TikTok has long been a fandom lover’s delight. The platform has cultivated the creation of Grammy award-winning “Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” “Ratatouille the Musical” and even a “How to Train Your Dragon” musical that is in the works. Fans have consumed and created short-form content on TikTok, uniting over their fondness for all sorts of things, including books.
Thus began BookTok, a subsection on TikTok dedicated to all things bookish. Content creators use the space to joke about reading habits, share annotation systems and hype up their favorite books. Reaching a massive audience of primarily young adults, BookTok has spurred a reading revival.
With people’s love for reading reignited, there’s been a massive influx of book sales, both online and in stores. Most bookstores have capitalized on this, setting up BookTok tables and even creating TikTok pages to advertise their store. Books promoted on the platform vary; they can be newer releases like “The Inheritance Games” or even stories that used to be popular, such as “Shatter Me” or “The Selection.”
One book revived on BookTok was first published nearly a hundred years ago. “Cain’s Jawbone” by Edward Powys Mathers was released in 1934 as a murder mystery puzzle. The reader is tasked with solving six murders, all of which are detailed in the novel. But the story’s pages are printed out of order, so ripping them out and rearranging them is the only way to crack the case. Those who solved it at the time won a cash prize. Attempts to tackle the case today have been well-documented on BookTok and BookTube.
Most books revived on BookTok are young adult, but the platform also draws in romance lovers. Colleen Hoover is an author who has recently been showered with praise by the community. Hoover’s 2016 novel “It Ends with Us” is currently being adapted by Justin Baldoni and a prequel entitled “It Starts with Us” is set to hit shelves in October.
TikTok is also home to ultra-realistic fan edits; in 2020, DracoTok exploded in popularity, appealing to book and movie lovers alike. Content creators would cosplay as “Harry Potter” characters, inserting themselves into movie clips with some editing magic. Essentially, they created fanfiction in video form, and the movement grew to the point where actor Tom Felton joined the scene to re-engage with “Harry Potter” fans.
Another offshoot of BookTok is WriterTok, which offers advice to aspiring storytellers. WriterTok is also a way to gauge interest and develop an audience before one’s work is even out. Alex Aster went viral for her concept video, where she asked people if they would read a book about a cursed island that appears once every hundred years. Making an edit with photos and videos that encapsulated the vibe of her story, Aster built a lot of hype for her upcoming release “Lightlark.” Though the novel isn’t out yet, preorders will likely skyrocket.
TikTok is also a useful platform for established authors. Talking to readers through TikTok can be easier and more enjoyable than relying on the more outdated weekly newsletter. Victoria Aveyard, author of “Red Queen” and “Realm Breaker,” utilizes TikTok to answer questions about her books or writing process, vlog her day or even create humorous content. Hank Green and John Green also use the platform to talk about their experiences as authors, though they broke into TikTok with very different content.
The ability to find success on BookTok is far more likely than growing on BookTube. Short-form content is not only easier to make, but also easier to consume. Unfortunately, that means people on BookTok might wind up romanticizing reading, but spend all their time watching TikToks instead.
And while BookTok is a great source for recommendations, popularity is not always the best indication of a good read. In fact, it may lead to overhyping a book before you dive in. With unrealistic expectations, any good book can become a disappointing read.
While we should embrace BookTok for its love of literature, don’t forget to log off and actually give your book a read.