October 12, 2023 | ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT | By Zoe Smith
In the past year, I have read several dozen books spanning all genres. The way I usually choose books to read is by selecting them off the “Books to Read,” list I keep in my phone’s notes app. However, a friend of mine earlier this year recommended a book to me, saying she had heard of it through “BookTok.”
BookTok has taken the social media app TikTok by storm, with the hashtag “#BookTok,” accumulating more than 180 billion views. This side of TikTok has become a community space for those who are passionate about books of all genres.
I had heard of BookTok before, and I had seen videos where someone would recommend their favorite Jane Austen novel and whatnot, however, I had never realized how large the community was until earlier this year. The most popular genre of BookTok, without a doubt, is romance, with many novels going viral across the platform. Romance is one of the largest-selling genres in the publishing world, making it only natural to be a dominant part of the TikTok community.
I found myself interested in how broad the scope of BookTok spanned. What about it is so popular? How has it affected reader demographics and the publishing industry since its meteoric rise to the spotlight?
BookTok has made its impact on the book industry abundantly clear. By using social media that can reach thousands within minutes and reach millions anywhere in the world, it gives power to both readers and authors.
The trend allows readers to find books they had never heard of while enabling authors to make their stories known globally. Many authors on the social media app are self-published. Instead of using a publishing agency to print and help sell their novels, they opt for doing that themselves by promoting their books on their own.
The platform lets self-published authors from all over the world become big-name hits by going viral with their stories, and though there are positives of the trend, there are just as many (if not more) negative impacts.
Self-publishing may allow an author to create, print, and sell their books more quickly by transcending the need for their book to be picked up by an editor and publisher. Yet, the process may be skipping vital steps to creating the best novel possible. Editors catch mistakes and missing plot points the author might not notice. From grammar and sentence structure all the way up to loopholes, an editor can do a lot to help fix a novel.
Personally, I have read a few of the novels which have become wildly popular from BookTok. But I was able to notice poor sentence structures and even spelling mistakes. Self-publishing can be a great tool for authors who want to get their books out into the world, but there are many books that, if they weren’t self-published, I believe would still be in the editing stage of the publishing process.
Colleen Hoover is a prime example of a woman who went from self-publishing on BookTok with her husband to becoming one of the biggest name authors in the industry today. Her stories depict a harrowing tale of a woman falling in love with the man of her dreams. However, everything else in the stories seems to fall short. Her sentence structure is choppy, and the plot lags in many of her novels, reaching dry points with many pages used as fillers in between the main plot. Because she went through self-publishing and then used BookTok to promote her novels, she was still able to quickly become sensations, even if her writing was sub-par.
I do not think self-publishing is a bad thing, nor do I think it is negative to promote your work on a vastly popular app like TikTok. But I do believe there are authors on BookTok who self-publish because they were looking to speed up the process, and as a result, fall short in key areas which could solidify the value of their novel.
I believe BookTok is changing the book community by encouraging more people to read. It has introduced me to novels I have fallen in love with including, “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig and “Almond: A Novel” by Sohn Won-pyung.
However, it has allowed for more people to publish their books after seeking internet fame, following behind authors like Hoover who have reached millions of views even though their stories aren’t as developed as they should be.
There are many aspects of BookTok that I thoroughly enjoy. It brings together a close-knit community for people to share and talk about things they love. However, I personally would argue that the rise of the trend has helped rough draft stories go viral.
The romance genre is grand, and it can only get bigger with the help of BookTok. Yet, without the help of others in the initial stages of pre-publishing, it prevents these stories from being the best they could be.