Booktok Confused After Atria Sponsors Influencer on Cruise

Marc Sebastian, a TikTok influencer, found his way onto a drama-filled nine-month cruise in order to market a book from Atria Books.

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The last one cover on water.

If you’re familiar with bookish spaces online, you’ll know of Booktok, TikTok’s reading community. Filled with avid readers and constantly influencing which books become the next big hit, publishers have been trying to nail down that corner of the internet and influence which books make noise on TikTok. In a recent attempt to better reach their audience, Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, sponsored a popular TikTok influencer and offered him an opportunity on a cruise. Yet viewers were confused, when Atria chose to sponsor an influencer who wasn’t a part of Booktok at all, and even proclaimed that he doesn’t really read. Here’s what happened with Atria’s new attempt to market its books.

Who Is Marc Sebastian?

TikTok has a large array of popular influencers, one of whom is Marc Sebastian, an influencer with 1.7 million followers on the platform. Most of his content is geared more towards lifestyle or modeling, based on both his TikTok and Instagram presences.

Back in December, he made a video about Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas cruise. It’s a nine-month cruise packed full of influencers and, of course, packed full of drama. Sebastian publicly posted asking for the opportunity to join the cruise for one segment, where he’d promised to document and uncover as much as he could. A week later, he found his sponsor to join the cruise for 18 days through its portion in Antarctica, and on January 5th, he revealed the sponsor to be Atria.

What Book Is He Promoting?

Sebastian was sent out on the cruise with eight different books from Atria and allowed his followers to help choose which he would read. Coincidentally, his followers picked The Last One by Will Dean.

The Last One by Will Dean cover rope in water.

The Last One follows the story of Cas, a woman who goes on a cruise with her husband. Only to discover that after the first night of the cruise, everyone else is missing. Stranded on the ship, she must figure out what happened on her own. Considering the story takes place on a cruise, it seems that Sebastian and his followers picked the book best suited to his sponsorship.

Is The Promotion Working For Atria?

It cost Atria about $7,000 to send Sebastian on the portion of the cruise to Antarctica. Some BookTokers were upset by this decision. Sebastian, while he is a famous influencer, hasn’t involved himself in book content until now. So many fans of the book side of TikTok found themselves confused as to why Atria would sponsor someone who has even proclaimed to not really like reading.

Atria later explained in an interview with Publishers Weekly that the goal is to reach those who don’t normally read. Whether you read one book a year or one every week, Atria wants to reach its audience and encourage a wider range of people to pick up books again. Rather than appealing to an already established audience, this is its attempt to branch out.

Whether it works is still yet to be seen. Certainly, Atria as an imprint has received a lot more attention. But for The Last One, it seems only to be a small bump in sales so far. On the week of Sebastian’s announcement on January 6th, it sold 247 copies compared to 193 in the prior week. The other books that Sebastian could’ve read all saw a decline in sales.

Regardless of the overall impact on the sales of The Last One, it’s certainly interesting to see such a large influencer work alongside an imprint to document drama on a portion of a nine-month cruise.

Want more book news? Check out this article on the new Percy Jackson cover. Or, check out this Bookshop list of thrillers to read.