After becoming a TikTok sensation through social media marketing, Melissa Blair’s self-published fantasy series opener A Broken Blade will be published by Union Square & Co. next month.

Blair, a content creator with more than 40,000 followers on TikTok, where she discusses fantasy novels, took a unique approach to self-publication. After attempting the traditional publishing route in the past, Blair said she “never considered it for this series. I didn’t think many people would be interested in it apart from a small community on BookTok, and I was content with putting out the series as this hobby/experiment to see how it went.”

BookTok is a thriving community, leading to an uptick in book sales for authors who go viral on the platform and sparking conversation about the way publishers go about acquiring books. A Broken Blade, a fantasy novel that follows Keera, a young woman with elf blood who fights on behalf of the King despite his oppressive regime, falls into the booming genre of fantasy on TikTok, with #fantasybooktok pulling in over 93.6 millions views.

“I love BookTok,” Blair told PW. “It’s especially great if you’re a book lover who doesn’t have a lot of bookish people to talk to, which was certainly the case for me while I was reading a few books a week during lockdowns.”

That community-based aspect is what helped Blair’s launch of her novel gain such traction. In December 2021, Blair anonymously sent her novel to 25 BookTok creators to review.

“I wanted to launch it on TikTok because I wrote it for TikTok,” Blair explained. “I wanted to write something using all the tropes and elements the community seemed to love, but adding that Indigenous perspective I had been missing in the subgenre. I knew the community would be supportive—they are absolutely amazing—but I didn’t think it would get much bigger than that.”

#ABrokenBlade now has more than two million views, with several of the content creators raving about Blair’s story under the hashtag. But the campaign didn’t end there.

Along with the novel, Blair sent a letter as well as scrambled messages that differed across creators. In order to gain all of the other pieces of the message to decipher the entire clue, viewers would have to watch other creators’ unboxing of the book, and eventually piece together the hidden note. Audiences, lovingly dubbed “the Scooby Gang” for their dedication to unraveling the mystery, worked to solve the clues together and unveil Blair’s identity.

“Watching the mystery unfold was one of the most stressful and enjoyable things to ever happen in my life,” Blair said. “I am so grateful BookTok was able to come together to have fun and I am especially happy for the formation of the Scooby Gang, who eventually unmasked me. It has forged some amazing friendships.”

In March, Union Square & Co. announced that they would be publishing A Broken Blade, after Blair’s marketing campaign went viral and a Barnes & Noble employee who was also a fan of the book, passed along her novel to her now-editor Laura Schreiber. Union Square & Co. will also publish the next in the Halfling Saga series, but for now Blair is focused on releasing the first of the series on August 2nd, which will come with some new surprises for readers.

“Chapter seven was a favorite among readers who got a self-pubbed version, so I made sure to include the other POV as a bonus chapter in the release,” Blair said. “I’m so happy that I can give readers a little something extra.”

A Broken Blade by Melissa Blair. Union Square & Co. $17.99 Aug. 2 ISBN 978-1-4549-4787-5