TikTok, specifically BookTok, is now the hottest thing in the publishing industry. And because it has become so popular for readers, it has many aspiring authors feeling somewhat apprehensive. Many feel pressure (warranted or not) to have a huge following on the platform in order to get a literary agent’s interest, and buiding that audience is no easy feat.
Testament to that popularity, TikTok has already worked many wonders in the publishing world. It once unearthed a book published years ago from oblivion to recognition to bestseller. It serves as an alternative to Goodreads for giving recommendations and sharing reviews. It helps children to read more books. And despite others’ criticism of how the subcommunity works, including a backlash about creating hype for “toxic and problematic books,” many believe it’s still beneficial, especially in boosting sales and visibility.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, BookTok even shot many young adult books published five years ago or so to the top of many bestseller lists. Among them are books by authors such as Adam Silvera, Colleen Hoover, and E. Lockhart among others. But it also paved way for new authors to jumpstart their writing careers. Because of BookTok, even retailers made changes; Barnes & Noble reserves a space for books that became viral on TikTok on its store displays. These books are guaranteed to fly off the shelves, and perhaps that’s the main reason why publishers hand out book deals to TikTok creators faster than an ecstatic bookworm in a one-minute book shopping spree.
Indeed, below are nine books that have been published at least partly because of the author’s TikTok popularity. This list mostly includes YA, romance, and fantasy books, which make up the triad of the most popular genres on the platform.
A Broken Blade by Melissa Blair
This YA fantasy is a TikTok sensation that has been picked up by a traditional publisher.
Keera, also known as the King’s Blade, is a feared assassin who already took numerous lives within the kingdom. When a creature named Shadow shows up, she is tasked with hunting them down. But during her mission to find and capture this mysterious vigilante, she discovers something that challenges her loyalty to the king. Keera must figure out whether to continue carrying out his orders to slaughter everyone that are against the crown or join the resistance in their efforts to overthrow him.
Lightlark by Alex Aster
This book is widely considered to be the most controversial BookTok book yet. Despite gaining popularity and securing a book deal, Aster continued to promote the book in the lead-up to its release. After readers had received their Advanced Reader Copy, however, one reader was disappointed to find out that the book doesn’t align with the promotional content shared by Aster on TikTok.
Lightlark follows Isla Crown, a heroine and ruler of one of the six realms, each of which is cursed. To break the curses, each of the rulers must compete in a competition on Lightlark that only takes place once every one hundred years. But there’s a caveat: One of them has to die. Some readers noted similarities between Lightlark and popular YA titles such as The Hunger Games and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
I Didn’t Know I Needed This by Eli Rallo (December 12, 2023)
During the pandemic’s early days, Rallo gained traction through a viral TikTok that involves jars. But while she’s famous out there, she also happens to write on her Substack, which created an opportunity for literary agents to ask her to write a nonfiction book. After two years of making jar TikToks, cultivating brand partnerships, and hosting a podcast, HarperCollins offered her a book deal.
The forthcoming book features personal essays focused on relationships. In here, she shares some advice on dating, navigating heartbreak, and her journey fostering a secure attachment style.
Why Am I Like This? by Kobe Campbell
Campbell, a trauma therapist, gained virality on TikTok thanks to an inspirational video on healing, which led to a series of similar videos. As her popularity soared, she attracted new clients. Subsequently, she was also offered a book deal.
In this nonfiction, Campbell explores the impact of past wounds, delving into the realms of trauma and healing, just like in her viral TikToks.
Hooked by Emily McIntire
McIntire, a TikTok creator and author, secured a multi-book deal in 2022 for a new romance series. The first one in that series, Hooked, is a dark contemporary romance inspired by Peter Pan. However, it’s not actually a retelling of the classic tale.
The story follows James, a man driven by a thirst for revenge. While pursuing his goal, he meets Wendy, and they fall in love. But there’s a wrinkle: Wendy’s father, James would later learn, is his enemy.
The Amendment by Kiersten Modglin
In The Amendment, Peter and Ainsley, who are in an open relationship, attempt to repair their marriage after a disastrous arrangement in the previous book. Said arrangement was fraught with secrets that they kept from each other, and this follow-up explores whether they will be able to save what’s left of their relationship.
Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need by Poppy O’Toole
After losing her job at a Michelin-star restaurant in the United Kingdom, O’Toole turned to making TikTok videos featuring recipes that mostly involve potatoes, which became viral. As expected, she was offered a book deal for her first cookbook.
The book is divided into five recipe types: The Core, The Staple, The Brunch, The Potato, and The Fancy AF. Each of these recipe types is great for specific occasion.
The Book of Sea Shanties by Nathan Evans
In 2020, musician Evans went viral by uploading a TikTok of his rendition of the 19th century New Zealand sea shanty titled “Soon May the Wellerman Come.” This viral success led to a book deal and other opportunities.
Evans’s nonfiction contains 35 sea shanties (which he curated), including their accompanying stories. It features some original compositions as well.
A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair
Initially published by St. Clair herself, this book gained popularity on TikTok and was subsequently picked up by a traditional publisher for re-release.
This first installment of a fantasy series draws inspiration from Greek mythology. It follows the lives of Persephone, Hades, and other gods and goddesses who adopt mortal identities and attempt to live ordinary lives.
TikTok is disrupting things in the publishing industry. Until Gen-Zs or Millennials get tired of it, it’s the best platform for publishers and authors to promote their books. For an industry that’s struggling to turn a profit for most books, it might be a gold mine.
Aside from the aforementioned titles, here are other books that became viral on TikTok!