It turns out that TikTok is not just all half-naked young people dancing and ASMR videos, it’s also a way to turn backlist titles into best sellers. How come I always get assigned young publicists who seem like they should know about this stuff, but they never try it? Oh, right. Poetry. That said, you prose types who stand to make actual money from your work would do well to pay attention to what’s trending because that is apparently the level society has settled at: virality as good in videos, bad in bloodstreams.
BookTok content reaches an extremely large audience—videos with the #BookTok hashtag have racked up a combined 18 billion views. Once a book like It Ends with Us is recommended by influencers, TikTok’s algorithm ensures that it pops up on users’ feeds without them even searching for it. As of this writing, videos with the hashtag #ItEndsWithUs have a combined 73 million views.
BookTok’s power to promote books relies on its grassroots nature. Through self-made content, users create the sort of literary publicity that, in its sincerity, money literally cannot buy. Media-literate young people are especially drawn to promotion done by peers with no financial stake in a product. But publishers have taken notice and are responding swiftly. Atria’s chief marketing officer, Liz Perl, said it’s important to take TikTok seriously as a promotional tool because it’s “not just for kids anymore.” Perl said the publisher has been working closely with authors to “capitalize on this moment by creating more organic content, investing in more paid campaigns and working with a broad variety of book influencers.”