Nonfiction Authors Podcast host Carla King interviews Kelly Schuknecht: Why TikTok Isn’t Just For Kids Anymore, What Nonfiction Authors Need to Know

Nonfiction Authors Podcast | June 1, 2022 10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET

Kelly Schuknecht - Why TikTok Isn't Just for Kids Anymore, What Nonfiction Authors Need to Know

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketing strategist with a background in the publishing industry. She loves helping authors navigate the world of social media to discover new ways to grow their audience and sell more books. She recently launched a course: Marketing Your Book on TikTok. Learn more about Kelly at

Nonfiction Authors Podcast: Kelly Schuknecht

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Show Notes


In this episode…

  • Learn the difference between TikTok and other social media platforms.
  • Understand TikTok’s audience and users.
  • When authors should start using TikTok and how to get started.
  • How to market your book on TikTok.
  • Important hashtags that authors on TikTok should know about, specifically BookTok.
  • How to edit videos in TikTok to make them most valuable to viewers.
  • Creative ideas for content creation on TikTok.
  • Tips for sharing TikTok videos on other social media platforms.
  • How to connect with a more local audience.


Hello and welcome to the interview series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Kelly Schuknecht and we will be talking about why TikTok isn’t just for kids anymore and what nonfiction authors need to know. I’m Carla King, your host, and I’m happy to have you with us today. This interview will last only 30 minutes and you can find the replay on our Nonfiction Authors Association website and social media platforms including YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

And now I’d like to introduce our guest.

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketing strategist with a background in the publishing industry. She loves helping authors navigate the world of social media to discover new ways to grow their audience and sell more books. She recently launched a course: Marketing Your Book on TikTok. Learn more about Kelly at

Hey, Kelly. Welcome to the Nonfiction Authors podcast.

Kelly Schuknecht 1:50

Hi, Carla. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Carla King  2:01

Me too. Because, you know, when TikTok appeared, I thought, ‘Well, who knows how long this thing is gonna last–this little video gimmick?’ And okay, it’s a while now–it looks like it’s here to stay. So can we start with–what exactly is TikTok, and maybe what it’s not?

Kelly Schuknecht 2:21

Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, I agree. When TikTok first came on the scene, I really discovered it because my kids were using it. And I had to check it out. And I was just fascinated by it. So I’d like to think of TikTok as–it’s a social media app that’s video first. So I think of Twitter as being kind of text first. You can add images, you can add video, but for the most part, it’s a text first social media platform. Instagram is image first, and TikTok is video first. So it’s all about the video, and just how we can create videos that people find fun and engaging and want to connect with us because of them.

Carla King 3:07

Okay, great. So we’re gonna do video. How does it actually work?

Kelly Schuknecht  3:14

So TikTok–you can have the app on your phone, you can also access it on your desktop, you can have it on your iPad. The best way to use it, in my opinion, is on your actual phone. You can record the videos on your phone. You can upload videos. If you record the video in the actual app, TikTok has all these features. They’re called effects. So one of the tricks I do is–when I haven’t done my makeup for the day, I can use one of the effects in TikTok to make it look like I have my makeup on, righ? There’s fun little games you can play in your videos, things like that. So you can record those videos. It’s best if you record them and publish them right away. But you can schedule them if you do them through the desktop app, also. And whichever phone you have–if you have an iPhone, an Android–as long as you can access the app within your phone, you can use it.

Carla King 4:16

So just to be clear–you open the TikTok app on your phone or your desktop and you hit ‘record video.’ And is there a time limit that you have?

Kelly Schuknecht  4:26

Yeah, good question. So it used to be that the limit was 15 seconds. And that made TikTok really unique. They then extended it to one minute. So you can do a 15 second video or a one minute video. Then they added three minute videos, which was, you know–people were kind of like, ‘I’m not sure about this.’ What makes TikTok fun is everything’s really fast. You’re just consuming content really fast. So three minutes is pretty long. Now they’re rolling out 10 minute videos. So again, interesting. We’ll see what happens with that. And when I say ‘rolling out,’ not everyone has access to it yet. So some users have access to 10 minute videos, but not everyone on the platform has it yet.

Carla King 5:06

Got it–it’s that beta test group, right? Yeah, I’m in some of those with technology, and it’s kind of fun to experiment with. So you have to really kind of plan out your content, or just be interesting all the time.

Kelly Schuknecht 5:20

Right. Yeah, that’s the challenge is–if you’re gonna go more than 15 seconds, more than a minute, then you need to make sure that your content is really engaging. And that people are going to want to watch it past that one minute mark.

