Andrea Cheong is a fashion coach and creator who has spent the past six months working on a book with a publisher. This week, the unnamed business pulled out of their agreement believing Cheong gives away all of her content online without charge and therefore her followers would not need to spend money on her writing.
The result of this was a tearful video by the creator on TikTok in which she shared her dismay and asked her audience outright – would they buy a book by her? Was the publisher right?
Over two thousand people wrote back saying yes – a permanent, physical guide is exactly what they want. That books and TikToks are not the same thing. Over three hundred thousand people have watched the video so far.
From an industry perspective, all of this is a surprising turn of events as there is so much evidence that influencers’ audiences buy their books. They buy them in their droves. To the extent that barely a week goes by without at least one of them popping up in the Sunday Times’ bestsellers list. There is no trend for consumers feeling that they can get – and have got – everything they need from the influencers’ platforms alone. In fact, the trend is quite the opposite.
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Influencer books are constant bestsellers
In the past few months alone, Dr Hazel Wallace’s The Female Factor was a bestseller in August, Alex Light’s You Are Not a Before Picture was a bestseller in June and Edd Kimber’s Small Batch Bakes was a bestseller in September.
You wouldn’t think people had any more to learn about Molly-Mae Hague, but her memoir Becoming Molly-Mae was still a bestseller in June. All of these people are sharing content related to their books online – sometimes across multiple platforms – everyday. And we’re not even touching on fiction, where creators are doing a roaring trade.
Why are influencers so prolific in the bestseller lists? Two reasons. Firstly, their social content is how they have built engaged audiences and secondly, those audiences are motivated to pre-order. On top of that, these followers will share content about the book when it arrives, creating a halo affect around the launch. I’m just scratching the surface here, there is a lot more to say.
The idea that publishing online is cannibalising a person or publisher’s value is such an old-fashioned idea. Online content doesn’t eradicate the consumer’s motivation to buy, it fires it.
And as for Cheong? It looks like her book publishing story may have a happy ending yet. She wrote on TikTok: “I think I’m gonna have updates for u soon 🥺 all bc of you I think I have another shot at this!!!” The power of community and daily interaction should never be underestimated or minimised. I expect the publisher who dropped her book may come to regret it.
By Sara McCorquodale, CEO and founder of CORQ.