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When she was young, Ayman was a voracious reader.
You might look at her TikTok account with its hundreds of book-related videos and think nothing’s changed. But that’s not quite true.
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Ayman, who’s 22, grew up absorbed in classic YA series. The Hunger Games, Divergence, Maze Runner…You name it, she loved it. She read nonstop–until high school, when the free time she’d always spent reading books that interested her was suddenly subsumed by required reading and other homework. She went from reading for herself all the time to reading maybe one or two books a year. In college, as a graphic design major, she had even less time for page-turning.
Then the pandemic hit.
“The same story as everyone,” she says. “Quarantine boredom just got me into it, and then I fell into this really great community, BookTok.” These last couple of years have been a tour de force for BookTok, where book enthusiasts gush about their latest reads and (crucially) recommendations. The passionate community has been credited with increasing sales at bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Chapters.
For Ayman, BookTok was a way back into loving books. “After making a couple of videos that did well, I just stuck with it, because it became this really addictive thing,” she says. “I guess the rest is history.”
Since joining BookTok nearly three years ago, Ayman has built up a following of nearly one million people, has had a hand in boosting books like V.E. Schwab‘s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and was recently spotlighted by TikTok for both World Book Day and as part of its first API Visionary Voices list.
Check out our chat with her below.
@aymansbooks this book altered my brain chemistry ♾/5 ⭐️#alonewithyouintheether #olivieblake ♬ The Light – The Album Leaf
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Pretend somebody’s reading this and they don’t know who you are. Give me a little bit of background about you.
Ayman: My name is Ayman. I’m on TikTok and I make bookish-related content. That’s pretty much 99% of my content. It’s all related to books, bookish humor, anything related to books, mostly in the romance genre or fantasy, anything fiction. I started almost three years ago. The same story as everyone: Quarantine boredom just got me into it, and then I fell into this really great community, BookTok.
I just stuck with it. It was just purely on accident, discovering this community. It brought my love for reading back and I was not present or anything on social media, or at least in this caliber, prior to that. After making a couple of videos that did well, I just stuck with it, because it became this really addictive thing. I guess the rest is history.
Tubefilter: You mentioned that it brought back your love for reading. Was there a point where you stopped reading or you became less enthusiastic?
Ayman: Oh, yes. I grew up liking reading for the most part, especially in middle school. I was in middle school when all those dystopian movies were out. Hunger Games, Divergence, Maze Runner, all those really cool movies. I was reading those books and that’s how I fell into reading. Then I just stopped reading in high school because I was so focused on all the homework and required reading that we had to do. It took my love for reading for myself out, or I just didn’t prioritize reading.
But then when we were in lockdown, I think I was a sophomore in college at that time. With all this time on my hands and being at home and not a lot of priorities and this and that, I just fell back into reading. It’s just one of those hobbies that I picked back up during that time. I literally just stuck with it. Before, I used to read maybe one or two books for myself a year, but now it’s like I’m reading 10 books a month, which is crazy to me. It’s literally because scrolling through TikTok is what I did during quarantine, and I found that community.
Tubefilter: What did you major in in college?
Ayman: Oh, graphic design.
Tubefilter: Have you graduated? Do you plan to?
Ayman: I haven’t graduated yet. I still have a semester, hopefully graduating in December of this year.
Tubefilter: Do you want to go into graphic design job or will TikTok become a full-time thing for you? What’s your plan?
Ayman: TikTok has become my full-time income. I love graphic design and hopefully I will do work in that field post-graduation. I do have a job lined up for me. That job came through from TikTok rather than me studying graphic design. I’m interning for Fable, which is this reading app, basically. It’s like Goodreads, but a more aesthetic and non-glitchy version. They offered me a full-time position, post-graduation. But yes, TikTok is pretty much 90% of the income that I make.
Tubefilter: Congrats on the job! That’s huge. With TikTok, was there a specific video or a specific point in time where you were like, “Okay, I’m going to really commit to this”?
