British Book Awards’ Coco Hagi: “TikTok has opened a lot of doors for me, it has changed my life”

0 76

Coco Hagi is a ‘BookToker’ with over 75k followers. Her videos show her bubbly personality as she highlights a diverse selection of books, mostly from independent authors. Her TikTok gained traction throughout the pandemic, leading to the birth of BookTok. #BookTok now has over 29 million posts and has reached all corners of the internet.

Coco recently announced that she is one of the judges for The British Book Awards, hosted by the Bookseller. Arguably the most prestigious in the UK, often referred to as “The Nibbies”, the award has been running since 1990.

When did you become interested in reading?

I’m a Leicester girl, from the East Midlands. I’m originally from Holland, and I am Somali. I grew up on a council estate in a close-knit community. My parents inspired all of us to value money and give back to our community, so they encouraged us to go to the library. That’s where my love of reading began. I used to be obsessed with Lemony Snicket – it was one of those books that you read in your bed with a flashlight. Then I found romance, and it’s honestly been downhill from there. 

What books do you usually gravitate towards?

I grew up loving fantasy, but I never really saw stories of people who looked like me, had hair like me, and came from the same communities I do. Right now, I’m reading a book heavier on the fantasy side, with a romance subplot, called Sing Me to Sleep by Gabi Burton. The story is about a siren, written by a black author. It’s all about the protagonist encompassing a space that she’s not allowed in and finding that there are other species just like her – there are hidden children just like her. I find stories like that so interesting; being able to put myself in these stories has been so wonderful. So those are the books I like to champion. 

How did you get started on Booktok?

I love to talk. I love to tell people about the fictional world I’m in, the authors I love, and the books that have transformed me – I do it all the time with my family and friends. During the pandemic, one of my cousins told me about this online space on TikTok called BookTok. I was like, ”The dancing app?” That’s great, I can talk about books while busting a move. And it grew from there.

How important is being authentic on social media to you?

I think people have preconceived notions about people from different communities. I want to show how we’re all beautifully unique. I like to have fun and I talk a lot. It’s so important for me to show my genuine side. I want to show kids from the same background as me that they can be like this. I want to say, “Hey, you could talk about anything you want, as long as it makes you happy.” Being genuine, being authentic, and being who you are, is so important, especially in a community like BookTok. On TikTok you can find someone with similar interests as you, which makes it easier to trust their book recommendations, knowing that they’re sharing something worth reading. I think the audience appreciates that as well.

What is your process for rating books?

If the first line of the book grabs me, it usually has a five-star ranking off the bat. Then, depending on the plot, drive, character development, and tone of the writing also impact my rating. There have been books that took me so long to get into, which I had to persevere with, and they became a fun story with a gradual build. Usually, I’m a high-impact reader – I like to be grabbed on the first page – but a slow progression is incredible as well. 

How did you become involved in the British Book Awards?

They didn’t reach out to me because I work in publishing, but because I’m a content creator. It’s wonderful that it’s solely tied to me and my personality. There are a few other judges on my panel. We get sent the books that have been shortlisted to read and discuss within our panels, then order them in terms of favourites. It’s like a book club. It’s been such a great experience so far. There are a lot of celebrity judges this year. 

What do you love about TikTok?

The world is lonely if you don’t have real-life connections. Getting to be on this app, and meeting people in the community that relate to you is a great feeling. I met my two best friends through BookTok. Now we travel together, like, these are my people. I think that’s my favourite thing – I love books, but I love the community. I’ve met people who also have ADHD, and are in the same situation as me, which has helped me a lot.

How has BookTok changed your life?

Before Booktok, I worked at a call centre. During the pandemic I got to work from home, so I spent time working on my TikTok. At the time I had no faith in myself, but TikTok inspired me to apply for a job at Waterstones, and the publishing industry later down the line. TikTok has opened a lot of doors for me, it has changed my life. I gained so many relationships, which led me to my judging role.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start sharing content online?

Be a phoenix. I love saying that to people. It’s actually my favourite thing to tell someone. The minute you let go of the what-ifs and just do, fundamentally everything becomes much better for you. You deserve to do something that makes you happy. You should take the time for yourself and just talk about the things you love. 

Follow Coco Hagi @cultofbooks

About the author / 

Amber Bermingham

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Album review: Seagoth – How to Stay Wide Awake

    Featured image: Seagoth “This album is dedicated to all of the people who can’t take a day off from themselves, to the people who have to face their greatest fears every single day – and to all the pain we feel, may we heal”. – Seagoth on How to Stay Wide Awake. While studying music…

  • Is This Thing On: Feminist theatre with a twist comes to Contact

    Featured image: So La Flair Theatre Ellie Campbell and Megan Keaveney graduated last year from Manchester Theatre School. The pair met at a house party in their first year, where Ellie was standing on a table singing her heart out to Florence and the Machine. Megan locked eyes with her and knew they would be…

  • Jungkook’s Top 5 Solo Tracks: An Exploration into the BTS Stars Musical Odyssey

    Featured image: PA As members of BTS embark on their military services, South Korean singer and songwriter Golden Maknae Jungkook is taking a venture into his new solo journey. Jungkook is celebrated for his outstanding stage presence and vocal ability to traverse different genres. With the discovery of his new upcoming album Golden, including 11…

  • Manchester Fashion Institute Fashion Spotlight: Showcasing MFI’s young emerging talent and innovative artists

    Featured image and photography: Nathan Cutler aAh! Magazine highlights the up-and-coming talent of Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI) students this spring, introducing the young artists and designers who are sharing unique, creative and innovative work. Our MFI Fashion Spotlight focuses on three second-year Fashion Art Direction students who are taking part in the university-led project titled…