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TikTok, a key ally for the sale of print books

2021 was the year with the highest sales of physical books in the United States, increasing almost 10% compared to the previous year.

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According to statements from Kristen McLean, executive director of NPD Bookscan, made to Forbes, social media, especially TikTok, has given a significant boost to the print book industry in the United States.

In the words of McLean, thanks to posts about books, especially those that are grouped under the hash tag "#BookTok," there was an increase in sales in 2021, which translated into 825 million copies sold. That's an increase of 9% compared to 2020 and 125 million more units than in 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

McLean also pointed out that the TikTok phenomenon has particularly triggered the sale of texts in the "young adult" category since 2020, but it has not been exclusive to that audience. Fiction and nonfiction for adults have also been part of the positive trend.

According to analysis by NPD Bookscan, “adult fiction” in 2021 led sales growth with 25% more than the previous year, contributing more than half of the overall market gains. Likewise, “young adults” managed to quadruple the figures it obtained in 2004, the first year that NPD Bookscan began its reports.

How did this phenomenon occur?

McLean first realized how important the entertainment platform was to print book sales in late 2020, thanks to E. Lockhart's young adult novel We Were Liars, published in 2014.

The NPD Bookscan analyst discovered that thanks to a video posted to TikTok about the book, which generated millions of reactions. The "#wewereliars" became a thing and sales of the book rose to an unprecedented level, all thanks to the teenagers who devoured his novel and commented on it through the social media platform.

For Lockhart, beyond the renewed sales of his book, finding a platform in which people interact with his novel and share their reactions has brought him great satisfaction, as well as a new setting for his stories transcend beyond the text.

Thanks to the explosion of TikTok, Lockhart's prequel, Family of Liars, is now ready to go on the market. It only came about because of the popularity his first installment gained on the platform.

Other notable titles

Colleen Hoover's It Ends With Us (2016) became the second best-selling adult fiction book, as well as the sixth overall. Readers have taken home 770,000 copies of the book.

Adam Silvera's They Both Die At The End (2017) has sold 685,000 copies.

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller (2012), became the fourth best-selling adult fiction book with 650,000 in sales.

#BookTok

This trend, born amid the pandemic, has allowed important retailers such as Barnes & Noble to have a mechanism to measure the interest a book may garner, in order to manage the commercial strategy that will boost the sales of a title.

On the other hand, those who spread the content and share links that lead to the purchase of a book, benefit from the increase in their general views, which makes them eligible to be part of the TikTok Creators Fund or makes them valuable business partners for sponsors.

Nearly 36 billion people have engaged with the #BookTok, with various posts using the hashtag showing more than 10 million views each.

More social media platforms, such as YouTube, are also being used to share content related to the stories found in print books, fueling the massive sale of fiction and nonfiction texts, even relaunching titles that were published several years ago.

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