TikTok for Authors… go where your audience has gone

#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.”

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.

I enrolled in a free, 5-day course that begins on January 5, 2022, the TikTok Author Ads Adventure. The Self-Publishing Show also hosts a very active, private, Facebook group TikTok For Authors in conjunction with the course.

How to Sell More Books Using TikTok – with Lila Dubois and Jayne Rylon:

Follow Jayne Rylon https://www.tiktok.com/@jaynerylon? and Lila Dubois https://www.tiktok.com/@liladuboisbooks? on TikTok.

Which type of TikTok account should an author choose?

Business Account: 
Used by author users of business TikTok accounts to promote their books (whether directly or indirectly) very likely constitutes use within TikTok’s terms of service. They should not be subject to a claim for breach of contract and/or a claim for IP rights infringement, provided the TikTok Commercial Content used by them is kept within the TikTok platform.

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.

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 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.” 

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