Forget everything you think you know about the greatest rivalries of all time, because nothing compares to the fervor with which tweens and teens debated the merits of Team Edward versus Team Jacob. Stephenie Meyer’s young adult fantasy Twilight was published in 2005, with another book published each year for the next three years. By the time the first feature film based on the series hit the big screen in 2008, fans were well and truly obsessed. That same year, the first book in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series came out, and the conversation widened to include whether you preferred Peeta or Gale. Four blockbuster films followed, grossing nearly US $ 3 billion worldwide and kicking off a massive trend of dystopian young adult books turned into movies.
The YA book / movie relationship is a symbiotic relationship. Popular young adult books have been a huge source of inspiration for blockbuster movies and TV series, which in turn causes viewers not to know the source material to purchase the books.
According to a report in Atlantic, books that are suitable for cinema see their Goodreads ratings increase by over 1000%, compared to titles that are not suitable.
Release delays and lockdowns over the past 18 months, however, have meant publishers haven’t been able to rely on these adaptations to drive sales in the same way. But it turns out you don’t need the Hollywood treatment to drive audiences to the shelves because TikTok stepped in.
According to data from April 2021 from market research firm The NPD Group, the category of young adult fiction had increased by 68%. In fact, the 10 million units sold during this period surpassed the eight million units sold during the same period in 2014, which was the top-selling year for the category in the previous year. (NPD reports that around six million units were sold each year during the same period in 2018, 2019 and 2020.)
This recent growth is attributed to TikTok, as the platform’s creators (they call their corner of the BookTok app) have shared reviews and playlists with millions of followers and outsiders alike throughout. the pandemic. Trending on TikTok is the new Golden Ticket – the two best-selling titles from January to May 2021 were Adam Silvera’s novel in 2017 They both die at the end and the book by E. Lockhart in 2014 We were liars. These older titles found new life on BookTok, going viral after being included in a number of playlists. In fact, We Were Liars landed on the New York Times bestseller list six years after its publication. A January 2021 viral TikTok for the title preceded a sales increase of 17,000 units in one week, according to NPD data.
“These books that were several years old were showing up on sales lists, and there was no event, article or content pushing them. I examined it on social networks and I was able to trace it back to TikTok ”, explains Kristen mclean, Executive Director of Business Development and Senior Analyst for NPD Books.
The publishers have also observed the increase in sales and have started their own surveys on BookTok. Then, says McLean, the booksellers get it. Retailers like Barnes & Noble and Target have started marketing around TikTok, assembling displays with trending headlines on the platform. It has turned into a virtuous circle, with trending books showing up in stores, and therefore increasingly likely to be picked up by readers and shared on TikTok, she says. This phenomenon supports the industry, but also makes it more difficult for the NPD team to determine how much sales volume can be attributed to TikTok, and how much is due to the efforts of booksellers.
Beyond sales data, McLean says the focus by publishers and retailers on the social media platform is sure to change the nature of BookTok.
“Publishers have already started paying creators to create sponsored content like they do on other social media platforms, and that takes some of the organic quality away,” she says. If all of the book-focused videos on the platform start to look like paid ads, tweens and teens will likely migrate to another more authentic app.
In an attempt to avoid this, the team at Random House Children’s Books are working to leverage TikTok without altering its culture as a creator.
“Over the last 18 months or so, there’s been a lot more attention paid not only to what we see on the platform, but also to how we leverage that content,” said Jean Adamo, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Random House Children’s Books. “TikTok kind of changed everything we do from a social strategy. It’s been disruptive in a really positive way.
While Random House works with Instagram influencers to create campaigns and employs a lifestyle photographer to take stylized photos for the aesthetics-driven platform, Adamo says the team’s approach to TikTok has been very different. . The allure of the creators’ videos on BookTok is how raw and unheard they feel, he explains, so Random House decided to focus on highlighting existing content without trying to impose its own. agenda.
