How to Start a BookTok

A phone screen showing TikTok

Social media offers NetGalley members endless ways to share their reviews with other readers. We’ve compiled our tips for how to start a book blog, Bookstagram, and Booktube channel—and now, we’re taking a look at BookTok, TikTok’s book community! Check out our advice for getting your channel started, and take a look at some of our favorite BookTokers here.

 

Decide on a handle
If there’s a handle that you use on your other bookish social media channels, use that on TikTok. It’s helpful to stay consistent because it makes it easier for publishers and fellow readers to follow your accounts.

If you’re starting from scratch, consider other BookTok handles that you enjoy. You could go with something straightforward like Maya.Reads, something a bit whimsical such as PrincessOfPaperback, or something that tells viewers more about you and your channel in the way Alaina’s The_Dyslexic_Reader indicates the way she brings discussions of dyslexia into her videos.

Think about how you envision your channel, the sorts of books you’ll cover, and what other videos you may want to post. Find a name that encapsulates that, and don’t worry because you can always change it in the future if you’d like! 

Once you have a name you feel strongly about, Google it. This will ensure that you aren’t using the name of a BookToker or book influencer who already exists—which is both considerate and avoids confusion.

Set up your account
Fill in your profile. You don’t have much room so it’s best to keep it simple such as sharing your pronouns, the genres you like to read, and any important bookish information (such as if you run a book club or work in a library). If you have a Bookstagram or Booktube channel, you can also add those links to your profile!

Finally, add a photo that you’re comfortable sharing. If you have other social media channels, using the same profile picture helps keep your presence consistent and recognizable. If this is your first bookish social media account, consider either a photo of yourself, a favorite book or bookstack, or even a logo that matches your handle. Logos can be designed in free apps such as Canva!

Find the right equipment
If you have a smartphone, you have the key equipment you need to start a BookTok channel! There are other helpful tools such as ring lights and tripods that can hold your phone, but don’t feel pressured to invest monetarily when you’re starting out. Create videos with what you currently have and get a feel for the kinds of additional equipment (if any) you need.

Access your filming space
BookTok videos can be filmed anywhere—your home, your car, your local bookstore. If you are considering doing most of your filming in a space in your home, it’s helpful to consider your background. Bookshelves always make a nice backdrop, but aren’t required for a successful video. Focus more on the lighting (natural light is your best friend) and your comfort in the space.

Film test videos in different locations to give yourself a sense of what the final product will look like and to help you grow comfortable talking in front of the camera. For BookTok videos, framing is important and there are multiple factors you’ll need to consider: Is the background distracting for viewers? Is the lighting too harsh or too dim? Does the space you’re filming in create any odd acoustics? Are there any personal or identifying items visible that you need to move?

Get familiar with editing
TikTok’s app includes the ability to edit, add sound, and create thumbnails for your videos. If you’re familiar with other editing software from your experiences with BookTube or Bookstagram’s Reels, you do have the option to edit your video outside of TikTok and upload it. But our recommendation for beginners is to get to know the tools within TikTok first. Remember those test videos you filmed? Use them to explore the editing software. Practicing with videos that you don’t intend to publicly post or share helps to take the pressure off of making them perfect, and will set you up with the editing knowledge you need to post your first video.

Get bookish
You can’t have a BookTok without books! When considering your channel’s name, you likely already thought about the kinds of books you’ll feature. You also probably own a lot of books, which is a great place to start. Some BookTokers prefer to focus on their current reads, but if you’re new that means there are past books you loved that are still well-worth sharing!

You’ll see physical books being shared in videos, but you can easily share the digital ARCs you’re receiving from NetGalley by inserting a photo into your video. To do this you must have an image of the cover on your phone and then use the Insert option under Effects when you’re ready to start recording. Check the publisher’s website to be sure you’re using the final version of the cover.

Think about your content
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already a member of NetGalley (though if you’re a newbie I’ve got some tips for you here!). As a member of NetGalley, you’re expected to share reviews for the books you’ve been approved for, but filming a review in a limited timeframe comes with its challenges. Writing your review down before you film your video can help pull your thoughts together, or you may find that filming first gives you insight into your written review. Test out both methods to find what works for you! If you aren’t sure where to start, I have some tips here on writing reviews, writing critical reviews, and writing audiobook reviews. And don’t forget to include the link to your review video when you submit your Feedback in NetGalley!

In your video, you’ll want to clearly, yet succinctly, describe the plot for any viewers who may be unfamiliar with the book, and then share your opinions. I’d also recommend looking up the pronunciation of the author’s name and their pronouns before you film. Don’t be afraid if you mess up while filming—start over or continue from a point you know you can smoothly edit.

When filming, you’ll also want to be mindful of what you can and cannot share in your videos. It’s always wise to give a clear warning if you’ll be sharing spoilers. When discussing ARCs in particular, publishers ask that you not share direct quotes or interior art, which may change before the book is published.

In addition to reviews, there are tons of other possibilities for BookTok content: TBR lists, end of month wrap-ups, unboxings, and reading challenges—just to name a few. Think about the kind of content you enjoy watching, and the kind you’d be most interested in creating.

Start a schedule
Planning, filming, editing, and posting videos all take time and it can be helpful to create a schedule as you learn the ropes and grow your platform. One to two videos a week is a good place to start, and it can be helpful to have a specific day of the week set aside for each step of the process. Using a spreadsheet or organization app can help keep you focused and on track.

But remember that part of the fun of TikTok is that trends happen quickly. Leaving room in your schedule for spontaneity works particularly well for this social platform.

Introduce yourself
Kick off your channel with a video that introduces yourself! You can do this by either pairing the video with a Meet the Booktoker sound, like this one created by Ezeekat, or making an original video of your own to share who you are and what books you’re excited to talk about on your channel.

Caption your videos
Make your videos accessible to all bookworms by adding subtitles or using TikTok’s automatic captioning feature.

Focus on caption strategy
TikTok captions can only be 100 characters, so you’ll want to start paying attention to the captions that best work for you as a viewer and how to create ones for your videos that are clear for your audience.

Captions are also a place you can include hashtags (you’ll likely want to use #BookTok as well as the book title or genre that you’re featuring) and tags (such as thanking a publisher for an ARC or giving credit to a fellow creator who inspired your video. Just don’t forget to avoid tagging authors in negative or critical reviews on your channel).

Find your community
Chances are you’re starting a BookTok because you’re already a long-time viewer. If you have friends in the community, let them know about the channel you’re starting. Then crosspost your BookTok videos to your other bookish social media channels so that readers who follow you there can find your account. 

Use your channel to follow other BookTokers who share your interests. Leave comments on videos you like, and respond when comments are left on yours. Before you know it, you’ll have an incredible group of bookish friends who are always there to swap tips, recommendations, and more!

Following publishers and authors on BookTok also makes sure you’re the first to know about new and upcoming releases.

Add the link to your NetGalley profile
Once you’ve set your account up, head over to NetGalley to add the link to your profile. You should include it in the “Other Places I Talk About Books” section.

In general, we recommend updating your NetGalley profile every few months. This gives you a chance to check that the links are all working and to update any stats you include (such as follower and engagement numbers on your social channels). Up-to-date profiles better help publishers when deciding to approve book requests. Set a calendar reminder to help nudge you to check in!

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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