A TikTok hashtag is revitalising the book industry by boosting sales from young readers and widening reading habits, according to a leading Australian bookseller.
The hashtag #booktokaustralia, which took off during the COVID-19 lockdowns, now has more than 57 million views on TikTok and the trend has sustained its popularity post-pandemic by providing a platform for people to share their love of books and connect with fellow readers.
Adam Freedman, head of brand and communications at Booktopia, told Central News: “We’re certainly seeing younger audiences purchasing a broader range of books than they’ve ever done.
“Certain genres have just come to the floor out of nowhere really, you know, in relation to where they were. Romance, fantasy [and] young adult has really exploded.”
These trending #BookTok genres, he said, had also seen a range of authors become celebrities in their own right.
According to Nielsen Book Data, last year’s growth in book sales was largely driven by a boom in sales of adult fiction (19.4 per cent) and led by an interest in titles from #BookTok favourite Colleen Hoover.
Colleen Hover books will always leave you messed up in the best way possible. How do I explain that I am a sobbing mess rn 😭😭. She leaves you feeling every emotions. and then these playlists 😭. This was a beautiful reading experience💕 #booktwt pic.twitter.com/7xaqPGIsqW
— HAPPINESS ✨💫 (@happywriter_) July 15, 2022
“What #BookTok and #Bookstagram have done is expand the opportunities for discovery,” said Freedman, adding added that “the beauty of social media is the fact that you’ve got so many different tastes and preferences, so then you’ve got creators that are creating content in line with that and so, by virtue of that, you’ve got more products and more authors that have platforms to be spoken about.”
The #BookTok effect has also seen a number of booksellers reinvent how they market books, and it’s not uncommon to find a #BookTok display in Australian bookstores.
putting it in the booktok section is kinda wild pic.twitter.com/U9N3ag4MDm
— a (@vminflwr) July 23, 2023
“Social media provides us with access to a broader audience and now we’re constantly looking at the trend button in terms of what is trending,” said Freedman.
Booktopia now has a ‘Best of #BookTok’ section that includes feature lists of trending books, authors and tropes on TikTok.
Engagement with #BookTok and other online reading communities by businesses is also proving profitable and has opened up greater communication between consumers and booksellers. There are indications also that #BookTok is having an effect on the social reading cultures within local communities.
The Sydney Book Society, which has 1,500 Facebook members, has taken #BookTok ‘offline’ and into a physical community.
“[It is] the most inclusive and welcoming community of readers,” said Alina Butolina, the founder of the group.
It’s really exciting that these big businesses want to be involved with this little Facebook group we’ve created and are looking for opportunities on how they can work with us.
What started as Butolina’s pursuit of friendship in Sydney has grown into a group of close relationships, common interest and local support.
After posting videos to TikTok earlier this year, Alina said: “We went from 60 people to like 300 in one day and we were freaking out. It just never stopped growing after that.”
Stephanie Pyers, event coordinator of the Sydney Book Society, said the Facebook group had become a place of belonging and connection for its members.
“Even if you’re not interested so much in doing the book club, lots of people don’t do the book club [and] just come for the social thing [or] just come for the connecting with people,” she said. “There’s so many different reasons you could be in this group.
“Reading is a very solitary thing, but it’s become this group activity now because people can talk about it and get excited about it with other people and it just changes the whole experience of that book.”
The group has caught the eye of some local businesses and partnered with Grill’d Westfield Sydney and Dymocks for events.
“Those are the two main ones we’ve had to speak to us so far but it’s really exciting that these big businesses want to be involved with this little Facebook group we’ve created and are looking for opportunities on how they can work with us,” said Pyers.
Butolina added that local support had opened up the possibility of giving back to the community and creating a more immersive experience for its members.
“When you have those numbers, you actually can ask for things in return, sometimes because it’s valuable for other partnerships and for other parties to actually be involved with our group,” she said.
Freedman thinks the increased interest through TikTok is also tied in with readers’ own creativity.
“Younger audiences who are primarily the ones creating content on social media, they want this authenticity,” he said.
“They want to feel that they have a platform to communicate directly with a brand.
“It’s not about selling, it’s about understanding what consumers are looking for.”
Main image by Irene Diakanastasis