TikTok is driving book sales. Here are the titles #BookTok recommends BookTok — the world of book lovers on TikTok — is becoming a major force in the publishing industry.

TikTok is driving book sales. Here are some titles #BookTok recommends

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1068063564/1068063565" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


People are buying a lot more books these days. That's partly because the pandemic trapped everyone indoors with little to do. But there's another reason. The social media site TikTok, where users download short videos they create themselves, has become a big power among younger readers. Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The novel "It Ends With Us" came out in 2016. It sold well for a while. Then late last year, something weird happened, says the author Colleen Hoover. The book shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

COLLEEN HOOVER: You know, at first, I didn't really know what was going on. And even my publishers were going, why are we seeing an uptick in sales?

ZARROLI: Hoover soon discovered that a lot of young readers were talking about the book on TikTok using the hashtag #BookTok. That's B-O-O-K-T-O-K.

HOOVER: You know, my life is very normal. It's very much the same as it's always been. But then when I log on to the internet, I'm like, what is going on? Who are these people that are sending me these messages? And yeah, it's been insane.

ZARROLI: It's hard to quantify how big BookTok is because TikTok doesn't release a lot of numbers, but publishers say it has become a major driver of sales, especially in the market for young adult and contemporary romance books. Scroll through the app, and you find countless videos from people talking about their favorite books.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It's so good - friends to lovers, slow burn. I will die for this book. I will die defending it.

ZARROLI: BookTok fans are mostly young and female, and they are ardent readers.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: If you know me at all, you know that this book has my heart.

ZARROLI: The BookTok crowd likes books that are passionate and emotional, and they expect a good cry.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I loved this book, and I think it is so beautiful. Definitely worth a read, but I didn't cry at all. And everybody said I would sob, and I didn't.

ZARROLI: So this isn't exactly the New York Review of Books. Allison Derose posts videos using the #BookTok hashtag. She says some of the most popular BookTok titles are the kind that some people look down upon, like contemporary romance novels. But she says that's OK.

ALLISON DEROSE: There's kind of, like, a comfort in BookTok that, like, we're all reading the same things. We're all enjoying it. And there's so many people. You know, a video has a million views, hundreds of thousands of likes, lots of engagement. Like, there are people out there who also like reading these books.

ZARROLI: Not surprisingly, book publishers are more than a little excited about BookTok. Libby McGuire, who heads Simon and Schuster's Atria division, says the book business has always depended heavily on reader recommendations - someone who loves a book and tells friends about it. BookTok can turbocharge that process.

LIBBY MCGUIRE: It just warms my heart as a book publisher, you know, because that's what we always strive for is that word-of-mouth. And we know that that's what takes a book from one level to the stratosphere.

ZARROLI: And BookTok has come along at a time when the pandemic has closed off many of the traditional ways of reaching readers like book signings, says publishing executive Nellie Kurtzman.

NELLIE KURTZMAN: There are a lot of book festivals where, you know, fans would gather and just celebrate reading. And now they - not being able to do that, at least they're able to do it virtually.

ZARROLI: Kurtzman is vice president at HarperCollins, which published the surprise BookTok bestseller "They Both Die At The End" by Adam Silvera. Big publishers have even started reaching out to the most popular video creators, offering them free books or paying them to recommend titles. Bestselling author Chloe Gong produces a lot of her own BookTok videos about her life and her work, but she doesn't think these videos increase her sales much.

CHLOE GONG: A lot of the reason why book sales are moving so fast on TikTok is not because of the authors themselves. It's because the readers are so passionate.

ZARROLI: Gong says some books just appeal to readers organically, and that kind of connection can't really be manufactured. But BookTok is a reminder of just how powerful that connection can be. For NPR News, I'm Jim Zarroli in New York.


Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.