A Lot of Book Bloggers Aren’t on BookTok: Why Publishers Might Wish to Take Note

Introduction

Why Publishers Should Take Note Book Bloggers Are Not on TikTok

While publishers, authors, and booksellers have eagerly jumped on board with BookTok in the past year or so, with some books seeing massive increases in sales after going viral on the platform, I’ve noticed that book bloggers are not necessarily as keen on the app as others. Several times a week, I see bloggers in blog posts or on Twitter saying they aren’t on BookTok and asking if other people are, or asking if someone who is on the app can explain something about it to them.

Initially, I thought this was just a vaguely interesting fact. Then I realized this is possibly publishers should be taking note of. While the focusing of marketing departments seems to be shifting strongly to BookTok (of course with some Bookstagram and Booktube thrown in), publishers might inadvertently be overlooking a very avid group of readers who spend a significant amount of money buying books for themselves and for others each month (i.e. bloggers).

The Stats

First, to confirm my suspicions that book bloggers are not overly present on BookTok, I looked at the Book Blogger Stats Survey I am currently running (you can answer it by clicking here), and I ran a poll on Twitter asking bloggers if they are on BookTok. (Respondents should be specifically bloggers, not Youtubers, Instagrammers, etc.).

On the survey, I ask book bloggers where THEY spend the most time consuming book-related content. At the time I am drafting this post, there were 70 responses, though there will likely be more by the time I post the results of the whole survey. While I do think it’s notable that only 50% of bloggers spend most of their time reading other blogs, what also strikes me is that NO ONE said they spend the most time on BookTok. (Shout-out to the one person who ranked BookTok and blogs equally though.)

On Twitter, there were fewer responses, but roughly 64% of bloggers said they are not on BookTok at all, and nearly no one said they spend a lot of time on the platform.

Why Publishers Should Still Be Focusing on Bloggers

What does this mean for marketing? Basically, that’s there’s a base of extremely avid readers/bookk buyers who likely are NOT going to be reached by any marketing on TikTok, even if it goes viral.

While I understand that BookTok has the potential to move and sell books to the general public at a volume that blogs simply cannot compete with (seriously, I get that bloggers are not going to make a book suddenly sell 10k copies in a week), I do think publishers should keep in mind that bloggers are still a noticeable segment of book consumers, and it’s worth courting them.

There are tens of thousands of book bloggers, and many of them buy dozens of books each year, either for their personal libraries or to give away to friends and family, or even to donate. Book bloggers are people who can read 100+ books a year and who might spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually on buying books, depending on their income.

And, of course, bloggers don’t even need to spend tons of money on books to make an impact. Most bloggers don’t just blog. They are on multiple platforms, and if they read and enjoy a book, they can end up posting about it in numerous places, including Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. They may recommend their local library purchase the book or suggest their local indie get it in stock. Book bloggers are book lovers and do a lot of marketing that just isn’t easily quantifiable.

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Conclusion

I’ve long thought that one of the challenges of increasing profits as a publisher is that there are simply a lot of people who do not read at all, or who only read a handful of books a year (let’s say, four). This is a segment of the population they basically cannot sell their products to, though they have been innovative in terms of selling non-reading books (ex. the coloring book craze) and creating numerous editions of the same bestselling book (so someone who’s read Throne of Glass can buy six different collectible versions of it and spend money on books without actually committing to reading more books).

Yet bloggers are generally voracious readers who read frequently and widely, so, as bloggers lament that publishers seem to be forgetting they exist and seem to be sending them fewer ARCs, I do think it’s worth keeping in mind that this might be a marketing mistake. Yes, bloggers don’t make books go viral like BookTokers do, but they are an avid consumer base for books. There’s probably some value in thinking about sending ARCs and other opportunities to bloggers are marketing to bloggers themselves as reader, not just using bloggers to market to the general public. And anyone not looking to market to them at least a little is likely missing out on some opportunities.

