TikTok and Colleen Hoover made big impact on book sales in 2022: data

  • BookTok, the TikTok hashtag dedicated to books, drove print book sales for the third year in 2022.
  • Book sales are down 5.8%, but BookTok authors have seen 66% growth in 2022.
  • Here are three other key takeaways from data shared by US book sales tracker NPD BookScan.

TikTok is revolutionizing all kinds of industries, from music to hospitality to restaurants. But it had a particularly big impact on publishing.

A dedicated and growing community of readers has blossomed around the hashtag #BookTok, a combination of the words “book” and “TikTok”, which has had 110 billion views as of February 17th.

Publishers who spoke to Insider credited the BookTok phenomenon with being the main driver of 2021, being the most successful year for the industry in nearly 20 years.

“It’s huge, beyond anything in my career,” James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble and British bookstore chain Waterstones, told Insider in early 2022.

And now new data from NPD BookScan, the largest physical book sales tracker in the US, shows that BookTok has continued to be critical to the industry in 2022.

Here are four important lessons:

1. Book sales are down slightly in 2022, but BookTok continues to gain ground

Last year was the second-biggest year for book sales in the United States since 2004, when NPD BookScan began collecting data.

Sales were down 5.8% from 2021, with 780 million copies sold, down from 828 million the previous year.

The category that grew the most was adult fiction, with a sales increase of 14.8%.

Kristen McLean, book industry analyst at NPD, said matching the 2021 numbers was virtually impossible.

“The low part of last year is just because it’s like we climbed Everest,” she said. “There was nowhere else to go but down. We’ve come down from the peak, but we’re still above 2019. Using the Everest analogy, we’re just back to the first base camp, we haven’t fully descended into the Valley.”

NPD said sales of titles written by BookTok authors are up 66% compared to 2021. NPD’s BookTok author list includes more than 100 writers “featured prominently on TikTok’s BookTok channel.”

A PowerPoint slide with two different bar graphs showing the growth of the BookTok phenomenon.

These two graphs show how much BookTok has grown over the years and which BookTok authors increased their sales in 2022.

NPD BookScan

2. Colleen Hoover Masters the Phenomenon

The publishing industry’s biggest star in 2022 was fiction author Colleen Hoover, whose novel “It Ends With Us” has topped the New York Times bestseller list for fiction for 86 weeks.

Hoover sold 14.3 million copies of his novels in 2022, up from 1.88 in 2021 – a 661% increase.

“It definitely got the big boost from BookTok, and when retailers started carrying it, a whole other group of readers who aren’t BookTok readers was exposed,” McLean said. “She basically made the leap to name recognition that lands her on the best-selling author list.”

Other rising BookTok writers were Jenny Han, author of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” trilogy (which inspired an Amazon Prime Video show), and Taylor Jenkins Reid, known for “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” and “Daisy Jones and the Six.”

3. BookTok contributes to the increase in sales of old books to the detriment of new ones

Sales of backlist books, or books published more than 12 months before the NPD data collection, have been growing steadily for 20 years.

In 2022, only 30% of books sold were newly published titles, while 70% were backlist names. This represents a 68% increase in 2021.

“Part of the backlist story is the fact that many of the books that were embraced by BookTok, which is one of the strongest pushers of adult fiction, were backlist titles,” McLean said.

McLean mentioned Hoover’s “It Ends With Us” as the most prominent example of a backlist title driving growth in this industry.

4. The Power of BookTok Goes Beyond Fiction

It’s not just fiction authors like Hoover and Jenkins Reid who are successful on the platform.

McLean cited the example of British publisher Welbeck, known for its Little Books nonfiction series on subjects ranging from music to fashion. People on TikTok raved about their books, filmed videos about them, and generated a 96% sales growth in December 2022 compared to December 2021.

Nonfiction categories such as business and economics, or psychology and mental health, also grew, despite a general drop in sales of nonfiction books.

“I can’t overstate the power of what’s happening at BookTok,” McLean said.

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