A debut author was at a book signing event without an audience when two strangers came up to have a chat. Shawn Warner, 58, was sitting at a table in a Kroger store in Fort Worth, TX promoting his first book when TikToker Jerrad “Red” Swearenjin started asking about his novel and filming the interaction.
Shawn explained that his book titled Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor is “about a teenage girl who teams up with a ghost with multiple personalities to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder.”
Red asked why write a murder mystery novel to which the author replied, “I have just always loved mysteries and grew up reading them.”
Red said Shawn looked “super defeated” when he first went in the grocery. “I was just shopping when I noticed this man trying to promote his new book. I honestly don’t even read books nowadays. But something just told me to get a couple,” he wrote on TikTok. He bought two copies, one to be given to one of his TikTok followers, and he told the writer that he will promote the book and try to help him with the sales.
The video was posted on a Sunday and was flooded with supportive comments and vows to buy the novel. It amassed more than 19 million views and 26,000 comments.
One user wrote: ‘Awe I’m gonna have to get this book. That’s so awesome that you took the time to promote him!!!’
Another added: ‘The book sounds really good. Gotta read this book. Nice of you to hear him out.’
What’s happened has been beyond my imagination. I’m so grateful. —Shawn Warner, author of Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor
The following day, Shawn tweeted that his novel became the bestseller in Amazon YA sales and a few days later, soared to No.1 across all genres.
“The love and kindness just keep pouring in. You’d think as a writer, I’d have words for it, but I don’t – just thank you,” Shawn said in his own clip in the video sharing platform. “When Red came up and talked to me, I was just so eager to talk to anybody at that point because there was a lull in my sales. What’s happened has been beyond my imagination. I’m so grateful.” He concluded his video with, “It’s all on you for your kindness and your generosity, thank you.”
Shawn was an infantry paratrooper, a therapist, and an engineer. He led an adventurous life where he tried skydiving, scuba diving, studied martial arts and have gone bungee jumping. “At every stage of my life, people have complimented me on my writing,” he states on his website, but those same people said he can’t make a living being an author. “I was dumb enough to listen,” he adds. “So here I am, living out my childhood dream.”
On July 13, a week after the viral TikTok video, Shawn and Red reunited on NBC’s TODAY show.
“I was at Kroger signing the books, Red saw me sitting alone and came over and said hello and brightened up my day and then just brightened up my life,” Shawn recalled.
Red told TODAY that he was buying ice cream for a birthday party and something told him to stop by Shawn’s table. “Honestly, I did such a small part. It came down to the people. The people decided and it took off,” he said.
Shawn revealed that he’s working on the sequel to his novel.