Social media platforms continue to change how companies market and sell their products, allowing businesses and individual influencers to expand their audience and consumer base by creating engaging, on-brand content. No platform has demonstrated this better than TikTok, which completely revolutionized how consumers discover new products, including books, giving birth to ‘BookTok.’ 

BookTok changed the publishing landscape seemingly overnight. Several books published many years ago jumped onto best-seller lists due to their popularity in this niche TikTok sub-community. So what makes BookTok such a valuable tool for authors and publishers to sell their books, and what lessons about digital marketing can we learn from BookTok’s success? To answer these questions, let’s investigate BookTok’s rise to popularity. 

What is BookTok?

BookTok (meaning “Book TikTok”) is a subcommunity on TikTok, a social media platform characterized by short-form video content. On BookTok, readers post videos with book reviews and recommendations, share bookish memes, showcase their bookshelf setups, and generally gush over the books they love. Authors are also part of the BookTok community, often posting writing updates, publishing news, and aesthetic concept trailers to interest readers in their books. Publishers have also found their place in this community, promoting books and authors through announcements, humorous videos, and partnerships with BookTok influencers. 

BookTok influencers, known as BookTokers, post about a variety of book genres, although romance, fantasy, and young adult fiction are especially popular. Most BookTok creators are teenagers and young women, which may explain why young adult books are so popular within the community. While some BookTok accounts revolve around a specific topic or genre, others post more general reviews and commentary about any bookish subject they’re interested in (SocialPilot, n.d.). 

The Rise of BookTok

BookTok’s influence began in 2020, when young BookTokers inspired a resurgence in sales for a handful of young adult titles initially published several years earlier. One such book was E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, a young adult psychological horror novel that blew up on BookTok because of its devastating twist ending. Many teens posted their shocked — and sometimes tearful — reactions to the book’s ending on TikTok, causing the book to rise in the young adult bestseller lists six years after its original release in 2014. As of December 2023, TikToks with the hashtag #wewereliars had over 172 million views. 

In May of 2022, E. Lockhart published Family of Liars, the long-anticipated prequel to We Were Liars. Lockhart cites BookTok’s interest in the book as the reason for writing the prequel. While fans had been asking for a prequel to We Were Liars since the book was published, the heightened demand from the book’s newfound BookTok fame ultimately pushed her to commit to the project (Kaplan, 2022). 

In 2021, several other books saw a similar resurgence in sales, including They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera, initially published in 2017; Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, initially published in 2012; and It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, initially published in 2016 (Kaplan, 2022). Hoover, in particular, has found massive success on BookTok. In July 2022, Hoover had four books in the top 15 spots on the New York Times bestseller list for combined print and e-book fiction. This achievement demonstrated BookTok’s power, especially considering that of the four Colleen Hoover books on the bestseller list, the most recently published title was released years ago in 2018 (McNeal, 2022). 

Even in offline spaces, BookTok holds some sway. For example, many bookstores now create displays promoting the most talked about titles on BookTok, as demand for these books is significantly high. BookTok popularity has become a selling point for readers, especially young readers who often turn to social media for book reviews and recommendations (Kaplan, 2022). 

How Authors and Publishers Leveraged BookTok to Market Their Books

After witnessing the power of BookTok to multiply book sales, many authors and publishers jumped to create TikTok accounts and take advantage of this new hotspot for book promotion. Here’s how they were able to utilize BookTok to amplify their online presence and profit:

  • Establishing a Dedicated Readership

BookTok videos regularly attract millions of views, making the BookTok audience a worthwhile community to cater content to. Authors and publishers quickly noted this when BookTok began to take off in 2020. Since then, they’ve utilized it to establish a committed reader base. Even self-published authors use BookTok to their advantage, gradually building a following they can count on to buy their books and support their careers. Readers are more likely to buy an author’s books if they feel a personal connection to them, so BookTok is an ideal way to foster that friendly relationship with potential readers (Flood, 2021). 

  • Generating Early Interest

These days, authors have to do more work to market their books themselves. That’s why it’s so important for authors to establish a following on social media. By posting mini teasers — or sometimes elaborate trailers — for their books, authors can generate hype months before the release date, ensuring they’ll receive sufficient preorders and sales when the book is officially published. Prerelease sales are a major factor in landing a book on bestseller lists, so garnering interest in a book release months in advance can help authors achieve these milestones (Flood, 2021). 

  • Using BookTok Buzz as a Publicity Tool

For some authors, especially writers in BookTok’s most favored genres, utilizing current trending topics and memes can help garner exposure for their books. For example, if an author notices their manuscript shares similar tropes, themes, or character archetypes with a book currently trending on BookTok, they can draw comparisons between the two stories to gain more interest in their book. Hopping on trends is a great way to draw people to your account and acquire new followers, and authors have learned to take advantage of this by using popular audio clips and hashtags (J.O. Agency, n.d.). 

Digital Marketing Takeaways from TikTok

If you’re looking to increase brand awareness and boost your engagement and sales, TikTok is the place to be. While BookTok is a somewhat niche community, its popularity reveals some important lessons about how businesses and influencers can use TikTok to their advantage. Here are a few key points to remember to up your TikTok presence: 

  • Use Trends to Enhance Your Visibility

Using trending sounds and memes is an excellent way to grow your TikTok following, especially when you’re just starting and trying to establish a viewership for your brand. Of course, all of your content should still be geared toward your particular area of expertise, but many popular memes are generic enough to apply to a variety of topics and fields. Find a way to spin trends in a way that relates to your business, and interested users will find your content (J.O. Agency, n.d.).  

  • Be Responsive

Social media encourages communication, so being responsive is essential to promoting your brand image and building a relationship with your followers. This means responding to users’ comments and direct messages and initiating interactive campaigns like giveaways and contests. When your customers have concerns or questions, they want these issues addressed timely and professionally, and many of these interactions now take place on social media. Replying to comments might not seem like a big deal, but it can make a huge difference in how your audience perceives your brand and its reliability (J.O. Agency, n.d.). 

  • Develop a Unique Brand Character to Increase Sales

Consumers are often drawn to brands with a unique identity. This could come in the form of a mascot or even something as simple as a consistent writing tone and style. Your brand’s voice will help create a sense of character that indicates to consumers what kind of content they can expect from you. This character can also help foster a feeling of closeness between your audience and your brand, leading to more loyal and engaged customers. An inconsistent voice can be confusing and off-putting for your followers, so try to maintain a clear character your customers will expect and appreciate (J.O. Agency, n.d.). 

  • Monitor Your Growth to Refine Your Marketing Strategy

If you’re not keeping track of your post's performance, it will be challenging to learn what kinds of content perform well with your audience. By monitoring which posts perform well and which posts don’t, you can tailor your content to your audience’s preferences. This makes it easy to identify weak points in your digital marketing strategy and adjust when needed (J.O. Agency, n.d.). 

Digital marketing is an essential component of any successful business. Not only does it establish a strong relationship with your target audience or consumer base, but it also increases your brand’s recognizability, allowing your company to reach a wider audience. If you’re looking to grow your business, start by evaluating your current digital marketing strategy to determine what’s working and what still needs work. 

If you need help navigating the do’s and don’ts of digital marketing, BlueTickSocial is here for you. Contact us today to begin growing your brand’s online presence! 


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The Rise of BookTok: Meet the teen influencers pushing books up the charts

Top 5 Takeaways of TikTok Marketing

What Is BookTok? Understanding the TikTok Trend That's Bringing Books to Life

Photo from Pexels by Enzo Muñoz