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In the summer of 2020, Steph (@stephsstoriess) joined BookTok during a global pandemic. BookTok is his TikTok subsection dedicated to books. “I was depressed and needed to do something,” she tells her Highsnobiety. Previously a fan of dystopian her fiction, Steph was introduced to romance as a genre on the app. And she fell in love with her first book boyfriend. Two years later, Steph says she has a better understanding of what she wants in a partner. “There are people willing to do the work to show you are worth it,” she says. “I learned that through reading.”
BookTok’s impact on publishing is no secret to industry insiders. After years of decline, Barnes & Noble’s book sales are up his 14%, and the storefront now features a sports table dedicated to his BookTok favorite titles. Writers like his Colleen Hoover, who began reigning 2020 as a bestseller after becoming a BookTok sensation with his 2016 novel It Ends With Us, now have multiple titles on his list of The New York Times bestsellers. We are proud of the title. Self-published authors are selling more copies than ever before, all through word-of-mouth recommendations. “As a self-published author, advertising has to rely on yourself,” Willow Winters, bestselling author of dozens of romance novels, tells her Highsnobiety. “TikTok is unique in that it can go viral and develop a reader base very quickly.”
Self-published authors not only get backlisted by the “Big 5” publishers, but also some traditional It’s starting to sell better than the title.Ruby Dixon, author of Ice Planet Barbarians, became a viral sensation from having a devoted following after BookTok started boosting her series. “So many bookstores started ordering paper books that I signed a deal with her Berkley Publishing,” she tells Highsnobiety. Similarly, Bloom Books, an imprint of Sourcebooks, continues to secretly acquire her BookTok darling works such as Lucy Score and Elle Kennedy.
What genre dominates BookTok’s recommended videos? Not “sad girl reading” or “dark academic” but toe-curling, butterfly-inducing romance. increase. There is a level of analysis and introspection heretofore reserved for literary fiction. Readers are falling in love with the new book Boyfriend, too, as they dub romance novels as “crap” and denounce the misogynists who dominate her bestseller lists. And these fictional men teach users about their own sexual desires, romantic fantasies, and even relationship standards.
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