“I had six followers on TikTok,” said Zev Burton, author of Two Fish in a Tank (New Degree Press, 2021). “The marketing team kept encouraging me to push the envelope — but it was my younger sister who encouraged me to try TikTok. And that decision was game-changing.”
Burton represents a new category of author: the audience builder. As the publishing industry has seen its power fade from being able to “make” successful books and authors and drive breakout success, the role of the author has become central to the success of any book.
“When I began leveraging TikTok, my reach exploded,” remarked Burton. “Now my videos are seen by tens of thousands of people every day, and brands are reaching out to me to represent their products. It’s a big change from having six followers to 150,000 followers in six months.”
Burton credits the support of his fellow authors and his publisher with embracing innovative and untapped channels.
“You can’t just put out a book and hope the audience finds it,” shared Brian Bies, an author and the publishing head at Burton’s publisher New Degree Press. “We have to partner with our authors to unlock and expand their audiences for their books to succeed today. And that’s why it’s incredible to watch authors like Zev and Haley [Hoffman Smith] explode on new platforms like TikTok.”
Haley Hoffman Smith has become a full-time influencer as her following on TikTok swelled to over 300,000 following the launch of her book Her Big Idea (New Degree Press, 2019).
“It just works for my audience,” Hoffman Smith shared. “As an author people want to know more about what I teach and share in the book. So short-form videos have been amazing as a way to grow. People find me on TikTok or Instagram and then discover they can get more through my book.”
Jason Fiefer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine and a serial author, remarked, “you need to start building the audience for your book the moment you start writing it — probably even before.”
As Fiefer rightly notes, most first-time authors don’t consider their role in establishing the audience for their books. That often leads to disappointing sales and results from debut books of most authors. It’s forced publishers to think very differently about supporting authors.
Remarked Bies, “as a publisher, it’s much harder for us to sell books for our authors because readers are buying the author as much as they are the book. That’s forced us to spend much more time — much earlier — working with authors to activate their existing audiences and then build upon it. We see our role in helping authors find new channels and plug into those channels. We know authors are the stars and if we can get them and their books in front of their audiences that will drive book sales. But you have to think differently and embrace how fast things aren’t changing.”
“You just can’t give up too early,” says Burton. “It took me at least a month to find my authentic voice and the right balance of education and entertainment. But once I did, everything started to trend up and to the right. I never expected it.”
To find additional information on New Degree Press or to purchase the books of Zev Burton or Haley Hoffman Smith, visit www.NewDegreePress.com.