Gone are the days when TikTok was just an app for teenagers to lip-sync and old folks like me assumed we’d never get involved. TikTok is here to stay, and like most corners of the internet, the world of books has carved out its own niche there. Authors, bookstores and bookfluencers have accounts and the publishing industry is becoming increasingly aware and harness the power of the platform to sell books and spread enthusiasm for reading.
So how do you get started on BookTok?
The platform has a steeper learning curve than others, but it’s accessible if you break it down into manageable steps.
1. Download the app and create an account
You can do this in a variety of ways, including a link to Facebook, Twitter, or a Gmail address. (Top tip: Pick a good username. I figured I’d never use mine, so I messed up this crucial step.)
2. Edit your profile
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to add that crucial link in your bio until you hit the magical 1,000 followers. (You can also create a business account to access that earlier, but I don’t recommend that, because it comes with restrictions.)
3. Navigate to the home button
Where TikTok differs from many, if not all, other social media platforms is that you don’t have to follow anyone to get a stream of content. When you hit the home button, you’ll be redirected to what’s known as your FYP: your For You page. At first, it’ll be a mess of content, much of which you’re probably not interested in: the algorithm is guessing what you like based on what it can collect about you on the internet. But as you get involved in watching, liking, and commenting, you’ll start to hone in on what works for you.
If you’re serious about specifically having a BookTok, rather than just having a fun TikTok account that also includes books (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), you’ll want to avoid interacting with anything that isn’t books. A quick way to train the algorithm is to find some BookTokers to follow.
4. Follow some BookTokers
Book Riot has some good lists of recommended people to follow; You may also want to search for your favorite local independent bookstore, book podcast, or even bookstagrammer or booktuber; most likely they are there. From your accounts, you can see who they follow and click through to see if there’s someone you’re interested in. But there’s no need to follow too many people, and TikTok will flag you as a spammer if you follow too much. very fast. What you are doing here is training the algorithm. At the top of the page, you’ll see that you can toggle between FYP and Following. Hit “follow” and spend some time there, interacting with the bookish accounts you just followed. After that, it won’t take long for the algorithm to start serving you primarily, if not exclusively, book content on your For You page.
It will also give you an idea of the trends and sounds that people use to publish about books. If you find a sound you like and want to try using it, hit the round icon at the bottom of the screen and then “add to favourites”. That way, when you go to add your own sound to a video, it will be one of the ones available to you. It’s a great way to get on top of trends and also get ideas on what to post.
5. Make your first video
There are plenty of tips and tricks to learn, more than I can cover in this one post, and you’d do well to look for tutorials on YouTube if you want to dig deeper. But here are the basics:
- Tap the + sign at the bottom of the screen.
- Add a sound on top.
- Hit the big red button to record yourself talking, dancing, or lip-syncing (yes, that’s still available).
- Press “next”.
- Add a caption and hashtag or two (opinions vary and trends come and go as to whether #booktok is the best one to use; it doesn’t hurt to use something more specific, like #romancereaders).
- Tap “select cover” to choose the most flattering freeze fame, as that’s what will show up on your grid.
- At the bottom of the screen, there’s also a way to add text (which is also a handy way to cover your face if, like me, you sometimes find none of the freeze frames all that flattering, actually).
- Click “save” and then at the bottom click “publish”.
- Congratulations! You just posted your first BookTok video!
If you really want to work seriously, especially in the early stages, I recommend that you take a look at the new account of bookstore.org. They came together in April, posting with a consistent aesthetic using mostly current trends three times a day every day until they reached a magical 1000 followers ten days later.
Bookshop.org is, of course, a well-known brand, so I don’t want to promise that you’ll get the same result if you’re a little-known author or book-loving influencer. But if you have the time and bandwidth, I highly recommend giving his technique a try, and maybe even giving yourself some time to learn until do have that bandwidth, as well as a bank of spins you can use so you can start off with a bang.
Above all else, though, don’t get hung up on numbers: BookTok is a great place to meet like-minded friends, broaden your reading horizons, and get great recommendations. Have fun with it!