By Alexandra Constable and Hayley Cadel
As you may remember from a previous issue, BookTok has quickly become a core marketing tool within the publishing industry. Various publishers have begun to send their books to BookTokers to review on social media, and book stores such as Waterstones have recently created sections dedicated to those books trending on the platform. BookTok has proved undeniably successful in promoting the popularity of certain books, even being responsible for pushing some titles to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. In this article, we are highlighting some of the talented Black authors that have been particularly championed on BookTok – most notably, the works of Talia Hibbert, Tia Williams, Bolu Babalola, Joya Goffney and Jasmine Guillory.
Talia Hibbert is a British romance novelist who specialises in paranormal romance. She is most commonly known for her 2019 romance novel Get a Life, Chloe Brown, which follows the story of Chloe Brown, who after almost dying in a near-death experience with a drunk driver, devises a list of directives that intend to help her “get a life.” For much of Hibbert’s life, she struggled with undiagnosed medical problems, which were later discovered to be caused by fibromyalgia. The issues she faced throughout her journey towards and after diagnosis inspired the themes of discrimination and prejudice within healthcare settings in her novel. The book was hugely popular and became the first in a trilogy that follows the recurring Brown sisters – see also, Take a Hint, Dani Brown and Act Your Age, Eve Brown.
Other romance writers also doing well on BookTok are the wonderful Bolu Babalola and Tia Williams, who have turned their hand from other creative industries to become novelists. Love in Colour was published in 2021 and is Babololu’s first book. It’s a collection of short-stories where she finds and beautifully rewrites love stories from history and mythology. Following the success of this first book, Babalola went on to release Honey & Spice in 2022, with the marketing campaign utilising her popularity on social media to generate anticipation for the book’s release. Honey & Spice is a relevant and relatable romance, with the main character embroiled in a “situationship.” Also popular on BookTok, the author Tia Williams with her novels The Perfect Find, The Accidental Diva and Seven Days in June. With genre similarities to Book Lovers by Emily Henry, Seven Days in June was notably popular on BookTok last year. This novel recounts the meeting of the main characters Eva and Shane, both successful writers. While they immediately connect, despite acting as though they are strangers, it emerges that they had a whirlwind romance fifteen years earlier. Now reconnecting, questions from the past are finally answered.
Due to the popularity of BookTok as a platform, readers are also connected with books outside the UK, with the platform offering the potential for readers to find a wider variety of books from around the world. American romance novelists Joya Goffney and Jasmine Guillory have seen the benefits of this international reach. Goffney’s YA debut, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, resembles a romcom full of secrets and chemistry. The main character, Quinn, obsessively keeps lists of things that embarrass her in her diary, following the logic that if she documents them in this way, she won’t need to face them. However, when she loses her diary, she is forced to confront her fears. As her journal is revealed on an Instagram account week-by-week, she is blackmailed into facing her fears or risk her whole journal being made public. Following the success of her debut, Goffney’s subsequent novel, Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl, moves away from YA. It sees the main character battling with her religious parents towards a more sex positive outlook. Similarly, the prolific writer Jasmine Guillory, has also found popularity on BookTok. For those of us currently trying to get into the publishing industry, By the Book, sets itself up to be a relatable read. The main character Isabelle has been working in the industry for a few years and now at twenty-five, the position she is in is not where she thought she would be, still living at home and one of the few Black employees at the publishing house. Seeing the potential for a promotion, Isabelle travels to Beau Towers mansion to convince an author to complete his long-awaited manuscript, however upon arriving the pair notice they share some similarities and a romance ignites.
Finally, we wanted to leave you with some recommendations for upcoming releases to look out for, both in store and on BookTok. If you liked the sound of Jasmine Guillory’s work, her most recent novel Drunk on Love was published this month and has already garnered widespread attention from readers on BookTok. Moreover, due to be released in November, Kennedy Ryan’s new romance novel Before I Let Go, endorsed by Colleen Hoover, is one to watch. The novel grapples with ideas of lifelong commitment, to understand love and healing.
Regardless of how active on BookTok you are, we hope everyone will find some interesting new recommendations to add to their to-be-read list!