BookTok With 43 Billion Views Has Sent Barnes & Noble Sales Soaring

BookTok With 43 Billion Views Has Sent Barnes & Noble Sales Soaring

Barnes & Noble has found new life in a community of TikTokers that has taken the publishing industry by storm.

The group is called BookTok and its members tag videos of themselves raving about books, often in the aisles of physical bookstores. Some of the videos have gone viral racking up millions of views. This has created a class of influencers that have made bestsellers out of titles that have been sitting on shelves for years.

Sales have been soaring, according to Barnes & Noble’s Director of Books Shannon DeVito, who said 2022 is on track to be stronger than 2021 and 2019. The company’s sales began to turn around during the pandemic, when lockdowns led to a reading renaissance among young adults, she said. By the summer of 2020, the company started to see a dramatic lift in sales, specifically in trade paperbacks, which DeVito discovered was being driven by BookTok recommendations.

“The first two titles that jumped on my radar were ‘They Both Die At The End’ by Adam Silvera and ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller. We’d typically sell a few hundred copies, but suddenly we were selling tens of thousands of copies every two to three weeks,” she said. “Now we have hundreds of titles trending.”

Surprisingly, the spike isn’t in e-books or online sales. Teenagers are going to physical stores to buy hard copies, sometimes 10 a month, she said. They’re staying to film videos, further boosting engagement.

With Barnes & Nobles becoming the stage for “booktokers” to create their next viral hit, the company has been stepping up its investment in remodeling its stores to make them feel more welcome. Tables or shelves filled with popular BookTok titles and topped with colorful signs can now be found across its 630 U.S. shops.

According to a search on the TikTok iOS app, the BookTok hashtag has been seen 43 billion times. That’s something that’s gotten DeVito’s attention. As the company gets ready to launch its limited special edition of A.F. Steadman’s “Skandar and the Unicorn Thief” on May 3, any events planned are likely to have elements that are expected to hit big with the BookTok community, she said.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.