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Link: How a Self-Published Book, ‘The Shadow Work Journal,’ Became a Best Seller - The New York Times

The real creator of “The Shadow Work Journal” is Keila Shaheen, a 25-year-old writer from Texas with a background in marketing who self-published the book in 2021, and has since been crowned “the self-help queen of TikTok.” After the journal blew up on TikTok, Shaheen went on to sell more than a million copies. Most of those — nearly 700,000 copies — were sold through the TikTok shop, and were marketed relentlessly by passionate influencers like Glay, who earn a 15 percent commission on each sale from Zenfulnote, Shaheen’s company. Others wonder just how much bigger Shaheen’s self-help empire can get. Earlier this year, Shaheen signed a five-book deal with Simon & Schuster, after months of being courted by big publishing houses. Simon & Schuster won her over with an unusual arrangement: a seven-figure advance, plus a 50-50 profit share. Publishers typically give authors an advance and then a 15 percent cut of royalties if they earn back the advance. The deal included a new, expanded edition of “The Shadow Work Journal,” which was released in late April, with a first printing of 100,000 copies, plus two new books by Shaheen. “We really wanted to show Keila that we had a long-term vision,” said Michelle Herrera Mulligan, the vice president and associate publisher of Primero Sueño Press/Atria, the Simon & Schuster imprint that signed Shaheen. “There is still a huge untapped audience for this book.” By September, the book hit No. 1 on Amazon. In October, Shaheen met with two agents from United Talent Agency, Rebecca Gradinger and Albert Lee. The agency could help her build an international audience and get her book in physical stores, they told her. Shaheen signed with them about a week before the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest fair for international rights in publishing, and the agency then sold translation rights to “The Shadow Work Journal” in 27 countries, Lee said. Shaheen was still reluctant to hand over U.S. rights to “The Shadow Work Journal.” She was already a best seller, and “the initial offers weren’t compelling,” she said. Her agents agreed that a typical publishing deal might not benefit her. “Keila’s at the vanguard of unlocking this entirely new market and ecosystem,” Lee said. “It became very obvious that in traditional publishing, we were all well behind what Keila was doing.” Shaheen was swayed by Primero Sueño’s profit-splitting offer, which came with a plan to publish and market Spanish-language editions. Shaheen, whose father is from Puerto Rico and whose mother is from Brazil, saw the potential to expand her reach among Spanish speakers. It’s still unclear whether “The Shadow Work Journal” will catch on with a wider demographic, or if it owes its popularity to a viral trend that has waned. So far, the new edition has sold nearly 18,000 copies, according to Circana Bookscan — a healthy amount, but hardly a hit. #


Yoooo, this is a quick note on a link that made me go, WTF? Find all past links here.