TikTok’s Penguin Random House Collab Has BookTok Creators – Rolling Stone Concern

no one saw BookTok is coming. The tik tok The community devoted to readers was an organic effort that seemed to explode overnight, creating entirely new trends and a way to promote books on digital platforms. Less than two years after its creation, BookTok . has become Favor To directly increase sales of print publications across the United States, leaving publishers desperate to harness the power of BookTok in new releases. But a wave of creators say a new feature between tik tok And the Penguin Random House conglomerate doesn’t celebrate BookTok – it’s the first attempt to exploit it.

In September, publishing company Penguin Random House announced the release of cooperation With TikTok allowing users to link books directly into the app, aiming to expand the reach of the community. The new BookTok feature gathers information about the book and all its related videos in one central location. Says Isaac Pace, a spokesperson for TikTok rolling rock The link aspect was created to “take book discovery and content creation to the next level.” the problem? You can only link to books published by Penguin Random House, which are many creators Say will lead to More exclusion for the youngest the bookAnd the less pay for BookTok.

BookTok uses its hashtag to unite users who are obsessed with all things reading. But what started when TikTokers simply talked about their favorite (and sometimes tearful) reads has involved a powerful community that includes skits, reviews, callouts, and lists that encapsulate all aspects of the book industry. Unlike other influencers, BookTok creators rarely feature sponsored posts, as their popularity depends on honest review. Many of the most popular creators act as critics rather than promoters, leaving fewer options for monetization.

Carmen Alvarez He spent seven years as a creator in book communities across multiple platforms, but says BookTok is completely unique. Latinx BookToker credits the community’s success to the TikTok algorithm and the sudden influx of leisure time for the pandemic, which it describes as one lightning strike in a million. A key aspect of the TikTok community is their indifference to the publishing schedule, which means old books can, oftentimes, have viral moments — they call authors their bestseller lists years after their book was originally published. Alvarez says rolling rock That in the past year, the community has seen a strong push from publishers wanting to be a part of the action.

“TikTok has benefited from the fact that a lot of people are looking for information in a video format,” says Alvarez. rolling rock. “By default, the publishing industry has really centered. They’re partnering with influencers, and they’re doing this new feature now. Publishing really seems to be focusing a lot on TikTok because [the app] It’s the main place people go to look for new readings.”

With only five major publishing houses in the United States, Penguin Random House’s bid to buy the home of rival Simon and Schuster has embroiled the publisher in a fierce battle with the Biden administration over whether the purchase violates US antitrust laws. TikTok creator Haley Thomas She says Random House’s post makes her, and others on TikTok, unlikely to use the new feature and is concerned about how publishers might try to use BookTok creators without paying them. (Penguin Random House did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

“At first, I thought this was new [feature] It could have some benefits,” says Thomas “but then I felt duped, like, Not only is this giant trying to devour every other publisher, but now they want BookTok? ”

During the birth of BookTok in 2020, the publishing industry underwent particle account Because of the lack of staff, authors and published works. BookTok is not exempt from the same criticism. Most of the great app writers — Taylor Jenkins Reed, Colin Hoover, Sarah J. Maas, Madeline Miller, and Ali Hazelwood — are white women. While videos about their books often bring new readers into the fold, the constant promotion of white writers and white characters has drawn opposition from creators of color. Maya BonnerBlack BookToker, who is Black BookToker, says the new feature only exacerbates an existing problem in the community.

“There are people who are very attached to big books, and that’s what I understand,” Bonner says. Rolling rock. “It’s fun to talk about and everyone gets the references you do. But when all these great books are by the same author, or all by the same straight white people, it’s exhausting not to see yourself in anything.”

Alvarez and Bonner say it takes an active orchestration of the algorithm to get recommendations for diverse businesses. Alvarez says that while the creators of BookTok are willing to do the work researching independent books, collaborations that highlight the biggest and whitest work, could motivate publishers to continue funding popular writers at the expense of potential new talent.

“There is a lot of diverse literature that comes from many publishers that are not Penguin Random House. But [the feature] It’s limited to a very small percentage of people who get that traditional published format,” Alvarez says. And you can see it while running in the virtual screen just that you swipe to find books.”

The new feature comes right as the BookTok community is enveloped in a larger discussion about how to compensate the creators. While many BookTok influencers are eligible for the TikTok Creators Fund – an internal payment scheme based on followers and combined weekly views – some in the community are calling for payments from the publishers themselves.

“All I want is to connect with people and talk about books that are very close to their hearts. But people get frustrated and exhausted,” says Thomas. “I struggle when I feel these giants get richer and richer on our backs. I would like to see some way of getting better compensation for people who put a lot of love, effort and real work into what they do.”

Despite extensive promotion of the Penguin Random House collaboration, a few big name creators have chosen to use it in their videos. In a post announcing the feature on the publisher’s TikTok page, nearly all comments express his anger Excluding all non-random house titles.

Even with the current focus on Penguin Random House, the creators realize that most publishing companies are still setting their sights on how best to take advantage of BookTok. And while the commodification of their community may be inevitable, they certainly don’t want to help the Penguin Random House get there.

“I understand gravity,” Bonner says. “From a business point of view, as a publisher, how can you say no to BookTok? It has been a driving force in changes in publishing and revenue over the past couple of years and I understand that. But I have no interest in getting involved in that with them. I don’t need to support them. They will have Enough money without me.”

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