TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has recently launched 8th Note Publishing, a new publishing company. This announcement has raised concerns among authors who worry that the social media giant will prioritize promoting their own books over others on TikTok.
The rise of BookTok, a community of book lovers on TikTok who create viral videos discussing and recommending books, has been a significant factor in the success of many authors, particularly in the romance and fantasy genres. Over the past two years, BookTok has catapulted both new and established authors to fame through its viral videos.
Some authors have strategically used the BookTok hashtag to market their books and have found success in reaching a wider audience. However, others have been surprised by the organic success they have achieved without even actively participating on TikTok. For instance, author Dustin Thao revealed that he never posted a single video on TikTok, yet his book became an overnight sensation after readers made their own viral videos about it.
Despite the success that BookTok has brought to authors, there are concerns about the fairness of ByteDance promoting its own books from 8th Note Publishing over other titles. TikTok’s algorithm-driven feed does not always guarantee recognition for even the most dedicated content creators, which has led authors to worry that user data may be used to prioritize promoting books published by 8th Note Publishing.
Ella Fox, a self-published author and advertising consultant specializing in TikTok content, expressed her concerns to the New York Times, stating, “People would give their eye teeth to get in front of that audience and to be pushed in that way.” This sentiment reflects the eagerness of authors to have their books promoted to TikTok’s vast user base.
However, publishing professionals question whether going viral on TikTok will ultimately translate into book sales. While viral videos can attract more attention, there is no guarantee that it will result in significant book purchases. Cindy Hwang, the vice president and editorial director of Berkley, a mainstream commercial and genre fiction publisher, highlighted the distinction between gaining exposure and converting that exposure into sales.
Furthermore, authors have noted that 8th Note Publishing has not offered competitive advances compared to traditional publishing companies. This has raised concerns about the financial benefits of publishing with the new company.
In response to these concerns, TikTok assured the New York Times that 8th Note Publishing would operate separately from the social media platform. Nonetheless, authors remain wary of potential biases in promoting books from their own publishing company.
While the launch of 8th Note Publishing by ByteDance has generated excitement within the publishing industry, the concerns expressed by authors highlight some potential challenges. Achieving viral success on TikTok can certainly boost an author’s visibility, but whether it will translate into sustained sales remains uncertain. Additionally, the perceived favorability towards promoting books published by 8th Note Publishing raises questions about fairness and competition within the industry. It will be interesting to see how ByteDance addresses these concerns and navigates the dynamic landscape of book publishing on TikTok.