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Bamboo Edition: leveraging influence on BookTok and Bookstagram to reach new audiences

French independent publishing house Bamboo Edition specializes in one of the country’s most popular literary genres: comic books. For 25 years, the house has been publishing comics that address all ages and subjects, from children’s fairy tales, to informative and historical, sports, young adult, fantasy, and the just plain funny. But while more French are turning to comic books for reading pleasure — the category was the second highest selling genre in 2023, having booked 14% growth from 2021 to reach 48% of the French public — reaching the right audiences for such diverse, and often niche titles comes with its own specific challenges. In this interview with Kolsquare, Bamboo Edition Head of Communications and Web Partnerships Fabrice Fadiga and Community Manager Emma Gatto discuss how they are using influencer marketing to find and grow the right audiences for their catalog. Photo Credit: Dominik Fusina.

Portraits of Fabrice Fadiga and Emma Gatto
Portraits of Fabrice Fadiga and Emma Gatto

What is driving the growth in literary content on social media?

Fabrice Fadiga: The traditional means of communication and promotion no longer work. TV and magazine ads don’t reach young people because they don’t watch TV anymore, they don’t buy magazines. What do they watch most? Influencers and their phones. So the purely practical reason is to reach young people where they are. The first literary influencers, the BookTubers now have millions of followers. Some started out in high school and they threw themselves into it because the traditional literary channels like big bookstores didn’t suit them. They wanted to share their reading with other people. That’s how it started to emerge and become the movement that it is now. The old mediums have stabilized, and what used to be on YouTube is being produced on TikTok.

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The BookTubers’ formats never really made it onto Instagram. Now, BookTok is blowing everything out of the water. BookTok seems to be a revolution in terms of its impact. The Song of Achilles [by Madeline Miller]  wasn’t a success when it came out but it completely exploded after one TikTok video. Publishing houses saw that, and without knowing exactly how and why the book was liked, are trying to reproduce the same miracle.  

Emma Gatto: There’s also that less elitist side to it than there is with bookstores. People launch on Instagram, for example, to talk about what they’re reading. There is not the ambition to become an influencer in three months. It’s almost like a reading journal before it is an account that aims to influence people.

How do the communities and content differ on the different platforms?

Emma Gatto: What makes TikTok so successful is the way content is consumed [quickly, one video after the other] which doesn’t leave much room for pausing the video and commenting. On Instagram — even though the amount of Reels shows how they’re copying TikTok — there’s still content with carousels, images, etc. that breathes a little more. You have more time to stop and look at an image, to read the description or the chronicle of the book and learn about the influencer’s life. Right away, we’ll see the first two or three comments, read them automatically, and maybe that’ll make us want to get into the discussion.

Fabrice Fadiga: The fact of being able to track everything on Instagram is maybe useful for a young content creator who doesn’t have a huge community. For the bigger ones, especially those who are paid, there are all the tools you need to see how many people you’ve reached. It can be complicated, but once you’re there, it’s the best way to assert your domination. Instagram gives the illusion of power, of having a certain democracy, or meritocracy when in fact the algorithm is quite capricious, especially depending on what Meta wants to push.

Bamboo is an independent publisher of comic books; what are the specific challenges you’re dealing with that impact your influence marketing strategy?

Emma Gatto: Bamboo Edition is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year; we have series’ with 20 volumes which are still going strong. Inevitably, when you get to volume 20, 21, 22 — we have regular readers who are waiting for the book to come out, but the challenge for us is to reach a new readership, all the more so on social media where generally speaking, the audience is quite young.

On Facebook, we know that our audience is getting older. We have series’ that had their heyday before the social networking boom. Now, we’re trying to renew them through our digital communication, but it’s difficult because we don’t necessarily have the audience that these series’ are going to reach. We’re trying to find a new channel of communication, whether it’s a podcast or new influencers. For example, later this year we will release volume 21 of a good-natured series called Les Pompiers (The Firefighters), and we’ve tried canvassing communities of professional firefighters. I’m also a community manager for Draco Editions, whose editions are fantasy comics for young adults. On Bokstagram and BookTok, the fantasy and young adult genres are doing very well, better than others. Our challenge is to show audiences that if you like reading young adult novels, there’s a good chance you’ll also like reading young adult comics. We’ve got to break down the idea of comics as a genre, it’s not just the Smurfs. You can find some really great stories in comics, and we try to position ourselves that way.