Ayman: I started in August of 2020 and it wasn’t until November of 2020 in which I had more of a platform that I began to monetize. That’s when I took it seriously and niched down to adjust the books because yes, I was posting mostly about books this entire time, but at the same time, I was posting random stuff. I wanted to take it seriously at that point.
Because of that, I made more dedicated videos. Just videos I just put more effort into. I saw a lot of those videos do well, like recommending new books that people haven’t talked about or the latest releases or books I recently read that I really loved. Those videos went quote-unquote “viral.” Now a lot of people associate me with those books. I’m not the author or anything like that, but I think that’s pretty cool, to be associated with a book that you recommended and be remembered for that, if that makes sense.
I did that with this one book called The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I made a video on that, and it went really viral, and the book sold out everywhere on all things like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, online, this and that. I even had a friend that did a bidding war for it at one point. It was because of this video.
I didn’t really understand, I guess, the impact TikTok could make for something like this until that point, because I was getting messages left to right about the book. Even from the author. Connecting with them was really cool. They appreciate and recognize me for partial of the success of the book. She’s a well-known author. Her name’s V.E. Schwab. She’s a well-known author with a list of great books. I remember that book came out I think in October of 2020 and it was on the New York Times, but then it fell off after the first week.
Tubefilter: Yes, it didn’t have her usual run.
Ayman: Right, exactly. Then I remember when I made that video, it went back on [the list], which I’m like, “Okay, that’s crazy,” that this one video could do that. But that whole era or time in which I got a lot of appreciation from the author and people associating me with this book, I’ll never forget that.
@aymansbooks (yes i’m posting this again bc tiktok took down the sound.) #theinvisiblelifeofaddielarue #bookrecommendations #booktok #bookrec ♬ original sound – Ayman
Tubefilter: The amount of difference that you–or anyone who really champions a book and gets that kind of attention for it–can make in an author’s life is something a lot of people don’t understand, I think. It can affect whether or not they get a next contract, whether their series gets to continue.
Ayman: Right. I love it when the authors even show the appreciation back, and she definitely did. She’s so nice.
Tubefilter: BookTok as a whole has been kind of wild. I remember the first time I walked into a Barnes & Noble and saw a table with the sign. “Your latest reads from BookTok,” or something similar.
Ayman: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Going into Barnes & Noble and seeing that, the first time that you see that pivotal BookTok table, that is because of this niche–well, now not so niche community, but once was niche community on the internet finally having its impact in the real world. I just think that’s really cool.
Tubefilter: Do you think it was the pandemic that really pushed BookTok to become more mainstream?
Ayman: Definitely, because I wasn’t part of any other bookish community. I was a viewer through BookTube, Bookstagram, and this and that. That was one of those things that I just also stumbled upon, but the impact that they’ve made is not–not that it shouldn’t be recognized or anything like that, but it’s not close to BookTok. I haven’t seen the bookish community or the book community in general just be so mainstream until TikTok–which is, it’s not this little thing anymore, because I remember when it was and it’s now this huge thing and everyone knows about it, which is daunting and cool at the same time.
Tubefilter: Tell me a little bit about your production side of things. How do you pick which book to feature? Are you publishing a certain number of videos per week? Just tell me about how things are working for you.
Ayman: I wish it was more cut-and-paste, organized, but a lot of the times it is random. Most of the time, literally 90% of the time, it’s just scrolling through my For You page, looking for inspiration, and if I see something that’s not a BookTok, but I can make it bookish-related, I do that. If there’s a trending sound that was going around, I’m like, “Okay, first of all, how can I make this book-related?”
I’m still in school and everything, and I usually prioritize it, but in the afternoon-ish I make a couple of videos and save them to my draft, and then post them throughout the day. Sometimes, I don’t know, I go crazy and post five to six times a day, or some days it’s like once or none.
