When people hear the word “TikTok”, the first images that pop into their head are incredibly catchy and danceable songs, funny videos, memes and The Rock rapping. However, one unexpected side effect of TikTok has been its influence on the book industry. “BookTok” is a community of TikTokers who review and talk about books, mainly young adult. According to NPD BookScan, which captures approximately 85% of all print sales in the US, unit sales of print books rose 8.9% in 2021 over 2020. The total amount of units sold in the US were 825.7 million in 2021, up from 757.9 million in 2020. The young adult fiction segment had the largest increase, with unit sales jumping 30.7% thanks to the social media platform.
BookTok’s real power however, is reviving old books and making backlist books into worldwide bestsellers. In August 2016, Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends with Us” was published and it sold relatively well. The publicity was good and the book hit bestseller lists in its first week on sale, but sales flat lined after that initial first month. Then something changed. BookTok got ahold of the book and all of a sudden, sales rose dramatically even reaching a peak of 29,000 sales in a week, compare to the 21,000 sales in the book’s first month. Another book to have received the power of BookTok is “Cain’s Jawbone”, a 1934 mystery thriller book where the pages are printed in random order, and you need to solve the crime. With every new print, it sells out instantly and has become every BookTokers favorite mystery book.
As of the day I’m writing this, #BookTok has 34 billion views on TikTok and it’s only going to continue to rise. Most people would assume that a social media platform like TikTok would make kids spend more time on their phones, however it has had a weird kind of opposite effect on today’s youth, with BookTok encouraging kids to read more and spend less time on their phones. I’ve seen this in my own personal life, when before discovering BookTok, I would maybe have read a book or two in a year, a significant downgrade from my childhood, and after discovering BookTok, I’ve read ten books in the span of three months.