BookTok Trends: Exploring Seasonal Reading Habits in the UK and USA
Welcome back to our BookTok journey! In our last BookTok post, social media strategist Kim Townend gave us a fascinating glimpse into the UK's BookTok landscape this Spring. Now, we're revisiting BookTok with a broader lens as Kim extends her insights to cover America.
With the help of YouScan Social Listening and Insights Copilot, Kim is looking at BookTok again to understand whether reading trends change with the seasons or remain static.
We listened across TikTok and Twitter (X) over the last three months of the year, and unsurprisingly, TikTok is driving almost all of the posts tagged BookTok.
Which Platform is driving the most posts?
We would expect the US to dominate the conversation, and they account for 84% of the entire search.
Where do the authors live?
Diving a little deeper into where the conversation is happening in America, it’s California, New York, and Texas that generate the highest level of mentions.
Who is talking about BookTok?
Earlier this year, our data revealed that females aged 25-34 were leading the trend, closely followed by the 18-24 age group. Has anything changed?
Yes, the 25-34-year-olds have extended their lead and now account for an even higher percentage of the search, with the 18-24-year-olds dropping back.
What were they talking about?
Specific genres have been at the forefront of the conversation, with romance emerging as the most prominent topic. This trend was evident even before delving into the nuances of romance sub-genres, such as dark romance and romantasy.
Around the end of October, we started to see people talking about Christmas or holiday reads. However, traditional genres such as mystery/thrillers or YA (Young adult fiction), literary fiction or poetry are dwarfed compared to romance and fantasy.
Kindle Unlimited is now a big part of #BookTok
One of the biggest underlying themes throughout our search was the prevalence of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. There were almost 38k mentions of Kindle Unlimited, which accounts for nearly 5% of the overall search.
The current cost of living crisis in the UK and the US potentially drives the uptick in Kindle Unlimited conversation, as it’s a cost-effective way of ‘borrowing’ Kindle books instead of buying them.
The romance genre dominated the Kindle Unlimited conversation, accounting for 65% of genre mentions, with dark romance making up another 24%. It’s safe to say that the Kindle Unlimited community are a romance-obsessed bunch.
One of the most used phrases in this conversation is 'kindle unlimited tropes', highlighting a keen awareness of this genre. The associated phrases also show a strong sports influence, with terms like 'first sports romance summer affair' and 'age gap hot neighbour NFL hero' cropping up.
Sports continued to be a theme outside of the Kindle Unlimited conversation, and hockey romance, in particular, is having a BookTok moment.
Users also shared their thoughts on Twitter (X):
Romance is getting darker
As we saw in Spring this year, romance has always been a key driver for BookTok, but what else can we learn from the data?
Firstly, look at a word cloud of US readers' biggest themes over the last three months.
The dark romance subgenre features the slightly troubling themes of ‘stalker romance’, ‘mafia romance’, and ‘morally grey’, alongside the more usual #enemiestolovers. We also saw a much higher use of spice or spicy in the dark romance sub-genre than elsewhere.
(Note: there were almost 52k mentions of spice or spicy within our search, which made up nearly 7% of all mentions. The dark romance readers are a thirsty lot!)
Running a quick analysis with Insights Copilot across the whole romance genre returned these insights:
Different book genres such as military romance, fantasy, dark romance, and spicy reads are mentioned.
Excitement and praise for certain books or book series such as "The Grace Year," "World of Eragon," and "Magnolia Parks" series is expressed.
There are specific BookTokers or authors mentioned to follow for book content.
Excitement for upcoming book releases is expressed.
Interesting mythology and portrayals of characters in certain books are mentioned.
Book recommendations and reading updates are mentioned.
Desire to read or spend more time reading is expressed.
Specific authors or book series are mentioned to be enjoyed.
Book-related trends on TikTok are mentioned.
Bookish siblings and the book community on BookTok are mentioned.
Personal experiences and preferences related to reading and books are discussed.
Gratitude for the book community or specific individuals on BookTok is expressed.
Excitement about receiving books as gifts is mentioned.
Excitement about specific book series and characters such as the ACOTAR series and morally grey male characters is expressed.
But it’s not all dark-in-dark romance. We’re also seeing a real sense of community, with Christmas book exchanges back on the agenda:
BookTok as a recommendation engine
In our analysis of the search data, 11% of all posts included some form of recommendation. Romance tops the genre list with 11.6k mentions, closely followed by the 'spicy' category at 9.2k mentions. It’s safe to say that the rise of spicy BookTok is being driven by US BookToker recommendations.
The rise of TikTokShop
Although it only launched in September this year in the US, we’re starting to see an adoption of TikTokshop within the BookTok community, particularly concerning buying signed copies of books or authors offering TikTok exclusives. TikTokShop goes hand in hand with the self-publishing trend.
We also saw multiple instances of #blinddatewithabook, where readers choose a book based only on a description or genre. Although TikTok makes it extra by creating entire boxes surrounding the book, including treats and book-specific accessories.
We originally saw this as a trend on #bookstagram, booksellers were leveraging it to create a sense of intrigue or excitement around the book shopping IRL.
BookTok really winds down for December
The volume BookTok conversation remained pretty consistent throughout the duration of our search, up until the beginning of December when mentions started to drop off in both the US and the UK (although the UK slump was a couple of weeks after the US began its decline). In a time when retail is massively gearing up for Christmas spending, results like this indicate that people got too busy to post, suggesting that this is a community made up of real people and not brands and content creators who will continue to prioritise posting regardless of the season.
What else are the BookTok community into?
We already know that the BookTok community is overwhelming female identifying (they are on average four times more likely to be female than male), and that this is just from the community that posts their gender on their profiles. But what other interests do they have?
Unsurprisingly, books are the key interest that unites BookTok, but as we saw in our previous search, there is a high amount of people who consider writing an interest. The second highest interest next to reading or books was being a Mom, again, suggesting the idea that BookTok is the realm of GenZ is entirely wrong.
Interestingly, the number of people who listed poetry as an interest was nearly equal to those who actively posted about poetry throughout the last quarter of 2023.
Differences between the US and UK communities
The first and most striking difference is that the UK community is far more evenly distributed, age-wise. Where the US has almost exclusively 25+ users, the UK still has a lot of 18-24 BookTokers.
The second difference is the genre preferences, although Romance is the top topic across both nations, when we dive a little deeper, we see that the UK is more interested in Fantasy than Dark Romance, and they are more likely to be reading Christmas/holiday themed books than talking about spicy reads.
The US and the UK BookTok audiences are quite different despite a common interest in Romance as a genre.
The US BookTok audience is primarily younger millennial Moms. The UK audience is predominantly younger millennials, but it features more Gen Z readers than the States.
US BookTok is really into dark romance and spicy reads.
Amazon Kindle Unlimited is much talked about in both territories.
The BookTok community is filled with many more real people than brands and creators.
Very few people are talking about YA (Young adult fiction) / NA (New adult fiction) on BookTok anymore.
Recommendations are the heart and soul of BookTok, accounting for over 11% of total mentions.