We know TikTok, the popular social media platform widely known for its video snippets of dance challenges, comedy skits, and more. But what is BookTok? It’s a rapidly growing community of book lovers within TikTok. And authors have grown their following plus sales faster on TikTok than any other social platform. Let’s go over what to know and how to get started with your TikTok BookTok venture below.
This writeup goes over:
- What is TikTok? What is BookTok?
- Why TikTok BookTok?
- How to start on TikTok
- 18 tips on BookTok
What is TikTok? What is BookTok?
TikTok is an app that was originally created for younger crowds, but now attracts over a billion monthly users of all ages. Essentially, you open the app on your phone and scroll through a feed of short clipped videos made by a diverse range of content creators (regular people like you and me.) Users interact by leaving comments, following each other, creating reaction videos, and more.
TikTok algorithms cater to the videos you like to watch, people you follow, hashtags you follow, and more. Using the #BookTok hashtag connects you to a sub-community of book lovers, including both authors and readers. TikTok said, “with over 77 billion views globally to date, #BookTok is one of our most popular hashtags, connecting a vibrant, global community of creative people who share a passion for reading.”
Why TikTok BookTok?
So, authors can grow their following much faster on TikTok than anywhere else? Yes. Take it from indie authors Jayne Rylon and Lila Dubois. They gained 10,000 followers in just four months. They’re now promoting on TikTok full time.
You don’t have to go viral to make an influence on your sales, either. With just one video that gained 2,000 views, Jayne’s book increased its average daily sales by five-fold. Consistency is key. Jayne and Lila post daily. Regularly creating content and engaging with the BookTok community is what’ll help the algorithms boost your account.
Lila said, “[TikTok] is simply not something people are going to be able to ignore…This is going to be nonoptional. This is the way content needs to be presented now and for however long TikTok is the up-and-coming format.”
How to Start on TikTok
Even if you decide not to promote on TikTok, you should have a presence at the least. Creating a username and account can allow other people to tag you. It’s quite simple setting up your account:
Step 1) Download the app on your Google Play or Apple App store. Sign up by using your phone, email, or other accounts.
Step 2) Set up your profile. Don’t skip this step because your profile settings help filter your algorithms to connect with a certain type of audience. Items to set up include your profile picture, video profile picture, name (add something relevant like “author”), username (add something relevant like “author” or your genre), pronouns, bio (short description of who you are), and nonprofit (any organizations you support). Connect your Instagram or YouTube accounts if you wish to repurpose your TikTok content.
Step 3) Create your first video! Here’s the technical guide for how to create TikTok videos. BookToker Jason Hamilton suggests doing a brief introduction of yourself for your first video. “Try to keep it short, but don't worry too much about the quality. Just get something out there so you can experiment using the tools. Don't worry about doing any fancy effects, sounds, or anything. Just get yourself out there, then figure out how everything else works.”
Let’s go over what other authors have done to grow their accounts.
18 Tips on BookTok
BookTok experts Jayne, Lila, and Jason have said one thing: you CAN do this. It’ll take some time and dedication to get used to the platform, get comfortable on camera, grow your following, and ultimately sell more books. Below are 18 tips to help you get started.
1. Aim for 1,000 followers
For one of your first milestones, how about shooting for 1,000 followers? That’s because once you have 1,000 followers, you can post a link in your bio. That means you can put up your author website, bookstore link, Goodreads profile, or whatever else to promote yourself as an author. BookToker Jason Hamilton achieved 1,000 followers in two months. You can do it too.
2. Be consistent
To achieve 1,000 followers, you’re going to have to put in the work. When you’re just starting out, try to go for two to four videos a day. That seems like a lot, but remember, these videos are anywhere from 15 seconds to one minute. And TikTok is a numbers game. Posting as much as you can maximizes the chance of your content being seen and attracting those followers.
3. Play around
You don’t need video skills to do TikTok. All you need is your smartphone and the spirit to try. So don’t be shy and experiment with the various tools and functions TikTok offers. Your videos can be as simple or complex as you want.
For example, there’s a tool on TikTok where you can place your features on inanimate objects. You can use this tool if you don’t feel comfortable showing your face on camera (yet). For your introduction video, how about placing your features on your book cover? Because that’s totally possible and acceptable in the world of TikTok. You can even film yourself flipping your book in your hand as you talk about your story.
