TikTok for Authors… go where your audience has gone

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#BookTok is a hashtag used by authors and digital content creators who feature book recommendations, reviews and memes.

Professor Sut Jhally, founder of the Media Education Foundation once said, “Advertisers (authors) have to go to where the audience is if they want to sell products (books). They have no option but to go where the audience has gone. If the audience has gone online, gone to iPods, gone to Facebook, wherever the audience has gone, that is where advertisers must go.” With approximately 70 million U.S. users, TikTok has become one of those important places.

You’re never too old for Tiktok…

It might be hard for some authors, especially older ones, to imagine how TikTok might be taken seriously as a beneficial way to get the word out about their books or writing. Amy Winifred Hawkins celebrated her 110th birthday on TikTok with a video that went viral. It showed her performing a rendition of the 1912 Jack Judge song “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” while holding a cup of tea. The following breakdown, provided by TikTok, provides a glimpse of your potential audience grouped by age demographics:

  • 25% of TikTok’s active users accounts in the U.S. are people aged 10-19.
  • 22.4% of TikTok’s active users accounts in the U.S. are 20-29.
  • 21.7% of TikTok’s active users accounts in the U.S. are 30-39.
  • 20.3% of TikTok’s active users accounts in the U.S. are 40-49.

Did you know…

  • Barnes & Noble has a dedicated BookTok page on their website.
  • There are whole tables in prominent positions in Barnes & Noble and Waterstones stores under the banner “BookTok Made Me Read It.”
  • Goodreads has dedicated a genre to Books Booktok Made Me Read.
  • Search Amazon for “booktok made me read it” and you’ll find more than a hundred titles.
  • There are breakout authors who credit their success to videos they post, tracking huge sales spikes that coincide with the moment their videos go viral on TikTok.

If you want to see what other writers are doing on TikTok, search for “booktok authors” or “writersoftiktok” in the actual website or on the app. Here are links to three very successful ones you may wish to follow on TikTok to learn by example: Caroline Peckham, Jayne Rylon, and Lila Dubois. If you decide to get started on TikTok, most writers agree that choosing to register as “Author Name / Pen Name” is the best practice. Some people do use silly names, but you can change your TikTok user name every 30 days if you decide to make changes.

The Self-Publishing Show hosts a very active, private, Facebook group, TikTok For Authors.

Follow Jayne Rylon and Lila Dubois on TikTok. And learn how to Sell More Books Using TikTok – with Lila Dubois and Jayne Rylon:

Which type of TikTok account should an author choose?

Business Account: 
Used by authors with TikTok for Business accounts to promote their books (whether directly or indirectly) very likely constitutes acceptable use within TikTok’s terms of service. You should not be subject to a claim for breach of contract and/or a claim for IP rights infringement, provided the TikTok Commercial Content you use is kept within the TikTok platform. The upside of having a business account is that you receive detailed analytics on how your business is performing. However, personal profiles have more creative leniency. For example, a big part of the success on TikTok is the use of sound bites in videos. Trending sounds can be key to your video’s success, and you get the benefit of using trending sounds and memes with a personal account. Unfortunately, with a business account, a lot of those sounds have copyright restrictions and are off-limits.

TikTok For Business Creative Center is a free resource where you can discover the latest trends, success stories, and tools to create the best performing TikTok ads.

Personal/Pro-Creator Account: 
If you use personal or pro-creator accounts you should be careful of your activity so that it is not considered commercial activity which could give rise to a breach of contract and/or IP rights infringement claim against you by TikTok and/or its music licensors. Direct promotion of yourself and your books is likely to constitute commercial activity, whereas engaging with Booktok and other authors and their books is less likely to constitute commercial activity. Talking about your own books and life as an author is more of a grey area and could be argued either way. The theoretical risk is that if your activity is found to be commercial use, then you could be subject to a claim for breach of contract and/or a claim for IP rights infringement.

Training the TikTok Algorithm

“When you first get on the platform, you must signal to TikTok that you are an account that makes content around a specific category. To do that, you want to use hashtags distinct to your kind of product. If you do not use precise hashtags, TikTok may accidentally show your specialized content to people who are not your target audience. Then your content will not perform well. TikTok really rewards consistency. If you post videos every day, and you get a thousand views on each video, that’s a better account to have than an account that maybe gets a hundred thousand views on videos posted only every four weeks.” Click to learn How to Grow Your Direct-to-Consumer Brand on TikTok.

What are the best apps to create TikTok videos?

  • CapCut is a free all-in-one video editing app that helps you create incredible videos. It is available in both Apple and Android versions.
  • InShot. for video editing: Trim video. Cut or delete middle part. Multi split video. It is available in both Apple and Android versions.

50 Popular TikTok Songs You Need to Listen to on Repeat

In summary:
If you want to use the widest range of sounds, you’ll need a personal pro account but, in order to stay within the terms of service, you should avoid commercial activity. Direct promotion of your books is likely to be considered commercial activity. Talking about your books and your life as a writer is less likely to be seen as commercial activity.

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  1. MARGOT HARRISON writes in the 12/22/2021 edition of Vermont’s Seven Days, “I know what you’re thinking. What is a middle-aged person doing on TikTok? I resisted joining the video-based social platform for months because I’d heard all the same things you’ve heard — that it’s addictive, that it compromises your privacy, that old folks don’t belong there, that it rots your attention span.”

    Find out more in her feature story, “What One Author Learned by Touting Books on TikTok.” 

  2. An excellent and helpful article. I have my halo lamp and have been meaning to jump on the BookTok bandwagon. Thanks for posting this article, Steve, to give me a nudge. ~ Ellie

  3. Not sure if you saw the nationwide splash… Thanks to TikTok, a Vermont author’s crime thriller is a bestseller after 11 years of almost no sales by Brittany Bowker, Boston Globe Staff, February 23, 2023 (paywall)

    Viral TikTok Post Brings Delayed Fame to Montpelier Author  (Seven Days free) “A Vermont TikTok video promoting a book published in 2012 has gone viral with 42.1 million views (and counting) in a week. The book, Stone Maidens by Lloyd Devereux Richards of Montpelier, has catapulted to No. 1 on Amazon’s Serial Killer Thrillers list.” 

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