BookTok vs. Bookstagram—Who Will Win: Readers or Publishers?

Being a Millenial who’s usually late to the crazes, I’ve resisted TikTok. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid downloading the app, but TikToks make their way to Instagram all the time. It feels like there’s no escaping it.

Can you imagine my shock when I first got a whiff of BookTok, immediately followed by reports of sales surging due to viral BookTok videos? The BookTok videos that make their way to my Instagram are mostly YA fantasy, and I have to admit, they are pretty clever. In what could have been a pretty photo-review of a novel, these creators bear all, and I have to say, it works as a marketing hook.

In an interview with The New York Times, Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, said, “it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with….We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales—I mean tens of thousands of copies a month—with other social media formats.”

Millennial Bookstagrammers, veteran or not, marvel at the simplicity of a beautiful photo. Maybe it’s because we’re from the time of early social media platforms, bathroom selfies, and disposable cameras. Maybe it’s not my cup of tea, but I think it’s a wickedly fresh way to reach a younger audience.

It turns out that it’s not all about YA on BookTok. Madeline Miller’s first novel went viral with #songofachilles garnering nineteen million views on TikTok. According to The New York Times, the video, which has been viewed more than one hundred and fifty thousand times, only lasts about seven seconds.

Now that blows Bookstagram out of the water.

Kat McKenna, a marketing consultant, remarked in an interview with The Guardian that “these ‘snapshot’ visual trailers are making books cinematic in a way that publishers have been trying to do with marketing book trailers for a really long time. But the way TikTok users are creating imagery inspired by what they are reading is so simple, and so clever. It’s that thing of bringing the pages to life, showing what you get from a book beyond words.”

According to Wallaroo Media, as of June 14, TikTok has one billion users in over one hundred and fifty countries. A book would typically be marketed using tipsheets (informational documents sent internally within the publishing industry), Goodreads giveaways, and Bookstagram campaigns, but with TikTok, you have a much wider reach across demographics. For marketing books, and not just YA, it feels like a no-brainer.

We all knew this day would come. Just look at Myspace and, in most cases, Facebook. As a Bookstragrammer, the creative challenges and innovations are daunting. As a future marketing professional, it’s exhilarating. Backlist titles climbing up the best-seller list? Creativity pouring from the readers supporting the authors? It seems that anything is possible in a sixty-second video.

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