Norwich bookshops boosted by TikTok spin-off BookTok

Grace and Lily Hewitt, twin sisters who are helping to promote the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales on Timberhill

Grace and Lily Hewitt, twin sisters aged 16 who are helping to promote the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales on Timberhill by creating Tik Tok videos of all that goes on in the store. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Norwich bookshops are attracting new customers - and even changing their range of titles - as they embrace a craze called BookTok.

Young users of video-sharing platform TikTok are sharing their passion for books through BookTok, which started after a Shrewsbury 16-year-old posted a series of quotes from books she had read in August 2020.

Bookbugs and Dragon Tales on Timberhill is among the Norwich bookshops now making use of the craze. 

Owners Leanne and Dan Fridd said their 16-year-old twin daughters Lily and Grace had set up a BookTok account for the shop. The twins work every Saturday in the family-owned bookstore. 

Leanne and Dan Fridd with their daughters Grace and Lily Hewitt who are helping to promote the store through BookTok 

Leanne and Dan Fridd with their daughters Grace and Lily Hewitt who are helping to promote the store through BookTok - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Mrs Fridd said: "We were able to highlight Independent Bookshop Week and Pride through it, and it is all about reaching out to a younger generation. 

"Lily and Grace are very excited about it. Teens are much more online and shop differently so we have to be proactive as an alternative to physically coming into the shop and the benefits of being in a shop. We still believe you can chat and engage in the shop in a way an algorithm can't." 


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BookTok, described as a corner of TikTok devoted to books, has almost 10bn views nationally with more and more youngsters getting involved. 

Grace and Lily Hewitt inside the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales.

Grace and Lily Hewitt inside the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales. Grace is showing the new TikTok account for the store. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

The Book Hive on London Street has already had a handful of people asking if the shop stocks a certain book which had been recommended on BookTok over the past couple of weeks. 

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Bookseller Joe Hedinger said: "It is something we have thought about and are very aware of. It's based on enthusiasm and recommendations which is really lovely.

"We are not on it yet but short video content such as Instagram videos with Henry [Layte] the owner have gone down really well and people appreciate it." 

The Book Hive on London Street in Norwich which is getting ready to re-open. Picture: Danielle Boode

The Book Hive on London Street in Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Hedinger said Bookstagram, the Instagram version of BookTok, had also reached millions of people with a community of people sharing titles and ideas online.

He added: "One thing that is different between the two is that Instagram can be very beautified and everything looks very perfect such as a steaming cup of coffee next to a book.

"BookTok seems to be a bit more immediate, authentic and genuine which can only be a positive thing." 

Independent bookshops within the city already collaborate with one another and share ideas on Facebook groups, even sending some customers to other stores if they know they stock a particular book.

"It is not at all competitive between us," said Mrs Fridd, who also uses an online analytics system called Edelweiss to find out what is popular in the country. 

Leanne and Dan Fridd, owners of the Bookbugs and Dragon Tales independent bookshop in Norwich

Leanne and Dan Fridd, owners of the Bookbugs and Dragon Tales independent bookshop in Norwich - Credit: Neil Didsbury

But BookTok may increasingly be used to order in stock, with Mr Herdinger describing the process as "organic and constantly evolving". 

Waterstones Norwich has also felt the effect of BookTok with a dedicated table for a selection of books which have been recommended on the platform. 

Louisa Theobald, Norwich Waterstones children's expert, said the table included a "fantastic mix of everything" including fantasy, magical epics and LGBT+ love stories. 

She added: "Our young adult section is busier than ever and there is a real buzz about it after school and on weekends. 

"It's really encouraging that teenagers are discovering book recommendations on their phones and then coming to our shop to buy them. It's a really exciting time to be a bookseller."

Grace and Lily Hewitt have set up a TikTok account for the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich

Grace and Lily Hewitt have set up a TikTok account for the family bookshop Bookbugs and Dragon Tales in Norwich - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Summer Ward, store manager of Great Reads on Castle Street, said social media helps to drive sales and footfall.

She added: "I think BookTok will have a surprisingly good impact on which books are being stocked in bookshops because the suppliers and buyers will recognize which books are trending at the current time and which books the customers are more likely to buy resulting in more people coming into the store."

Great Reads is currently on Facebook and Instagram, and staff will be looking into setting up a TikTok account as well. 

Norfolk authors are also pleased to see new ways of encouraging younger readers to pick up a book. 

Emma Healey, author of award-winning novel Elizabeth is Missing, and who lives in Norwich, said: "One of the best things about reading is sharing your opinions and reactions to books and these influencers seem to have created a brilliant instant way to do that."

Norwich author Emma Healey. Picture: EMILY GRAY PHOTOGRAPHY

Norwich author Emma Healey. Picture: EMILY GRAY PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Emily Gray Photography

Simon Jones, digital marketing manager for the National Writing Centre on King Street, said: "Anything which encourages the excitement of reading is worth celebrating. We're always looking at new ways to connect with readers and writers and it's great to see literature making an impact in these new ways." 

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