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The bookselling power of TikTok

The world of BookTok continues to be a driving force in 2022, with books that proclaim ‘TikTok made me buy it!’ or use TikTok/BookTok in the keywords collectively selling 2.2m copies in the first four months of 2022 in the UK, as measured through BookScan. Colleen Hoover’s ‘It Ends With Us’ leads the fiction chart for the year, joined by ‘Ugly Love’, ‘Verity’, ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid and ‘The Love Hypothesis’ by Ali Hazelwood all within the top ten, while ‘They Both Die at the End’ by Adam Silvera sits at the top of YA and ‘Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before’ by Dr Julie Smith ranks second in non-fiction. Of course not every purchase will have been influenced by TikTok, but all of these books had their recent popularity kickstarted on the platform, turning into bestseller chart appearances, further discovery and prolonged sales.

For those purchases that are influenced directly by TikTok, they’ll likely be made by younger consumers, with under 25s still the largest user base among book buyers. The video sharing app became more popular across all ages in 2021, though, growing from 12% of book buyers aged 13-84 in 2020 to 18% for the latest year. Older teens surpassed 50%, while 20-24s increased the most year-on-year, from 30% to 43%. If we look at share of books bought by TikTok users, 20-24s take the lead, at nearly one in five books, with more than half bought by under 30s altogether; however, that’s down from 60% in 2020, as older groups join the TikTok base.

According to Nielsen BookData’s Books & Consumers survey, book buyers did increasingly discover books via social media and video sites in 2021, leading to 5% of purchases, so still a relatively small share overall. That naturally becomes more pronounced for age bands where usage is higher, at nearly 9% for 13-24s and 7% for 25-34s. Even looking at discovery methods more broadly by age, shown in the graph, the sentiment behind TikTok discovery is echoed in other factors: 13-24s, and to a lesser extent 25-34s, are more likely to discover books via bestseller lists and adaptations, while 25-34s are the most likely to discover via general word of mouth, so all these point to embracing the books and conversations of the moment, certainly something TikTok has a growing hand in.

The TikTok helping hand will of course be more pronounced in specific genres, and our first post on the platform’s impact looked at which genres TikTok users tend to read, especially those under 25. Now that we’re further along in the BookTok era, we can narrow down to which genres book buyers say they discovered via social media/video sites in 2021, and how that differs by age. While for overall book buyers, self-help/popular psychology benefitted the most, for 13-24s one in five romance books were discovered on these sites/apps in 2021, ahead of the overall market stat of only 6%. Which brings us back to those bestsellers at the start: 28% of Colleen Hoover books were discovered on social/video sites, and nearly 70% of her sales came from 13-24s last year, although early 2022 data points to that extending into older age groups, showing that shift into more traditional discovery and wider readership.

Based on results from Nielsen BookData’s monthly Books & Consumers survey. For more information, please contact infobookresearch@nielseniq.com.

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