TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms of the moment, with attractive features and seemingly endless amounts of content. In this piece, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of TikTok and discuss how you might use the platform to spread the word about your books.
It is estimated that TikTok currently has more than 1 billion active users (Wallaroo Media), and the platform seems to be growing by the day. The app is full of niche content for lovers of food, dance, animals, and, most important, books! While the platform may not be for every author, you might want to tap into the strong “BookTok” community to get the word out about your book. If you’ve been browsing TikTok and want to take a shot at creating your own content—or if you’ve never used the platform before and would like to try it out—these tips will set you up for success.
Get an idea of what’s out there
It’s always a good idea to do a little research before creating your own TikTok videos. In order to tailor your account to the BookTok world, scroll through the app and observe how others are engaging their audiences.
Consider following and interacting with other TikTokers in the BookTok space. The app’s algorithm ensures that the types of videos you watch (all the way through) and interact with are the types of videos that will get pushed to you specifically. So if you interact with and follow other book lovers, your “For You” page (the equivalent of a main feed on other social media platforms) will help you keep on top of video trends and sounds that are popular with fellow BookTokers.
Notice too that a good number of TikTok videos include captions if dialogue or a voiceover is involved. Keep this feature in mind when you start planning your own content—captions are always a good idea for accessibility, as well as for general convenience to the audience.
Participate in trends
Choosing trending songs, in addition to trending (and of course relevant) hashtags, has become an important factor in creating videos.
In the BookTok space, the videos that perform the best contain universal book-lover content. Examples of this include: shots of your overflowing to-be-read book pile, humorous videos about buying more books even though you haven’t finished the ones you already own, and spotlights on books that broke your heart or made you emotional. Recently, the 2016 title A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara has seen a resurgence thanks to a TikTok trend in which users film themselves reading the book and crying. Similarly, Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir Tiny Beautiful Things has rejoined the literary conversation thanks to TikToks like the one below, where readers share some of their favorite pieces of Strayed’s advice.
@livelikemad.coFor my gals in their twenties #tinybeautifulthings #happiness #inyourtwenties #mentalhealth♬ original sound – LIVE LIKE MAD
Readers are intrigued by the process of writing and by publishing in general, so “behind the scenes” content about what it’s like to have a book published would be interesting to many young writers on the app. “Pass the book” videos are also big, and our very own author President Barack Obama created one that was shared and dueted widely!
@penguin_teenTake this, and pass it on #PassTheBook #PassAPromisedLand #BarackObama #PresidentObama #APromisedLand #Booktok #fyp♬ original sound – Penguin Teen
Find your niche
As we mentioned earlier, BookTok is a growing community. The young adult genre is most popular, which makes sense given the large numbers of teens and twentysomethings on the app. However, there are still a lot of other spaces within BookTok for authors to get their feet wet.
Lifestyle authors have seen lots of success, especially when posting advice, tips, or prescriptive, step-by-step videos that help consumers #learnontiktok. For example, cookbook author Joanne Lee Molinaro (also known as The Korean Vegan) creates TikToks like the one below that show her following a recipe while telling a touching personal story. Illustrators and artists also see success on the platform—author Danny Casale, for one, shares drawings and animated cartoons that spread messages of kindness and love.
@thekoreanvegan#homemade #easyrecipe #foodtiktok #mukbang #koreanfood♬ original sound – Joanne L. Molinaro (이선영)
You might consider more traditional types of videos where you share writing tips, your writing routine, or what materials you use to stay focused and create a good atmosphere for writing. It also can’t hurt to have your book appear in the background of your videos!
Our friends at Penguin Teen pulled off a massive feat with their viral Book Domino video, which was a natural hit in the BookTok world. Thinking outside the box with content like this will surely draw attention from TikTok’s massively creative audience.
@penguin_teenPls don’t let this flop it’s a miracle i still have a job #foryou #fyp #fy #dominos #books #officelife #viral♬ original sound – Penguin Teen
Evaluate whether TikTok is the right app for you and your content
Remember that TikTok isn’t the right space for every author, and creating regular video content can be time consuming and labor intensive. Finding the best platforms for your book and your voice is vital, so be sure to evaluate whether this one makes sense for you and your material. Your publishing team can always help you determine if TikTok is a good fit for promoting your work.
Because trends surface (and fade) so quickly on TikTok, it is an everchanging ecosystem, and even we are still learning a lot about what resonates. But with such an avid reading community present on the app, there are endless creative ideas to explore for books and authors. If you’re eager to experiment with your content, TikTok could be the perfect place to find and connect with new readers.
Neda Dallal is Senior Associate, Author Development at Penguin Random House.