A BookTok clip about Cain’s Jawbone has had 4.2 million views, gained over 1 million likes, has attracted 5.300 comments and has been shared over 36,000 times on rival social media platform Whatsapp.
First the history: Published originally in 1943, a puzzle book written by a crossword setter made headlines nine decades ago, but has since languished in obscurity.
Reprinted in 2019 by the crowdfund publisher Unbound, the re-released Cain’s Jawbone ticked over gently until it was picked by TikTok’s BookTok community.
For the many publisher who are still proudly wearing their 1990s blinkers and have convinced themselves the internet is undermining reading and the publishing industry, be aware of the following:
Unbound is a crowdfund publisher, meaning it operates on the internet encouraging booklovers to contribute cash so it can publish books mainstream publishers aren’t too interested in.
Being internet-based, Unbound relies on readers on the internet not just to support the books it publishes, but also to spread the world about those books to other readers so more books are sold, both online and in traditional bricks & mortar stores.
And that word of mouth of course comes via the internet, and especially via social media.
For this story the main social media driver, as is so often the case in the last year or two, is TikTok, and specifically the BookTok community on TikTok.
For those unfamiliar TikTok is a video social media platform, and BookTok is where booklovers share video clips about books they love.
Per the Unbound press release, a BookTok clip about Cain’s Jawbone has had 4.2 million views, gained over 1 million likes, has attracted 5.300 comments and has been shared over 36,000 times on rival social media platform Whatsapp.
All of which has sent sales spiraling, and Unbound is now desperately trying to fast-track a reprint run of 10,000 copies, having sold out all available copies within 24 hours of the BookTok clip going viral.
Unbound adds that it is also dealing with “a flurry” of foreign rights queries.
The bigger picture here is that BookTok has had over 13 billion views of its bookish videos, and is accessible pretty much anywhere in the world.
BookTok has been described by Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton as an,
Hit Google to discover myriad more examples of how BookTok is boosting publisher profits.
And then spare a thought for the myriad publishers around the world deliberately steering clear of social media, and calling out the internet as the enemy, to justify falling sales which could, if those publishers would only take the blinkers off and embrace the myriad opportunities digital offers, transform their publishing fortunes.
There are 5 billion people online as we wind down 2021, and many of them are in emerging markets (590 million across Africa, 755 million just in India, 117 million in Bangladesh, 154 million in Nigeria, 212 million in Indonesia) where it seems many publishers are still wedded to the idea that the internet is the enemy of reading and the enemy of publishing.
Challenging that misconception has of course been a constant theme of TNPS since its inception back in 2017, but as we head into 2022 it’s time to really ram home the message that a hybrid physical and digital model is the way forward for global publishing.
Not to embrace digital is to miss out on the Global New Renaissance unfolding.