could the #BookTok bump save publishing?

Take for example the top 10 bestsellers from Dymocks Australia last week: six were hot books on BookTok.

“There are [also] five BookTok titles in the current top 10 in Australia [for all retailers]says Kate Mator, National Fiction Buyer for Dymocks. “To say this is important is an understatement.”

Jon Page, store manager of Sydney’s George Street Dymocks, which now devotes an entire section to BookTok titles, said young women and girls were a boon to the store in January, when retail sales were down due to of Omicron’s summer wave.

“The TikTok books kept us going until January,” he said. “But by the time school started, we saw the bottom drop in terms of sales. It was a huge dropout. »

During his years in the book industry, he’s seen trends come and go, like the Harry Potter era or the mystery novel obsession. But he says he hasn’t seen books flying off the shelves like they are now in at least a decade.

“[It’s like] in the days of Dan Brown – people got on a plane and every other person had the same book,” he says.

The BookTok effect is also being felt elsewhere: Britain last year recorded the highest print book sales in a decade, while in America sales were the highest on record.

Popular Australian #BookTokers

In Australia, there has been a 27% increase in young adult fiction sales since 2019, netting $34.6 million last year, according to book sales data provider Nielsen.

A survey by the organization also found that 45% of book buyers aged 16-24 agreed or strongly agreed that they read more books than before; 28% said they had discussed books online in the past three months.

Claudia Scalzi, a 24-year-old media graduate from Melbourne, is one of many rising Australian ‘BookTokers’ with a following of nearly 27,000.

An avid child reader, Ms. Scalzi lost her reading habits during her high school years as her friends, social media, Netflix and homework absorbed her free time. Falling into BookTok during Melbourne’s lockdowns has reignited her love for reading: she now reads around 10 titles a month.

“Seeing people talk about books they liked and recommended – it was kind of nice to see that my childhood hobby was very much like a popular one, and I wanted friends to talk about it” , she said.

Fantasy and young adult genres have been hugely popular on BookTok, but so have many self-help and business titles. Even Greek mythology has a large audience, with Madeline Miller The Song of Achillesa story by Homer the Iliadone of last year’s bestsellers.

Romance books are the most dominant genre. “Romance is sort of considered an inferior genre of books, so it’s nice to have a big community of people picking it up,” Ms. Scalzi says.

Publishers and industry leaders are all trying to make sense of this new reading renaissance.

Hachette Australia, which publishes Colleen Hoover – the author of many giant TikTok titles – has started encouraging its stable of authors to open their own TikTok accounts. The publisher now sends books to various TikTokers, as well as traditional outlet reviews.

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Marketing manager Alysha Farrie said the chemistry of what went viral on TikTok could not be manipulated by authors or publishers. Many of today’s best-selling titles were released years ago with very little mainstream acclaim or success before the advent of BookTok.

“I think a big part of TikTok’s charm is its authenticity,” she said. “It’s a place where the agenda seems to be set by the users themselves, not the brands.”

Canberra-based author Sally Thorne agrees. She is one of a handful of Australian authors to have benefited from the BookTok bump, despite being entirely outside the video-sharing app herself.

“[My publisher] Hachette told me that around this time last year, The Hate Game was selling 120 copies a week – and now it’s selling 1200 copies a week,” she said.

“I am very lucky that all of this is happening. It’s a kind of strange alchemy that I don’t quite understand.

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Whatever that magic is, Joe Rubbo of Readings is just happy to see new readers discovering a love of books. He finds a baffling irony in the idea that young people and their phones could now be the savior of publishing.

“I love it,” he says. “I think it’s kind of ironic that what we think is pulling them away from reading actually attracts them.”

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