Yesterday was an exciting day for me because I attended my first ever book event as an author, hosted by Penny University.
I made three sales in total, but what was far more interesting to me was the rapt attention I got from the other authors when I started talking about BookTok.
I started using TikTok seriously on Nov 30th, 2022, the day MARKED FOR HARVEST came out. I won’t lie and say it was easy. The learning curve was extremely painful, but I kept trying and eventually figured out a lot of the “tricks” that no one ever told me about.
Disclaimer: I won’t discuss any politics or other questionable TikTok things in this blog post. If you choose not to use TikTok, I understand and respect your decision.
Joining TikTok for the first time is overwhelming. Videos play non-stop, blaring noise at you until you frantically close the app or turn your volume all the way down. During my first few weeks of TikTok, I never used the app and instead created videos using Canva and uploaded them using the TikTok website.
That was a mistake. One of the things I learned very quickly was that TikTok users can sense when you do not enjoy what you are doing, and your views will suffer.
I forced myself to learn how to use the app, and haven’t gone back. I plan to make some tutorials for how to make basic videos, but today I will list some of my top “BookTok tricks”.
Trick #1 - Don’t use TikTok if you hate it
Seriously. You deserve so much better than to toil away on yet another social media app that you loathe.
In my experience, the videos that go viral are the ones you spend the least amount of time on.
My top viewed video as of Feb, 2023 is a 5 second video of my cat that took less than a minute to film and edit.
Trick #2 - Get to 1000 followers fast
A big difference between TikTok and Twitter or Instagram is that “unfollowing” is, in my experience, much more rare. I’ve never unfollowed anyone. If I don’t like the videos that someone I am following creates, I quickly swipe past them and (somehow? maybe?) the algorithm learns not to show me those videos.
Once you reach 1000 followers, you can include a link on your page, so 1000 followers should be your short term goal.
It took me a few weeks of creating videos to realize that the key to gaining followers is to find other authors who are trying to do the same thing as you. Yes, I realize that what you REALLY want are BookTok influencers or celebrities or readers to follow you, but I have no idea how to make that happen. What I do know is that I immediatley follow back anyone who follows me who has “writer” or “author” in their username.
Here is how I got to 1000 followers in 1 month:
- Search TikTok for #booktok and find a popular video
- Check the comments and find an author
- Go to the profile page of that author and check if they have under 1000 followers and a recent video. If yes, continue. If no, go back to step #1.
- Click on “followers”. If most of the people you see are authors, continue. If not, go back to step #1.
- Click “follow” next to anyone who has “author” or “writer” (etc) in their name or username.
There is likely a maximum number of “follow requests” you can send in a day, so I suggest limiting this to 50-100 people a day.
Trick #3 - Feed the algorithm
When you first start using TikTok, you’ll probably see a lot of terrible videos. This makes the learning curve even steeper because why would you want to use an app where you don’t like any of the videos you see?
To fix this, quickly swipe past any video you don’t like and heart videos you do like. This trains the algorithm to show you videos you like and increases the odds that you will actually enjoy using the app.
Trick #4 - Find your niche
Don’t jump into advertising your book. TikTok users can smell marketing a mile away and will swipe past your video in a heartbeat.
“But how do I market my book then!?”
Easy. Lean into what you enjoy.
Have a cat? Post videos of your cat doing something cute and put your book in the background. Users still see your cover, but it’s not obviously marketing.
Have a lot of books? Wrap up all your books in brown paper and film yourself unwrapping them. I have found a lot of success doing this with the #asmr hashtag.
Basically; find a way to make videos you actually ENJOY making, and then tie in your books in a subtle way. Or don’t! You could make videos reviewing other TikTok users books and never talk about your own book. As you get followers, they will naturally want to know about your book.
Trick #5 - Video ideas
This is probably the part you’ve been waiting for. Here are a few ideas you can use as a new BookTokker:
- Film yourself flipping through the pages of a book with text on top of the video listing the tropes in the book. Show the book cover only at the very end (creates mystery/hook)
- Wrap up all of your “TBR” (books you have not read) and put them on a shelf. Film yourself choosing one at random and unwrapping it. Make sure to film the sound carefully. These #asmr videos are super popular!
- If you buy books online, film yourself opening packages of books (make sure to remove/cover any address details!)
- If you buy books in stores, make a “book haul” video showing what you bought (viewers want to see the covers of all of the books and will watch until the end!)
For years, I laughed when people told me to use TikTok. I ranted about how much I hated it and would never use it.
3 months after forcing myself to use TikTok… I actually enjoy it.