Could Instagram or TikTok help you generate reviews and sell copies of your new book?
One author who offers a resounding yes to that question is Doug Evans. He's behind The Sprout Book: Tap into the Power of the Planet's Most Nutritious Food. The Sprout Book is hugely popular and was an Amazon Best Seller.
Doug has grown social media accounts on TikTok and Instagram, with many of his posts going viral and attracting thousands or hundreds of thousands of likes. Doug used his social media accounts to generate reviews for The Sprout Book and sell more copies.
I wanted to catch up with Doug to determine what types of content authors should create on social media and how they can get started if they procrastinate.
In this episode, we discuss the following:
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Doug: So we have more than enough food. Another thing I like about sprouts is, because you're growing them on demand, they're very environmentally friendly as opposed to shipping fresh produce, which is mostly water in a refrigerated truck that has a fuse on it. Because with a short shelf life, it's going to blow up quickly. The idea that you could ship dry seeds, someone locally can add water on ever fresh crop on demand, is very, very powerful.
Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: Could Instagram or TikTok help you generate reviews and sell copies of your new book? Hi there. My name is Bryan Collins, and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. One author who offers a resounding yes to that question is Doug Evans. He's the man behind The Sprout Book: Tap into the Power of the Planet's Most Nutritious Food. Now The Sprout Book is a hugely popular book. It was an Amazon Best Seller. It was published around 2020. Doug has grown social media accounts on TikTok and Instagram, with many of his posts going viral and attracting thousands or hundreds of thousands of likes. Better yet, Doug has actually used his social media accounts to generate reviews for The Sprout Book and also to sell more copies of it.
I wanted to catch up with Doug to figure out what types of content authors should create on social media, how they can get started if they're procrastinating — certainly something that I've been a victim of — and also, which networks are the best these days. Doug gives a great insight into his content creation process for these social media channels.
Now I'm currently spending more time creating short-form content as well. So I'm creating short-form reels about writing and content creation for a new Instagram channel @becomeawritertoday. Go and check it out. I'm also taking some of the long-form videos that I've published on the Become a Writer Today channel on YouTube. I'm turning them into shorts for YouTube and experimenting with TikTok. No plans to do any dancing videos just yet. I'm doing this because short-form content is an art in itself, and it's also a great way of growing an account and attracting more followers.
But my key takeaway from creating short-form content is that, it's not quite as easy as it looks. In fact, I started by trying to repurpose long videos and turning them into reels. But now I've actually pivoted my approach. I'm creating short-form content specifically for these social media networks. In other words, I'm recording these videos separately. I found that this is a creation process that has worked a little bit better for me. That's actually something similar to what Doug is doing. He creates short-form content specifically for Instagram and TikTok. It has helped him create a series of viral videos and obviously blown up his accounts.
I hope you enjoy this week's interview with Doug. It was a good one. If you do, don't forget to review the show on iTunes and also share it with any writers who you think will enjoy the episode. Because when you review the show, it does help more people find it and download it. Obviously when you share the show, it does the same thing. Please do check out the Become a Writer Today channels on YouTube, Instagram, and perhaps TikTok. Now let's go over to Doug Evans.
Bryan: My guest today is Doug Evans. He's the author of The Sprout Book and a pioneer in plant-based health nutrition. Doug has also used social media, including Instagram, TikTok, and other channels to garner hundreds, if not thousands of reviews for his book. Welcome to the show.
Doug: Hey, thanks so much, Bryan. Thanks for having me.
Bryan: Doug, can you tell the listeners about The Sprout Book? What is it all about?
Doug: Yeah, I live in the desert, as you can see. When I moved to the desert, I realized not only was I in the desert. I was in a food desert and that I didn't have easy access to food. You ask the right questions; you get the right answers. So I asked the question, how can I grow my own food? Then the answer came to me very powerfully. I got the download that it was sprouts and sprouting. Within a month, I was basically living on sprouts. So I was growing my own alfalfa, azuki, radish, clover, broccoli, chia, lentils, flax, all sorts of peas. I got really into sprouts, and I realized that most people around the world weren't into sprouts. What I found so fascinating and powerful about sprouts is that you could grow them without soil, without sunshine, without fertilizer. You could grow them in days, and you'd have this abundance crops. So I felt like that was a message that was so powerful that needed to get out to the world.