Carla King  5:34

Is it a mostly teenager focused platform? Who do you see on TikTok?

Kelly Schuknecht  5:41

So that’s the common misconception–that TikTok is just for kids, and it’s all about dancing. There’s definitely a lot of kids on the app, and there’s definitely dancing–a lot of dancing–that happens. But that’s not the main thing on the app. You don’t have to dance, so authors can rest assured that if they’re going to use the app, they don’t have to dance, or sing, or do anything like that.

There’s lots of variety in the types of videos that are on there. One of the recent studies showed that TikTok has 1 billion active users, which–that’s amazing. There are a billion people actively using the app. Of those, 25% are in that really young category– 10 to 19 years old. The funny thing about that stat is–I don’t know how they got the 10 to 19, because you’re not even supposed to be on the app at 10 years old. I think you have to be 12 or 13. I’m not sure, but it seems a little young for the app. But 22% are 20 to 29, 22% are 30 to 39, and 30% are 40+. So if you do the math on 1 billion active users, there’s a lot of active users who are 30+ using the app.

Carla King  6:57

You know, a lot of nonfiction authors–we span memoir, tech, health, cookbooks, business, all kinds. Is there a way to promote a nonfiction book? Is there a place there? Or is it scattered?

Kelly Schuknecht  7:22

Absolutely. You know, marketing your book is all about making sure that people know that your book exists, right? So nonfiction can be a large range of different genres. But whatever the genre is, if people are interested in the topic, you can create content that will attract those particular people. One of my favorite authors on Tik Tok is a children’s book author. I’ve had other authors ask me about, ‘How do I market my children’s book to kids on TikTok?’ He’s not marketing to the kids on TikTok. He’s marketing to the parents on Tiktok, who are going to buy the book, right?

So he does a lot of content around–he talks about his book sometimes. He talks about science, because his books are STEM based. And then he talks a lot about parenting. So he’s attracting the parents to his content, who then are going to see the book that he’s talking about. Maybe one out of every five to ten posts or TikTok’s is about his book. But the other content keeps them interested and helps them feel connected with him. They can relate to the content that he’s posting. So it helps him then be able to promote his book to them as the buyers, not necessarily the readers of the book.

Carla King 8:43

That’s so smart. And it just sounds like you have to know who your audience is–just like your email list, and Instagram, and Facebook–and find out where they’re hanging out and talk to them–your buyer. So it takes some research. It takes some communication. All right, good. This is sounding familiar, and a little easier to manage. So let’s talk about how to get started. It’s a little intimidating to think about putting out my first TikTok video.

Kelly Schuknecht 9:21

So here’s the thing. What I suggest to authors when they first get started, is to get on the app and start consuming some content. Start looking at what people are posting. The cool thing about TikTok is that it’s going to show you–so as you start watching videos, and you start liking content, engaging with content, commenting on it, following the TikTokers that are posting that content, TikTok starts to really understand you. And it starts to show you more of the videos that are in the categories of things that you would want to see. So that’s one of the really cool things about TikTok that’s different from other platforms.

A lot of times–if you’re on Twitter, for example, and you’re posting content, pretty much the only people who are gonna see your content are the people who are following you. Unless you’re using certain hashtags. They may discover your content through hashtags, or somebody shares it. But for the most part, your views on your content are going to be pretty low. On TikTok, it’s based on the viewer–what they see.

So my videos–for example–about book marketing, are going to be shown to people who have expressed interest in book marketing. Not just to the people who are following me. So as an author who’s getting on the platform–what they’re going to want to do is start to like and follow and comment on videos from the people who are their target audience, right? So me, for example–if I’m talking about book marketing, my target audience is authors. So I’m going to go out, and I’m going to try to find content from authors that I’m gonna engage in. And the more authors I’m connected with, the more TikTok is going to show me more content from authors–similar content. So the first thing to do is go out and look for those. Start liking and engaging in content, because that’s going to start bringing you more similar videos. There’s certain hashtags that authors should know about. And the first one–the most important one–is BookTok. Have you heard of BookTok before, Carla?

Carla King  11:42

I have heard about it, but I really don’t know what it is.

Kelly Schuknecht 11:46

Okay, so another cool thing about TikTok is that the users kind of form their own communities. So BookTok is the community for people who are talking about books on TikTok. So it’s readers, its authors, it’s a whole community. I often refer to TikTok as BookTok without even thinking about what I’m saying, because I’m so used to it. That’s my community on TikTok–it’s BookTok. There’s also AuthorTok. So those are a couple of hashtags–BookTok, AuthorTok. And then, whatever specific genre authors are in, they should be looking at those hashtags and seeing what content is out there that’s similar.

