“We Were Liars” came out in 2014, so when the book’s author, E. Lockhart, found it back to the bestseller list last summer, she was delighted. And confused.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on,” she said.
Lockhart’s children filled her out: It was for TikTok’s sake.
An app known for delivering short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for bookstores. But videos by teenage and 20-year-old women have mostly dominated a growing niche with the #BookTok hashtag, where users recommend books, documenting their time lapse. when reading or sobbing in front of the camera after an emotional ending.
These videos started selling books and many creators were just as surprised as others.
“I want people to feel what I feel,” said 15-year-old Mireille Lee, who started @alifeoflitentic in February with her sister, Elodie, 13 and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really admit books, this is really annoying.”
Many Barnes & Noble locations across the United States have set up BookTok boards displaying titles like “Both died at the end”, “The ruthless prince,” “A little life,” and others. has spread. However, there are no corresponding Instagram or Twitter boards, as no other social media platform appears to be moving the clones the way TikTok does.
“These creators don’t mind being open and emotional about books that make them sob or scream or get so angry that they throw it all over the room and it turns into this very emotional 45-second video that people instantly Instant interconnection, ”says Shannon DeVito, Barnes & Noble’s book division director. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales – I mean tens of thousands of copies per month – with other social media formats.”
The Lee sisters, living in Brighton, England, started making BookTok videos while they were bored at home during the pandemic. Many of their posts are like little movie trailers, in which the image sweeps the screen into a moody soundtrack.
For “The Cruel Prince” you will see the cover, followed by a woman riding a horse, a bloody goblet, a castle on a tree – each for a split second while Billie Eilish’s song “ You should see me in the Crown ”echoes in the background. No spoiler warning: The entire content will end in about 12 seconds, leaving you with a feel for the book, but very little sense of what’s going on in it.
The video they created highlighting “We Are Liars” has been viewed more than 5 million times.
The majority of BookTok videos are spontaneous, posted by enthusiastic young readers. For publishers, it was an unexpected shock: an industry that relied on people getting lost in print is getting dividends from a digital app built for times. transient attention. Now publishers are beginning to embrace, contacting large followers to offer free or paid books in exchange for promoting their titles. (The Lee sisters have received books from the authors but have not yet been contacted by the publisher or paid for their articles.)
Many popular TikTok users have strategies for maximizing views. They can use background songs that already work well on the app, such as using TikTok’s analytics to see what time of day their posts perform best, and try to post a scheduled video. submit regularly. But it is still difficult to predict what will happen.
Pauline Juan, a student, 25 years old, said: “Ideas that take me 30 seconds, those ideas are really good, and ideas I do for days or hours, those ideas are absolutely. normal, ”said Pauline Juan, a student, 25, that she feels“ a little bit older on BookTok. “But the most popular videos are about books that make you cry. If you are crying in front of the camera, your views will increase! “
Most of BookTok’s favorites were bestsellers when they were first published and some award winners, like “The Achilles Song”, won the Orange Award for Fictional Book 2012, a prestigious fictional award. The novel recounts the Greek myth of Achilles as a romance between him and his companion Patroclus. It doesn’t have a happy ending.
“Hey, this is the first Day I read ‘Achilles’ Songs,” ”posted on TikTok Ayman Chaudhary, 20 years old in Chicago, holding the book next to the Burberry patterned headscarf and a smiling face.
“And here is I finished it!” she spins into the camera, the subtitles on the screen helpfully describe “dramatic crying and screaming”. The video, which has been viewed more than 150,000 times, lasted about 7 seconds.
The hashtag #songofachilles has 19 million views on TikTok.
“I wish I could send them all the chocolates!” Madeline Miller, the author of the book, said.
Published in 2012, “The Song of Achilles” sold well, but not nearly as well as it is now. According to NPD BookScan, which tracks the prints of books sold at most US retailers, “The Song of Achilles” is selling about 10,000 copies per week, nearly nine times more than when it won the Orange Award. honor. It ranks third on the New York Times bestsellers list for paperback novels.
Miriam Parker, vice president and associate publisher at Ecco, where “Achilles Song” was released, said the company saw sales spike on Aug. 9 but couldn’t figure out why. why. In the end, it traced it to a TikTok video called “The Books That Will Make You Sob,” published August 8 by @moongirlreads_. Today, that video, including “We Were Liars”, has been viewed nearly 6 million times.
Ms. Miller, who describes herself as “barely active on Twitter,” said she didn’t know about TikTok videos until her publisher pointed it out. “I feel speechless in the best way,” she said. “Could it be better for a writer than seeing people take their work as their heart?”
The person behind @moongirlreads_ is Selene Velez, an 18-year-old from the Los Angeles area who joined TikTok last year while finishing high school on Zoom. She said she made a video of “books that will make you sob” because a commentator asked her for recommendations for sensational people.
“I thought so, we will see how it all plays out,” Ms. Velez said. “I’m not sure how many people would want to hear how much a random girl cried about a book.”
So she posted a video and went to have lunch with her family. When she re-checked TikTok a few hours later, she said that the video had 100,000 views.
Ms. Velez, who has more than 130,000 followers on TikTok, says that publishers are now sending her books for free before hitting the market so she can post about them and she also started creating videos that publishers do. Pay her to create. She and about two dozen other BookTok creators have a constant Instagram conversation about which publishers have reached out to them and what they’re charging. Fees range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per post.
John Adamo, head of marketing at Random House Children’s Books, says it currently works with about 100 TikTok users. When a title appears on TikTok, he says, the publishing engine can start to go after it: Big retailers can discount it, a publisher can start running ads, and if a book books became bestsellers, which also led to more sales. But without TikTok, he said, “We won’t talk about this at all.”
Jenna Starkey, a Minnesota high school student who posts under the name @jennajustreads and has more than 160,000 followers, said she has also been approached by publishers and even an author providing free books. . One big house says they’ll pay her for a post, but the deal comes with structure and deadlines, and she’s worried about matching her homework and school schedule.
Currently, “I shoot two movies on Saturday, two movies on Sunday and two movies on Wednesdays so I can post pre-recorded movies – when in fact I am in class”.
Some BookTok users say the app is not just a pastime during the pandemic, but it gives them a community.
“I don’t have a lot of real-life friends who actually read,” said Ms. Juan. But she and Ms. Velez both live in the Los Angeles area, and they talked about being able, once safe, to speak face to face. “I always liked it, when the pandemic ended and we both got vaccinated,” said Ms. Juan. “I’ll come see you.”
Taylor Lorenz contributed to the report.
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