiving books from publishers and authors in late September. “I still can’t believe I can work with these publishers. It has always been a dream of mine, ”he says.
BookTok content tends to focus on the five or more “popular” books, which currently include fantasy novels. Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Cruel by Marissa Mayer and the series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. “What people really love at Booktok is the fantasy romance. If you tell someone there is romance when they try to kill each other, that’s it, sold out, “says Faith Young, who posts as @hellyeahbooks.
“In the beginning, when you first join, there are definitely six to ten books that everyone is talking about,” he says. “The most popular books tend to be pretty straight and pretty white. So I think the biggest movement within the community is like, ‘Hey, haven’t you ever seen yourself represented? Here are books that will represent you. I’m bisexual, and when I first joined, I was only reading books about straight couples. So finding these books that I saw myself in was life changing. ”She cites in particular Claire Legrand’s Empirium trilogy, some of the first books she read with a bisexual protagonist.
Young is 22 years old and says, “I thought TikTok was ridiculous, last year before the first blackout. I really thought it was only for 14 year olds, but BookTok is a lovely community. They are people who like the same books as me, and I can talk about the books that I like. It just seems a bit magical. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism