How TikTok Can Deliver Fame, Fortune and New York Times Bestsellerdom

by | Apr 9, 2021 | Social Media, Social Media Strategy, TikTok

Want to become a best-selling author overnight? Turns out it’s easy enough. Just get the influencers of BookTok raving about, crying over, parodying or choreographing a dance to your book.


Seems too good to be true? Believe it or not, this is what happened to a bunch of midlist authors who suddenly woke up to soaring Amazon rankings, NYT Bestsellerdom and bulging bank accounts. BookTok, the collective nickname given to TikTok’s enthusiastic literati, had given these authors’ books a huge, organic boost with a ton of ultra-emotional fan service videos that celebrated the books they loved.


Unsurprisingly, the ears of publishing’s PR machine perked up, and suddenly everyone in the industry was wondering how to get a piece of the BookTok pie. Mo’ BookToks = Mo’ Bestsellers, right??

Bad news, guys: just like any social media platform, making a killing on TikTok is a long-term play that has to take into account audiences, voice, strategy and a dusting of serendipity.

In a brilliant Twitter thread worth bookmarking, a digital marketer from Penguin Teen had the following advice for those trying to crash the BookTok party (or any other TikTok niche for that matter):

  • TikTok is a mature platform. If you’re only leaping into the fray right now, you’ve got a ton of catching up to do. There are creators on there who have been honing their skills for years. Actual years.
  • TikTok is labor-intensive. You can’t just dine and dash. You have to consistently show up with great content – and when we’re talking video, that’s some serious time commitment.
  • Your For You Page (FYP) is super tailored. TikTok’s algorithms categorize, sub-categorize and sub-subcategorize. It can be hard to know where your content is going and who’s seeing it – and that can change from day to day. Make peace with driving without lights.
  • Know the power dynamics. Think about where your brand fits in the marketing ecosystem and be careful about approaching people or responding to them. Authors, for example, should let BookTokkers do their thing and avoid responding to reviews or trying to influence the narrative. You don’t want to look pushy or censorious.

Read all that and still want to get your TikTok groove on? 

Here are some tips for maximizing the platform’s value for your brand:

  • Find your niche and stick with it. TikTok has a niche for just about everything (seriously). Claim yours, and don’t stray out of it.
  • Get to know the app. Mastering anything takes time and research. You can’t just fly in and expect to trend. Scroll, scroll, scroll until your eyeballs can’t take any more.
  • Leap on the trends. Take note of popular songs, formats (eg transition shots) or memes (sea shanties, anyone?) and work them into your content strategy asap. First mover advantage is massive on TikTok.
  • Big, bold and authentic rules. TikTok is no platform for shrinking violets. Big emotions, loud thoughts and unabased voices are the ones that resonate. Remember, this is typically a platform for the younger set.
  • Use captions! Captions are critical for accessibility – and they’re also key for people watching without sound. Text overlays are an amazing value add, so use them too!
  • Post like it’s going out of style. The typical TikTok user mentality could be summed up as “WE WANT MOAR”. The more you post, the better the results.
  • Sometimes the wins will surprise you. A genius idea might sink into oblivion, while a silly dance number can go viral. ¯\\_(ツ)_/¯ Just roll with it.

Need some help choreographing a viral TikTok dance or tips on emoting like an Oscar winner? We can help with those – and your larger TikTok content strategy, too! Get in touch, and we’ll get right to it!