TikTok, What Nonfiction Authors Need to Know

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Like it or not, folks, it looks like TikTok is here to stay!

So, what is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that is what I like to call “video first.” So if you think about some of the other social media platforms, Twitter tends to be text first (even though you can add images and videos as well). Instagram is image first. TikTok is video first.

You can actually access and post videos on TikTok from your desktop as well, but it lacks some of the features that way. You can also get the app on your iPad.

The cool thing about TikTok is that engagement on this platform is very different from other platforms. With other platforms, typically the only people who see your content are the people who are following you already. Sometimes you can reach larger audiences by using hashtags or when your content is shared. But on TikTok, content is shared with viewers based on their personal likes and interests, so it’s easier for people to discover you if they’re interested in what you’re sharing.

How does TikTok work?

TikTokers can upload a video or record one directly from within the app. Although videos used to be limited to 15 seconds, over the last couple of years TikTok has rolled out 1-minute videos, then 3-minute videos. They’re currently in the process of rolling out 10-minute videos. When TikTok rolls out a new feature, it means some people have access, but not everyone does yet.

When you record a video from within the app, you have access to “Effects” which are filters and features you can add to your video. These can be a lot of fun to play around with.

Isn’t TikTok for teenagers?

While it’s true that 25% of TikTok users are young (10-19 years old), 22% are ages 20-29, 22% are 30-39, and 30% are 40+. (source) There are currently 1 BILLION active users on TikTok, so if you do the math…there are plenty of older generations consuming content on the platform!

How can nonfiction authors use TikTok?

Many of the tips I provide in 19 Ways to Promote Your Book on TikTok apply to nonfiction authors as well as fiction authors.

How nonfiction authors use TikTok to promote their books will depend a lot on the specific genre. Marketing a memoir, for example, is going to be a lot different than marketing a cookbook. However, there are endless options for promoting all different genres on TikTok.

The most important thing for nonfiction authors to do is to think about their target audience and what type of content will resonate with them. One of my favorite authors on TikTok is children’s book author Javier Garay. He uses TikTok to promote his books, but not to the kids, more so to parents who would be buying his books. He does a really great job of creating videos around his books, educational topics about science (because his books are STEM-based), and about parenting (which is a good way to get other parents to follow him and engage with his content).

Here are a few examples of nonfiction authors doing amazing things on TikTok:

  1. Gabrielle Stone (@gabrielle_stone)
    • Author of Eat, Pray, #FML (Memoir)
    • She currently has 1.2M followers
    • Her videos currently have 26.3M likes
  1. Rachel Pedersen (@themrspedersen)
    • She has a nonficton book coming out this year, which was result of her success on TikTok
    • She currently has 1M followers
    • Her videos currently have 18.1M likes
  1. Jess Ekstrom (@jessekstrom)
    • Author of Chasing the Bright Side (Women & Business)
    • She currently has ~12K followers
    • Her videos currently have 174K likes
  1. Kim Muench (@kimmuenchparentcoach)

How can authors get started on TikTok?

The first thing I recommend for authors who are new to TikTok is to spend an hour or so consuming videos to get a feel for the content people are posting. As you like and comment on videos and follow people, TikTok is going to get to know you better. It’s going to start showing you more of the videos that are similar to the ones that you’re liking and the people that you’re following. So you want to start doing that. Start liking videos, commenting on videos, following people who interest you—other authors, readers, videos related to your genre, etc.

Next, search on book related hashtags (#nonfictionbooks, #booktok, #authortok, and other genre-related terms). Think specifically about your readers and how you can connect with them specifically. What are the things they might be posting, liking, commenting on? Try to find videos like that where your audience is going to be engaging, and then make sure that you’re commenting on those types of videos so that people are seeing your comments and can engage with you.

You need to know what other authors are doing, so proactively seek out authors and people in the reading community. You’ll want to follow them so you can watch their videos and see how they’re using the platform to attract and interact with their audience. Also be sure to engage with their videos—like them, comment on them, share them, etc. 

You’ll probably find that you really like the things that some authors are doing and really dislike the things that other authors are doing. Just because someone is creating content on the platform, doesn’t mean that they’re good at it. Makes notes about what you like, what stands out to you, and which videos you want to emulate.

As I mentioned previously, engagement on TikTok is very different from other platforms. Once you start connecting with your “tribe”, TikTok will make it easier to find more like them, so start connecting and building your community right away. 

Ready to start promoting your book on TikTok? I’ve got a course for you!

Marketing Your Book on TikTok

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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