The Social Media Company Is Looking To Give Amazon, and Traditional Publishing, A Run for Its Money…But Is That What’s Best for Authors?
Almost half of America’s three hundred million citizens are on TikTok at any given time, making it a powerful tool for influence. In first quarter of 2023, it generated almost half-a-billion dollars in revenue for merchants.
It’s not surprising that book lovers carved out their own special niche on TikTok, known as BookTok. BookTok offers the largest social community for book lovers and generates nearly 30 billion views a day. Books that are featured on BookTok end up becoming such hot sellers that even big box retailers like Barnes & Nobles now watch their trending list to see what titles to stock.
Competing With The Giants
On April 20th, 2023, ByteDance filed a trademark for 8th Note Press. In addition to ebook, audio, and print book publishing, it also covered downloadable software designed to connect registered users to a virtual community offering discussions, book reviews, and social networking.
This could be a game changer for the publishing industry. Amazon offers the widest selection of books but people leave the moment the purchase is done. TikTok offers a social environment and a retail capability but doesn’t help authors publish their works. Good Reads, which Amazon bought, was supposed to help Amazon cross that bridge but it didn’t work out that way. Combining BookTok’s momentum with a full-scale publishing house could tip the scales in TikTok’s favor.
This, though, presents a problem. If TikTok controls the publishing, will they stop allowing books that aren’t published through 8th Note Press to be promoted? Will they skew the algorithm in favor of their books and bury the alternatives?
The Temptations Of Publishing Success
It’s hard to tell authors who are looking for their books to become a household name to avoid getting involved with something that could make their dreams come true with a single promotion. It’s easy to get caught up in the promise and not think through the potential consequences of what could happen.
Imagine, though, a scenario where there is only one publishing option and only one platform with the real power to promote an author. That is something that could happen if 8th Note Press gains power. Right now, BookTok is helping authors get past the normal gatekeepers. But imagine a future where 8th Note Press is the only gatekeeper, and authors must dance to their tune if they want their books to see the light of day.
That might sound like an unlikely, gloom-and-doom scenario, but the truth is that most publishing houses these days do not ever make more than they pay out in advances on royalties for 70% of the titles they produce. They rely on a few heavy hitters to keep them in the black. This is why we’ve gone from 20 big publishing houses prior to the 1980’s to just five major players.
Small and medium-sized publishing houses often face even thinner profit margins. They could never compete with a heavyweight like 8th Note Press in terms of capital and clout. Trying to might shutter their doors for good, leaving authors no option but 8th Note Press and no hope of getting published without them.