A Texas man became a bestselling author overnight after a TikTok video showing him selling his debut book at a grocery store was seen over 17.5 million times.
Shawn Warner, an Army veteran turned pediatric mental health worker before becoming a software engineer followed his childhood dream and become a writer after he was laid off.
So Warner, 58, wrote his first book despite people always telling him, “You can’t make a living out of doing that,” according to his website.
In the now-viral video, Warner was stationed with several of his books on display at the Texas Kroger when two men approached the author, who sat alone, over the Fourth of July weekend.
“This new author seemed super defeated when I first walked past him. So before I left the store, I decided to go back,” the video text read.
Warner sat in a foldable lawn chair behind a white cloth-covered table and explained the premise of his novel, “Leigh Howard And The Ghosts Of Simmons-Pierce Manor,” to the men.
“It’s about a teenage girl who teams up with a ghost of multiple personalities to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder,” Warner said.
As small talk turned into a conversation, Warner’s facial expressions turned from down to a large smile as the two strangers showed their interest in the book.
Jerrad Swearenjin, the man behind the camera, explained to Warner that he did some “TikToking or what not so I think I’m gonna get a second one, I’m gonna gift it and see we can get you a little love on there(sic).”
“If you could just sign it, that way it’s a little more personal to whoever gets it,” Swearenjin asked Warner.
Warner had received only two reviews on Amazon before Swearenjin posted the video and rose to the top of the retail site’s best seller’s list.
“So yesterday on Amazon, he had two reviews and it’s his first book and now he’s a number one best-selling author on Amazon,” Swearenjin said during a phone call in a second TikTok.
Swearenjin said the reason he recorded Warner in the first place was because he “imagined all the times I worked so hard and never got any recognition.”
“Here’s a fellow neighbor that’s just struggling and I just wanted to help him out,” Swearenjin told WFAA after posting the video to his TikTok account “internetfamouslol.”
While Warner’s book remains top of the list on Amazon, he can’t believe the fame that has come from one person’s small act of kindness.
“Just to be nice to some guy sitting alone selling books…the generosity that poured out of that was just amazing, I get choked up,” Warner said tearfully. “They gave me a chance. And that’s just beautiful.”
The overnight success led Warner to create a TikTok account of his own where he has thanked people who have reached out and purchased the book and has even given updates about his future.
“Hi, I want to thank everyone for the love and the kindness on the video that Red posted, it was totally unexpected,” Warner told his 117,900 followers. “I’m in shock I don’t even know what to say about it at the moment, I’m trying to wrap my head around it.”
In a follow-up video, Warner announced a hardcover version was in the works and he was in talks with his publisher to create an audiobook, that would be narrated by Theresa Bakken, who shared a video of herself in a studio beginning work on Warner’s overnight bestseller.
Warner, a father of two, vowed he will continue with his signings at local bookstores and Krogers in the Dallas area.
“It’s surreal, every time I sign a book, it’s almost like I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Warner told WFAA
Warner’s book, originally published in November 2022, was given a spruced-up cover with his recent accolades featured at the top noting him as being “Worldwide #1 Amazon Bestseller and TikTok Famous with Millions of Views.”