BookTok has become a major marketing force in the publishing world. It’s catapulted numerous titles to bestseller lists, helped boost some authors’ sales by 60% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022, and has become a regular topic in quarterly earnings calls at book retailers like Indigo.
TikTok‘s owner ByteDance apparently thinks it can wield that selling power for itself: It has begun soliciting authors to publish their books with its own recently launched publishing house, 8th Note Press.
According to The New York Times, ByteDance filed a trademark for “8th Note Press” in April 2023, describing the endeavour not only as a publisher, but as an ecosystem where people can find, buy, read, review, and discuss books.
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We’re not exactly sure what that means functionally. Maybe ByteDance wants to build an Amazon/Goodreads competitor? Either way, we do know ByteDance hired former Penguin Random House editor Katherine Pelz as 8th Note Press’ lead acquisitions editor, and that the press has been reaching out to self-published authors with less than impressive offers.
For example, bestselling romance author Tricia O’Malley–whose back catalog counts about 40 books–told the Times she received a message from 8th Note offering to acquire two books at a $3,500 advance per book, which is less than the titles already earn per month through her own efforts. (It’s normal for authors to be paid less when a publishing house acquires a book that’s been previously published, but $3,500 is still well below what established romance houses are paying.)
8th Note also offers royalties and marketing; the Times didn’t say what the royalty rate was.
O’Malley (who turned down the offer) also noted that ByteDance told her it’s looking for fantasy and romance, both previously published and unpublished. It wants books that are “wholesome, fun and sexy, but nothing too steamy or dark,” she said, and based on the PG-13 sound of that, it seems to be hoping TikTok’s swathes of Gen Z users will become book-buyers.
An email from ByteDance reviewed by the Times says 8th Note plans to focus on digital publishing with limited print-on-demand runs. Books will reportedly be sold in a digital store on TikTok.
ByteDance declined to comment on its publishing plans.