Shawn Warner, 58, was experiencing a lull in sales during a book signing when he was approached by a TikToker interested in giving away a copy of Warner's book. What happened next was beyond his wildest imagination.
"It's launched me to someplace I certainly never thought I would be, especially as a debut author," said Warner, author of the young adult murder mystery novel "Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor." "It’s just been an incredible journey so far."
A video of Warner posted by TikTok user Jerrad Swearenjin (@internetfamouslol) received more than 17 million views on the platform. In the video, Swearenjin asked Warner about his book and how he got into writing mysteries.
He then asked Warner if he would sign a book for a TikTok giveaway, and Warner agreed. Swearenjin picked a giveaway winner on Thursday.
Swearenjin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"This new author looked super defeated when I first walked past him," Swearenjin wrote in his TikTok. "So before I left the store I decided to go back."
After Swearenjin posted his TikTok, many viewers rushed to support Warner and his book. "Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor" quickly became a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon, with hundreds of people leaving five-star reviews.
Warner said it's often difficult to get noticed as a debut author, and like many writers, he said he struggled to break through before this.
"I certainly never thought I would hit 1,000, let alone the numbers that I've hit now," he said. "It's just amazing."
Beyond TikTok virality, Warner said reading the comments and reviews of his book on Amazon has been a validating experience.
One guy saw another sitting there, bored and alone trying to sell his stuff, and he just came over to say hello out of an act of kindness.
-author Shawn Warner
"People are actually enjoying the book for its own sake, and that means a lot to me," he said.
Warner was not an avid social media user before, but he joined TikTok to respond to his supporters on the platform. While the attention has been overwhelming, Warner said he is grateful for the "outpouring of love and generosity."
"One guy saw another sitting there, bored and alone trying to sell his stuff, and he just came over to say hello out of an act of kindness," Warner said. "And that one act by one person triggered a tsunami of generosity after."
Per readers' requests, Warner and his publisher are working on creating an audiobook for the novel as well as translated editions for international readers. He is also working on his next book.
TikTok has proved itself a powerful tool for smaller authors in the past. In February, Lloyd Devereux Richards' novel “Stone Maidens” became the top-selling book in the serial killer-thriller genre on Amazon after his daughter posted a TikTok, which went viral, about it.