UK publishing industry helped to best year yet by TikTok trends

The social media network helped drive sales among young adult and fiction books.

20 April 2022

TikTok helped boost the UK publishing industry to its best year in 2021, according to the Publishers Association.

Sales rose by 5% to £6.7 billion, showing the industry’s “remarkable resilience” in the face of major disruption to the global supply chain and months of closed bookshops.

The association’s annual report indicates that UK sales income rose 7% to £2.7 billion, while total export sales income rose 2% to £3.8 billion.

TikTok also helped drive book sales, particularly among young adult and fiction works, the body said.

Some works saw an increase in sales after trending on the social media network in what has been described as “BookTok”, with examples including The Cruel Prince by author Holly Black.

And some of those books had a second moment in the spotlight after being published in previous years.

Elsewhere, total print was up 5% to £3.5 billion, while total digital was up 5% to £3.2 billion.

Consumer publishing in the UK was up by 2% to £1.5 billion and there was also an increase in education publishing – up 5% to £552 million.

However, this was down from £668 million in 2019 and the only sector not to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Total academic publishing, meanwhile, was up 4% to £3.5 billion

Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga said: “2021 was another tremendous year for UK publishing.

“Our outstanding authors provided readers with the entertainment and comfort they so badly needed as the pandemic continued.

“It’s been particularly interesting to see TikTok communities driving new interest in books – particularly of fiction and Young Adult titles.

“While the industry has done well during the pandemic, we have also seen further consolidation of sales on a single digital market platform.”

Mr Lotinga said that the “lack of competition” cannot benefit readers in the long-term and urged the Government to bring forward new powers to regulate the tech giants in the Queen’s Speech.

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