How to Use TikTok to Boost Your Book Sales
As Christina Kaye puts it in her article about Instagram Stories,
“It seems like, every time we turn around, folks are telling us we have to be on this social platform or using that social strategy. And it seems like every few months, each platform launches another new way to use it. How can an author keep track of ALL THE THINGS?”
Being an independent author is a tricky business, especially when it seems like everyone and their mother is fighting to get a piece of the action! Social media has made us more connected than ever, and that is especially true now that we’re more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking of the pandemic, numerous people started downloading TikTok in March/April 2020, and that’s no coincidence.
Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok is a video-sharing app that boasted 732 million active users in April 2021. Best known for dance videos, TikTok has been transformed into a space for creators around the world to share their views on everything from alpha to omega and back again.
TikTok allows you to make 15-second or 60-second videos, and they’ve recently introduced a 3-minute video option too. For the sake of time, we’ll limit the discussion to the original 15 or 60-second options, but three-minute videos are an interesting concept too.
Much like BookTube and Bookstagram, the term “BookTok” has become a part of our everyday vernacular.
So, what is BookTok and how do I use it to increase my sales?
“BookTok” is the colloquial term for book-related posts on TikTok, whether that’s book reviews, book snippets, bookish body art, cosplay, or something else entirely, there’s probably a TikTok user that specializes in that area.
As you can tell, using BookTok to increase your sales has plenty of options. To dissect that, first we have to go over some ground rules.
You should be following the trends, but make sure not to encroach on others’ space
- For example, at the time of this writing, the hashtag #TikTokGGT was trending and had over 1 billion views. While it was actually for a virtual gaming award show, creators used it to get their videos onto the For You Page, thereby increasing their views.
- However, approximately a week ago, the hashtag #WidentheScreen was trending, and it was intended for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) creators to showcase their videos, as they have been statistically marginalized for reasons out of their control. If you do not fall under that umbrella, you do not deserve to use that hashtag.
- It is important to know what the trends are and who they are for so that you don’t unintentionally use them for the wrong reason(s).
Knowing how to work the “For You” page
- While much of TikTok’s algorithm remains mysterious, there are some elements that have repeatedly proven themselves to be useful, such as the abovementioned trending hashtags.
- TikTok’s For You Page is the first thing you see upon opening the app (assuming you are already signed in to your account) and it is uniquely coded to the videos you have watched/liked/otherwise interacted with. The more you use the app, the more targeted those videos will become.
- For bookish content, you need only to use the search option and you will be carted down a long rabbit hole like Alice on her way to Wonderland. Once you like those posts consistently, the algorithm will do the rest.
Your profile is your best friend
- You’ve probably heard a variation of this before; but stick with me. On TikTok, you learn a lot more about a person from their bio than you do on most other sites. For example, in the photo of my profile, you can see my username, the number of people I follow, the number of people that follow me, and the most likes I’ve gotten on my videos. From there, you get to basically do whatever you want, so long as it isn’t against Community Guidelines.
- Make sure “author” is listed in your bio (or your username)
- I classify myself as a neuro-divergent nerd because I have ADHD and other mental illnesses, and I use my account to talk about the things I like.
- I also show solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community by including my pronouns and sexuality. (Purple, black, and white are the colors of the asexual flag) (Note: this is not required, but it is strongly encouraged)
Moving away from the profile, you should know that hashtags are crucial! Some of the hashtags with the most views are:
According to the BusinessofApps, users spend an average of 52 minutes on the app per day. Knowing this, along with everything else I’ve told you so far, you should aim to post at least once per day on TikTok and be as inclusive as possible.
Wait, inclusivity is a thing I need to be concerned about? It absolutely is!
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 48 million people that are deaf or hard-of-hearing in the United States. While no statistics exist (that I could find) to show how many of those people use TikTok, there are enough that TikTok finally unveiled a captioning program within the app. Before that, creators could spend hours captioning their own videos or using external apps like Instagram’s Threads, all for inclusivity!
So, how does this all relate to book marketing?
Simple! Use TikTok’s captioning feature or do it yourself, but either way, make sure your videos have captions or subtitles to help everyone enjoy your hard work.
In the end, social media is a necessary evil if you want to get your name out there. Whichever platform you use, knowing what you are doing is just as important as having a schedule. Using apps like Later.com and Hootsuite can make that easy, but that’s an article for another day.
As evidenced by the statistics I already mentioned, TikTok is taking the world by storm and is going to be here for the long haul. So, if you plan to do the same, you’re better off playing nice and following these tips to spread the word about what you’ve accomplished. As they say at NaNoWriMo, the world needs your novel. So get out there and share it!
Article By Brianna Bennett
Brianna Bennett is your neighborhood neuro-divergent nerd. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing from Kutztown University as well as a double Masters in Publishing (M.A.) and Creative Writing (M.F.A) from Rosemont College. When she isn’t writing, she’s procrastinating by watching YouTube videos, scrolling through TikTok and/or browsing through Medium.com. She has self-published one novel so far, and has plans to self-publish her second in August 2021. Find her here.