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Photo: BookTok on Tik Tok
If you don’t know what Tik Tok is I assume you live under a rock, a natural Patrick the star. But to recap the past few years during which this app gained peak popularity, Tik Tok is a video-sharing social networking app owned by the Chinese company, ByteDance. It’s undergone many transformations whether it be their management or their name, but it’s finally settled into a comfortable rhythm and place in pop culture today. With 689 million active users on a monthly basis, it has not only become the most popular social media service but it’s responsible for shaping and changing our generational ideas, trends and movements.
Although it seems overzealous to credit Tik Tok for so many different benchmarks of our generation and the past couple of years, its influence has truly spanned a worldwide scale, even gaining Presidential attention when rumors of its security issues spread to the White House last year. While security breach issues are one of the many negative aspects of this app and its virality, a lot of positive changes have been birthed too.
Most notably, for musical artists, Tik Tok has become a way to shamelessly and effectively plug their music and content. Tik Tok accounts gain traction considerably faster than Instagram or Twitter accounts which take longer to build and promote. But, due to the fast-paced nature of Tik Tok and the ability to watch over thousands of new videos a day, you’re more likely to run into fresh content.
Launch of BookTok On Tik Tok Streaming Platform
Recently, although smaller than other communities on Tik Tok, like the groups of dancers, singers, and influencers, book lovers found their home on the app as well. Small but thriving, the book-lovers created a safe environment to share book recommendations, favorite authors, and the latest book news.
Most creators focus on the Young Adult genre, appealing to the young audience and viewership on the app. The original creators of the book corner are hard to pinpoint but the novel that kickstarted the hashtag #BookTok, is ‘They Both Die At The End,’ by Adam Silvera. Originally published in 2017, the novel was on the New York Times bestseller list a few weeks later, putting Silvera on the map.
But, much to his surprise, in August of 2020, the novel was reintroduced to a whole new crowd of book lovers and found itself back on the New York Times bestseller list. To this day, the romance novel still claims a spot, much to Silvera’s confusion, who had no idea where the sales spike was coming from. He only understood after fans explained how his book had blown up on Tik Tok.
Now, the Tik Tok hashtag, #TheyBothDieAtTheEnd, has over 37 million views with creators promoting the book or sharing their reactions, which are often full of many tears due to the emotional ending.
Book Recommendations Take Authors and Tik Tok By Storm
This isn’t the only book that’s been affected by the Tik Tok industry and marketing advantages. It helped many new authors find their footing, spiking their novels and careers through a few clicks and shares. Authors like Madeline Miller and E.Lockhart, who also realized bestseller books a few years ago, had a resurfacing of fame and popularity when their respective novels, ‘The Song of Achilles,’ and ‘We Were Liars’ trended on BookTok.
Miller’s Greek mythology-inspired novel, “Song of Achilles,” has especially gleaned a fan club, with people crying and reacting to the tragic Greek story she adapted. An account that goes by the username, has even created wood carvings of the protagonists, Achilles and Patroclus, selling them on her official website.
Barnes & Noble, arguably the biggest retailer for books has also piggybacked on the success of BookTok when it comes to marketing popular titles and increasing sales. The business was under threat of closing a couple of years ago because of the lack of activity and interaction, but recently Tik Tok’s virality factors have positively impacted the store. Various locations and staff have begun setting up specialized shelves and tables to promote the books that have gone viral under #BookTok, with colorful signs and posters advertising the creators and videos that made the novels popular.
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“We’re identifying these trends as big opportunities,” Shannon DeVito, the director of books at Barnes & Noble, said. “Let’s create a table, let’s create a shelf, let’s create a statement because I know I have so many customers coming in saying, ‘I saw this trending on TikTok.’’”
Safe Space For Readers, Fans and Authors Alike
DeVito noticed sales growing last summer, during the spike of the COVID-19 pandemic, where most individuals were stuck at home with nothing better to do than open up a book! “We’ve seen big box retailers jump at the chance to engage with the #booktok community, like Barnes and Noble creating a dedicated ‘TikTok BookTok Reads’ section both online and in-store from creator recommendations,” a TikTok representative said when interviewed by NBC News. Even from the publisher’s perspective, being connected to the #BookTok trends has increased creator collaborations and sale spikes.
Most importantly, the app has offered a safe and interactive space for young audiences to find a gateway to the beautiful world of reading. Not only do they have creators they admire recommending new books and stories on the daily, but they have the chance to reconnect with older books that were pivotal upon their earlier releases.
The app has been pivotal for introducing younger audiences to reading, DeVito said, as well as for introducing older titles to new readers and for helping new authors find an audience. The BookTok phenomenon also closely coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, which DeVito credits for people craving an emotional connection with others that they satisfied through reading.
Chloe Gong and Her Tik Tok Fame As An Author
A prime example of a new book that gained traction is ‘These Violent Delights.’ A novel by Chloe Gong who works in collaboration with Simon Schuster, this book is advertised as a Romeo and Juliet retelling. The hopeless romantics of Tik Tok immediately connected with the text, which is set in 1920s Shanghai and takes a deadlier twist on the Shakespearean classic. Gong found herself active on Tik Tok as well, joining in April 2020 and gaining a huge following. She had fans leaving comments about preordering the book or ranting about their favorite parts, all of which, thanks to the Tik Tok algorithm, introduced her account to tons of people who would have never come across it otherwise.
This in corroboration with the Tik Tok For You page has been a gold mine for promoting content to many different groups of users and readers. The For You page curates content personally for you, understanding what videos you tend to enjoy and promoting more content along those veins. Nowadays, the For You page has helped the #BookTok hashtag gain a collective 12.6 billion views.
Silvera has an account now as well, remarking about the unique and wonderful capabilities of Tik Tok in comparison to other social media apps. It reaches millions of people and empowers them in ways they haven’t been before, making their experiences and stories important and the center of attention, if only for 30 seconds.
“The readers are the stars,” Silvera said. “They are the ones who are creating bestsellers in ways that we cannot organically produce for ourselves.”
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.