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BookTok: Building Advocates Within the Publisher Community

The pandemic has secured TikTok’s place as a forward-thinking global giant. Today, it reaches people of all ages and drives sales of everything from fashion to technology, wellness, subscription services and more. Books are no exception: #BookTokthe hashtag created by “bookfluencers” to organize content related to reading, already has more than 60 billion views.

BookTok has generated countless sales, with bookstores like the hashtag in store windows and e-commerce sites creating dedicated #BookTok collections. Madeline Miller’s Novel The Song of Achilles was first published in 2011, but recently shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller charts, thanks in part to the hype generated by BookTok.

The Guardian suggests that BookTok was partly responsible for the 5% growth in book sales in 2021, and Statista predicts the global publishing market will be worth more than $124 billion by 2027. The surge of online interest has left some BookTokkers feeling like they are not being recognized for their contribution to the burgeoning publishing industry. book.

Retailers who quickly saw the opportunity offered by BookTok are already embracing the community – US bookseller Barnes & Noble recently announced a partnership with TikTokaligning with the #BookTokChallenge. This is an important first step, as it lends weight to the discussion by highlighting how publishers can better engage with creators to drive sales. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to opportunities to promote new releases, reach new audiences, and harness the power of the online reading community.

Know the basics well

The Barnes & Noble-TikTok partnership is a step in the right direction. The campaign will connect customers to a dedicated #BookTok hub designed to drive book discovery in-store and online using QR codes.

Publishers can take inspiration from this and find a formula that works for them to interact directly with creators and their audience. Bookfluencers are already creating buzz around new titles and they come with pre-built audiences. Therefore, working with them on promotional cycles is a natural fit. Authenticity is what makes creator-focused marketing special, and it’s essential that the publisher-bookinfluencer relationship is grounded in genuine interest in the title or genre. Otherwise, collaboration is unlikely to be effective.

Creators understand this dynamic, with most choosing only to work with brands that match their interests or, in this context, to support the authors they admire and the stories they enjoy. According to a recent Vamp survey of over 900 creators worldwide, 65% say “love of the brand or product” is the top consideration when choosing to partner with a brand.

Identity is another essential dimension of the creator’s authenticity. 69% of creators who took the survey said they use their platform to champion causes they believe in, such as social mobility and gender equality. Influencer marketing is a great way to reach underrepresented communities, including highlighting new writers from minorities or underrepresented groups. Making the voices of these communities heard through creator audiences ensures visibility and adds relevance to the campaign.

Finding the right partners can be difficult for publishers new to creator marketing. There are trusted platforms that offer a wide selection of approved creators. The introduction of designer sampling tools like Vamp’s Cast.ai feature makes it much easier to filter options based on specific settings or aesthetics.

Compare sectors

The fashion and beauty industries were the pioneers of creator marketing and as a result, content creators have dramatically changed the way these industries market themselves. Brands from high-end luxury to mainstream have made TikTok an essential part of their marketing efforts, with effective results. In 2019, it was big news when Estée Lauder announced that it was allocating 75% of its advertising budget to creator marketing – but today, it’s not uncommon for brands to allocate dedicated budgets to maintain a creator marketing strategy still active.

The latest development in how the fashion industry continues to lead the way with bold investments in designer marketing is bringing TikTok stars with no fashion background into their marketing campaigns. For example, Gucci recently teamed up with viral TikTok trainspotting creator @francis.bourgeois to promote his new collaboration North Face collection.

BookTok recalls the early days of how fashion and beauty brands embraced a movement: there is a passionate community, creating engaging content out of love for the product and enthusiastically sharing it on TikTok. It’s time for publishers to follow in fashion’s footsteps and take the next bold step to partner with these designers.

Create new experiences

Beyond the more traditional creator-brand engagement model, there are also other exciting ways to leverage the BookTok movement. For example, publishers could invite creators who are illustrators and designers to compete to create book cover illustrations for upcoming releases. It goes beyond the reviews and recommendations that form the core of #BookTok, involving artists (and their communities) to support authors as an exchange of creativity.

Another idea for publishers is to activate the readership community through live events such as live author readings and Q&A sessions hosted by bookfluencers. Fashion and beauty brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton have hosted live events on TikTok, and it’s easy to see how the idea could translate to BookTok. Unlike in-person versions of these events, virtual gatherings aren’t limited to people in a specific city or venue capacity and are therefore more accessible to fans. Markets such as China have highly engaged consumers who are enthusiastic about “direct shopping,” which could open up new revenue streams for direct-to-public book sales.

It’s promising to see publishers taking their first steps towards engaging with online reading communities thanks to the talent of creators. Those who invest in collaborating with passionate fans — in the form of brand sponsorships, regular promotional features, or one of many other approaches — are opening a successful new chapter in the history of book marketing.


Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson