Who are the book-tokers, the guys who sell books on TikTok – time.news

When the sales people of Ecco, a rib of the HarperCollins publishing group, saw it last August a book published 8 years earlier suddenly selling 10,000 copies a day in the United States, it took them a while to understand the source of the miracle. As often happens with bestsellers, it was hidden in a place unknown to many literary critics. That is on Tik Tok, a social network based only on videos of a few seconds, very popular with the under 25s and almost incomprehensible to the majority of the older ones. The Song of Achilles, 2012 novel by Bostonian Madeline Miller (in Italian Achilles’ song, Marsilio) had ended up on a list of “books that will make you cry” posted on August 8 by 18-year-old Californian, Selene Velez, who has 134,000 followers on Tik Tok, like @moongirlreads_. The Tik Tok algorithm, which exponentially grows the audience of the most followed videos, showed the list to six million users in a few days.

A spontaneous campaign, but more effective than a Witch: if when Song of Achilles won the prestigious Orange Prize was selling a thousand copies a week today, in the US alone, it sells nine times as much. Selene Velez is a book-toker: a tiktoker who deals with books. The phenomenon is not residual. The hashtag #booktok corresponds to videos viewed a total of 5.7 billion times; #booktokitalia and #booktokita refer to videos viewed in total almost 28 million times. Some examples: @centannidisolitudine, 8 thousand followers, recommends “three classics under 200 pages for those who love short reads” (Gedge Gatsby, Sleepless nights, Young Werther). Ubiquitous Harry Potter, and fantasy in general. “Books that make you cry” is also a hashtag, which groups 878 views (very popular all the same Achilles’ song, inherited from the booktokers of the United States).

The disclosure of almost everything goes a long way: @aspirante_prof, a professor of literature, summarizes in 15 seconds The Malavogliasand the Songbooks, e asks his 19,000 virtual “students” if they are “Team Beatrice” or “Team Laura”. One is the woman loved by Dante, “angelic and timeless”, the other that of Petrarch, “temptress but with personality” (sic! Beatrice wins in the 28 comments). It can make literary scholars smile, even bitterly. But it seems to work. “It’s called influencer marketing, and it’s very strong,” explains Federico Rognoni, who talks about books on Instagram and Tik Tok under the nickname @ronisbooks. On Tik Tok alone, 250,000 follow him. “Little for the canons of the medium, where comic videos and statuesque physics are depopulated”.

But a lot if you think about the editions of a book, especially a debut. Rognoni, 20, also speaks very quickly on the phone, like everyone on Tik Tok: the books, slow and old-fashioned, he explains, “are liked because the audience is of children under 25, who they can’t wait to experiment with a different approach to reading than the one imposed on them at school“. Of his followers, “the pandemic brought me a hundred thousand”: the book-club effect should not be underestimated, in months where it is impossible to meet live. Rognoni reads and tells essays on history, economics and marketing “Which is my job, I bring brands and characters of various kinds on Tik Tok to do this: marketing”.

Most booktokers videos are spontaneous and above all free: that is, it is not the result of a paid agreement with publishing houses, as happens for example on Instagram. Rather, the main Italian publishing houses on Tik Tok are absent, while the great English-speaking publishing groups are striking while the iron is hot. «It is early», explains Rognoni, «in these trends Italy is one semester behind the United States, in general. But the potential of Tik Tok is increasingly clear to companies, so they will not be long in coming ». Nostalgic for the “smell of paper”, refrain.

March 22, 2021 (change March 22, 2021 | 22:11)

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