Briana

28 thoughts on “A Lot of Book Bloggers Aren’t on BookTok: Why Publishers Might Wish to Take Note

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    Do you think that book marketing is so caught up in all the ‘insta-fame’ that you can get if the gamble on the right BookTok reviewer hits the viral charts? It already sounds like an exhausting chase to me, and makes me think of working on the stock exchange.

    There seems to be so much pressure on finding the next ‘viral’ post / tweet etc while blindly ignoring the mass of readers (bloggers) who, like you say read 100+ books a year and are more likely to spread news of book than the person who reads 4 books a year.

    However, I suppose that if the ‘4 book a year person’ sees a viral post and buys that book, then perhaps the marketeers job is done. My problem would be that they then have to market the next book with the same effort. Surely this is an exhausting method?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’m sure there is some frustration in terms of predicting what exactly *will* take off on TikTok! So many of the TikTok popular books are actually backlist titles and not new releases, that I think it does raise some questions about how exactly to use the platform for marketing!

      Exactly! I get that TikTok spreads awareness to *more* people, but I imagine a lot of those people are “nonreaders.” Like I had a roommate once who declared to me she didn’t read but she kept hearing about Fifty Shades of Grey, so she was going to read it. I imagine you get those people on TikTok. They don’t read much, but they’ll pick up something super-viral. And in the meantime, publishers are overlooking people who might literally purchase 20 books a month. (I don’t, but other bloggers definitely do spend that much on books!)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Janette says:

    This is a really interesting post. I can’t see things changing though. As long as publishers have the chance of shifting thousands of copies of a book if it takes off on TikTok, they aren’t going to be really interested in bloggers. I guess platforms such as Net Galley are enough for them as bloggers get the chance to read books even though we rarely get the actual book itself now.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I totally get why they would be *more* interested in TikTok than smaller platforms, but I think it’s a mistake to write off bloggers entirely, as some publishers seem to have done, since bloggers still do tons of free marketing and just, as individuals, frequently spend a lot of money on books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Krysta says:

    I think there is a case to be made that marketing to/with book bloggers offers somewhat more stability and longevity. Blogs have been around for ages, while social media sites sometimes tend to rise and fall. It may be more lucrative to try to chase those huge numbers on BookTok, yes, but if the popularity of BookTok fades away, then publishers may have to start from scratch with the book bloggers who will undoubtedly still be around. I understand not wanting to invest them same amount of money in book blogs when they get less views, but it seems to me that a well-rounded marketing strategy wouldn’t throw all the resources at one place, either.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I can see using TikTok while it’s popular, and it’s big enough perhaps one could confidently say it will have a lot of longevity, but blogs have already proven they have longevity, which certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mehsi says:

    Interesting post! I am also not on booktok (or booktube) because I just don’t feel comfortable showing my face/my voice. That is why I picked to do blogging 8 years ago. Because that way I can keep my privacy and still share my love of books with book lovers in the way of reviews, and later in way more diverse posts. And meet new people! As for keeping track of new releases/new awesome books online I check blogs, Twitter, Goodreads.
    I do think it is silly that once again bookbloggers are overlooked and the focus once again is on one thing instead of just spreading it out over multiple sources, the way blog tours/promos often do. Oh well, as an international blogger publishers already avoid me. XD

    Liked by 3 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I also really value my privacy and don’t want to plaster my face all over social media, and I agree blogging is perfect! And that while you CAN do bookish videos on TikTok without actually filming yourself, I don’t think they do as well.

      Exactly! I get TikTok can move a lot of books, but I think forgetting that there are other influencers AND consumers who are not on the app at all would be a mistake for marketing.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Tales from Absurdia says:

    Great post, as ever.

    I’d be curious to hear from the people in marketing for publishers. I suspect that there is some reasonably strong data behind their decision to focus on the more public-facing influencer marketing platforms (Bookstagram/BookTube/BookTok).

