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Expert Q & A

How To Market Books in 2021, According to a #BookTokker

November 7, 2021
October 26, 2021
Mae Rice

Where do bestseller lists get made? Increasingly, on TikTok, according to a creator who catapulted a 2019 novel onto the 2021 bestseller lists. Here's everything you need to know about #BookTok.

Table of Contents

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If you’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about “book talk,” it may have actually been about #BookTok

It’s the literary side of TikTok, and it’s huge. 

The #BookTok hashtag has 24B views on TikTok and counting. Last time we checked, eight out of the 10 paperback fiction NYT bestsellers were hits on #BookTok.

But how does marketing long-form stories on a short-form video app… work, exactly? 

We asked Lauryn Hickman, a #BookTokker with ~280K followers. 

Storytimes perform.

Storytimes — in which a creator tells a first-person story to their front-facing camera — really capture attention on the app.

And doing one in character as a novel’s protagonist can hook people who don’t identify as readers, Hickman has learned.

Exhibit A: Hickman's post about Christina Lauren’s 2019 novel The Unhoneymooners, which went viral. Like, 4M-likes-and-16M-views viral.  

The day she posted it, Hickman watched the novel’s Amazon status go from “Low in stock” to “Sold out.” It eventually reached #8 on the paperback fiction bestseller list — seven places above its 2019 peak.

Pinterest visuals are trendy.

Slideshows of “lots of Pinterest photos” that capture the mood of a book can perform well, Hickman said.

Exhibit A: her TikTok titled “Convincing you to read The Love Hypothesis based on its aesthetic,” set to Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” and packed with Adam Driver cameos. 

You have 15 seconds to hook a viewer. If that. 

TikTok technically allows three-minute videos, but Hickman’s creator analytics show her that most viewers swipe away after just eight seconds

So shorter videos — usually less than 15 seconds — perform best.

Unpaid posts are the norm.

Most of Hickman’s posts are unpaid, she said — and that’s typical for #BookTok creators.

Publishers are launching unpaid accounts, too. Penguin Random House has a verified account with 8K+ followers.

But paid influencer posts can 100X a publisher’s reach.

These posts have to be captioned #ad, but they give publishers more control over creative concept and post timing — and access to a bigger following than they’ve amassed organically.

Hickman charges between $300 and $800 per paid campaign, and her last paid post with Harper Collins reached 200K+ people.

That’s 100X the number of followers Harper Collins has organically.

Our takeaway?

TikTok users don’t have short attention spans. They have short consideration spans. 

Hook them with quick storytimes and slick slideshows, and they’ll propel even older books onto the bestseller list.

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is editor in chief at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she loves learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture.

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