How to Use TikTok to Sell Books: 12 Practical Tips

author making a TikTok video to promote her book

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Boasting over one billion active users, TikTok continues to grow in influence. Almost half the American population uses TikTok — it’s no longer just an outlet to watch silly dances or to learn how to bake your own sourdough bread (though you’ll find plenty of that). As it grows, the platform has become a powerful promotion tool, including for independent authors seeking to build their brands. You can even use TikTok to sell books.

Book marketing demands research, effort, and an open mind to get creative and experiment with new ideas — especially for indie authors. Because TikTok is wildly popular, you can use it to reach new readers, grow your author brand, and earn more book sales. So, how do you use this impactful platform as an independent author?

What makes TikTok so effective for authors?

TikTok’s algorithm makes it easier than ever to get your content in front of new viewers because TikTok is a platform built on discovery. TikTok has a powerful ability to show thoughtful, relevant content to people who would be most interested in it.

That said, brand building and growing your TikTok presence does take time — you’re not going to go viral and wake up with hundreds of thousands of followers after just a few videos. But, as an author, TikTok can be an effective tool to reach millions of potential readers. And the best part? It’s free! You can run paid promotions on TikTok, but its true power lies in its organic ability to blast content to qualified viewers who are most likely to engage with it.

Let’s look at some practical ways you can use TikTok to market, sell, and build your brand.

1. Be relatable

Most creators and authors who become “TikTok famous” achieve it through authenticity. Good content does not have to be highly produced; rather, it should be real and relatable. TikTok allows you to speak directly into the camera, share who you are, introduce your book in creative ways, and offer some behind-the-scenes insight into the story! Don’t overthink and overdo content. Just be yourself and remember to make your content accessible to all viewers. One of the best ways to do that is by including captions for viewers who have hearing disabilities; TikTok makes it easy to turn captions on directly in the app while editing a video.

2. Post consistently to grow your channel

TikTok makes it easier than other platforms to gain new followers, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one post per day. TikTok affords creators plenty of freedom to push content and encourages you to post one to four times per day. That’s a lot, but remember, these videos don’t demand much effort. They can be brief, spontaneous, and fun. Do your best to be active and connected with your audience.

One way authors can use TikTok to sell books is via your bio. Every TikTok profile includes a bio that allows you to embed a clickable link. This is a great opportunity to drive viewers to purchase directly from your BookBaby Bookshop page, where you earn the highest book royalties in the industry.

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4. Be subtle with book promotion

While TikTok empowers creators to grow their brands and sell items (like books), the most compelling content rarely involves sales pitches and promotion. TikTok allows you (the author) to tell your story directly to your audience and potential readers. The platform’s power lies in its ability to help you grow your brand to a point where readers will be excited to support you.

When you post on TikTok, your primary goal should not be to make pitches for readers to buy your book. Your focus should be to have readers get to know you and your story. If viewers see you as relatable and interesting and you position yourself as someone readers resonate with, that can correlate to book sales.

Does this mean you should never discuss sales? Of course not. There will be important times for you to share your offers and promotions. Just understand that most of your content should focus on brand building. Allow the selling to come naturally by building an author persona that readers cannot resist supporting.

5. Establish yourself as a subject matter expert

Create content that demonstrates your literary expertise. Use your platform to share writing tips and advice. Show your readers the process of writing with behind-the-scenes footage. You don’t have to overthink this. You know your process better than anyone — share it with readers and supplement it with helpful advice. This can include best practices for character development, strategies to overcome writer’s block, or an in-depth analysis on world-building. There are endless possibilities for you to position yourself as an expert who is here to empower the writing community.

You can also demonstrate your literary expertise with book recommendations! Your book may be awesome, but it’s a good idea for you to branch out and talk about what you are reading. Authors are readers too!

