Viral TikTok boosts a struggling crime novelist to become overnight best-seller

Lloyd Devereux Richards, from New York City, a full-time attorney and father of three, spent 14 years pursuing his dream of writing a book, and the next 11 years hoping for the thriller to take off.

He worked on his thriller, called Stone Maidens for 14 years before it was finally published. But, as is the case for most amateur novelists, his passion project seemed destined for obscurity.

That was until his daughter promoted his work on TikTok, saying: “My dad spent 14 years writing a book. He worked full time and his kids came first. But he made time for his book. “He’s so happy even though sales aren’t great. I’d love for him to get some sales. He doesn’t even know what TikTok is.”

The clip subsequently went viral and has garnered more than nine million likes and 40million views.

TikTok, a short-form video hosting platform, has helped fuel sales of hundreds of books in recent years, including through the hashtag #BookTok, which readers use to discuss their favourite authors and book picks. In 2021 alone, BookTok helped authors sell 20 million printed books, according to a New York Times report.

Mr Richard’s thriller, which was first published in 2012, is currently unavailable on Amazon in the US due to soaring demand but can be purchased on the website in the UK for £8.99.

Mr Richards’ daughter said her dad – who lives with his wife in Montpelier, Vermont – was content simply to have finished the novel, which was published in 2012, and tells the story of an FBI forensic anthropologist investigating a serial killer who strangles women and dumps their bodies in the ravines of southern Indiana.

The book may have been inspired by Mr Richards’ previous work. He garnered true crime expertise while serving as a senior law clerk for an Indiana judge researching and writing drafts for published opinions, including one on the appeal of a serial killer sentenced to death, according to his Amazon biography.

Fans on TikTok were quick to praise the book, as well as its author’s story.

Mr Richards was a senior law clerk for an Indiana Court of Appeals judge. He travelled across world before and would journal and bird watch on his travels, before going into law. 

In the United States, the book is a number one best seller in Police Procedurals and for a time topped the charts in the ‘Serial Killer Thrillers’ genre.

It is the seventh most popular book in the US, according to amazon, beating Prince Harry’s memoir by two places.

The majority of reviews on the site, which were written over the last few days, have been overwhelmingly positive. After “25 years of little hope”, Mr Richards’ unexpected success should serve as a reminder to never give up, his daughter said in a later TikTok video. “These last couple of days… I can’t understand it,” Mr Richards said in the video, toasting the boost in sales with milkshakes. “I feel so blessed.”

But Mr Richards is not taking too long a break to celebrate. He is now working on a sequel to the book, according to his Amazon biography.