The power of "Bookstagram" and "Booktok" for writers of color
TikTok and Instagram influencers are increasingly transforming the way readers find the next great read by writers of color.
The big picture: Worldwide book sales grew during the pandemic. BookTok and Bookstagram — the monikers and hashtags for reading accounts and posts on social media — are major drivers, according to analysts and publishers.
Titles by authors of color pop up frequently on BookTok and Bookstagram.
- “They Both Die at the End,” a YA queer romance by Adam Silvera, who is Puerto Rican, is a hit on social media.
- So are "These Violent Delights," a Romeo-Juliet retelling in Shanghai by Chloe Gong and "This Woven Kingdom," a fantasy series from Iranian American author Tahereh Mafi.
Latino-run social media accounts are among those redefining how literary word-of-mouth works in the social media age — helping some books become bestsellers.
- For example, Latina TikTok user Selene Velez’ video about “seriously life-changing” books was linked to a sales bump for E. Lockhart's 2014 novel, “We Were Liars,” and to its prequel getting greenlit.
- “The Atlas Six,” a 2021 self-published novel with a Cuban main character, became such a runaway social media hit that it was reprinted by Tor Books this Spring and is now being adapted as an Amazon series.
The intrigue: Publishing companies have created programs to work with social media influencers in hopes of making books a hit.
- Barnes & Noble and the U.K.’s Waterstones now have “Trending on BookTok” and “BookTok Made Me Read it” displays at their stores and reading clubs.
Social media is also a way for readers to find books that are targets of bans.
- Instagram account @bannedbooksbookclub posts titles that are blacklisted in public libraries or school districts, like Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, “In the Dream House.”
Yes, but: As social media influence keeps growing, so do criticisms in some corners that its most popular and reposted titles lack diversity — a general problem in the publishing industry.
What they’re saying: Carmen Alvarez, who runs an account that promotes diverse authors, tells Axios that being on Bookstagram “made me really question how I didn’t used to wonder why I never saw my personal experiences reflected on the pages of a book."
- “I demand that now. I seek that out and I use my feeds to spotlight it because I want others very early on in life to understand that these characters that are like us deserve to be the default,” Alvarez says.
- "It's a sense of community that helps you feel less alone in reading. Bookstagram is where I hang out with bookish friends and BookTok is where I meet new people, all for good recommendations"
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