So if I have a cookbook–I don’t know the specific hashtags around the food community–but you can #cookbook, #food, and you’re probably going to start getting some recommended hashtags in there that will help you kind of hone in on what hashtags people are using, that are going to be interested in your content. So those are a couple of ways to start building your community before you even post a video.

The next thing is posting the actual video, right? But I recommend studying a little bit–what people are doing. Making notes about what you like from other videos. What sounds you like, what types of videos, and just start understanding the platform and kind of what the trends are. And once you start doing that, you’ll start to understand what type of video you want to create. Because you want to be strategic in your videos, you don’t want to just put out videos for the sake of putting out videos. But you want to really put out things that you like, right? That you would want to see. If you would want to see it, then other people are going to be interested in it as well.

Carla King  13:53

That’s a lot of information. And it’s super useful. I have to say, when I first got on TikTok, I got on it for about 15 minutes, and I was so appalled that I put it down. And so what I didn’t know, I guess, is that I could click on the things that I liked, or specifically search for hashtags, so I could just avoid that experience altogether.

Kelly Schuknecht 14:25

Maybe not altogether, because it may take a while. TikTok is going to send you a lot of stuff.

Carla King 14:31

And the popular stuff is probably not most appealing to the 40 and up crowd.

Kelly Schuknecht  14:39

Right. So maybe, for you, what would help is to just go straight into the–it’s ‘discover’ is kind of the search area. And search the hashtag–maybe search for the authors that you know, businesses, people that you think may be on there, and start following them right away. So you start kind of training TikTok to send you more appropriate videos for what you want to see.

Carla King  15:05

Because like everything else on the web, it tracks your activity. So  there’s hashtags for all kinds of things. I had a client last year who was doing real estate investing books. So he could get on there and just connect with other authors or look at other books. And then would force the algorithm to show him that, right?

Kelly Schuknecht 15:32

Yeah, real estate stuff is very, very popular on TikTok.

Carla King  15:36

Oh, really?

Kelly Schuknecht 15:37

Yeah, there’s a lot of agents that are on. And really, it’s funny–last night at dinner, my son said to me, ‘Yeah, there’s this lawyer that I follow on TikTok,’ and I got to file that one away. Lawyers, there’s doctors, there’s real estate agents, there’s therapists–you know, anything you can imagine–there are those professionals who are using Tiktok to promote their business in some way, promote their book if they have one. But yes, real estate–I see a lot of those. Where they’re talking about the market these days, and you can kind of make funny jokes about the market. And also be establishing yourself as the expert in that industry.

Carla King 16:24

Yes, and a lot of the Nonfiction Authors Association folks are business owners who are writing a book to promote their business, and express that they have expertise in this area. So when should an author start using Tiktok? Before the book is published, probably?

Kelly Schuknecht  16:44

Absolutely. You can grow your audience anytime, right? So there’s one person on TikTok actually–I can’t call her an author yet cuz she hasn’t published a book yet. But her name is Rachel Pedersen. She’s a social media strategist. But she became very well known on TikTok. And, through her success, has been asked to write a book, and she’s publishing it this year. I don’t know the specific genre, but I’m guessing it’s something related to social media and developing your presence on social media. So she is talking about that right now. She was already pretty TikTok famous before this, but now she’s talking about her upcoming book. So I’m watching for it. Because as soon as I know when it’s coming out, I’m gonna preorder it. So it’s never too early. You can talk about the writing process, you can talk about the publishing process. You can definitely build up some interest in your book before it actually gets published.

Carla King  17:51

Yeah, and you know, my focus in the past has been adventure travel. And I see a lot of adventure travel people on there–taking motorcycle trips to the desert and crazy countries. And there’s a lot of tourism and history. As you see, I dove into it last week when I invited you, and the algorithm is starting to kick in. So that’s kind of fun. And surprisingly, I found a lot of peers in the adventure travel arena. So I am studying what they’re doing. Theirs are more action oriented. I know a lot of fiction authors who are doing things, but I haven’t really seen–I need to really dive into the nonfiction books, right? See what people are doing there. Especially–I did see one TikTok, where somebody was showing a stack of the nonfiction books that they had read last year. And all they did was they took every book off. They had a stack and they just revealed every title.

Kelly Schuknecht 19:04

There’s lots of videos like that–where you can just kind of create the scene with books. So that was probably a reader talking about that. There’s a lot of people who are reviewing books on TikTok. So if you’re an author who has a book already published, that’s a great way to help spread the word about your book–is reaching out to reviewers, people who are already reviewing on TikTok. Like me, because I’m one of those people. I review books on TikTok. So when authors send me a copy of their book, I show it when I first get it.