For the book side, I’m very particular about the books that I recommend and show my audience. I make sure to do enough research to know there’s nothing problematic in this book, nothing problematic about the author or anything like that, and it’s a book that my audiencew would like. I mostly recommend romance, fantasy, stuff like this, stuff like that. You’re not going to see me recommend a World War II book or anything like that.
Any books that I read at this point, is like, I want to read the good books, so I can make content out of it, because I would hate to read bad books. Then I’m like, “Okay, well, I can’t make content out of this because that was just a waste of my time,” you know what I mean?
At this point, all my recommendations come from the community itself. Someone talked about it, someone’s enjoyed it, and I trust their taste, and that tells me, okay, I’ll give it a chance, read it for myself, and then give my opinions. That’s kind of it. It’s just reading what I want and then maybe or maybe not recommending it to my audience depending on how much I enjoyed it.
@aymansbooks i loved it so much!! (it ruined my life) #fourthwing #fantasybooks #romantasybooks ♬ original sound – Ayman
Tubefilter: Do you make more than one video about the same book?
Ayman: Yes, definitely. Me, when I read books, I annotate them and I write through them and everything, highlighters and tabs and stuff. As I’m reading books, at this point, I’m tabbing and highlighting stuff that I can make a TikTok out of. A thing that the BookTok community loves to do is make videos with out-of-context quotes that feed into shock value. I do that myself. It’s really fun making those types of videos, or even talking about like X, Y, and Z tropes that are in certain books and making videos about that.
Books, in my opinion, translate better on TikTok than any other bookish platform community because you’re not here just making a whole summary video about the book. You’re just talking about little niche-specific things and that get people wanting to read it. It’s just much easier making content about books on TikTok than honestly anywhere else, in my opinion. But yes, I make as much as I can. Anything that will come to mind, content for any book I have just read.
Tubefilter: What was your favorite book you read last year?
Ayman: Last year? Oh my gosh. Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake. Such a good book. It was so well written. And Circe by Madeline Miller. After I finished that, I’m like, Why hadn’t I read this sooner? This book, this masterpiece, has been out for years, been sitting on my shelf collecting dust, and randomly, I read it late last year, and now it just hasn’t left my mind after finishing it. It’s always in the back of my mind, just thinking about it.
Tubefilter: What about this year?
Ayman: This year? I’m trying to remember. Oh, my gosh, what have I read? Recently, I read Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros and that book’s trending all over BookTok I read the ARC when it was sent to me, and oh my gosh, it just brought me back into my fantasy romance era, I guess. Now it’s all I want to read, just fantasy romance. Those characters, the dragons in it, the worldbuilding, it was just so lush and well written, and that’s also another book that after finishing it, it just has not left my mind. I’m reading other books too now and it’s just not hitting the same way. I fell in love with that book.
Tubefilter: What has been the best thing about being on BookTok?
Ayman: Probably the community I felt, from people following me to literally making friends that now occasionally I’ll meet in real life, all these online friends. I think that’s the best part. I don’t have any friends in my real life–that read as much as I do, at least. When I joined this community, I was surrounded by like-minded people that have the same opinions, views, and tastes in books just as me, and you feel more seen, I can’t lie. Just making connections with your audience and building friendships, relationships, with so many people was absolutely so cool and nothing I will ever take for granted.
I think at this point, 100% of my friends have come from this community. I have more online friends than real-life friends at this point, and I don’t hate that. I love it. I love it because now we meet up with each other for book events that are happening in our city or anywhere else in the country. Just building this community for myself, for anyone else that likes my content in general. I love it.
Tubefilter: One last thing. You were featured by TikTok this year on World Book Day. What was that like? That’s very cool.
Ayman: It’s definitely another thing that I really appreciate. When TikTok recognized me like that, I just felt so special and seen, but it just also tells me that the community and this app in general that I’ve used to be a part of this book community is taking us seriously and making us feel seen. TikTok sees us and appreciates us. It’s something that I haven’t seen before in any other book community, and I heavily appreciated that TikTok did.
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