Continuing on the series of “Librarians on TikTok” blog series, today let’s talk about the mysterious, amazing, and POWERFUL #BookTok! #BookTok is something that is having a huge impact, especially on Teen reading, and on the publishing industry in general. It is definitely something Librarians will benefit from having a clearer understanding of, and something I highly recommend Librarians try to get utilize. Your library users, and your collections, will thank you! (And your circulation will soar :))
Don’t forget to checkout last week’s post: “8 Ways Librarians Are Using TikTok
Table of contents for today’s post:
- #1 What is #BookTok
- #2 BookTok’s Impact on Publishing Industry
- #3 How to Find BookTok
- #4 How to Use BookTok for Readers Advisory
- #5 How to Use BookTok for Collection Development
#1 What is #BookTok
BookTok is a community on TikTok that includes readers, book reviewers, authors, publishers, librarians….. anyone with an interest in, or who works or operates within, the book world. BookTok is a term that is used in several different ways, hopefully the definitions listed below will help provide some clarity.
BookTok is often used as a word to refer in general to the group of people and videos on TikTok that have to do with books/publishing/writing/etc. Anyone on TikTok who is making or consuming content that relates to books, reading, publishing, etc can be said to be a member of the BookTok community. You don’t have to do anything special to be a member of BookTok, or to enjoy the BookTok community. You just have to be on TikTok and be either making, or watching, TikTok videos that refer in some way to books, reading, publishing, writing, etc.
Example: “I was on BookTok last night and saw so many great book reviews” simply means “I was on TikTok last night watching book related videos and I saw a lot of great book reviews.”
BookTok (type of TikTok video)
In addition to referring to the book community on TikTok, the word “BookTok” can also be used to refer to a type of TikTok video. A BookTok, in this case, is simply any TikTok video that is about books, reading, writing, publishing, etc. A “BookTok” can be a variety of different types of book related videos and may refer to: an actual “book talk,” a book review, commentary on a topic related to books/publishing, a digital display showing off different books, a shelfie, a monthly wrap up of books read that month, an author promoting their own book, etc. A BookTok video is just ANY tiktok video that has to do with books.
Example: “I made a BookTok last night to show off the new fantasy books in the library” just means “I made a TikTok video last night to show off the new fantasy books in the library.”
BookTokker (a person)
You might see someone referred to as a “BookTokker,” that simply means they are a person who creates TikTok videos that have to do with books, reading, publishing, writing, etc. Anyone can claim this title, you don’t need to do anything special to become a BookTokker other than to create TikTok videos about books.
#BookTok (the hashtag)
The hashtag #BookTok is what you can search in TikTok’s “discover” page if you want to find BookTok videos to watch and Booktokkers to follow. If you create BookTok videos you may want to include this hashtag in your video’s captions so that other BookTokkers can find your videos, and so the TikTok algorithm will know to show your videos to people who have previously shown interest in the #BookTok hashtag & content.
#2 #BookTok’s Impact on Publishing Industry
BookTok is actually having a significant impact on the publishing industry right now, especially the YA and the NA, Romance, & Fantasy sections. BookTok is actually causing some books and authors to go viral, which is resulting in MASSIVE sales increases for those books and authors. There are a few articles out now that go into this in more detail, but suffice it to say that BookTokkers are making tons of BookTok videos where they rave about, review, and promote the books they are enjoying. These videos often go viral, scooping up tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands, to millions of views. People who see the videos about the books often then go out and purchase the book they saw promoted on BookTok.
This is impacting sales and publishing so much that we are actually now starting to see authors and even publishers joining TikTok themselves and creating BookTok videos or even engaging with other BookTokers to try to get the BookTokkers to feature their books in upcoming videos. Authors like Coleen Hoover, Elizabeth Lim, Aiden Thomas, Victoria Aveyard, and even longtime Romance powerhouse Eloisa James are just a few authors that come to mind when I think of authors that are starting to put a lot of effort into leveraging TikTok’s power. PenguinTeen is the first publisher I recall seeing active on TikTok but in recent months there has been an uptick in publishers joining the fray.
Why does this matter to librarians? Well, in order to develop relevant collections and best serve our communities we need to know where the book & reading trends are heading, we need to be able to predict and know about what books, authors, and types of stories are most in-demand, and most popular. And the fact is that right now much of those trends and reading habits are being created & driven by what is happening on BookTok. Publishers are starting to take TikTok’s impact very seriously and it is starting to drive the decisions and priorities of the publishing world. Bookstores are taking note as well. You may have noticed that if you walk into ANY Barnes and Noble, they all have a permeant “popular on BookTok” display table and most BNs actually have their own BookTok accounts as well!
It is critical that Librarians, especially those who handle collection development and/or readers advisory, stay up to date on which books and authors are trending on booktok, because if you serve teens or adults you are absolutely going to have patrons requesting those books and authors. If you are staying somewhat informed of the TikTok trends in BookTok, you’re going to find that you aren’t buying a lot of the books people are going to be coming to you and asking for.
By the way, if you serve Teens you may have already noticed an uptick in Teen’s reading? I know I have! Our circulation is through the roof this year and we have TONS of students coming into the library with entire lists of titles on their phones they want to know if we have available in the library. Guess where they’re learning about the books they put on their list? Yep. TikTok. Teens are seeing BookTok videos about books, and then wanting to read those books. Which is why I actually have a permanent “Trending on #BookTok” display table in my HS library now too. It is heavily circulated, and the kids love it. Highly recommend.
