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How #BookTok is giving authors and booksellers a much-needed boost


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

John Yang: The publishing world has a new infusion of enthusiasm and energy, all because of an online community of book lovers gathering on TikTok, known as BookTok. It's not just a place for book recommendations and reviews. It's also helping to drive book sales. Geoff Bennett takes a look at this growing phenomenon.

Lee Lynch, Therapist: I remember going to a Barnes and Noble and I saw a book type table and that kind of went over there and looked at some of the books that were on that I remember seeing those books and being like, Oh, I'm interested in this like what is this

Geoff Bennett: Lee Lynch isn't alone step inside a bookstore in the last year. Colorful tables like this one are now a common part of the book buying experience. By day, Lynch works as a therapist in her spare time she creates videos on the social media platform TikTok focused entirely on books.

Lee Lynch: You are new here. My name is Lee. My book from every independent country in Africa in 2022.

I was on maternity leave, I was reading a ton of books because I had a ton of time. Kind of.

Geoff Bennett: Lynch says she used that time to immerse herself in BookTok, a space for anyone who loves books.

Man: Little Life, the magnum opus of sadness. Fun fact the cover is actually just a picture of me when I finished reading it.

Woman: And it has a black queer main character, black witches, paranormal ghosts, a little bit of romance, but mostly thriller.

Man: January, February, March.

Geoff Bennett: BookTok is having a major impact on the book industry. In 2021, adult fiction driven by BookTok grew by 25 percent over the previous year. Last year, it grew another 8 percent.

Adrian Cepeda, Owner, Golden Lab Bookshop: I think a lot of people hopped on TikTok, especially during the pandemic because we were isolated.

Geoff Bennett: Adrian Cepeda who owns a bookstore has himself jumped into the world of book talk.

Adrian Cepeda: This was a way for me to reach people again through books and recommendations. And really try and talk to them again about what they wanted to see and what they wanted to read.

Geoff Bennett: Cepada says his own BookTok videos and others are driving sales at his store.

Adrian Cepeda: The minute a BookTok video goes viral, the sales in my store go up for that book.

Geoff Bennett: BookTok has become the go to platform for readers looking to find recommendations for books, and all kinds of genres, not always in the mainstream.

Chioma Nwuzi: So it's like a mini universe of books that is encompassed in a social media platform.

Geoff Bennett: Chioma Nwuzi, who goes by ChiBeReading on TikTok has 17,000 followers.

Chioma Nwuzi: You're going to get your nonfiction, your true crime, your fantasy romance, all of it. Click on one of those videos like I like him. See what everyone says cool. And now all of a sudden you find this book about like in 2,500 like humans have become robots. And they now live on Jupiter and you were just looking for a book.

Geoff Bennett: The diversity of books featured on BookTok is also expanding the time type of books that are selling says Kristen McLean the executive director of NPD Books and Entertainment, a company that tracks book sales.

Kristen McLean, NPD Books and Entertainment: The largest categories that have grown are also the largest categories on BookTok. So things like romance, contemporary women's fiction, thrillers and mysteries, fantasy, all of those have very strong followings on TikTok, and we've seen the authors that are embraced by TikTok being the leading authors driving the growth in these categories this year.

Elizabeth Harris, The New York Times Journalist: It completely took people by surprise.

Geoff Bennett: New York Times journalist Elizabeth Harris has been reporting on the meteoric rise of BookTok.

Elizabeth Harris: TikTok can really, really make an author, it can be a new author or it can be an author as it's been around for a while a book that's been around for a long time a classic, a brand new novel, anything, there's kind of a no limit to how much how many people can kind of take off on TikTok.

Geoff Bennett: Samantha Shannon is one of those authors, her 2019 book, The Priory of the Orange Tree is filled with dragons and queer characters. Shannon recalls a conversation with her grandmother wondering if the book would succeed.

Samantha Shannon, Author, "The Priory of the Orange Tree": And I remember telling her what it was about. And she said, some of that is absolutely certain that anyone's going to want to read a book about dragons and lesbians. I know that Game of Thrones is successful. So people definitely want the dragon part. I'm hoping that they will also want the rest of it.

Man: I want to be so immersed that I'm thinking about the book, even when I'm not reading it. And I was thinking about the Priory of the Orange Tree all the time,

Man: I feel so quenched by this book. Quenched.

Samantha Shannon: With TikTok, I've discovered there's actually a huge community of readers that really want to read those kinds of books. And I often have readers asking me, you know, like, is it sapphic? Is it about women loving women, and that's something that they're actively looking for and asking for.

Geoff Bennett: Adrian says BookTok is a place to find connections that are relevant to his identity.

Adrian Cepeda: I didn't see myself in stores until I was in college. And then I had to work backwards. Right. And I thought it was a very singular experience for myself. But when I got onto BookTok, and it showed me that oh, we all went to the same thing. We're all just trying to help people diversify their shelves so their kids don't feel like we did.

Geoff Bennett: And Lee says the connections are even broader, they're global.

Lee Lynch: Being able to join this community and find other people who not only look like me, but also share this interest was such a big moment for me, it made me just feel a part of a community of a greater community than what I grew up in.

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