6. Package your content for holidays and celebrations

Across all industries, the time of year matters, and it’s no different for book selling. Your content should always be relevant and pertinent to the time of year and season. Obviously, the holiday season leaps to mind. Utilize the time from now through the new year to share exclusive offers and remind your audience that your book makes a perfect gift.

Free guide offer for Promote Then PublishAnd while the holiday season is an important and busy time for sales and promotions, don’t drain all your creative energy during these weeks. There’s an entire year to plan for, full of other celebrations and special promotion opportunities. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or the Fourth of July, think of every possible way you can associate calendar events with your book and brand. Make it fun — get creative and think of ways to create timely content. As BookBaby President Jim Foley says, “you’re selling books, not rubber bands! Have fun with it!”

7. Embrace the community

Stiches (combining other video content with yours) and duets (posting side-by-side with another creator) allow you to reply or react to other author videos. Although independent authors operate like small business owners, they are still a part of a larger author community. When you collaborate with authors who have a similar audience, you can potentially connect with their readers and grow your following.

Authors should be supporting authors, and stitching and collaborating with other TikTok creators can be a great way to partake in mutually beneficial work. Like and comment on as many relevant videos as you can. Make some Internet friends! Embrace the TikTok community and associate yourself with other like-minded creators.

8. Save and utilize your favorite sounds and trends

On TikTok, you can save sounds and videos, which can equip you with a valuable backlog of ideas for future content. Most videos on this platform are inspired by other videos, as most users are reacting and putting their own imprint on viral trends. The chances of your content being popular is significantly higher if you utilize a trending sound or format. Don’t stress out trying to reinvent the wheel. Save as many sounds and videos as you find relevant and stay up to date with recent trends.

9. Use titles to draw in more viewers

You aren’t required to add a title to your TikTok videos, but it’s good practice to always use one. You only have a few seconds to convince viewers to watch instead of swiping to the next video. A well-crafted and relevant title can be one way to ensure the viewer sticks around to see what happens.

10. Keep captions brief and prioritize hashtags

Your video content tells the story — this is a visual platform. While including titles and captions is a good practice, in most cases, you only need a brief phrase or a sentence to get the job done. The rest of the characters should be dedicated to your hashtags. These hashtags are the driving force behind pushing your content to those who would find it appealing and relatable. Everyone’s audience is different, but here are a few good recommendations for hashtags:

  • #fyp
  • #booktok
  • #indieauthor
  • #fictionwriter
  • #selfpublished
  • #tbrpile

11. Get out of your comfort zone

Talking into a camera can be uncomfortable and even feel silly, but the best content comes when you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and follow that new trend or do that funny dance! Though not always easy, it can be quite empowering to put yourself out there. Nothing feels better than being your authentic self and inspiring/entertaining others while you’re at it. The most successful creators on TikTok are willing to take that leap.

12. Stay up to date with new trends

While I’ve spent my time here preaching the value of this platform — you can use TikTok to sell books and grow your brand — the reality is, if you want to build a great TikTok presence, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to using the app. As I mentioned, TikTok is all about trends. What was a massively popular trend in July will get little to no engagement in October. Trends come like a hurricane, powerful and fast, and then fade as new trends take over.

If you’re looking to cut down on your screen time, TikTok probably doesn’t align with those goals. Ideally, you should spend a portion of every day in the app to learn what type of content is trendy, popular, and applicable for your own channel. Things change on TikTok — and fast. Success requires commitment.

How to start using TikTok as an independent author

When creating your book-marketing plan, your first step should be to identify your audience. Every book is wonderfully unique, and inherently, that means that every book has its specific audience. TikTok is a massive platform, but it’s possible your audience isn’t on TikTok.

But, if you think your audience is likely to be using the platform, consider building a channel and see if you can’t use TikTok to sell books. Just know you’ll have to put in the work and be patient with the process. It won’t happen overnight, but authors have found success using TikTok, and it may be time for you to celebrate and embrace everything it has to offer you as an independent author.

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