How #BookTok Got Its Own Table at Barnes & Noble

TikTok sensation, #BookTok, rose in popularity on social media as well as in bookstores


TikTok is a platform full of copious dances, comedy, music, and communities for people all over the world. Communities collect individuals of various interests and create their own section, or “side,” of TikTok.

“Because BookTok told me to,” was a common phrase many book lovers and TikTok users have said while stacking the check-out counter at Barnes & Nobles with books like “Red White & Royal Blue” and “The Song of Achilles.” But what exactly is BookTok and how did it get its own table at Barnes & Noble?

BookTok is a community which erupted on TikTok this past year, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is full of primarily young women in their teens and 20s who create short videos expressing their love of books. From crying sessions, book trailers, reviews, and point of views (POVs), #BookTok has become one of the most popular trends on TikTok with over 16.8 billion hashtags as of August 2021.

In August 2020, a 16 year old TikTok user, Kate Wilson, started her BookTok success when she posted quotes on TikTok from her favorite books. These quotes depicted the scenes of “I love you, without actually saying I love you.”

Some examples include:

“You have been the last dream of my soul,” from “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” from “Wuthering Heights,” and “Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own” from “Jane Eyre.”

Thousands of TikTok videos have been created similarly to Wilson’s.

The emotional rollercoaster of reading a heart-wrenching book full of romance and conflict and actually seeing the emotional impact on the reader makes young people want to read and experience that book for themselves. The TikToks titled, “Books that Had Me Sobbing at 3AM” are prone to strike a chord in users’ hearts, along with a rise in TikTok video views.

“BookTok” TikToks depicts booklovers’ favorite reads

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.

Barnes & Nobles have caught onto the trend of “BookTok Books” and even set up their own table, recognizing TikTok’s bestsellers.

“Publishers are fascinated with the effect TikTok users have on book sales. Books that came out six years ago, such as “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart are now trending on the bestsellers list again.”

-Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, told the New York Times

TikTok wields a unique kind of power, unlike other media platforms.

“We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales, I mean tens of thousands of copies a month, with other social media formats,” DeVito said.

Adam Silvera’s 2017 novel, “They Both Die at The End,” has gained popularity this past year as TikTok users film before and after reading the book, typically sobbing uncontrollably afterwards. As a generation, TikTok is becoming a popular platform to become more vulnerable and connected with one another, especially through a love of books.

TikTok influencers, such as Kate Wilson and the Lee sisters, Mireille and Elodie, @alifefliterature, have gained interest from publishers and authors. Publishers contact users with big followings to offer pay or books in return for publicity.

“BookTok is exciting, with its short, entertaining videos bringing a new, powerful opportunity to reach and engage non-readers, to create more book lovers. These ‘snapshot’ visual trailers are making books cinematic in a way that publishers have been trying to do with marketing book trailers for a really long time. But the way TikTok users are creating imagery inspired by what they are reading is so simple and so clever. It’s that thing of bringing the pages to life, showing what you get from a book beyond words,” Kat McKenna, a marketing and brand consultant specializing in children’s and young adult books told “The Guardian.”