Author J.D. Barker is apologizing for a January 23 email pitch inviting a number of high-profile BookTok influencers—nearly all of them young women—to make "racy" sponsored content promoting Barker's forthcoming novel. After a number of influencers took to TikTok to air their grievances with the pitch, Barker has been dropped by his agent, Alec Shane of Writers House.

"I no longer represent JD Barker and am upset and saddened by what has transpired," Shane told PW via email. As of Friday afternoon, the "Contact" page on Barker's website, which included information for both Shane and the Authors Unbound speakers bureau, has also been removed.

The controversy began with an email sent on January 23 by the PR firm BestOfBookTok, and signed "Julia." The email touted Barker's forthcoming "sexually charged dark thriller," Behind a Closed Door, slated to be published by Hampton Creek Press on May 13. Barker, the email noted, is also one of the founders of BestOfBookTok.

"J.D. Barker is back with his best novel yet and he wants to pay you to promote it!" read the email header.

The message went on to ask influencers to create sponsored content promoting Behind a Closed Door in exchange for a fee, with a tiered pay scale based on follower count: users with with between 3,000 and 5,000 followers would earn $100, for instance, while those with 150,001 and 200,000 would earn $1,200. In order to be "approved," promotional posts needed to include the book's cover image and specific hashtags, but influencers were encouraged to "let creativity rule" and embrace the fact that "this book is SPICY!"

The email added that "Barker will personally review each video and either approve it (triggering payment) or offer suggestions to get it approved."

What followed were "a few video ideas," which the email purported to be "currently in the works by other influencers." They included a video with "a camera pan up or down the body using only the book to cover up your naughty bits," a video that "cut[s] to something racy," and a video about "the most taboo place you've ever had sex."

For influencers on BookTok, fielding pitches—from press releases to review requests—is a regular part of the gig. But Barker's pitch came across as particularly troubling, and influencers who received it quickly sounded off on the platform.

"I just got such a predatory email from an author wanting me to promote their book," said one BookTok user. "This is creepy-as-fuck behavior and I'm honestly so grossed out."

"I cannot believe that this is an actual email that I received this week," said another. "This just makes me so uncomfortable and just feels so creepy and predatory to me."

"This is a quick PSA to all authors and marketing companies who are emailing influencers to promote their books—don't do what this guy did," said Amy May, another influencer, who has more than 66,000 followers. Many also noted that many BookTok influencers are under the age of 18.

In a follow-up email to influencers, Barker insisted that the initial email "was not issued by me nor was it approved by me" and instead was "sent by one of the many PR firms I hired to promote my latest title." It did not note that Barker is a cofounder of the firm in question.

In an email to PW, Barker reiterated that the campaign was never approved, and apologized.

"The email wasn't meant to go out without a substantial rewrite, but through a chain of errors, it did. I take full responsibility for that," he wrote. "I deeply regret the hurt I've caused to those who received it. I have nothing but respect for the writing community and the people who champion it and I've let all of you down. I have nothing but the deepest respect for women." Barker's full statement can be viewed here.

At press time, Barker's publisher, Hampton Creek Press, could not be reached for comment.

This article has been updated with further information.