Do you look for influencers based on their interests, their audiences or both?

Fabrice Fadiga: We have several challenges due to the wide range of topics we cover; we have comics for all ages, but also virtually all professions and sports. Bamboo edition publishes mainstream humor, so we’re not necessarily looking only for literary influencers : it could be influencers or content creators that have ties to an institution or a profession that could be relevant. We do a lot of prospecting in this area. We have big adventure and historical comics with subjects like the First World War or the Resistance in the Basque country, so we need to find people who can speak about those subjects.

What’s your approach to gifting books?

Emma Gatto: Our approach is to target micro- and nano-influencers with big enough communities to be interesting, but not so big that content gets lost amongst the rest of the content in a suber-vast community. When I contact influencers, I always take the approach of having looked at their account and content, seeing that they are interested in literature. We send them a press copy specifically for communications, like the ones we send to journalists. We do it in exchange for a review, or to be highlighted on their account. If the influencer has several platforms, it will be to mention it briefly at the start of a YouTube video, to make an Instagram Story, or a review post after they’ve read it.

Do you have a budget for influence?

Fabrice Fadiga: Being an independent publishing house, the influencer budget is quite small. Before I joined the company, it did not do influencer campaigns so I’ve had to demonstrate the relevance of influencer marketing. I’ve got an annual budget which means selecting partners carefully. Some of them won’t do anything without remuneration, so you have to keep your fingers crossed. They’re not capitalist monsters — it’s their professional activity — if they receive a comic they like, they’ll talk about it, but they’ll first read what they’ve been paid to read because it’s a job. For the different titles, we determine with the publishers and sales teams if we can get some budget. There are certain influencers whose views I can calculate in advance. There are certain titles that can’t fit into the package of influencers we already have, and others that I try not to spend a lot of money on. It’s a balancing act.

How do you see influencer literary content evolving over the coming year? Is there a space for it on emerging platforms like Twitch?

Fabrice Fadiga: There’s going to be a shift in terms of remuneration. There’s more legislation around this, especially in terms of free content [and gifting], which is counted as influencer revenue. There are all the algorithmic issues with the platforms that can make certain investments counterproductive. Ideally, publishing houses should be able to produce their own content, to become their own ‘influencer’. But that’s complicated by the specific nature of publishing: there are few resources, few employees and therefore few people who can do it, unless we want to employ more people. Maybe, within 18 months, there’ll be jobs and hirings, or perhaps even publishing houses will begin hiring influencers, because if you’re going to pay them €1,000 often, maybe it makes more sense to hire them full time and integrate their mastery of the tools and platforms.

Twitch: why not? There are literary influencers on it. There are creators like @madamepointvirgule (2.2k Twitch followers, 9.57K Instagram followers) who does Twitch lives, or @bulledop (26.7k Twitch followers, 34.1k Instagram followers) who is on Twitch and even used to do gaming. On @madamepointvirgule it’s purely reading. It could seem strange, but it works. I don’t think it will explode with thousands of people logging on at the same time to watch someone read — at least not yet — but, it’s something to explore.

I’ve talked about literary influence, but in the Manga category; Manga influencers seem to have lost popularity. They tend to be considered a bit like sandwich board publicity, because they do things which are very flashy. When they’re talking about what they’re up to on a daily basis, it’ll go down well with the fans, but if they see several of these influencers talking about a Manga that’s just come out, it becomes more complicated. There’s also a problem of harassment in the Manga community which can go pretty far maybe because it’s a fairly young community and, we have to say, fairly male considering the toxic and louder part. It’s complicated. In comparison, the literary community is very feminine and does not have the same toxicity. Can we do the math ?

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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