4. Be catchy
TikTok videos are short by design, so have a clear hook. Don’t meander and use your first few seconds to get straight to the point. You can do longer videos that go over a minute. But shorter videos generally perform better.
5. Follow other authors
To get familiar with BookTok culture, follow other BookTok accounts. Check out what similar authors in your genre are doing with their videos. Watch their most popular videos. Get inspired. TikTok has a function where you can save the sounds of other videos to use in your own. If there’s a certain music or voiceover you like, save it and try it out yourself.
BookTok is a fun space with a ton of creative and dynamic humans. For inspiration, see this compilation of BookTok’s best content.
6. Follow trends
Along with BookTok authors, get inspiration from all of TikTok. You’ll find trending videos on TikTok, including sound effects and hashtags. Take a trending video and do a bookish version of it. Get creative! Doing so can help diversify your audience by reaching users not following #BookTok. Why not reach a wider pool of users?
7. Engage with others
As you follow other authors on BookTok, the app will funnel relevant videos to your recommendations feed. Whenever you can, scroll through and engage with these videos, especially ones in your genre. You can like, leave a comment, and follow. This helps with the algorithms and helps you tap into the BookTok community.
8. Use #StitchThis
You can engage with other BookTokers by “stitching” videos. Stitching is a TikTok tactic where you take a clip from someone else’s video and record your reaction or response. Authors use this to answer questions from readers or share their own reviews of other BookTok books. Don’t forget to add the hashtag #stitchthis.
9. Use hashtags
Why hashtags? They help with discoverability. Use #BookTok for every video, then go beyond that with two to four more hashtags. (Using too many hashtags don’t get picked up by TikTok’s algorithms, so stay under five.) Look out for more niche subcommunities like #genretok. There are genre-specific hashtags like #thrillertok, too.
10. Try a duet
Duetting is like stitching, but in real-time. Authors use this to record real-time reactions to someone else’s video, which can create golden video moments. It’s not as common as stitching in the BookTok space, but you’ll definitely come across it.
11. Be genuine
What makes content like real-time duetting so effective is the authenticity of it. What makes TikTok so popular is that it doesn’t look like a commercial. These days, sales-heavy content is a turnoff. TikTokers record videos in their gym clothes and pajamas. Casual is the name of the game. Be sincere. People will recognize you for that.
12. Keep in mind of 20/80
Since sales content is not the way to go, avoid spamming people with obvious promotions of your book. Keep in mind of the 20/80 rule: content should be 20% promotion and 80% engagement. That means only 20% of your content should be about book promotions, such as announcements about a new release or sales event. Keep the rest engaging with original content about your life as an author, stitched clips, and other ideas on this list.
13. Use crowns
Here’s an idea. This sounds silly, but being silly is what TikTok is about. BookToker Jason shared “one of the weirder cultural icons to emerge in the BookTok community is this concept of having a crown. Why a crown? Why not? It's just one of those cultural threads that emerged, and now it's a thing.”
14. Use bookshelves
Using bookshelves as backdrops is also a thing in the BookTok world. It serves as a visual cue to let people know you’re from the BookTok community. Go ahead and animate your bookshelf to talk on the days you don’t want to be on camera.
15. Share book reviews and recommendations
Aside from sharing about your life as an author, you can also share book reviews and recommendations. After all, BookTok is a community of book nerds. Many authors have found success by sharing their thoughts on books ranging from bestsellers to niche works. Some have become icons for taking on a more controversial persona in their reviews.
16. Add a bit of spice
TikTok videos with high emotion tend to perform very well. People have literally shown themselves reading a book and crying. You don’t have to cry, but you get the idea.
17. Try the Penguin Random House feature
TikTok recently added a feature just for the BookTok community. Users can now link their favorite Penguin Random House book within their videos. If you have a favorite book from this publisher, join the fun.
18. Review your analytics
Routinely check your analytics with TikTok’s analytics function. You can see the percentage of where your followers come from, like hashtags or direct links from social media. See if there are any patterns. Got certain types of videos that don’t perform too well? Do less of those. Got certain hashtags that bring in a lot of followers? Use them more frequently.