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?
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.
What is BookTok?
BookTok refers to a community on the social media platform TikTok that is dedicated to discussing and promoting books. It’s a subculture within the larger TikTok community that focuses specifically on book recommendations, reviews, and literary discussions. BookTok gained popularity in 2020 when users started sharing videos showcasing their favorite books, and book hauls, and providing recommendations for various genres.
BookTok videos often feature users holding up a book, describing its plot, sharing their thoughts and opinions, or participating in book-related challenges and trends. The content is typically short and engaging, with users using creative editing techniques, music, and visuals to make their videos more entertaining.
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 for Authors?
The BookTok community has had a significant impact on the book industry, leading to viral trends and influencing book sales. When a book gains traction on BookTok, it often experiences a surge in popularity and attracts attention from a broader audience. This trend has helped both new releases and older books find success and reach wider readerships.
So, authors can grow their following much faster on TikTok than anywhere else? Yes. But if you want to know how to go viral on BookTok, know that sometimes you don’t even have to in order to make a profit.
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. 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.”
Authors have book contracts in hand from TikTok
TikTok is making a publishing company and wants to buy the rights from authors of their existing titles. According to Jane Friedman’s newsletter, in April, parent company ByteDance filed an application for a US trademark for a new book-publishing entity called 8th Note Press.
The application states that 8th Note Press wants to offer print books, ebooks, and audiobooks in fiction and nonfiction, as well as an app to buy and read the books.
While TikTok might not be directly distributing books, it can help drive users toward the potential book app.
According to a post by Bryan Cohen, several authors have received publication offers and contracts for review. He also had the chance to review one of these contracts, and it seems it resembles a traditional publishing contract but with slightly lower royalties.
On the other hand, Rebecca Thorne held a contrasting viewpoint, expressing strong disapproval of the terms that made her feel a deep sense of horror. She voiced her concern that TikTok might offer less favorable contracts to inexperienced authors who are unaware of better options. Moreover, she stated that she’s afraid the TikTok algorithm will show only their books in the feed.
All in all, this may be the best time to post on booktok. Having exposure on TikTok BookTok can open up opportunities to get a publishing offer.
However, if that happens, make sure to talk to a literary agent to help you review all the terms and conditions.
How to Set Up a Booktok Account
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. So, let’s see how to use booktok as an author. 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.
How to Get Your Book on Booktok: 18 Tips on How to Use 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 and know how to use booktok as an author.
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, so you need to keep this in mind if you want to know how to make a book go viral. 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
A crash course on how to booktok: 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(we’ll see some booktok examples in a minute). Watch their most popular videos. Get inspired. TikTok has a function where you can save the sounds of other videos to use on your own. If there’s a certain music or voiceover you like, save it and try it out yourself.
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. 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 TikTok booktok hashtags? They help with discoverability. Use #BookTok for every video, then go beyond that with two to four more booktok 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 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 to 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 booktok tags that bring in a lot of followers? Use them more frequently.
How to Make a BookTok Video (BookTok Examples)
You know now the basics of creating a TikTok video that also increases the chance of going viral. If you want to know how to make a BookTok video, the best way is to watch some booktok examples. Here are a few accounts to check out:
1. Ayana Gray
Through her Booktok, Ayana Gray offers a genuine glimpse into her life while launching her debut book, Beasts of Prey. She documents her journey by sharing vlog-style updates and reaction videos. But you’ll also find other book-related content on her BookTok, together with relevant booktok tags.
2. A. L. Knorr
A. L. Knorr is an independently published author who share tips for other independent authors. She creates booktok videos with TikTok booktok hashtags about her experiences with launching books, but also reader, author, and lifestyle memes.
3. Ann Patchett
Each Friday, Ann Patchett posts a BookTok video that she adds to her “New to You” series, which are her book recommendations. It all happens in the perfect setting: her indie bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books, which is also the place where she invites other authors to talk about books.
Jennifer Millikin creates enticing teasers for her books with relevant TikTok booktok hashtags, which she accompanies with videos highlighting her life as an author. In these teasers, she skillfully assumes the role of the main character from her book and engages directly with the camera, akin to a personal vlog.
Gong is engaged with meme trends on TikTok. She frequently shares glimpses of out-of-context excerpts from her upcoming books, as well as videos featuring readers showcasing advanced reader copies (ARCs) and fanart. Her acclaimed series, These Violent Delights, takes place in 1920s Shanghai, which she often refers to visually through her booktok videos.
Now you know how to TikTok BookTok. What else?
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