an illustration of tiktok authors
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

BookTok Is Changing the Game for Writers Both Old and New

Thanks to the prevalence of TikTok in artistic spaces, up-and-coming authors have begun to use the platform to promote their books.

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an illustration of tiktok authors
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

Thanks to the prevalence of TikTok in artistic spaces, up-and-coming authors have begun to use the platform to promote their books.

Every day, millions of creators post video content on TikTok to draw in viewers and gain notoriety across the site. Artists use the social media platform to sell their work — whether they make paintings, sculptures, clothes or books. TikTok is based on an algorithm that tracks what each user watches and interacts with and then provides similar videos to interest them. Because of the algorithm, users with similar interests often end up seeing and interacting with the same content, creating the different “sides” of the app. One side of TikTok is BookTok.

What happens on BookTok is right in the title — it features content involving anything and everything to do with books. And, although TikTok keeps its analytics locked away, it is safe to say that BookTok is huge. The BookTok hashtag is currently at 60.8 billion views (a significant increase from the 12.2 billion views of the hashtag in November 2021).

Many creators that use the BookTok hashtag post content strictly related to books that they have read — that is, many BookTok users are not authors, only readers. These creators make videos presenting their favorite books, least favorite books, rankings, recommendations and book hauls, but the content does not end there. Book-related TikTok also covers cosplay of characters, reenactments of scenes and skits that mock characters, tropes and stories. Theories about future books in popular series also compose a significant number of videos.

The authors on the app often post content related to the process of writing, editing and publishing their book, but they also may post teasers or excerpts to gain attention from potential readers. Some authors explain important information for future authors to know, such as the difference between independent and traditional publishing. Many TikTok authors update their page with information on where their book lies in the publishing process, whether they have just started writing, if they are querying their book or if they have hit the Bestseller list.

Many authors are invested in both posting content about their novels and about other books they are interested in. TikTok author Kaven Hirning (@kaven_books) often posts videos related to renowned author Sarah J. Maas’ books, where she pretends to be the various characters in the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series interacting with each other. She emphasizes the noted traits of each of the characters, such as Cassian, whom she portrays as a comedic but dumb character. Hirning also promotes her debut series, the first of which, “A Forbidden Fate,” will be released in the fall.

Similarly, Stacey McEwan (@stacebookspace) mocks common tropes and characteristics of the love interests in popular novels. She has a series of videos in which she encourages her husband to learn the common mannerisms of the love interests in books. Her other content consists of advertising her upcoming novel “Ledge,” interacting with other BookTok creators and discussing books and book adaptations.

BookTok has become a driving force in the book industry. Publishers say that the book side of TikTok has significantly increased overall sales, but especially for books in the young adult and contemporary romance genres. Fantasy novels have also been highly recommended on the site. What is interesting, however, is that many of the books highly recommended by BookTok creators are not recent releases but a few years old. Colleen Hoover was shocked when her 4-year-old novel “It Ends With Us” increased its sales significantly last fall thanks to the popularity of her book across TikTok. The sentiment is likely shared by many authors whose sales have increased due to BookTok.

Other than its impact on sales, BookTok has revitalized a love of reading in many people. BookTok began gaining prominence during the beginning of the pandemic as people who had not picked up a book in years started to read again. The community has since grown and encourages everyone to read. It recommends books for every interest, even if it focuses mainly on specific genres.

TikTok has become a hub for authors, especially aspiring authors. With many authors explaining their experience with the publishing process, aspiring authors learn the steps to take to publish their own books. Many are choosing to skirt the traditional publishing process altogether to self- or independently publish their novels. However, other aspiring authors have partnered with publishing houses to increase diversity in the publishing industry. TikTok has also assisted potential authors who want their books published by drawing publishers’ attention to these writers. TikTok has launched the careers of new authors by drawing in an audience for the writers’ books before the books have even been published — or even queried. Publishers are more likely to buy or bet on a book and author that already has a following.

Popular authors who use the app include Victoria Aveyard, author of the “Red Queen” series, Ayana Gray, who provided a window into her life as she released her debut in 2021, and Hoover, a favorite of many BookTok creators. Hoover interests many as a presence on the app because most of her romance novels are staples on BookTok recommendation lists. As of December 2021, Hoover — or CoHo, as BookTok refers to her — was the second most popular author with two of her books (“It Ends With Us” and “Confess”) being in the top 10 most popular books. The popularity was measured based on hashtag views, and Sarah J. Maas rested as the most popular author on the app at the time, even without a TikTok account; however, Colleen Hoover has more views than her currently.

TikTok became a popular app in pre-pandemic times, and quarantine only grew its popularity. BookTok is certain to develop more, and its reach will grow more widespread. Bookseller Barnes & Noble even has sections for trending books on TikTok, so it is unlikely that BookTok will fade away soon. TikTok is unlikely to become a passing trend, but in that case, the BookTok community also has its presence felt on other apps, such as Instagram.

Social media has grown more addicting and more powerful in recent years, and TikTok has proved that it can change perspectives and entire industries. BookTok has imagined a new world for authors to share their ideas and stories and to connect with other authors. Social media can be toxic and harmful in many instances, but TikTok has connected people through a shared love of reading and writing.

Writer Profile

Virginia Beall

Elon University
Religious Studies

Hello! I’m Virginia, and I am an incoming senior at Elon University. My favorite pastime is reading, and I am working on expanding my reading taste by reading classics and more literary fiction.

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