Bryan: All facts about sprouts that I did not know. It's unusual to write a book about sprouts, still. So at what point did you realize this interest in this kind of topic?
Doug: Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of books actually written on sprouts. They just never had a lot of force behind them. There were none of them done by a major publisher, so I said I'm going to write a book. I'll get it published by one of the largest publishers. I'll get massive distribution, and it will become a best seller. The Sprout Book became the number one best-selling vegan book, vegetarian book, on Amazon. It hit number 69 of all books on Amazon. So it really shot up there out of 3.4 million books or so. It broke that 100, Top 100, which is a big feat.
Bryan: Congratulations. That's an amazing success for a book, that I suppose you decided to publish yourself rather than having the support of a big publisher behind you.
Doug: Oh, no, I actually did have a big publisher. I did have St. Martin's Press, which is a label of Macmillan. So they did buy the book. They're the only publisher that bought the book. But I didn't have major funds behind it. But at least, I had the framework of a major publisher.
Bryan: That's what I was going to get to, Doug. It sounds like you've done a lot of the marketing and promotion for the book yourself, and really successfully on Instagram, on TikTok. So could you tell our listeners a bit about some of the content that you created around The Sprout Book?
Doug: Yeah, basically, I felt that the message in the book was very powerful. The book is 288 pages, 60,000 words, trade paperback. So the publisher didn't want a glossy book. There's no photos inside. I actually paid out of my own pocket for the cover photography. But I felt that the sprouts were so alive and so visual that I needed to tell the story. So I just used whatever medium was available — initially, Instagram. Then I went on to TikTok. Then I also went on quite a few podcasts, dozens of podcasts. I was willing to tell my story to everybody. I even called up Good Day New York. I had met the producer there, one of the hosts, many years ago. I just FaceTimed her. I told her, "Hey, what do you know about sprouts?" She didn't know anything, so I pitched her about sprouts. I got on the plane and secured a six-minute segment on Good Day New York on Fox News.
Bryan: Which of those channels or media platforms would you say has driven the most success or sales for The Sprout Book?
Doug: I think it's a combination of all of them. I think if you do a webinar, if you do a podcast, you can do it. I've had many of my videos on TikTok and Instagram go viral. I probably had 100 million views of my content. You just don't know, but it's consistent that people buy the book every day. It's now in the 10th edition. Tens of thousands of copies of the book have been sold.
Bryan: Since 2020?
Doug: Since 2020. So if I didn't step on the gas and break a sweat, the book would have died in the first edition because it was not a topic that people were familiar with. But to me, I was so passionate about it, so authentic. I was willing to do the work. And so I think if the book is successful, it's a result of the extra energy I put into the book afterwards.
Bryan: I'm looking at some of your TikTok videos here, Doug. You have one that got 60,000 views about how to replace protein powder, what I guess is must be sprouts or some sort of green. You have another great video all about how to use chia seeds which has over 10,000 views at the moment. Then you have a couple of videos that have a million views. So what's the secret to creating a good, viral, friendly video or reel perhaps about a book? Because I'm sure authors are listening and thinking, "I'm comfortable with the written words, but I'm not comfortable with video."
Doug: I think you got to get out of your comfort zone. Like to me, I've had several videos go viral. I've also had several videos that have had very few views. Its point is consistency. I've probably posted on TikTok over 500 videos. So you could just keep going.
Bryan: Since 2020?
Doug: Well, no, I didn't even start on TikTok. I started on TikTok about a year ago.
Bryan: Wow. And you've got 3 million likes on @sproutwiz, which is your TikTok handle.
Bryan: Fantastic. So you're publishing one per day, or do you have a particular strategy that works?
Doug: On TikTok, I do one a day. On Instagram, I may do one or two a week depending on how I feel. I've got different audiences on both, and sometimes I take the same content I put in on each platform. But otherwise, I do unique content for each platform.
Bryan: Fantastic. Are you recording the videos in bulk? Because I'm sure it's quite time-consuming to create some of these. So do you sit down and say, today I'm going to knock out 15 videos for TikTok?
