Reading Between the Lines: Are We Aware of the Books We’re Lured into Buying?
By Maisie Clarke, Brittany Holness and Bianca Scasserra
The book publishing market has witnessed a revival thanks to to various social media platforms. Whilst it promises a great reach, it deceives in informing the reader of the true nature of these books. Short snippet reviews and succinct titles necessitate no real judgment and can negatively affect the consumers. We aim to delve deeper into the edited truths of themes that are prevalent throughout these books and whether such recommendations should come with a warning.
TikTok has become a go-to source for book recommendations for readers, creating an online community called BookTok. These videos offer a quick overview of a book's synopsis or memorable quotes from characters. As they can spread quickly, this makes them an effective marketing tool for authors and publishers. However, it's important to note that these recommendations are accessible to people of all ages, so it's crucial to research a book's content before purchasing it to avoid exposure to violent or triggering material. Unfortunately, younger viewers without parental supervision might encounter videos for books that are not suitable for their age group. Additionally, popular books on BookTok may be a temptation to young readers who are not mature enough to handle their themes. It's important to be aware of the negative impact that early exposure to these topics can have on younger audiences. For example, Colleen Hoover's It Ends With Us' sold over 4 million copies after going viral on BookTok. If you take it at face value, it is a romance novel, but delving deeper will reveal the devastating implications of abuse. Similarly, Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life was promoted heavily alongside videos of readers crying at its plot, but the book contains triggering content that is inappropriate for younger viewers.
Our readers are the lifeblood that sustains the success of every great novel. They deserve to be given information on book titles that are credible and true to their context. Whilst we expect reviews to not reveal too much, they should unveil the book’s themes and topics. We want to create a safe space for all parties where creators can find creative methods to share their viewpoints whilst remaining credible in their conceptualisation of books. It is inconceivable to entirely remove the influx of influencers from getting in front of our screens as their presence is intrinsically woven into the fabric of many people's lives. The best way to tackle this issue is to introduce a warning of subjects that are not fitting for a particular age group or are triggering for the individual concerned. The freedom to choose a book to enjoy should be restricted until the child is at an age where they can reliably form their own judgments. The themes and ideas portrayed within these novels should not be consumed by an unassuming young adult who was unaware of the content they were picking up.
Although a complex task, introducing different ways to promote books on TikTok would be beneficial to younger viewers. Social media is undoubtedly a minefield at the best of times which can be especially tricky when this world is opened to young people. Thankfully, platforms like TikTok take the appropriate precautions to ensure that their viewers only have access to age-appropriate content. For example, features such as “Family Pairing” and banning accounts that don’t adhere to the age requirements help to decrease the risk of children stumbling across unsuitable videos. However, the extension of this into BookTok is limited. Viewers should be well-informed before purchasing any product from an app. Still, it would be positive to create features such as a button that creators can enable to flag that the book they’re promoting is not acceptable for younger readers. In saying this, it is naive to believe that there is a complete solution to this problem as it feeds into the much wider debate about the relationship between children and social media; this is without even considering how these apps are becoming marketing schemes with disregard to the suitability of their content for all on these platforms. However, further steps can be made to steer younger viewers away from purchasing trending books that are not aimed at their demographic.
There are many platforms available to help readers find books that match their preferences. While using social media sites like TikTok can help find appealing books, it is advisable to read book reviews and check the author's page for trigger warnings to properly evaluate these recommendations. Be cautious when recommending books to a broad audience that includes younger readers. Databases such as Goodreads, romance.io, and book blogs can provide more plot details and other information to persuade readers to give a book a shot.