    I work in marketing myself, albeit B2B and not publishing, and I know to avoid Facebook like the plague because it gets us zero business. LinkedIn meanwhile is a lot more lucrative.

    It depends on what their KPIs are. If they’re basing their marketing strategy on impressions and visibility, then they’re probably more likely to get instant results on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

    As bloggers, we definitely get a rough deal from dealings with (big) publishers, but as I said, I suspect there’s data behind their decisions. Of course, this is purely speculation – I’d love to hear from someone in the industry explain why and how they make their decisions.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Krysta says:

      I’m wondering if part of the issue is that it might be hard to track the marketing power of a book blogger? Book bloggers often do share books on more platforms than their blog, but while you can track views on WordPress and even other social media platforms like Instagram, for example, how do you measure how much impact also posting the review on Goodreads or Amazon had? What if the blogger is also a bookseller or librarian, and they are also promoting the books to customers? Book bloggers probably have a bigger impact than can be seen just from sharing, “I have X many views per day” on WordPress. But it’s not all measurable.

      I’m also guessing it’s lower than the views on BookTok anyway, of course. But publishers do do stuff like send ARCs to libraries and bookstores even though I’m guessing that hardly results in making hundreds of sales. So I’m not sure if that’s just to keep up good relationships with other people in the book world or what.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Siena says:

    This is a fascinating discussion! I understand the logic behind why publishers are focusing on TikTok, and I think that they’re betting on the longevity of it, hoping that it will become as long lasting as Facebook.

    I feel as though there’s a lot of focus on more visual platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, without considering people who prefer more text-based sites (for lack of better phrasing) like blogs. Maybe that’s indicative of trends as a whole, but I think there will always be an audience for blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I totally get the appeal of TikTok and how many books it seems to move. I just think it would be short-sighted to forget to ALSO market to the people who aren’t on TikTok who are still buying a large number of books!

      I keep reading blogs are doing very well (in general, not book blogs in particular as a niche), so that might also be something publishers want to think about. I’ve seen a lot of people also talking about moving away from being influencers on social media to platforms (blogs) they have more control over.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ella says:

    I think that book Tok caters to a certain type of reader and demographic. I think they are trying to attract that type of consumer, probably younger readers. Not every type of book goes viral on booktok so my guess is that either they will eventually distribute the money to other platforms or they are going to increase the publication of the type of book that goes viral on booktok. Hopefully it gets better distributed with time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      It would definitely be interesting if they started to sell books they thought would do well on TikTok! I’m not even sure what that would be (because I don’t go on much anymore), but a lot of the popular books seem to be backlist bestsellers. And I get the impression steamy romance does well.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) says:

    I’m a blogger first and foremost (for nearly 14 yrs now), with Twitter as main secondary for publicising blog posts etc (which I also do on FB and GR). I like writing proper longform (if needed) reviews in a format that looks nice (my blog). I don’t like Insta which is primarily about the pretty photo and hashtags, not an easy to read forum for reviews – I save it for the occasional ‘arrivals’ thank you photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I never really read the captions on Instagram, so I always find it a bit baffling when people talk about Bookstagram like there’s some sort of major discourse going on. Most of the time I just scroll through the photos, and if I do glance at the captions, 50% of the time whatever they say has nothing to do with the photo anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mint says:

    I’m curious about what metrics, if any, they use to determine who gets what. My guess is that BookTok simply returns higher profits as the reach is far greater. And books who get popular on BookTok might still indirectly disseminate to bloggers through other platforms. Say, a book making it on BookTok, then getting mentioned by someone in a Facebook group that a blogger is in. I get most of my recommendations from Reddit or Discord and it seems that a lot of these recommendations filter through BookTok as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. aquavenatus says:

    An interesting post and a very relevant research topic. Honestly, I understand why publishers have been paying more attention to BookTok, but “recent book releases” should be a warning about it being short-term instead of long-term.

    Liked by 1 person

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