Doug: Yeah, well, what I'll do is, I'll create an outline of what I want to communicate. Then I will have someone come and shoot in one day on just a ton of content. Then also, the podcasts. I strip content from existing podcasts, and I put that up. So that seems to do really well, as well. So if you're on a podcast, on a good podcast, and there's a good person, it looks very professional, and it's a good forum, then you could just take the relevant sound bites and repurpose them. What also helped is, several of the videos that went viral then got picked up by other people and repurposed and tagged me on accounts that had 500,000 or a million viewers. So it just became a cascading effect.
Bryan: Are you still using content and ideas from The Sprout Book, or have you moved on to other topics related to it?
Doug: Pretty much, all I talk about is sprouts.
Bryan: Wow. What if you want to write another book at some point in your career? How would you approach that?
Doug: Well, I think I have a lot of permission. My publisher wants to do another book with me. I have permission to go in different directions. I just feel that a lot of people I've watched, they have something really good. Then they get distracted and go do something else like Michael Jordan going to play golf or baseball. He lost a good couple of seasons of playing basketball. So I think sprouts are my basketball. They're my fastball. We're only scratching the surface of what can happen with sprouts.
Bryan: So do you have a course related to growing sprouts as well, or you're just selling the book?
Doug: I have a course coming out soon. I did a course with OneCommune. They're an alternative masterclass company, but they do more spiritual and higher consciousness. So they have Deepak Chopra, and Marianne Williamson, and Russell Brand, and people that are more spiritually wellness-oriented than the mainstream masterclass.
Bryan: I like it. And when you're recording a video or a reel for TikTok or Instagram, do you spend much time editing and going through and trying to decide which one works?
Doug: No, it's not going to be perfect. I just get it out there. I do most of my editing on my phone.
Bryan: Do you edit the videos yourself?
Doug: I edit a lot. All of my Instagram stuff, I do myself.
Bryan: Wow. Impressive. Do you spend much time per week on promotion and creating content like this, obviously growing sprouts and working on your book or next book?
Bryan: How much time do you spend per week?
Doug: I would say no more than 20 minutes a day.
Bryan: Oh, that's not long at all.
Doug: No, and I don't consume other content. I'm pretty much just pushing things out there, so I can stay focused.
Bryan: It's fair to say that you probably don't have too many competitors who are creating reels or short-form social media content about sprouts, although the gardening or healthy food niche will be quite big.
Doug: You'd be surprised. A lot of people are doing it. They just don't cross over to virility. They do things, and they got 1,000 followers. 100 people of their following will see it, and it's done. So to break through really is a persistence game.
Bryan: Have you considered testing any ideas for your next book on social media first before you decide to write the current book?
Doug: No. If I want to do something, I just do it. I have my guiding light. I don't need outside validation.
Bryan: Interesting. And when it comes to your reels, do you have a whole core introduction that you like to use, or do you just vary it by video?
Doug: Yeah, every video is different.
Bryan: Okay. So there's no accounts that you look to for inspiration? Because you were saying a few moments ago that you don't really consume much content on the platforms.
Doug: No, not at all.
Bryan: Oh, fantastic.
Doug: I'm open to it. If you want to send me some links, I'm happy to improve my game.
Bryan: Growing viral accounts related to a book, has it opened doors? For example, partnerships with brands or companies that's helped you build a business around The Sprout Book?
Doug: A lot of the people who reached out for partnerships, I don't like their products enough. So I've actually never done a paid post.
Bryan: Wow. So you're solely relying on sales for the book.
Doug: Well, yeah, I've got other side hustles. I own a hot spring near Joshua Tree in Southern California called Wonder Valley Hot Springs. Then I've also been fortunate enough to be successful in various ventures in my life. So I get to pursue my passion with most of my energy.
Bryan: Which is sprouts. And when you're thinking about all the content that you've created on social media, when you're thinking about your book, what for you drives the most meaning? Is it readers learning what you know about plant-based nutrition, or is it something else?
Doug: One of the things is just like the creating of movements of other people taking this on. If we think about the issue of health, 10,000 people a day on average die of starvation, and 10,000 people a day die of overeating.
