Tiktok sells a lot of books. Now, its owner wants to publish them too.

Tiktok sells a lot of books.  Now, its owner wants to publish them too.

A new publishing company began attracting self-published romance authors earlier this year. The pitch in the generic email was impersonal and formulaic. Terms were not generous, sometimes amounting to only a few thousand dollars for the rights to a book.

Then came the clinic. Publishers TikTok’s parent company was ByteDance, a social media company that deals in short videos and over the years has helped create some of the biggest best sellers on the market. Along with the advance and royalties, the company was providing extensive online marketing services, according to several authors and publishing professionals with knowledge of ByteDance’s proposals.

“This could be the next big thing,” self-published romance author Maria Dietz said of ByteDance’s publishing arm.

The company has already fundamentally changed the way we find books online. And while ByteDance has said little publicly about its publishing plans, which are in the early stages, it’s clear the company has the potential to sell a huge amount of books.

Even under increased regulatory scrutiny over concerns of influence from the Chinese government, ByteDance has been able to reach a huge audience, and is growing. Many of TikTok’s users — more than 150 million in the United States alone — are interested in books. According to the company, videos with the #BookTok hashtag have been viewed more than 91 billion times, up from nearly 60 billion views last year.

Exposure to the platform has propelled many authors — Colleen Hoover being the first among them — to best-seller lists. Posts tagged #ColleenHoover have been viewed over 4.2 billion times, and her books have sold over 24 million copies.

Driven by more than 100 authors with large BookTok followings, sales are set to reach $760 million in 2022, a 60 percent increase over 2021, according to print sales tracker Circana Bookscan. So far this year, sales have gone up by almost 40 percent compared to last year.

“To say it’s hugely important would be an exaggeration at this point,” said Bess Braswell, a senior publishing director at Harlequin.

bytedance filed a trademark For a publisher, 8th Note Press described it in late April as a company that provides a range of book publishing products and services. According to the description, it will create an ecosystem where people can find, buy, read, review and discuss books.

The company also hired romance industry veteran Katherine Pelz as acquisitions editor.

ByteDance declined to confirm details about its publishing and retail operations, including what genres it plans to publish, when its first titles will appear, and whether its books will be available in traditional stores. Will be sold

ByteDance’s presence in the region has already raised concerns, despite little being known about their intentions.

By harnessing TikTok’s ability to draw attention to its vast store of books and its user data, ByteDance could promote its own authors at the expense of others and make BookTok less organic and user-driven, a possibility that worries many TikTok users and writers.

The company could also put traditional publishers and self-published authors at a disadvantage. Even as they have come to rely on the platform to promote their books, publishers have found it difficult to create viral book videos, as users tend to reject anything that seems corporate or inauthentic.

Their concern is that ByteDance may thumb their thumbs down in favor of their projects, leaving less room for other books and posts that will organically go viral. Responding to a question about its promotional plans, the company said that 8th Note Press is a separate entity from TikTok.

ByteDance’s progress so far hasn’t competed with the progress of traditional houses: while independent presses may pay only a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars, with larger houses, advances can range from around $50,000 to the millions. . ByteDance said it could not disclose the financial arrangement with the authors, but said it believed its offers were competitive with industry standards.

For now, ByteDance seems to be focused on fantasy, romance, and mystery, genres that are popular on the platform.

Best-selling romance author Tricia O’Malley, who has self-published nearly 40 novels, received an offer from ByteDance in April to buy the rights to two of her books. O’Malley said the deal included a social media marketing campaign, royalties and an advance of $3,500 per book—less than what the titles make each month.

The company, he said, was interested in fantasy and romance, old books and new stories that were “healthy, fun and sexy, but not too provocative or dark.”

She turned down the offer, but said she was tempted: “The reality is that BookTok is selling books.”

For others, the company’s promise of providing robust online marketing for its writers may be hard to resist.

Ella Fox, a self-published romance author and advertising consultant who runs advertising campaigns for other authors on TikTok, said that, potentially, ByteDance could ensure the algorithm prioritizes their own books. “People roll their eyes at being in front of an audience and being pushed like that,” he said.

Some in the industry are skeptical that ByteDance can carve out a large enough share of the market, partly because publishing remains a stubbornly analog and relationship-driven business. According to the Association of American Publishers, print sales still account for more than 70 percent of trade publishers’ revenue; Any new major new publishing company will need printing and distribution capabilities and relationships with booksellers.

“I’m less worried about TikTok becoming a publisher tomorrow,” said Dominic Rucka, publisher and chief executive of publishing company Sourcebooks, “because building a publishing infrastructure that works — it’s hard.”

It is unclear what the company’s print distribution plans are and whether they intend to sell their books in brick-and-mortar stores. In an email reviewed by The New York Times, ByteDance told a writer that it plans to focus on digital books with limited print on demand until TikTok launches. online retail store,

TikTok has already changed the way we acquire books. Traditionally, readers learned about new authors from booksellers. Now, publishers are learning about viral authors from booksellers who come to them with requests from readers.

Bloom Books, a romance and women’s fiction imprint of Sourcebooks, signed several authors who were previously self-published—including Scarlett St. Clair, Piper CJ, and LJ Shane—after learning that their books were sold at Walmart and were in demand by buyers at Barnes & Noble.

“We started hearing from accounts saying, ‘This author is trending on TikTok, but we can’t stock the books,'” said Molly Waxman, executive director of marketing for Sourcebooks’ adult fiction imprint.

Berkeley has acquired books by Ruby Dixon, author of the “Ice Planet Barbarians” series, which began by self-publishing and was one of the first TikTok phenomena, and by twin sisters Krista and Becca Ritchie, who self-published . Addicted” series. Avon signed up with self-published author Mariana Zapata, who has over 280 million views on TikTok.

Some editors and publishers also wonder whether ByteDance will be able to detect viral self-published authors when they start trending, and swoop in to sign them before they become obvious targets for other publishers.

There are industry veterans who are convinced by the fact that ByteDance will face the same challenges as traditional publishers: readers are fickle, and ultimately, viral videos won’t automatically create a blockbuster if the books themselves aren’t engaging.

“They may attract more attention, but will that translate into sales?” asked Cindy Hwang, Berkeley’s vice president and editorial director. “It’s not just about getting hits, it’s about motivating readers to buy the book.”

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