BookTokers Say No To Collaboration
By Malachi Martin
Penguin Random House’s recent collaboration with TikTok has been deemed a “cash grab” by the app’s subcommunity, BookTok. In September, the collaboration was announced as a feature for the app which allows users in the UK and US to link their favourite books published by Penguin Random House. Simply clicking the link featured in a BookTok video, users are directed to the book’s dedicated page and are provided with details which include a brief summary and more videos that the book had been linked in.
Alyssa Castaneda, Penguin Random House’s US Head of Social said “#BookTok validates that word of mouth is still the most powerful force for our industry.” BookTok has amassed a large community and following in the short years since its inception allowing book lovers from all over the world to come together and share their enthusiasm for all kinds of literature. Through the discussion, promotion, and creation of trends; BookTok has aided in the increase of publishing sales across the world.
However, despite the complimentary words and positive outlook of Castaneda, they were not reciprocated by some of BookTok’s creators. “They’re fun to talk about and everybody gets the references you make,” one creator, Maya Bonner, said about BookTokers discussing “big books.” She added, “But when those big books are all by the same author, or they’re all by the same straight, white people, it gets exhausting to never see yourself in anything,” criticising the new TikTok feature which only highlighted Penguin Random House’s publications.
Another creator, Haley Thomas, said “initially, I thought this new [feature] could have some utility, but then it felt scummy, like, not only is this giant trying to gobble up every other publisher, but now they want BookTok?” Thomas is referring to Penguin Random House’s attempt to purchase rival publisher, Simon and Schuster, which the publisher faced scrutiny for, and even caught the attention of the Biden Administration for its potential to violate US anti-trust laws.
Furthermore, Thomas shared her feelings on large publishers benefitting from BookTok creators, saying “I struggle when it feels like these giants keep getting richer and richer on our backs. I would love to see some way to have better compensation for the people who are putting in so much love and effort and true labour into what they do.”