Today on our Ask an Expert series, we’re excited to sit down with BookToker Azanta Thakur for a conversation on why TikTok is transforming publishing, and the future of readers and authors on social media. Azana is an avid reader and literary advocate who has created a substantial platform on TikTok (aka “BookTok”), with more than 17,000 TikTok followers on her account @azantareads, and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram. She is also the founder of BookTalk, a new digital conference that is connecting authors and readers like never before.
When did you first get involved in BookTok? Were you a Bookstagrammer prior to joining TikTok, and if so, what prompted you to branch out to BookTok?
I’ve been on Bookstagram since November of 2018 and joined BookTok in January of 2021 after landing on BookTok on my personal for you page. I had been avidly following BookTokers like @lluuuuuuu_ and @aymansbooks for a few weeks and after seeing how quickly people had connected over their shared love of books, I decided to make a couple of videos. I still consider Instagram my true main platform but because I have more followers on TikTok, I tend to focus more on my content on TikTok now.
Which genres / types of books do you enjoy reading the most?
I’ve been an avid YA fantasy reader for years and I don’t see myself growing out of that any time soon, especially with all the new fantasy books entering the market being inspired by different cultures. As a teenager, I read mostly western-inspired and Eurocentric fantasies because that’s what I had access to but now there are books like Witches Steeped in Gold and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and the upcoming The Keeper of Night that span across the world. At the end of 2020, I started broaching Adult Fantasy as well as Adult Romance. I’m still working through my intimidation of adult fantasy books but these days, I find myself gravitating towards more romance books than fantasy. They’re fantastic to help work through reading slumps!
What types of BookTok content do you enjoy creating the most?
Although they’re far and few between, I love making my little skits. I love to incorporate hijab jokes in them because I just get a kick out of them and those videos are when I feel the most creative and although I’m not normally a very funny person, I find them hilarious. I’m a very big proponent of creating content that I myself would consume and one day, when I find some more time, I’m going to get back to making more of those minute-long skits!
What are some misconceptions that you’ve seen people have about BookTok / TikTok in general? What do you think people don’t understand about BookTok?
I think for some reason people think we get paid a ton of money to promote books. Sure, some of the bigger BookTokers do get paid, whether it’s via views or via contracts with publishers/sponsors, but it’s nothing like booktube/YouTube in general. Most of us don’t get paid at all, and if we do, it’s a small remuneration here and there. All the books I promote are ones that I truly love, enjoy, and recommend. Another misconception that I’ve seen a lot of people have lately is that BookTok is a harsh, critical place with constant drama. And while yes, there tends to be a lot of discourse surrounding constructive criticism, calling someone out (politely) to do better — especially when it’s related to race and diversity in publishing — is not drama. BookTok is not only a place to partake in the bookish community and celebrate our collective thirst over fictional characters but also a place full of educational opportunities!
What advice would you give to authors who are interested in joining TikTok to promote their books?
Interact with BookTokers/readers in your comments — people love it! Be sure to use trending audios and partake in trends if you want to promote your videos and turn on your Q&A for readers to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to larger BookTokers to introduce yourself if you’re a new author, as well!
What is BookTalk? How / why did you found BookTalk?
Thank you so much for asking! I founded BookTalk back in March of this year as a way to bring together the community we were creating on BookTok and Bookstagram by connecting authors, readers, and those in the publishing industry. I set out to create a weekend full of events and panels — think Yallwest, but smaller, virtual, and focused on debut/newer/authors from marginalized backgrounds. I reached out to several of my mutuals a few months ago, asking them to come on board and help with this massive project, and thus, BookTalk was born!
How did this year’s BookTalk conference go?
Honestly, BookTalk 2021 hit every single one of the goals we had set out to do. The night before we announced BookTalk in May, the Leads and I sat down together and defined our versions of success. We collectively agreed that we would be “successful” if we managed to introduce a new author and a new book to even just one reader and helped them connect with other readers. Over the course of the weekend, we received several messages from participants saying exactly that — how they were so excited to read these new books and how many friends they had made. We created a community for readers, by readers, and I could not be more proud of it.
Where do you see BookTalk going in the future?
There is so much potential with BookTalk and I hope to take it to the lengths I see in my visions for our organization. We will obviously continue our summer virtual event full of author panels and activities for participants and we hope to expand from one to two weekends for 2021. Beyond our event, we eventually have the goal of doing an in-person event in addition to our virtual one, as well continuing with events throughout the entire year to build hype for books. We will continue to bring BookTokers and Bookstagrammers onto our team so that we can create collective content for readers and we hope to introduce a book club, a podcast, and other platforms to promote authors on.
Chelsea is a copywriter, editor, publicist, and content creator at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers. Interested in what’s possible for your book sales and building readership? Check out our services, tell us your goals, and get a customized publicity campaign tailored just for you.