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After viral TikTok posts, Montpelier author's 'Stone Maidens' novel is a bestseller

A white man and a younger white woman smile at the camera. They are wearing matching white T-shirts.
Courtesy Marguerite Richards
Lloyd Devereux Richards' debut novel "Stone Maidens" became a sudden bestseller after his daughter Marguerite, right, posted about it on TikTok in February 2023.

The video is just 16 seconds long, and simple. You see a Vermont author’s modest writing habits, complete with sneakers and suspenders.

With this TikTok post, Lloyd Devereux Richards’ daughter, Marguerite, hoped to drum up a few sales for his debut novel, which came out in 2012.

It’s been viewed 42 million times and counting. And the novel, Stone Maidens, rocketed to the number-one spot on Amazon as of Tuesday, Feb. 15. Not just the #1-selling thriller — the number-one selling book on all of Amazon.

“I'm just bowled over by it. I'm overwhelmed. I wasn't expecting anything like this,” Lloyd Devereux Richards said, speaking with Vermont Edition host Connor Cyrus about his sudden viral fame this week.

@stonemaidens It’s a beautifully written thriller on Amazon 🥹❤️ #stonemaidens #booktok #authorsoftiktok #thrillerbooks #books ♬ original sound - e

Richards, who lives in Montpelier, wrote the novel over the course of 14 years on nights and weekends — first working with a local professor to learn the craft, and then writing and rewriting. All of that was while raising kids and working full-time as a lawyer at National Life Group.

Stone Maidens, a thriller, is set in southern Indiana, where Richards went to law school and initially worked as a lawyer. It centers on an investigation led by a Chicago-based FBI forensic anthropologist and a local sheriff.

But his work wasn’t done when the book was written, or even when he eventually found an agent and a publisher. “I didn’t know how hard it would be to market the book,” Richards said. Sales were slow.

“There’s a lot of suffering” in writing, Richards told Vermont Edition. “On the other hand, if it's a passion like it is with me, you don't give up, you keep at it. And you just have to believe in yourself and try harder and work on it more.”

A TikTok legend is born

Marguerite Richards had watched as the book her father had labored over for 14 years wasn’t going anywhere. “It broke my heart a little,” she told Vermont Edition. She decided to post on TikTok, thinking that highlighting her dad’s perseverance would convince a few people to read “Stone Maidens.”

The video reached 42 million views and counting. People ordered the book from all over the world, sending it to the No. 1 spot on Amazon.

Richards is overwhelmed by the sudden tremendous response from his new internet fans.

“I thought I wrote a good book. But there's a lot of people out there that write well and write good books. … I can't fathom it exactly. I don't feel I'm entitled to something like this,” Richards said on Vermont Edition. “It's profound, you know, the impact these videos had on people. It's not that I'm ungrateful, just the opposite. I'm just overwhelmed.”

@stonemaidens you all are amazing! Life can be hard and then it can be wonderful suddenly (still crying) #stonemaidens ♬ original sound - lloyd

Marguerite Richards attributes the video’s success to its authenticity. People connect with her father’s authenticity and humility, she said. But the response to the book is genuine, she said, because now people are reading the book and coming back to TikTok to say so.

“They actually love the book,” she said. “He is so deserving of this as a human, a father, a writer. And I hope this helps him realize that and other people out there struggling with that same impostor syndrome.”

"Thank you, honey," Lloyd Devereux Richards replied, his voice breaking.

What's next for 'Stone Maidens' author?

After a week of many encouraging comments and calls and little sleep, Richards is still trying to grasp the sudden turn of events.

He finished a sequel to Stone Maidens last summer, using the same characters. His agent is in the process of submitting it to publishers.

Connor Cyrus joined Vermont Public as host and senior producer in March 2021. He was a morning reporter at WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University), he started his reporting career as an intern at WPTZ, later working for WAGM in Presque Isle, Maine, and WCAX Channel 3, where he covered a broad range of stories from Vermont’s dairy industry to the nurses’ strikes at UVM Medical Center. He’s passionate about journalism’s ability to shed light on complex or difficult topics, as well as giving voice to underrepresented communities.
Originally from Delaware, Matt moved to Alaska in 2010 for his first job in radio. He spent five years working as a radio and television reporter, radio producer, talk show host, and news director. His reporting received awards from the Alaska Press Club and the Alaska Broadcasters Association. Relocating to southwest Florida, he was a producer for television news and NPR member station WGCU for their daily radio show, Gulf Coast Live. He joined Vermont Public in October 2017 as producer of Vermont Edition.