Our marketers know that if we want to engage the next generation of readers, we need to be active on TikTok. That’s why the PRH Consumer Marketing team is excited to announce that we’ve partnered with two amazing TikTok influencers—Kimberly Nwokorie and Simone Siew—to reimagine the Penguin Random House account to maximize current book sales while creating future demand for our authors and books.
When we opened a TikTok account in 2019, we quickly learned how hard it was to sustain content creation internally. We also realized how much the platform relies on personas and personalities.
This partnership allows us to promote books in an authentic, credible, and consistent way and to create more content than we ever have before. Our plan is to utilize Kimmy’s and Simone’s expertise to test different approaches to our own content, from creating videos for specific types of readers to sharing timely and curated book lists, tapping into trends, showcasing behind-the-scenes life at Penguin Random House, and more.
And since we now have these two experts in-house, we wanted to bring you their best tips for authors, whether you’re already on the platform or just considering joining. (Either way, be sure to follow @penguinrandomhouse on TikTok!)
How did you get into BookTok?
Simone: As a social media addict, I downloaded TikTok back in 2018. Like most people on the app back then, I was posting dancing and fashion videos with the expectation that only a handful of people would ever see them. In May 2020, I had the idea to share my favorite recent reads, as well as my reading goal of fifty books for the year. At the time, I had never heard of BookTok and had never seen another video about reading on the app. To my complete astonishment, likes and views started pouring in on that video. This was the moment I discovered an entire world of passionate readers on TikTok. As a huge book lover (I even minored in English in college), I was overjoyed to find this community of readers who cared about books as much as I did! From that point on, I have only grown my BookTok community.
Kimmy: I definitely got into BookTok during the pandemic. During that uncertain time, I had a lot of free time to finally try things I had always wanted to do and one of them was to get back into reading. So I read the Percy Jackson series, and I’m not sure if there’s a bug in my phone, but shortly after that I started getting book-related videos on my TikTok For You page. I got them for a couple months and was feigning a lot of interest, but I wasn’t seeing videos that I would’ve really, really liked, and I wanted to make the content that I would enjoy. Also, seeing the lack of diversity on BookTok at the time, I thought I could be a friendly face in that department.
What have you learned since becoming a PRH TikTok representative?
Kimmy: I have learned so many things about the book community that I had no idea about before. I learned about different types of readers, different publishing techniques, and how different authors go about reaching out to their audiences. I also got to see insights and stats about how book sales did in 2021 and all the different audience demographics, and that was really cool.
Simone: I am brand new to the PRH community, but I am constantly thinking about how I can improve my content to be more engaging for readers.
What is your number one piece of advice for authors looking to get started on TikTok?
Simone: Play around with all different types of videos and don’t get discouraged! Explore a range of formats and figure out what your audience enjoys watching. You’ll be surprised by the content that resonates the most with viewers on TikTok. My other piece of advice is get to know TikTok and understand how trends and popular sounds work. Viewers love topical content.
Kimmy: I would definitely say know your target audience. Sometimes I see videos that are pretty vague, like infinite people could read different context into that video, and those don’t do too well. But some authors, like Sophie Lark (@sophielarkauthor), are quite interactive with their followers and supporters, posting videos that are very on brand and in line with the books that she puts out into the world. Her following continues to grow. She’s also a very personal creator—she does different unique things like skits and walk-throughs of her writing process and I just think that’s pretty cool.
Or maybe if you don’t want to show your face, you can lean toward what Lauren Asher (@laurenasherauthor) does. She creates little teasers and scenario videos that don’t reveal her face at all, just parts of her books that are non-spoilery. Those also perform very well!
What is one thing you recommend authors NOT do on TikTok?
Kimmy: I see some authors talk about other creators in their personal videos—either making indirect jabs at them or dragging them—and that feels not only immature but uncomfortable. So I would definitely shy away from anything that would make a creator feel off in terms of a response to them.
Simone: Don’t make your videos too long! Viewers have a very short attention span, so try to hook them in with visuals or interesting content. Also, don’t give up if your videos don’t gain traction at first. Keep on posting and trying again.
What type of content do you love to see most from authors?
Simone: I personally love seeing behind-the-scenes content around working with publishers, book covers, book release parties, and the overall writing process. I also love when authors talk about specific characters from their books or how they became an author, like this example from Amy Zhang.
Kimmy: I love the little teasers that authors do—I think that adds a lot of suspense and excitement around a book. Any sit-down talk videos I see, I usually enjoy, like Colleen Hoover (@colleenhoover), for example. Her videos alone are enough for me to know that I like her as a person and that I want to support her. She really shows her personality in her videos, and it builds this bond that makes you want to support her in any way you can. Even little peeks into your personal life—like showing how giving you are or how funny you are—make a big difference!
Who are some authors that are doing a great job interacting with readers on TikTok?