TikTok’s #BookTok boasts over 160 billion views as of this month and Katie Siegel is just one BookTok influencer who is making her dreams come true thanks to the platform.
Thanks to consistently posting comedy sketches and other types of scripted content like episodic web series for several years, Siegel has amassed a TikTok following of over half a million.
In May 2021, Siegel wanted to gauge her audience’s interest in a new web series about Charlotte Illes, a once-kid-detective who unexpectedly finds herself solving a mystery as an adult. She published a one-minute pilot episode that went viral (the video now has over 600,000 views).
One viewer was book editor Shannon Plackis who thought ‘this would be such a great mystery series […] There’s always talk in the publishing world about what young, cool sort of stories can speak to younger mystery readers. I felt like this ticked all those boxes” Plackis told Insider.
Plackis is now Siegel’s editor at independent publisher Kensington Books. Plackis had no indication the video creator would have any interest in bringing her character to the page. But after perusing her website, she found the line about Siegel’s writing ambitions, and reached out. The two decided to work together on a proposal, and a few months later, Siegel had a six-figure, two-book contract with Kensington Books.
Vida Engstrand, the director of communications at Kensington, said there are no hard and fast rules when calculating debut novel advances, but that Siegel’s pre-existing following on TikTok, as well as the audience interest in the specific video that went viral and the BookTok phenomenon in general were certainly considerations when devising her contract.
It should be noted that TikToker to author is not an everyday occurrence. Siegel was the first and, so far, only author Plackis has found on TikTok. It was serendipitous — Plackis does not actively use the platform for discovery. Still, having a viral video and an audience that’s already engaged in a story can be a predictor of success, though not a guarantee of it.