are bookstagram and booktok accessible??? // let’s talk about privilege and poc creators for a sec

It’s been a while since I’ve done a discussion post, but this topic has been in my drafts since July because these articles take a long time to write. It might be a little controversial but I sincerely want to talk about this. So let’s do this!

First, let’s discuss the platforms themselves.

Instagram and Tiktok both have wonderful advantages. However, both of them have also come under fire for having biased algorithms. An article by City News published earlier this year talks about the Instagram algorithm’s effects on accounts of plus-size people, especially. Of course, a bookstagram account does not require one to show one’s face, and the algorithm has since been improved from my point of view. The point still stands that there’s an inherent bias in the platform.

Tiktok is worse. There have been countless allegations against the platform that the algorithm is biased against POC creators and plus-size creators. As of July 2021, NBC News published the account of a man who was censored on TikTok for putting the word “black” in his bio, even if all he said was “I am a black man”. However, if he stated, “I am a neo-Nazi”, he wasn’t flagged at all. All of this is to show that minority creators on Tiktok, featuring books or not, are susceptible to the biases implemented by this platform.

Anyways. Let’s move on to the money/country privilege.

Popular bookstagram accounts usually rely on several consistent elements. One of those is props. Others include good lighting, unique shots, good editing, and often a lot of books. People who can’t afford to buy a bunch of books are already at a disadvantage when it comes to the world of bookstagram because it is so often a place saturated with high expectations. Oh, you featured the same book only a few photos apart? Your account isn’t as good as others. The sad irony of it all is that people who are already well-known bookstagrammers get a lot of books for free (which they do deserve for all of their hard work!). However, that means that those who are just starting out can feel overwhelmed and pressured to have amazing shelves packed full of the latest books. Someone who wants to start a bookstagram might have to spend some money on props. If they have money to spend on props, they also have to think about buying new books. Constantly buying new books and props is not feasible for more people than you’d think.

TikTok too is interesting. A lot of videos that go viral feature bookstores. People in other countries don’t always have access to grand bookstores like those of us in the US and UK do. In fact, due to the current supply chain issues, sometimes creators in other countries don’t even get to own the books they want to promote, which are going viral. I feel like TikTok often features the same exact books over and over again, leaving no room for marginalized voices to promote diverse books. How can they, when half the time the books aren’t even readily available to them? How can they promote diverse books if the focus is specifically on white authors?

I don’t have anything against Booktok (I do in fact make the occasional video) but one thing that makes me upset is that the space really has the power to bring a book up through the ranks. That’s great, except the majority of the books are by white authors. For example, I like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart! It was my first time experiencing a certain twist! But why is it rising in the NYT Bestseller list, taking the spot of a rightfully earned place by an author who is finally getting their voice published in a diverse book? Why is a random book by a white author from seven years ago getting to flourish above newly published books that desperately need the boost? Tiktok, friends. Tiktok. How are POC creators in the book community supposed to make a book go viral if the same books by Colleen Hoover and Sarah J. Maas are in every other top video?

I love both Instagram and Booktok for the creative prowess people exhibit there and for the chances both platforms give to so many books and authors. However, this does beg the question: are the platforms accessible to new creators, specifically those who are POC, poor, international, and who might just want to promote diverse books? In my opinion, I think that the answer is no. If you’re not following the popularity bandwagon that both the algorithms and big accounts have set forth, it’s hard to carve out your own niche. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though! And I sincerely respect and applaud every single creator who takes their time and effort on these platforms to spread their love for reading. Anyways, what are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or disagree? Let’s discuss!

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27 thoughts on “are bookstagram and booktok accessible??? // let’s talk about privilege and poc creators for a sec

  1. no because this post is literally everything. i agree so hard with this, this is everything i want to say, like the bias is soooo obvious😭😭😭 bookstagram has a somewhat bias towards everyone who isn’t a poc and while this is slowly changing, it’ll still take a long time to fully come into effect😭lovely post btw, this is one of my fave posts ever ngl😌

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Completely agree with you! I don’t have a bookstagram or booktok accounts, but I feel like if I felt pressured/ had to spend money I don’t have to buy a lot of books / props just to gain a following, it wouldn’t even make me enjoy doing it anymore. I also don’t think it’s as accessible to POC and international readers either, which is unfortunate. As you said, it’s not impossible, but it is more difficult. All readers deserve the same opportunities

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was such a great read. Whilst I have Instagram, I am not up to date on tiktok. I knew it had an impact from the waterstones website showcasing tiktok’s books and I remember thinking these are really old titles tbh. I foolishly never put the link to altering the bestsellers list and how it taking space from a diverse authors. That is such an important point and I’m so thankful you talked about it to bring my awareness to it.
    I like bookstagram in theory but I’ve actually decided to stop my bookstagram. I hated getting caught up in certain mentalities on there. It is an extremely consumerist led platform like you say.
    I really loved this post and all you talked about. It is so well written and important. I was actually going to do a post on why I got rid of my bookstagram and changed accounts thing/Instagram chats, and I would love to share this post on there… Would that be alright with you?? 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. IKR! it’s absolutely insane how old titles are getting boosted above diverse ones. and i totally understand stopping your bookstagram! that’s so incredibly true, it seems like such a wholesome place (gorgeous pics of books) but it truly can be so disheartening with how consumerist it is sometimes. i’d love to read your post about why you got rid of it, and feel free to share it! thank you💜

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yep, you’re completely correct. The lengths we have to go to to fill up Bookstagram with new and interesting books is ridiculous, to the point where most creators do something you might have missed – we now digitally edit covers into the photos, for eBooks we’ve read. This has had a negative effect, because it seems publishers are now more interested in Bookstagram accounts with large followings than Bloggers, yet will still only offer an eBook copy to read.


  5. Kaya, I absolutely adore everything about this. Having just dived into the bookstagram community I do see the privilege required to have the greatest shots to catch up with the popular accounts. This was so well written. Thank you for taking the time to offer your opinion 😊


  6. this post !! I totally agree with pretty much everything you said. considering the fact that most of the books available in the US aren’t available to a lot of creators internationally, it’s difficult for us to promote the diverse books we want everyone to read. its a struggle.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. this post is so important! it’s definitely something that i’ve noticed a lot with my own experiences on bookstagram, and one of the reasons why i refuse to join booktok. even if/when i edit book covers onto my posts, it takes so much time & not everyone has the resources to do that either. and then there’s the larger ARC/publisher discussion too….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a great post and the bookstagram part is something I relate to so much. I started off my book journey there and I remember feeling awed by all the amazing content people created but I also felt incredibly pressured to keep up by buying all the books, props, etc. I spent a fair amount trying to keep up with everyone who had easy access to new releases, who easily got gifted books, and who had the best props—all of which wasn’t easy if at all possible for me to access where I live. I definitely had the privilege of being able to keep up as I didn’t have other obligations and I had a well-paying job, but as you said, it was incredibly unsustainable! Plus, it was tough putting in so much time and effort into creating something that wouldn’t even get half the engagement as others (who did the same) got simply because they lived in “better locations”. I know this is all pressure I put on myself but after a while, it just became too demotivating. I’ve stopped posting on IG for a long time now and the relief I felt when I no longer had to think about creating content for my account was enormous, so I definitely think stepping away was the best move for me! 😂 This platform is much more my speed and I love the blogging community so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for sharing this, you make so many great points! bookstagram is such a beautiful, creative place like you said but it truly is unsustainable for the average person. i’m glad that you found the blogging community, it truly is such a happy place!💜

      Liked by 1 person

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