By Shay Moser

Hunkered down with not as much to do, local teen Avery Fin turned to TikTok during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The video-sharing platform leaped in popularity during the pandemic, with an astounding 850 million downloads in 2020. Before lockdowns, TikTok had less than 600 million monthly active users. Now it has more than 1 billion users.

That propelled Avery to her newfound level of fame. She’s enjoying her status as a book influencer thanks to the app.

Avery was always an avid reader, but with more free time, she was drawn to BookTok, a strand on the video-sharing platform started by young book lovers at the height of the pandemic.

With the local volleyball league and her school’s National Honor Society and book club on hold, Avery watched BookTok videos about her favorite genre, young adult (YA) fantasy, and checked out new genres.

Originally, Avery started an anonymous TikTok account to watch book reviews and post videos. Then a few of her BookToks blew up. Today, the 16-year-old has more than 86.1k followers on TikTok and over 4,200 on Instagram. She also gets paid to promote books.

Avery, who lives in  Phoenix, was even recognized at her dentist’s office by someone who works there. “She asked if I had a BookTok,” she explains, adding that getting noticed was surprising.

“My parents say it’s OK to do as long as it doesn’t cut into school and fun,” Avery says.

Book publishers, such as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, typically reach out via email to see if Avery would like to create content on her BookTok for one of their new releases. The book publishers send a contract if she agrees to work with them, and “my parents sometimes help review the paperwork,” says Avery, a junior in high school.

Promoting books on TikTok brings in a little spending money for Avery and gets fellow teens back to reading. If we look at data from Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study that surveys a nationally representative sample of approximately 50,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students annually, 60% of high school students read every day in the 1980s. But unfortunately, it was only 16% in 2016.

With the popularity of BookTok, this trend is reversing as teenagers share their experiences with books and engage with others about shared interests in books. The Teen Magazine says this was partly due to the pandemic.

Avery’s book collection, organized like a horizontal rainbow, includes more than 500 books.

“I spent an hour a day on my social channels in the summer and a lot less now,” says Avery, advocating time management and trying to finish her homework at school.

A typical day for Avery includes being out of the house early in the morning, going to school all day, doing any homework immediately after school, spending a half-hour on any BookTok sponsorships, and then bed.

Aside from her busy days, Avery also runs the Sapphic Lit Book Club book blog and club with a team of reviewers on Fable, the book club app for social reading.

Despite the social media success, Avery is looking forward to half-days her senior year and getting a part-time job next summer that she can keep through her senior year. “I’m looking into undergraduate law programs,” she says. “Social takes a lot of time and energy, so I may not be able to do it long term.”

Still, Avery is excited to put out three book choices for the Sapphic Lit Book Club and learn what the readers vote to read in October.

For teens who want to start a BookTok or something similar, Avery’s advice is, “Make stuff you like to make. I tried making what I thought others wanted based on TikTok videos and their traction, but it takes the fun out of it and it’s not worth sacrificing your creativity.”

She also says to try new things. “If you find a genre you love, great, but try and branch out to other spaces. For example, I found that I also like mystery thrillers.”

Follow Avery on her TikTok and Instagram accounts @readbyfin to find out her latest YA book recommendations.