When It Comes to TikTok, Authors Must Manage Their Expectations

From Publisher’s Weekly:

TikTok has upended the conventional marketing wisdom of publishers—which holds that noncelebrities’ books have a brief time after launch to see hitmaking sales before fading into obscurity—by suddenly catapulting books that have been out for years into the spotlight and onto bestseller lists. Authors have taken notice: with TikTok boasting approximately one billion active monthly users, and with BookTok content having received 74.4 billion views and counting, that’s a lot of readership and sales potential.

Or so it would seem.

Sara Raasch is the bestselling author of the YA fantasy trilogy Snow Like Ashes, the YA fantasy duology Stream Raiders, and the duology Set Fire to the Gods, cowritten with Kristen Simmons. She joined TikTok in early 2020, right before the pandemic hit. Thanks to a handful of viral videos, Raasch’s TikTok account quickly amassed more than 80,000 followers.

“I often tried to play to TikTok trends, and just shift them to fit books and writing,” she says. “I always saw the best uptick in views when I hit trends at the right time. Trends are increasingly difficult to play to, as they come and go so fleetingly and quickly get saturated.”

With such a large platform, one would think Raasch would see a major increase in sales, but she says this is not the case for her YA novels. “Not only did I not see any boost in book sales,” she notes—“the time I was spending making TikTok content was quickly sucking up my writing time.”

Raasch says that she tried a different strategy on her pseudonym account for adult romance novels. “I have had a video go viral on my pseudonym TikTok account [which has more than 2.2 million views as of this writing], and I saw a direct bump in sales because of it.” She suggests that she spent a lot of time on her YA account branding herself, but on her pseudonym account she only posts about books and doesn’t show her face.

“The success I garnered there plays entirely into the analogy of social media as a casino,” Raasch asserts. “High engagement is the jackpot you may or may not get, but if you play the game long enough—i.e., post consistently, play to trends, etc.—you might win.” She adds that she feels the success she’s had on her pseudonym account “was entirely luck,” but she continues to post there because she’s seen the potential payout.

Dante Medema, author of YA novels Message Not Found and The Truth Project, joined TikTok in February 2021 and now has more than 83,000 followers. “I have received some pretty amazing career opportunities through TikTok,” she says, citing connections with other authors and readers and lining up interviews and speaking engagements. “Overall, I think it’s had a positive impact.”

However, she echoes Raasch’s sentiment that engagement and views will vary. “It’s easy to get discouraged,” she says. “I think it’s about understanding that not every video is going to get a bunch of likes and comments.”

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

2 thoughts on “When It Comes to TikTok, Authors Must Manage Their Expectations”

  1. If your readers are on TikTok, you go to TikTok – and learn how to use it as a way to access BOOK readers through random but focused videos of you being attractive somehow.

    I don’t think I’m in that group of authors, so it is all bemusing.

    Would I have done it, younger? It still sounds focused on extroverts – at least on the author side. So probably not. But then it’s hard to imagine my READERS being on that platform, so we’ll just have to be parallel universes.

    Reply
    • It may be a moot question since TIK TOK may not have long to live:

      https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/maybe-trump-was-right-about-tiktok/ar-AA145NYN

      “Warner is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his problems with TikTok are more than shared by his Republican counterpart, committee vice chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio’s been sounding the alarm about TikTok since 2019 — before Trump, even — and he’s still doing it now. He recently co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post that called for the app to be banned, and he’s planning to introduce a bill that would do just that.

      TikTok appears to be Congress’s next Big Tech target. The Big Tech antitrust bills that once seemed sure to pass this year are likely dead. It’s uncertain if and how they’ll be revived in the next Congress. There’s also the fact that some of those Big Tech companies aren’t quite so big anymore, which makes it harder to make the argument that they’re hugely powerful and dominant companies that can only be curbed through targeted legislation. But the TikTok threat is something both sides might be able to agree on.”

      Reply

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