Publishers claim that the popularity of readers discussing their favourite books on TikTok has contributed to record-breaking sales in the UK in 2021.
According to the Publishers Association, total book sales increased by 5% last year to £6.7 billion, with fiction, children’s, and young adult all performing well.
According to the organization, the BookTok trend is responsible for four of the top five young adult bestsellers in 2021. They included chart-topping singles such as They Both Die at the End and We Were Liars.
According to Publishers Association CEO Stephen Lotinga, viral videos on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube have been “really significant” in encouraging readers to discover books.
“Anecdotally, we’ve had lots of individual booksellers talking about the fact that they’re having lots of young people coming into their book stores, talking about books that they have heard about on TikTok and asking for them,” he said.
“It has an effect on the number of books sold, but it is also changing the shape of what is sold. Throughout the pandemic period, we saw an increase in the purchase of what we call backlist books, which are books that were previously published.”
Many of the TikTok titles that have gained popularity are several years old rather than brand new releases.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, which according to Nielsen was the best-selling young adult book of 2021, was first published in 2017 before experiencing a resurgence. We Were Liars by E Lockhart, which came in third place on the list, was first published in 2014.
According to Emilie Marneur of Bonnier, We Were Liars sold four times as many copies last year as it had in the previous seven, and TikTok also propelled two of the company’s other older titles into the top 50 young adult bestsellers list last year.
“The sheer volume of sales we saw in that one year on the back of the TikTok activity far exceeded the combined sales we’ve seen for those titles over their lifetime before that,” she said.
She explained that We Were Liars, which has a “a very, very dramatic” ending, benefited from a “big trend around books that make you really sad or have a very unexpected ending”
Mr Lotinga described the overall sales figures as “quite an incredible performance” given that book stores were closed for the first three months of 2021 due to the lockdown.
Despite this, print sales increased by 5% year over year, while audio download sales increased by 14%, but digital sales in consumer publishing decreased by 1%.