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BookTok is Good, Actually: On the Undersung Joys of a Vast and Multifarious Platform

Lit Hub – Leigh Stein Wonders Why More Book People Don’t Embrace the Publishing Juggernaut. “Shallow, fake, showy, and performative—these are a few of the adjectives used to describe BookTok, the corner of TikTok where young women share and discuss books on camera, by drive-by tourists to a culture they don’t understand. I’m no BookTok tourist. I’ve lived here for nine months. As a chronically online millennial, I’ve become a translator between the readers on BookTok and the literary community that looks down upon them. On TikTok, I post a video about Mary Ruefle that gets forty thousand views and yields comments like: “this just gave a whole new perspective on my entire existence.” In a banquet room in South Carolina, I’m giving the keynote speech at a writing conference. To inspire the audience, I tell the Cinderella story of Colleen Hoover, the bestselling author in America. Three days before my speech, her novel It Starts with Us sold 800,000 copies on release day. There are 120 writers in the room; only one has heard of Hoover. For every bestselling BookTok title, you can find a hundred videos from creators telling you it’s overhyped—and recommending something else to read instead. It’s a little lonely over here. I’ve been baffled by why my esteemed colleagues, who gather in the thousands at AWP to kvetch about how hard it is to make a living as a writer, are so incurious about the place on the internet where readers are buying a metric fuckton of books…”

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