Noting that TikTok "is not an obvious destination for book buzz," the New York Times reported that "videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending."
"I want people to feel what I feel," said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. "At school, people don't really acknowledge books, which is really annoying." The Lee sisters, who live in Brighton, England, started making BookTok videos "while bored at home during the pandemic. Many of their posts feel like tiny movie trailers, where pictures flash across the screen to a moody soundtrack," the Times noted.
Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, which has set up BookTok displays in many stores, said, "These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with. We haven't seen these types of crazy sales--I mean tens of thousands of copies a month--with other social media formats."
For example, Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles has 19 million views on TikTok under the hashtag #songofachilles. According to NPD BookScan, the title is selling about 10,000 copies a week, roughly nine times as much as when it won the 2012 Orange Prize. It is third on the New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction.
"I wish I could send them all chocolates!" said Miller.
Miriam Parker, a v-p and associate publisher at Ecco, said the company saw a sales spike for The Song of Achilles on August 9 last year, but couldn't figure out why. Ecco eventually traced it to a TikTok video called "books that will make you sob," published on August 8 by @moongirlreads. The video has now been viewed nearly six million times.