Bryan: Right. That's a huge contrast.
Doug: Yeah, the overeating leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes. All those complications add up. So you have people that are on both sides of the spectrum. What I think is, sprouts really solve the problem for wealthy people. Because wealthy people, because they're so wealthy, they are buying what they think is healthy food, when in fact their brain is being programmed and manipulated to eat meat, dairy, chicken, fish, animal products, processed food, bread, pizza, pasta, cheese, dairy. In fact, those things are 100% attributable to obesity, diabetes, heart disease. So just getting people to eat more sprouts, it's displacing room in their stomach for other junk.
Then for the poorest people, they can grow sprouts for pennies a serving. It's unfortunate that a lot of the care and the feeding that's attempted, being done, to the poor people is also contributing to their malnourishment. We have more than enough food. Another thing I like about sprouts is, because you're growing them on demand, they're very environmentally friendly as opposed to shipping fresh produce, which is mostly water in a refrigerated truck that has a fuse on it. Because with a short shelf life, it's going to blow up quickly. The idea that you could ship dry seeds, someone locally can add water on ever fresh crop on demand, is very, very powerful.
Bryan: It's a powerful message. So Doug, if somebody's listening and they're thinking, "I have an idea that I'm passionate about — like you're passionate about sprouts — perhaps I have a book, it's not selling too many copies. I'm going to start using social media like Doug," how would you recommend they get started? Could you walk us through some of the steps they might take?
Doug: First of all, they have to really love their book.
Bryan: It always helps.
Doug: If they love their book, then they need to think about what aspect of the book they want to talk about. To me, if I wrote a children's book, I'd want to target mothers. I'd want to see how I can get mothers interested in my book. So I would create content that would appeal to mothers, that would want to be shared amongst mothers. If I wrote a novel about adventure, I would talk about little stories in the adventure, with a vivid detail and grip people in to make them curious to want to read the whole book or to be involved in what I was doing. If I had a book on how to optimize your taxes, I would give bits of the book out on social media in digestible sound bites, and I'd want to make them funny and entertaining and powerful.
Bryan: When somebody's creating content like that, would you recommend that they look at their statistics much and use that to tailor their content at any point?
Doug: I think the first thing that they got to do is just get the content out there. They got to get out of their own way and just start publishing a content. You don't need a statistician or a data scientist to see, oh, this video is doing better than that one. So you want to just be attuned to what's going on. And if someone doesn't know where to go, they can look at other authors and see what content they're creating, what works, it doesn't work. It's a very personal, unique experience. What worked for someone yesterday may not work for them today. And what worked for me yesterday doesn't work for me today. I have to constantly change things up to catch the wave of the algorithm.
Bryan: Yeah, TikTok has been great for you, Doug. I'm wondering. BookTok is massive for fiction authors and for genre fiction readers. Has that helped you at all at any point, the BookTok community?
Doug: I don't even know about it.
Bryan: Oh, so it's like a no. Basically, TikTokers review books in science fiction or fantasy. Then if a lot of people liked the review, they'll go buy the book. Apparently, it's sent a lot of books to the top of the charts from avid TikTok or BookTokers. I was curious. Perhaps there's something similar for nonfiction.
Doug: Send me a link. I'll take a look at it.
Bryan: Doug, I know we're tight on time today. Where should the listeners go if they want to get The Sprout Book or perhaps see some of your content?
Doug: I would say, I'm on Instagram @dougevans. I'm on TikTok @sproutwiz. I'm on Twitter, now known as X, as Doug Evans. I have a newsletter coming out that you could sign up for at www.thesproutbook.com.
Bryan: What are you going to send out in the newsletter? Recipes or content?
Doug: Yeah, recipes, content, resources, tips and tricks, just engaging the audience on a deep level.
Bryan: Fantastic. I'll include all those links in the show notes. Doug, it's always great to hear about how you're using social media to sell your book.
Doug: My pleasure, Bryan. You're doing a great service interviewing people like me and getting your message out to the world.
Bryan: Thank you.
Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit patreon.com/becomeawritertoday or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books, discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.