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How BookTok is revolutionising the queer literary industry

An image combining the two elements of BookTok - TikTok and books.
An image combining the two elements of BookTok - TikTok and books. Left: Pexels, Right: @upikelibrary via Twitter

Described as the “last wholesome place on the internet”, BookTok (TikTok’s niche literary community) has arguably changed the publishing world, and the LGBTQ+ community stands to profit. No matter the genre, if a title is out on the shelves, it’s most likely also on TikTok, so it’s not surprising that those looking for a good queer read are heading to the app to do so.

If you’re interested in reading, even just a little, you are almost guaranteed to have heard about some of the queer BookTok favourites, such as The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reidor or Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

However, some would argue that the platform is most valuable because users get to decide which videos and recommendations are popularised. What resonates most with people is consequently what, through views and likes, gains the most attention and has the most impact. This democratised process stands in contrast to the publishing industry, which traditionally has a top-down structure.

Through many subcategories of what is considered BookTok, the community is able to popularise books that make them feel the most seen, giving minorities like the queer community the necessary visibility in an industry that otherwise often overlooks them.

 

@bryanhoardsbooks

Don’t you just wish you can magically erase them from your brain so you can read it again for the first time? Nothing beats the first time 🥺🤍 #booktok #booktokph #bookstack #bookrecs #queerbook #queerbooktok #bryanhoardsbooks

♬ today was a good day – ✗

Generally, it can be said that the demand for queer books is at a never-before-experienced high. According to the research firm NPD Group, the sales of LGBTQ+ fiction doubled from 2020 to 2021, with young adult and romance novels selling the most.

Aside from the pandemic encouraging people to get back into the habit of reading, it can be assumed that the visibility LGBTQ+ literature gained through social media in previous years had a big part to play. When initially treated as a novelty and looked down upon, today you can find an ‘as seen on BookTok’ – table in almost every bookshop across the country. 

 

But even in the world of queer BookTok, not everything is sunshine and roses, mostly populated by a demographic of young white women, it has been criticised for the lack of racial diversity among the most recommended works and authors. Also, some voices caution against the existing bias towards the representation of gay men in books for the sole reason that it often appeals to a broader audience of mostly straight women, due to the fetishisation of MLM-relationships.

Luckily there are, as is TikTok’s nature, many sub-communities within BookTok and even queer BookTok that together can fill the existing gaps. However, it would still be desirable if this representation made it into the mainstream and could not only be found in the margins.

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