So I do a book mail post, where I show the book that I got in the mail–show the cover of it, and then I’ll review it also. So finding people like that–who have a following, and can help get the word out about your book, and share it with their followers, and people who are interested in the BookTok community–is a great way to promote your book. So it’s not even your video. It’s being posted by somebody else, but it is getting out there.

Carla King 20:11

That can definitely create some excitement, for sure. Video is so compelling. I’m just imagining that your Advanced Reader Copies–your ARC’s–you could add the Tiktok reviewers to your list. And use NetGalley, or BookFunnel, or whatever to deliver it electronically. Which isn’t a book that’s on paper yet, but okay. Lots of ideas here. Any more ideas for us?

Kelly Schuknecht 20:44

When we’re talking about nonfiction, I was thinking that–there’s so many different kinds of genres. But actually a couple of authors, I want to share as examples in the nonfiction area. There’s Gabrielle Stone–and I think you mentioned that we can put the links to these in the show notes, so people can easily access them. So she has a memoir, which, I would think, would be very hard as a nonfiction author–as a memoir author–to get people interested in your book. She has 1.2 million followers on Tiktok. She’s a really great example of sharing her story and getting people really interested.

There’s also an author, her name is Kim Munch, who is a parenting coach, and she has a book about parenting. And she has 49,000 followers on Tiktok. And similar to the author I mentioned earlier, there’s an endless amount of content that you can produce to get parents to follow you–to be interested in your content. So it’s not just about hitting them over the head with the book all the time, but getting them really interested in what your mission is as an author–what your message is. And not just the book, the book, the book. But that’s kind of the secondary thing that people will be really interested in when they discover you, because of the really cool content that you’re putting out there. So those are just a couple examples I wanted to share.

Carla King 22:15

Okay, great. That’s good. Gives us somewhere to go–to start–so thanks. I did want to ask too, before we wrap up in the next few minutes–so what I noticed is that in addition to video, there’s these annotations, right? Just like Instagram, you can put little ‘wows,’ and filters, and words on top. And maybe–can you even edit video in Tik Tok? How easy or hard is it to put those layers on top?

Kelly Schuknecht 22:48

Once it goes out, you can’t edit it. But yes, so you can upload multiple videos. So if you’re going to upload–let’s say you have five different videos that are each a minute, and there’s some reason why you’re compiling them into one video–you can do that within the app. And then you can crop them a little bit–you can’t really cut. You can’t do a huge amount of editing within the app, but you can work with them a little bit. You can also–if you record in the app, one of the tricks to know is that you can record yourself in little spurts. So I can record myself saying one thing, stop. Record myself saying the next thing, stop.

And give myself time to think about what I’m saying, because I’m not always great at just talking off the top of my head. I need a minute to think as I’m sharing, so I can do that. And then I can then, within the app–I can go back through those little clips. I can cut one out, I could re-record one, I can shorten them. So that is a really great way to do it. If you’re trying to give something really mind blowing in one minute, it helps you really focus that content, the little things that you’re saying. And making sure that every single thing that comes out of your mouth is necessary and fits within that one minute.

Carla King 22:50

Right. Good to know. That’s a great feature. So say I record something on my iPhone and I want to put it on TikTok. Can you import a video?

Kelly Schuknecht  24:19

Yeah. So you can upload video and pictures. So sometimes people will do a montage with pictures. You can do a mix of videos and pictures. You can also do green screen. So that’s what I haven’t done when I’m doing a book review yet. I do green screen all the time. But I just saw one the other day that I was thinking, ‘Oh that’s great.’ You can do a green screen with the image of the cover behind you as you’re talking about the book.

As an author, same thing–you could do that kind of thing or if you’re doing a scene,maybe you’re–I keep bringing up cookbook–you have a cookbook, and you want to look like you’re in a kitchen. You can have a green screen image behind you that looks like you’re in a kitchen, even if you’re in your car, or whatever. So there’s lots of things like that that you can do within the app. And I want to say though, don’t get too overwhelmed with all of these details. I’ve been on TikTok for a long time, so I use all these features. But the most important thing is just to not get so overwhelmed. And just to kind of embrace putting yourself out there, showing your face and just doing it, right? So one of the best things you can do is just start doing it, and not worrying so much that it’s perfect. But start creating that content. And over time, you’re going to start–you’re going to get better. You’re going to improve that skill. So don’t let me turn you off by all of these details. Because really, you learn those details just with the practice and the experience.

