BookTok Shows How Fans Can Power Sales; Imagine What Could Be Done Without Copyright Anxiety

from the let-your-fans-market-for-you dept

A little while back, the Guardian covered the rising literary power of BookTok – short videos on TikTok devoted to the pleasures and pains of reading. As well as plenty of background information about the BookTok phenomenon, it has the following perceptive comment from Kat McKenna, a marketing and brand consultant specializing in children's and young adult books:

“These ‘snapshot’ visual trailers are making books cinematic in a way that publishers have been trying to do with marketing book trailers for a really long time. But the way TikTok users are creating imagery inspired by what they are reading is so simple, and so clever. It’s that thing of bringing the pages to life, showing what you get from a book beyond words.”

Attracting new – and especially new young – readers is something that publishers have long been striving for. And now, free of charge, BookTok creators are doing this for them, driving huge sales in many cases, as the Guardian explained:

Adam Silvera’s 2017 novel They Both Die at the End is one of the books to have benefited from the BookTok effect. Users recently started filming themselves before and after reading the book, sobbing as they reached the finish line. In March, it shot to the top of the teen fiction charts, selling more than 4,000 copies a week. The book has sold more than 200,000 copies in the UK, with well over half of those coming belatedly in 2021, after thousands of posts about it (#adamsilvera has been viewed 10.8m times).

BookTok is a wonderful demonstration of the power of user-generated content. Because it is made by ordinary people for ordinary people, it speaks directly in a way that no slick marketing campaign can hope to match. But inevitably, hanging over all such exciting experiments with the digital medium there will be “copyright anxiety” – a fear that during your explorations you might cross some invisible line that means you are breaking the law.

Think how many more sales of books, music, art, and films could be driven by new kinds of BookTok, appearing on multiple platforms, if only copyright allowed this kind of material to be used without the risk of legal threats, or of accounts being blocked. Ironically, it turns out that companies demanding stringent enforcement of copyright's unreasonable rules are ultimately harming themselves.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Originally posted to the Walled Culture blog.

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Filed Under: advertising, booktok, copyright, culture, fans
Companies: tiktok


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 Nov 2021 @ 8:07pm

    Oh, give it a few months. There will be some lawsuits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2021 @ 3:44am

    if only copyright allowed this kind of material to be used without the risk of legal threats, or of accounts being blocked.

    Hasn't Ridley Scott just proven that obscurity hurts a work, while BookTok can lift a work out of obscurity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 28 Nov 2021 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      Yeah, he denies it, but it seems very clear that it's bad marketing that led to the failure, along with other decisions made along the way. It's sad that a guy with direct experience of movies making a massive audience impact long after a box office failure is saying such things, but fans will find a way if they aren't blocked by corporate interests...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 24 Nov 2021 @ 4:35am

    Reading Rainbow

    So basically, this is TikTokkers being their own Levar Burton and making their own Reading Rainbow. I ❤️ It already!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TaboToka (profile), 24 Nov 2021 @ 9:22am

    This is why the word is in there

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    Just like how Sony vs. Betamax ushered in an era of increased profits that lead to our current expanse (for good or ill) of streaming services, if copyright was dialed back to the original level of 11 years, the amount of true competition in the marketplace for ideas would explode.

    Imagine how many fanfic versions of whatever work would increase interest or revitalize a dying work? Can you imagine being able to watch Space: 2999 or Pulp Non-Fiction or The Stinger ...?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2021 @ 9:41am

      Re: This is why the word is in there

      if copyright was dialed back to the original level of 11 years ... Imagine how many fanfic versions of whatever work

      Copyright could be reduced in scope as well as time. It was originally supposed to be about specific creative works, not the ideas expressed therein—which raises the question of why fictional characters and ideas should be treated as eligible for copyright in and of themselves. "Copyright anxiety" is prominent in most fan fiction, the authors being careful to put disclaimers all over the place and say they're not profiting from it. But why shouldn't I be able to write my own story in, say, the Harry Potter universe and profit from it? Is anyone truly helped by this being illegal?

      (Well, it's almost illegal. One could try to claim fair use, though probably wouldn't find a publisher willing to take the risk. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality could be seen as a parody of the original stories, for example, but it's not entirely parodic, so who knows what would happen? It's transformative too, with little likely effect on the original work... still, the risk is too great for anyone unwilling to spend many years and millions of dollars on lawsuits.)

      "Archive of Our Own" has upwards of 8 million fan-fictional works by probably more than a million authors, and these people are all effectively being oppressed by copyright law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 28 Nov 2021 @ 10:35am

      Re: This is why the word is in there

      I'd argue that fanfic is probably the least affected thing by excessive copyright. Fans will create just by being fans with no commercial expectations, and if something gets noticed enough they can be changed to remove the infringing content while keeping the creative content intact (as happened with the Twilight fanfic that became Fifty Shades Of Gray)

      Maybe if you're thinking specifically of fan movies since they inevitably require greater funding, but even then for every Star Trek fan film that's shut down there's others that remain available despite their infringing nature. The problems come when people try to actually adapt an orphaned work, or they have to side step random differences (such as Oz stories needing to avoid MGM's specific additions or the problems with later Sherlock Holmes stories)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2021 @ 1:36pm

    So, is there like a website for collecting public opinion about all these asshole businesses? Bout time there was, if not.

    Be nice to publicly and world-widely celebrate the Annual Asshole Awards for shittiest company, corporation, government (and all the other 'organized' gangs pulling the strings for personal gain), as chosen by the world's voting age public. Certainly no lack of worthy candidates out there right now.

    Hell, is such a thing even legal in these ownership society times? Is it defamation when the whole world posts an opinion on someone or some-legal-one?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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