This is how TikTok helped propel book sales to a bestselling year

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Ian Shine, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • #BookTok is helping drive up sales of print books, according to an industry analyst.
  • Readers bought over 825 million print books in the US in 2021, more than in any year since records began in 2004.
  • Retailers are creating “BookTok Made Me Buy It” sections to include popular titles from the app.
  • TikTok is also helping to revive sales of older titles.

Print and digital media are often seen as competing forces, but social media platform TikTok helped push physical book sales to a new record in the US last year, according to industry analysis.

Annual print book sales in the US rose by 9% in 2021 to reach 825.7 million, NPD BookScan told Forbes. That’s the most since the research company began tracking the data in 2004.

While a range of factors was behind the increase – including COVID-linked recommendations to stay at home and an expansion in the US child tax credit that added to household incomes, according to NPD BookScan – some of the boost can be attributed to TikTok users who post about books using the hashtag #BookTok.

Watch the original clip here.

#BookTok has “definitely been a factor” in surging sales, NPD BookScan Industry Analyst Kristen McLean told Forbes. The hashtag has more than 42 billion views and posts from celebrity users, including actor Will Smith and singer George Ezra.

Watch the original clip here.

It’s not just the US that has seen a rise in the popularity of print books. UK publishers recorded a 2% increase in sales in 2020, compared with a year earlier.

From book clubs to BookTok

While TikTok is one of the latest drivers, our tastes have long been influenced by recommendations, be it from social media, book clubs or bestseller lists. The World Economic Forum launched its Book Club in 2018 to connect its global audience with writers of fiction and non-fiction.

See here.

The majority of TikTok users are under 35, and that’s helped boost sales of books in the young adult category, including They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.

Watch the original clip here:

The rise in sales of Silvera’s book also illustrates how promotion on social media can revive older titles, as the novel was released in December 2018. This trend seems to be continuing in 2022, with books that weren’t new releases among the top sellers in the US in January, according to NPD BookScan.

And while young adult fiction and fantasy are top categories in the BookTok community, NPD BookScan’s McLean says the platform’s influence goes much further and has spread to adult fiction and adult literature.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Book Club?

The World Economic Forum launched its official Book Club on Facebook in April 2018. Readers worldwide are invited to join and discuss a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It is a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing one book every month.

Each month, we announce a new book on our social media channels. We then publish an extract and begin a chapter-by-chapter discussion with group members. Selected comments and questions are sent to the author, who in return sends us a video response.

Unlike other book clubs, the group features the direct involvement of the authors, giving you – our global audience with members all around the globe – a chance to directly connect with some of the most influential thinkers and experts in the world.

We have featured authors such as Steven Pinker, Elif Shafak, Yuval Noah Harari, and Melinda Gates.

You can join the Book Club here.

Follow us on Twitter here.

Follow us on Instagram here.

“BookTok Made Me Buy It”

Bookshop floor plans and online book retailers are also drawing inspiration from the success of BookTok. Some retailers have a dedicated “BookTok Made Me Buy It” or “BookTok Recommendations” section, highlighting the platform’s latest favourites.

See here.

2021 are likely to fade, others can be maintained, McLean says.

“After nearly two years of pandemic experimentation and implementation, physical book retailers are institutionalizing the best of what’s been working,” she wrote in a blog post. “From rebranding and re-merchandizing efforts, to community-building strategies, live-selling and aggressive promotional campaigns, some retailers are really going to nail it and physical bookselling will grow share overall in 2022.”

Comments

  1. I don’t think anyone could have expected to see book sales soar because of TikTok, but it definitely speaks to the reach that technology can have, expected or otherwise.

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