Carla King 25:47

Right. So just start simple with the video and some words or something. And those can be surprisingly effective. I do have a friend in the adventure sports industry, that I’ve noticed is sharing Tiktok videos on Facebook and Instagram. Am I right? So you can spread it all out.

Kelly Schuknecht 26:08

Yeah. So there’s an app called SnapTik. That’s the one I use. There’s other ways you can do it. But you can export your video, or download the video from Tik Tok without the watermark. So the watermark–you’ve probably seen those–where it says TikTok, and it shows the user’s handle. I’ve heard that Instagram suppresses those. So if you’re going to repurpose those on Instagram in your story or reel, I’ve heard that it suppresses those, so I always just make sure that I download it without the watermark.

So there are apps you can use to do that. But that is a great way–if you’re going to put content out there, gonna spend the time on it, absolutely repurpose it. Share it in other ways. You can share it as a YouTube short, as an Instagram reel. You can share it to Facebook, Twitter, whatever. But  the more you share it, the more use you get out of that time that you spent on that one piece of content.

Carla King  27:06

Wow. So much. And then finally, localized content–if you’re marketing your books, or people in your area.

Kelly Schuknecht 27:15

So I have always worked on a national scale. So I don’t even think as far as local, because I live in a small town. I’m used to–everything I put out there is more national. But if you’re doing a book signing, or if you’re a real estate agent, and you’re trying to appeal to people in your local area, yes. Absolutely. You want to make sure, though, that you are focused on connecting with those local people–using the hashtags, location tags, things like that, to make sure that people do know where you are, and that you’re using it to really focus on your local area.

Carla King 27:56

I was just thinking–I have a friend who’s doing sort of a historical nonfiction book. And I thought maybe, if she hashtagged it for the certain area that she was writing about, then she might find people who were interested–in that local area. And history and travel together are just so huge that you can get a lot of audience there.

Kelly Schuknecht 28:27

And TikTok will also hone in on that for people–individual people. I’m in Colorado, so I will get videos that are specifically from people talking about Colorado, talking about Denver, whatever. So it will automatically share it with the people that it knows that are in that area.

Carla King 28:45

Okay. Awesome. That’s an easy way to start also. Okay, we’ve got to wrap up, but you have so much more to show us, and you’ve got a bunch of free stuff. So can you tell us about your services, your books, your freebies?

Kelly Schuknecht 29:06

Yeah. I have been obsessed with TikTok for a long time, because I ran a publishing company for 10 years. And when I got on TikTok, I just saw how much potential there was for authors. And I just started studying what authors were doing, how they were using it to promote their books.

Out of some of that research that I was doing, I created a post. It’s 19 Ways to Promote Your Book on TikTok. It’s just a blog post. You don’t have to give me your email address. It’s just free on my website. So I think we’ll share that in the show notes. That then goes into each of those 19 ways–I then dig deeper and explain more about how to do each of those things. So there’s examples of what others are doing. And none of them are one and done. They’re all things you can do over and over again.

Then out of that, I created the course–which you mentioned earlier–Marketing Your Book on Tok. So that is everything you need to get started. So if this 30 minutes was overwhelming, this will walk you through on your own pace, and help you set up your profile, record your first video–walk you through all of those steps. So all of that. And also, you can follow me on Tik Tok at Kelly Schuknecht.

Carla King 30:27

Would you spell that for us?

Kelly Schuknecht 30:28

Yes. So S-C-H-U-K-N-E-C-H-T is my last name. So it’s K-E-L-L-Y Schuknecht.

Carla King 30:36

Right. Oh my gosh, so much great information, Kelly. Thank you for being our guest today.

Kelly Schuknecht  30:42

Yeah, it was so much fun. I love talking about TikTok.

Carla King 30:48

And thank you to our listeners for joining us today.

And thank you to our listeners for joining us today and every week. For a list of guests and topics just check our schedule on the site, use your favorite search engine, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list at

Quotes from our guest

“So it’s not just about hitting them over the head with the book all the time, but getting them really interested in what your mission is as an author–what your message is. And not just the book, the book, the book. But that’s kind of the secondary thing that people will be really interested in when they discover you because of the really cool content that you’re putting out there.”

“The most important thing is just to not get so overwhelmed. And just to kind of embrace putting yourself out there, showing your face and just doing it, right? So one of the best things you can do is just start doing it, and not worrying so much that it’s perfect. But start creating that content. And over time, you’re going to start–you’re going to get better. You’re going to improve that skill.” “So it’s never too early [to start using TikTok]. You can talk about the writing process, you can talk about the publishing process. You can definitely build up some interest in your book before it actually gets published.”

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