What if you don’t have time to spend scrolling BookTok to figure out which books are popular?
That’s okay, you can cheat! Just keep an eye on Barnes and Noble’s “popular on booktok” website! You can visit this website periodically to stay informed on which books are trending on TikTok at any given moment. 🙂
Articles about BookTok
- How BookTok has strengthened the relationship between readers, writers and booksellers – The Hilltop
- BookTok Takes YA Literature by Storm – The Point
- TikTok Fueling ‘Reading Renaissance,’ Increased Sales of Physical Books – Pymnts.com
- How TikTok is changing the publishing game – Kids Screen
- The rise of BookTok: meet the teen influencers pushing books up the charts – The Guardian
- TikTok is taking the book industry by storm, and retailers are taking notice – NBC News
- ‘#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt’: TikTok becomes a shopping phenomenon, helping certain products go viral – USA Today
- How Crying on TikTok Sells Books – New York Times
- WANT TO GET INTO BOOKTOK? WE HAVE RECOMMENDATIONS! – BookRiot
- What is BookTok: the TikTok trend sending decades-old books up bestseller lists – Evening standard
- TikTok is turning decade-old books into bestsellers for the first time as it inspires a reading renaissance – The Insider
- How TikTok Makes Backlist Books into Bestsellers – Publishers WEekly
- The real data behind BookTok – The Bookseller
#3 How to Find #BookTok
You can search #BookTok in the “discover” page to find BookTok videos and Booktokker’s accounts.
Don’t forget that you can train your TikTok algorithm to show you what you want to see (and you should be intentional about this so that you curate a relevant and enjoyable TikTok experience for yourself.) The way to do this is simply to engage with videos and content you like to see and would like to see more of. Watch them through to the end, click “like,” leave some comments, follow some BookTokkers, etc. Those types of engagements will inform the algorithm that you enjoy BookTok content and you’ll notice more such content start to show up in your FYP (for you page) when you are scrolling TikTok. This is how you will discover more BookTokker accounts to follow.
You can also follow Booktokkers directly in order to see BookTok videos.
Some Booktokkers I recommend:
#4 Using #BookTok for Readers Advisory
One of my favorite ways to use BookTok is for readers advisory! To create digital book displays and to show off/market the various books our library has. I enjoy creating BookTok videos that feature books from our library, usually creating mini-collections that surround a common theme, rep, concept, genre, etc. I also enjoy following lots of other BookTokkers and will frequently re-share their BookTok videos with my students via our Instagram, especially if the BookTok video from the other Booktokker features a lot of books that we have available in our library. One reason I like to re-share other BookToker’s videos with my students is to amplify diverse voices on our library’s social media platform. I don’t like the idea that my students would only see my personal opinion or thoughts about the books featured. As we know, a single story, or a single viewpoint, is not a great thing if we are trying to develop inclusive and representative library programs. And I think same concept applies to the content we share on our socials in addition to the books we purchase for our collections. To ensure my students get to see more perspectives and opinions about books than just mine, I often re-share BookTok videos that were created by a diverse array of BookTokkers.
The other reason I like to re-share other Booktokker’s content with my students is more practical in nature….. its a quick and easy type of content to fill our Instagram with! I’m a firm believer that a library’s social media accounts should stay as active and robust as possible, and that means posting new content fairly often… ideally at least once per day. It can be tough (or impossible) for a librarian to actually create enough content to be able to post that often, but we don’t have to create original content in order to keep our socials active and relevant and engaging. We can rely on each other and other content creators to help out by re-sharing other creators’ content on our socials (as long as they have elected to have the “share” option enabled, and with proper attribution, of course!)
This is why I always recommend that we intentionally curate a good and diverse “people to follow” list on TikTok (and other platforms). You will ensure that you are being exposed to a diverse array of perspectives and voices, and you will have the option to re-share many of those creator’s videos with your students, which serves to both save you time AND allows your library to demonstrate & model the importance of avoiding a single perspective, collaboration, and amplifying diverse voices and viewpoints.
Examples of BookTok videos I’ve made to market library books to my students:
- New Manga at our Library
- Boys of color main characters in fantasy
- Queer Rep in Fantasy
- Stranger things readalikes
- AAPI Rep
- Muslim Representation
- Short books
- Lighthearted books
- Dystopian Books
#5 Using #BookTok for Collection Development
Collection development is one of my favorite ways to use BookTok as a librarian. At this point BookTok is one of my primary collection development resources. I follow a diverse array of BookTokkers to learn about a diverse array of books that I might like to add to our library’s collection. The cool thing is that you don’t even need to be creating your own BookTok videos in order to benefit in this way, all you need to do is follow a lot of BookTokkers & Librarians on TikTok and spend some time each week scrolling through your feed. You will learn about debut authors, soon to be or recently released books, trending books, etc. It is a great, and fun, tool to use for learning about books to add to the collection. There is a plethora of book related content on TikTok, and I think that if Librarians are failing to tap into it they’re missing out on an excellent, fun, AND FREE collection development resource. I have a “notes” app on my phone which I keep open to a “BookTok” page so that when I see great BookTok’s that show off books I want to consider adding to the library I can easily open the notes app and jot down the titles.