“We have an official TikTok account, and we try to strike a balance between the things we post and the existing videos that we find and amplify,” says Adamo.
“If we see someone posting a review and they get attention, we reach out to them. Unlike Instagram, where we have a list of influencers that we tap into, it’s more organic. It doesn’t have to be the same person over and over again, and I think that’s a good thing. You get different points of view. It’s a different model, and we’re clearly getting a different answer. We’ve never seen a response from an Instagram campaign the way we’ve seen these efforts translate into the TikTok platform.
TikTok also changed the budget for Random House. Since recognizing the power of the platform’s playlists and reviews over a year ago, the team has redirected funds that were previously spent on print ads and physical promotional material to its online and social campaigns. BookTok also led the team to rethink their planning strategy, says Adamo.
“The very old editing mentality is that you plan [marketing] 12 to 18 months. Now it’s a matter of figuring out what the plan is in four weeks. And that could change as you get closer to launch, or even after the book’s release. A real-time strategy is definitely more than ever at the center of our concerns, ”he explains.
This is especially important because TikTok is not linear like Instagram or Twitter, says Adamo. App users are just as likely to see a video from three months ago as they are seeing one from three hours ago, which means backlist titles (like the one from Random House We were liars) can go viral at any time.
The audience is so focused on some of these older titles, in fact, that their popularity is influencing producers. List of books as They both die at the end and One of us is lying (2017) recently landed some upcoming TV adaptations, and BookTok continues to improve the profiles of books from years past. But while those kind of older titles have been the bread and butter of Random House for the past 18 months, Adamo says launching new books has been difficult even with the significant increase in sales for YA.
“It has been so much harder to create new books during this time of the pandemic because readers have reverted to things they are familiar with,” he says. “But on TikTok, if you can get some traction with the creators, this is one of the ways you can come out with a new book.”
Author Cindy callaghan seeks to test its hand on TikTok marketing for this very reason. The author, known for her 2010 teenage fantasy Just add some magic (later adapted in an Amazon 2015 series) – hopes its latest version of the holidays, The girl who ruined Christmas, can take advantage of the reach of BookTok.
“I don’t plan on creating my own content for TikTok,” she says. “Frankly, the content that is already there is so good, I don’t know if I could compete. “
Instead, Callaghan spent months researching BookTok, looking for creators focused on interpolated content. She started following as many as she could to keep up with their videos and get a feel for their book tastes.
“I ended up contacting some BookTokers who didn’t have a large number of subscribers because they felt really well suited. And, who knows, they might have more followers by the time my next book comes out, ”she said.
A deciding factor was that the content from the creators was quite age-appropriate. Callaghan says she ended up removing some BookTokers from her shortlist because the language or content of some of their videos didn’t seem to suit her mid-level audience.
Now that she has a solid candidate list, Callaghan is preparing packages with a copy of The girl who ruined Christmas– as well as a number of holiday-themed articles that creators can use to make their videos more festive – in hopes BookTokers will choose to revisit the title or include it in a playlist. The packages are expected to arrive soon so that any potential content can be released before the peak holiday shopping season in November and early December.
“I don’t measure success in terms of impressions. The quality of the prints is much more important to me than the volume, ”says Callaghan. “I think I’ll have to weigh the effort against the return in terms of performance against other social media platforms or more traditional marketing efforts. But it has the potential to be very good value for money. “
The real value of BookTok, however, is the love for reading, which is encouraging among tweens and teens, Callaghan says. TikTok is a tool in her marketing toolbox, but she’s hoping the publishing industry‘s attention (and money) doesn’t corrupt kids’ real enthusiasm for sharing the books they love on. more.
Adamo also hopes that authors, publishers and booksellers will continue to respect BookTok’s unique culture even as they exploit the platform for marketing purposes or provide inspiration for their next screen adaptation focused on. the book.
“When you have a tendency like [what we’re seeing right now with] TikTok is about finding your niche, ”he says. “How do we get into it without trampling on the creators?” “