If you, like me, are an unabashed bookworm then you know that book-to-TV and film adaptations – no matter how faithful (or not) they are to the source material – have become a dominating force in the entertainment industry.
Why? Well, fans of any book franchise from Game of Thrones to Bridgerton all have something in common: an absolute insatiable need to dissect the accuracy of the adaptation, the casting choices, and the faithfulness to the source material.
And what better place to do this than social media? Now I’m talking specifically BookTok, a subculture of TikTok, where users discuss their favourite books. It’s used by creators to make recommendations, manifest adaptations for their top reads, call out to celebs to take on characters from their beloved books (I am here for all the chat about Jessica Chastain starring as Celia St James in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), and even re-enact scenes from their favourite novels.
Creators like @baskinsuns, @books.with.lee and @anniexreads have contributed to BookTok’s huge 144.9BN viewership figures, but it has also revitalised how publishing houses approach social; the likes of Penguin Random House and Waterstones are all leaning into #BookTok trends. Waterstones even hosted a physical BookTok festival.
The platform has become a powerhouse for promoting books and authors, with many titles going viral, landing on bestseller lists years after publication, and even swaying decisions to have adaptations created – all due to BookTok’s influence. Here are just a few examples:
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: Originally published in 2011, it wasn’t until the book went viral on TikTok in 2020 that it became a bestseller with numerous calls for a screen adaptation.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: The 2017 novel has recently exploded in popularity on BookTok, shortly followed by an announcement from Netflix that a film is on its way. Evelyn Hugo also sparked more interest in Reid’s other works including Daisy Jones and The Six, which Amazon recently adapted for Prime Video.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: Published in 2020, this novel quickly became a bestseller after going viral on TikTok. The book – which tells the story of twin sisters who grow up in a small, southern black community and eventually go their separate ways, with one sister passing as white – will be adapted into a series for HBO.
So, what is it about book adaptations? The answer: female fandom, often pushed aside as “basic” or even “mania” (see: the all-consuming phenomenon of teen girl fandom, i-D), female fandoms are finally getting the respect they deserve. Women make up a significant percentage of book buyers and are often the driving force behind the success of book series like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Reese Witherspoon, the queen (IMHO) of book adaptations, knows this better than anyone. In the 90s we had Oprah’s Book Club; today, Reese has taken that concept and magnified it a hundred times over. Her production company, Hello Sunshine, is responsible for adaptations including Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere, The Morning Show, Gone Girl, Wild, Where The Crawdads Sing and more.
Her success is down to the fact that she doesn’t underestimate the power of female fandom and knows its value. When she sold a majority stake in Hello Sunshine in 2021 for $900 million, she called it a “doubling down” on their mission to bring more female-led film and television projects to a bigger audience. In the immortal words of Lizzo, it’s about damn time.
And as more and more books are adapted for the screen, it’s clear that the power of female fandom will continue to shape the industry, influencing everything from casting choices to storytelling decisions. I for one, cannot wait.