I started posting videos on TikTok in earnest at the weekend after hearing more and more about how important it might become for authors, and I've learnt a few things. Whether you're a complete newbie or you're on TikTok but not sure sure what you're doing, I hope this post is useful for you. Clearly, with only a few days' worth of posting under my belt, I'm no expert. But I've done a lot of research and I've jumped in the TikTok pool, and while I'm faffing about in the training pool, I thought you might want to join me on the journey to the deep end.
A caveat: if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of this and feel like it's just another social media platform to add to your already huge To Do pile, don't feel pressured. I'm not saying you *have* to be on TikTok. But if you enjoy trying new social media features and love to experiment with creative marketing, then read on. If you're not sure, still read on. You never know, it might be the social media platform you finally end up loving and not seeing as a chore...
So here goes, just click on the headings / plus signs below to read more
(This accordion menu can be a bit glitchy on mobile devices, pushing you down the bottom of the page so just find your way back again if that happens)....
* WHY SHOULD AUTHORS BE ON TIKTOK?
I find a lot of authors, including myself, have been super reluctant to get onto TikTok until now. Hands up, I bought into the myth that it's just about teenagers dancing and pretty girls pouting. Even when I began to hear about the HUGE book-reading community on there (known as BookTok), I was reluctant to add yet another social media profile to my belt, especially because I thought the community was more skewed towards YA, fantasy and romance. Would it really be that useful for a psych suspense writer?
I still joined though just because my daughter wanted to see the dancing videos and pretty pouting girls. I didn't post anything but I had fun watching the videos with her (the creepy 'check out this haunted house' accounts, dog mishaps and every day impressions ended up being our faves!).
Then I started noticing more authors cropping up, and more bookish stuff in general. And that stuff was good. Creative. Friendly. Then my cousin told me his 15yo daughter's cosplay TikTok account had 'blown up' (aka 'gone viral') overnight, leading to her now having over 35k followers.
When I went to chat to her, she showed me a book she'd seen recommended on TikTok, saying: 'all my recommendations come via BookTok now'. Then she went on to tell me about books and authors blowing up on TikTok. They weren't all YA, fantasy and romance authors. They were all sorts of authors.
I went away and did some googling, finding articles like this and this and this. I realised I needed to get on the TikTok train stat.
It isn't just the fact more and more people are getting their books recommendations from TikTok now due to the phenomenal BookTok community. Or the fact it could just take one video to get exposure to tens of thousands of readers (I used to roll my eyes at the phrase ‘make it viral’ as it’s pretty impossible to do that in social media. But I think it’s more nuanced in TikTok. From what I can see, you have more chance for a video to 'blow up', even if that's *just* attracting 1k views. It's enough to generate lots more followers and likes). It's also that I think this is an exciting time to get involved. Yes, it's been super popular among certain groups for a while. But I feel like now is when authors are beginning to really sit up and take notice. More people are hopping on (including parents of those teens). We have a chance to get on and get some traction NOW before it becomes too saturated.
So that's what I did, I began to do some research and have now started pumping out videos at https://www.tiktok.com/@thesavvyauthor... and I'm loving it! Sure, I'm not setting the world alight with my follower numbers at the time of writing this, but it has only been a few days of proper posting. I'm excited to see what happens.
Interested to make more of TikTok too? Read on...
* 5 STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE CREATING YOUR FIRST VIDEO
1. Spend some time first exploring TikTok. If you haven't already, set up an account with a decent username, photo and profile (using the same principles you'd use on all social media: quality photo, clear username and useful profile), then use the Discover section to do just that: discover the kind of videos that work on TikTik, especially in the book world via hashtags like #authorsoftiktok and #booktok. But don't follow people you want to target yet (other authors, bookish people, readers) unless you already have a video or two up, otherwise they might not follow you back as you have nowt to offer yet. But once you have a video or two under your belt, definitely start following people who you'd like to follow you back. That's an almost guaranteed way for them to see you exist on there!
2. Do some research. Listen to a recent Self Publishing Formula podcast on TikTok. For those reading this before 15th September 2021, there will be a related webinar that day. You'll find links to it in the episode notes. I found TikTok's own guides useful too.
3. Join some Facebook groups aimed at authors wanting to utilise TikTok. For a smaller group, author Fiona Lucas has set up TikTok For Authors. There's a larger one too called Authors of TikTok. People share ideas on these and help each other out.
4. If you don't have a tripod, it's worth getting one now to avoid shaky shaky hand. I got this one from Amazon. It also includes a ring light which really helps with making your videos look more professional. To help set yourself up, I liked this guide but there are loads out there!
5. Now brainstorm all the things you could post. I don't just mean 'promote book with trailer or close ups'. Sure, these can work but try to think out of the box. Write anything and everything down. I used these titles to help focus my thinking (examples in brackets of the kind of things I wrote under them):
Videos I already have (eg. I have a video about a sense of place in writing which I can adapt)
Subjects covered by my book (eg. trees, Facebook groups - I plan to make some videos around this soon)
My tips for writing (lots!)
Other areas of expertise (grief, infertility)
Interesting home stuff (dog!)
Writing life (mood board, desk)
My reading (book I'm reading, books I've loved, TBR pile, bookshelves)
Have a think about how you can create short enticing videos using these topics. Take inspiration from what you've already seen on TikTok.
Guess what? Now you're ready to post your first video. Don't worry, it's an easy one to get you started...
* 10 STEP GUIDE TO POSTING YOUR FIRST VIDEO
1. Set up your tripod with your phone facing a decent uncluttered background. Then go get the book you're currently reading, or last read.
2. Now search for 'Tracy Buchanan Author' on TikTok and follow me. Scroll down to find a video featuring a book being held up with the closed pages facing the camera. Click on it.
