BookTok and bookshops: the perfect blend of digital and physical
TikTok’s latest announcement, the launch of an official book club, is seeing bookshops working alongside, rather than against, the digital age for the first time
Now one of the commanding forces in adult fiction, BookTok helped authors sell 20 million printed books in 2021, according to BookScan. So far this year, those sales are up another 50 percent. Bookstagram was big but now BookTok is bigger.
New to the video platform, book influencer and writer Shani Akilah is getting advice from her teenage niece as she starts to build a following on TikTok. Shani says that this year, due to the growth of the social media site and its success with the book community, she is ‘starting to really focus on TikTok. It makes more sense from a collaborative and branding perspective.’
Akilah isn’t the only one turning to the social media giant, TikTok is continuing to reach new audiences becoming the most downloaded app this year so far.
Like other members of the BookTok community, Akilah posts videos based on trends. She says that, ‘there are lots of events throughout the year such as Black History Month and Pride month which I try to plan content around.’
It’s not only trends, cultural movements and events which cause a reaction on BookTok, often classic and forgotten books have a resurgence in popularity as Aidan Brawn, a bookseller in Blackwell’s Oxford says; ‘it (TikTok) has resulted in books that were published a while ago to little fanfare, like The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011), suddenly becoming very popular. It has also re-energised the popularity of books published decades ago, such as The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963).’
Waterstones is following a similar approach to Blackwell’s, bookseller Lauren Halford says that it is focusing on showcasing the popular BookTok genres: ‘romance, teen drama and classics’ which are displayed on tables at the front of Waterstones bookshops.
It’s not just in store that Bookshops are responding to TikTok, many are also starting to create their own presence on the app. Halford states that Waterstones has created a TikTok account, posting ‘mainly book recommendations as well as advertising certain events it holds in particular stores’.
As opposed to before, it is becoming vital for bookshops to create a welcoming experience, with expert advice to prevent people from turning to cheaper alternatives such as Amazon which book influencer Akilah uses for buying books. She states that, ‘it’s a behaviour that I’m aware of and I do feel bad about it but the convenience of Amazon Prime is brilliant.’
Despite some book fans refusing to abandon Amazon, Blackwell’s is starting to attract BookTok users by ensuring ‘that booksellers are reading the (BookTok) books so that we can be as passionate about them as our customers, and therefore able to have conversations with our customers about them and make recommendations ourselves’, said Brawn.
To continue attracting members of the growing BookTok community, Halford says that ‘bookshops could use TikTok and create giveaways, getting people actively involved with the bookstore, increasing engagement and therefore the likelihood of purchasing books in-person.’
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