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How a dancing app became a marketing and publishing powerhouse – and how you can use the algorithm to your advantage!

Asia Pesaro

Since our February article How Booktok Revolutionised the Romance Genre, the hashtag #BookTok has continued to thrive, with TikTok views rising from 109 Billion to a whopping 145 Billion in just a few short months. But what even is BookTok?

Put simply, BookTok is “a wholesome corner of the internet” where readers and writers alike have congregated to share their love for books – and completely revamped the publishing zeitgeist in the process. 

With an excitable network of trendy users quite literally looking for recommendations, TikTok has proved itself the perfect platform for both up-and-coming and established authors to promote, market and hype up their work. Don’t believe me? TikTok has enough power to single-handedly propel fan-favourites to the top of New York Times Bestseller lists years after their publication. In an age of ever-shortening attention spans, BookTok and its algorithm allows you to reach and communicate with an audience who already loves the same tropes that you do – all in sixty seconds or less.

But we at PWA recognise that the idea of joining such an established and bustling community can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ve curated the perfect, easy-to-follow intro guide for BookTok newbies:


Understanding Your Demographic & Reaching Your Target Audience

The majority of TikTok users are young people, and BookTok is not dissimilar: most popular BookTokers are young women with a penchant for romance, fantasy romance, YA, LGBTQ+ YA and ‘spice’. But don’t be fooled – this is simply the stereotypical surface of BookTok; people of all ages have found success across the app.

With the right tactics, any book and any author can find their own niche audience and, fortunately, the right tactics boil down to the understanding of three very simple things: jargon, tropes and hashtags. 



Like any localised community, BookTok has its own slew of slang and internet jargon – the most prominent of which are: 

  • YA / NA: Young Adult / New Adult
  • TBR: To Be Read
  • DNF: Did Not Finish (‘I didn’t like this book so I DNF’d it’)
  • ARC: Advanced Reader Copy
  • RTC: Review To Come
  • WIP: Work In Progress
  • Spice: the ‘hotness’ level of scenes
  • Ship: the act of wanting two characters to be in a relationship (‘I ship it.’)
  • OTP: One True Pairing (the couple you ship the most)
  • OC: Original Character
  • MC: Main Character
  • MMF: Male Main Character
  • FMC: Female Main Character
  • AO3: Archive Of Our Own, a popular fanfiction website
  • Any number followed by the letter ‘k’: on BookTok, the length of books is discussed through word count as opposed to page count; 77k, for example, refers to a 77,000 word novel.



Also unlike traditional publishing, book genres are oftentimes overshadowed by book ‘tropes’, which are at the centre of BookTok’s recommendations and discussions. Understanding and using these tropes is key to successfully marketing your own novel; BookTokers tend to search for their next read by filtering for tropes they already know and love, such as: 

  • Enemies to lovers, rivals to lovers, academic rivals, friends to lovers (yes, these are all different)
  • Slowburn (this means that a plot, usually a romantic get-together, takes a long time to come to fruition)
  • Fake dating
  • One bed
  • Forced proximity
  • Grumpy x sunshine
  • Miscommunication
  • Love triangles
  • Found family
  • Accidental pregnancy.



The hard part is over! Once you’ve realised what jargon and tropes are relevant to your work, all you have to do is actually ‘tag’ those words in TikTok’s hashtags whenever you post. This allows potential viewers to filter through BookTok’s extensive library and find what they’re looking for: you! For example, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is oftentimes tagged with #DarkAcademia.


But What Do I Actually Post & Who Do I Follow?

The key difference between BookTok’s recommendations VS traditional reviews, as found in magazines, articles and opinions pieces, is not necessarily ‘personalisation’ as one might first assume – it’s actually opportunity and accessibility: anyone and everyone can make their own TikTok video, can speak their own thoughts, with an equal chance of going viral. 

BookTok embraces an equal playing field. For this reason, we recommend aiming for authenticity, and hesitating before paying for branded content and advertisements. Especially when first getting started. 

Readers want their recommendations and reviews to come from a trustworthy, unbiased source, free from corporate influence; people want to hear from their ‘peers’. Collaborating with other BookTokers is great, of course, but make sure you’re doing it on an equal level:

  • Post and comment about what you love to read and what you love to write
  • Interact with other commenters doing the same
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously; be you!


Still Need Some Inspiration?

No need to worry – if you’re still looking for a specific place to start, we recommend sticking to trendy challenges, using popular background music, recent memes, pinterest boards and inspirational quotes. Here are a couple of reference points to get you started:

  • A shorter list of popular BookTokers to follow for inspiration
  • A longer list of popular BookTokers to follow for inspiration.

Doubtful if all this effort is worth the while? We’ll stop trying to convince you, then, and let the numbers speak for themselves. There have been plenty of case studies of successful BookTok marketing campaigns: Heartstopper (now with its own Netflix adaptation), Red, White, and Royal Blue (now with an incoming film adaptation), The Atlas Six (previously self-published), as well as Colleen Hoover’s entire body of work.

Of course, no app is without its negatives, and there have been a handful of controversial BookTok successes. Such as Lightlark. But these examples are few and far between.


Are You Ready?

TikTok and BookTok have completely changed the publishing game – don’t let yourself get caught behind. We at PWA hope that this guide can serve as a launching pad for successfully running your own BookTok marketing campaign, joining an ever-growing online community, and maybe making a few friends along the way. Now that you’re a jargon, trope and hashtag expert, we’re sure that you’ll have the next BookTok darling in no time at all, so long as you:

  • Stay consistent with your uploads, activity and commenting
  • Reach out to and interact with your audience
  • Stay true to yourself (remember that authenticity is valued!)

Need to finish off your novel before you start promoting it? Take a look at our wide range of online writing courses to get on the right track.

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Meet your Guest author

Asia Pesaro

Asia (A.J.) Pesaro is a British-Italian student about to graduate Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA, studying English Language & Literature, Creative Writing, and Film.

They previously completed the IB Diploma at UWC Pearson College in Canada. Asia enjoys both literary and genre fiction, is finishing their undergraduate thesis in Creative Writing, and is very excited to be a part of PWA’s team!

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