3. Like and comment on my video. The more videos you like and comment on, the more TikTok will like you! And the more likes and comments you get, the more likely your videos are to get featured. Keep this in mind when scrolling through TikTok. Don't just scroll by. If you like a video, especially from a fellow author, show your support by liking and commenting, even if the comment is a simple emoji.
4. Now click on the scrolling text next to the music sign at the bottom of my video. This will take you to lots of other videos using this sound. Feel free to have a look to see how people approach this and which videos work well. But the main reason you're here is to click on the 'Use this sound' red button at the bottom of this page. So go ahead and click it!
5. You will now be ready to record with that tune in the background! Hold your book up like I did in front of the camera. There are a few options here. You can flip the image (useful for this so the text on the book goes the right way!). There's a handy timer. The enhance feature allows you to help yourself look a little more put together. But don't go crazy with this or effects. You want to be authentic and in fact, bookish TikTokkers prefer that. When you're ready, press that red button. This will record a draft but it isn't live! You can do multiple tries so don't panic. You want to time it so you turn the book to show the cover after 'now' and just as the woman sings 'This. This is what I'm reading.' (A lot of sound-focused trends like this are on TikTok. They usually work because a beat change means you can do something creative to show a change in position or video. Look out for them. Just because a model is posing to a trending sound, or a teenage boy is busting some moves to the beat doesn't mean you can't adapt it in some way for yourself without the dancing part... unless you love dancing, of course!).
6. If you mess up as you're filming, don't worry, press the red tick. It won't go live then you do this! Then click the back button in the top left, followed by the x button at the bottom right and discard. These stages can be a bit fiddly, I found it just takes time to figure it out. If you happen to post by accident (difficult to do), then just find your post in your profile, click on the three buttons on the bottom right, scroll to end of the grey button list at the bottom to find the delete option. But don't panic. Bloopers are actually super popular on TikTok!
7. Once you're happy with your recording, press the red tick. On this screen, you can add overlay text via the 'Aa' symbol at the button plus add effects and so on. I I don't always do this for reading videos as the book speaks for itself.
8. Now press next. Don't worry, you're not posting yet! Here you get to add a caption and hashtags. You don't get much space so a super brief headline then hashtags. In fact, hashtags alone are fine. I'm still researching hashtags as I do hear it's sometimes better to use the less known hashtags to avoid disappearing in the crowd. But here are some currently popular hashtags in the book / writing world:
It's also worth checking out trending hashtags in the Discover area as you might find one that's relevant to your video (hopefully goes without saying you should never use hashtags that aren't relevant!).
9. Now you can also select a headline and cover by clicking on 'Select cover' on the right. This is a really important step as it allows you to dictate what people first see when they scroll over (hopefully not by!) your video. I don't always choose a cover if doing a post about what I'm reading but in general, this is the time to choose the most enticing screen shot and a 'clickbaity' headline. You can draw inspiration from other videos to see what works. I've messed up a bit with this as I keep accidentally overlaying the headline over text from the video so it looks messy but, hey, I'm still learning!
10. Once you've done this, I like to first save to drafts so I can check what I've done. You do this by pressing 'Drafts'. You can then go find it by going to your profile page and there's a box of drafts on the left. Click on that and find your video. To edit anything, click the back button. Or you can add another clip at this point.
* WHAT TO DO AFTER POSTING YOUR FIRST VIDEO
1. The best advice I'd give now is just start experimenting. Have fun with it and see what works and what doesn't. It's super easy to see how many views each video gets from looking at your profile page. You'll begin to notice which videos work for people. Do more of them! To give you an idea, my most liked videos so far involve my dog (I mean, she is pretty) and the simple ‘this is what I'm reading right now’ vid I use as an example above. My most viewed so far is how to write about grief and my most commented is, sigh, the one with my dog again (!) plus another where I talked about becoming a full-time author using a trending Cinderella hashtag.
2. How often should you post? I keep hearing contradictory advice, some say post 2-3 times a day, others say they find videos which are posted after a few days' break get a lot of traction. So what can you take from that? Don't feel any pressure, do it as and when you want... as long as it's once or twice a week.
.3 Look at your list of ideas from your brainstorming session and create a schedule from them. If you have a launch coming up, start thinking about that (I'm not going into detail about launch tips as I haven't tried stuff out yet but will do over the next two weeks!)
4. Always be wondering if something can make a good TikTok post. Something can happen in your writing day, or a thought occurs to you, and a video idea will crop up (my dog Bronte decided to stalk me so I took a video and this was the result... yep, that's one of my most popular ones! Not planned, completely spur of the moment as I saw her little head pop up!).
5. Make it a habit of checking TikTok every day. You don't have to do this from your phone, you can scroll through on your desktop too. Remember to like and comment on videos. Gather ideas from what you see other authors doing, this is why I did a 'stitch' with Clare Mackintosh here (stitches and duets are clever ways of combining your videos with other people's videos. More on these here). Make sure you check the 'Discover' section on a regular basis as part of this too. Maybe you'll come up with a fab idea on the fly based on something that's trending, that's how I came up with the Cinderella video I mentioned. Sure, a lot of the videos featured under that sound and hashtag were of beautiful women pretending they look horrendous without makeup when they really won't before turning into beautiful Cinderellas. That didn't mean I had to do it that way. In fact, I did the reverse: suited and booted office me turning to an author wearing PJs while eating Quavers. An example of how to twist things up.
I really hope this all helps! I will be back with some updates on how videos around my book launch went and if ever I 'blow up'. But at least this gets us started! If you do get on TikTok because of this article, or up your TikTok game, please come say hi on TikTok and let me know :-)
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