The Phenomenon of Self-Publishing: How a Self-Help Journal Became a TikTok Sensation

By: Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Welcome to a Revolution in Self-Publishing

In today’s world of digitized media and viral fame, one of the most unexpected yet compelling phenomena is the meteoric rise of self-published books, steered often by platforms like TikTok. This week, we're diving into one such story where a self-published self-help journal became a runaway bestseller, thanks to the feedback loop of social media.

Introducing the Shadow Work Journal

Keila Shaheen, in 2021, stumbled upon the theories of renowned psychologist Carl Jung concerning the shadow self. These theories greatly aided Shaheen in managing her anxiety, inspiring her to create a resource for others in similar struggles. Without a license in therapy but equipped with a substantial background in marketing, Shaheen self-published The Shadow Work Journal. Little did she know, her marketing skills would soon thrust her work into the spotlight.

The Role of TikTok in This Journey

Fast forward to 2023, and enter Kohn Glay, known on TikTok as @girldadsos. After discovering the journal through an ad, he decided to purchase it and subsequently shared his experiences on his TikTok account. His series of videos, which garnered immense attention, not only brought the journal into the limelight but also resulted in over 40,000 copies sold and a handsome commission—affirming the book’s skyrocketing popularity.

The Viral Effect: Analyzing the Feedback Loop

Glay’s influence led to a cascade of user-generated content, as more TikTok users purchased the journal and created their own videos, thereby perpetuating a self-sustaining cycle of influence. This "TikTok feedback loop" not only broadens the horizons of creators but also underpins the democratizing influence of social media on literature and psychology.

TikTok is a casino, and these are the slots.

The Highlights and Controversies

Today, The Shadow Work Journal has sold over a million copies, a stunning achievement for a DIY project. Shaheen has since landed an agent and inked a deal with Simon & Schuster, promising two more titles in the pipeline. Nevertheless, this comes amidst concerns expressed by mental health professionals regarding her lack of formal training.

Shaheen, however, positions her journal as a bridge rather than a substitute for professional therapy. She highlights the journal’s potential to support those in immediate need of coping tools while emphasizing that it should not be seen as a replacement for professional help.

New Beginnings and Future Projects

For those intrigued by the profound impact of social media on the publishing industry, check out the original article on New York Times. Furthermore, this story segues smoothly into another recent publication that explores the very essence of cultural shifts driven by algorithms—Kyle Chayka’s Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture.

Conclusion: The Double-Edged Sword of Accessibility

Shaheen’s story underscores the power and risks attached to the democratizing effect of the internet. While it is thrilling that individuals can now reach global audiences and share invaluable resources, one must tread carefully, discerning real expertise from mere influence.

Discover Bookish Merchandise

While journeys in what is essentially DIY publishing can be thrilling, the excitement can extend to every aspect of a reader's life. For those inspired by Keila Shaheen’s meteoric rise or simply looking to enhance their reading experience, explore the multitude of bookish merch available at Liam & Lore. From whimsical bookmarks to personalized journals, there’s something for every literary enthusiast.

June 01, 2024 — Kristin James