Wattpad: Testing the Waters

Alright, who’s heard of Wattpad? Those of you who have, I’d love to hear your experiences. I found out about it through Library Journal. The article listed start-up sites that are taking over traditional library functions and doing a good job of it, too. Naturally, I had to research the ones I hadn’t heard of yet.

Wattpad is a free site for readers and writers. Authors can post their stories chapter-by-chapter and readers follow them like a blog. Readers can view all available content, vote, and comment. That’s about everything. I’ve seen plenty of sites like this one. Most are overrun by fan fiction and serials. Wattpad has its share of those too, but for the most part the writers post short stories and novels. More importantly, all of the stories with any kind of merit have been read thousands of times. So what makes Wattpad more desirable than its competitors?

I don’t really know. The layout definitely helps. It’s not amazing and I wish searching were more dynamic, but it’s more comfortable than its simple HTML predecessors. Browsing by genre is simple. You can look at the popular or the “undiscovered”. Unfortunately, the “undiscovered” contains a lot of junk. It’s easier to sift through the “popular” section.

Wattpad also has its own free app. That alone puts it above similar sites. Still, I feel there’s something more important. The participating authors are making it different. They’re the ones taking full advantage of its power as a library. I can’t help but wonder if this might be the best marketing tool for Indie and emerging writers.

Some of the most successful writers on Wattpad are using the site to test the waters of their market. It’s kind of an experiment. If your story does well on Wattpad, then you are doing something right and you’ll be able to sell. Many readers will buy the book after reading it on Wattpad. They want to own what they like even if they can read it anytime for free on Wattpad. Part of that is due to the uncomfortable formatting on Wattpad, but a lot of it has to do with satisfaction. When I’m satisfied with a book, I buy it for myself and often for others.

While I’m sure plenty of the writers use Wattpad to post their chapters as they write them, I think posting the final product will prove fruitful. If you can sell your book from the time you post your first chapter, you may reap the reward almost immediately. There’s a big advantage to always presenting your best self.

What do you think of Wattpad? What advantages and disadvantages would you anticipate? If you’ve tried it, have you been successful?

Amazon KDP Select

KDP Select and What’s In It for You

Amazon KDP SelectFellow writers, readers, and anyone else interested in the self-publishing industry: let me introduce you to a short treatise on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and its KDP Select program.

This Select service was brought to my attention by GoodReads’ Jane Friedman blog, specifically a guest post by CJ Lyons (I’d recommend reading it here).

KDP is simply Amazon’s self-publishing service (Amazon is also affiliated with CreateSpace, and probably even more who I’m not aware of), and KDP Select is a special program offered to users of KDP to promote their books.  Here’s the lowdown on what KDP Select does and its stipulations:

1. The author gives Amazon EXCLUSIVE digital rights (though none of the print rights) to his or her book for a 90-day period

2. The book is made available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library for sharing between customers and earns a small royalty for each “borrow”

3. The author is able to offer the book in a free promotion for a total of 5 days (consecutive or not, author’s choice) during the 90-day period

To tell the truth, when I read this I thought it was really strange and sort of a bad deal for authors since their books might only be downloaded during the free days (if they used any) and/or lent out by customers for a smaller royalty.  After reading Lyons’ post, I still have a similar opinion, though I also see the benefits to KDP Select.  After reading through (almost) the entire KDP Select user terms of service, I got a fairly good idea of what the service really offered to authors.

Based on my research, here’s the pros and cons of each stipulation of KDP Select:

1. KDP Select 90 days of exclusivity:

PROS: if you aren’t trying to distribute anywhere else, Amazon’s Kindle is a great platform to start on

CONS: you’re stuck with Kindle, so no Kobo, no Nook, no nothing! You also wouldn’t be allowed to provide excerpts/chapters on your blog or website because that would also be a breach of contract

2. Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

PROS: great for word-of-mouth marketing, and you do get paid for it

CONS: people who might buy your book borrow it instead, and the payout for lending is dependent on the total amount of books that are lent within a particular month–the more books borrowed overall (even if they have nothing to do with your book or genre), the less money you make

3. Free-Promotion Days (5 total)

PROS: you have total control of when those 5 days occur within your 90-day contract with KDP Select and you can run them concurrently, separately, or not at all.  If you do, it’s a good way to introduce people to the first in a series and garner good reviews to encourage purchase of later installations

CONS: anytime a book is offered for free, its intrinsic value also declines, and you may encourage sentiment for the rest of your books to be offered for free as well

Overall, there are some definite advantages to KDP Select, however, I believe it takes a very specific situation for an author to derive great benefit from it.  Why not simply use KDP’s regular publishing services?  What potential can you see in KDP Select?  I can’t claim a perfect understanding of how to sell ebooks, so I’d love to hear what you think!

You Know You Need a new Boyfriend If… A review of The One You Love by Paul Pilkington

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Certain things in relationships are “red flags,” such as jealousy, controlling behavior, and kidnapping fiancés. Once you see a few of these red flags, you start to figure that breaking off the friendship / dating / hanging out thing might be a good idea. That’s situation I found Emmy, the main character of Paul Pilkington’s The One You Love, embroiled in. Though I found the book thoroughly enjoyable (and let me say that again, thoroughly enjoyable!), there were a few times when I felt like grabbing Emmy out of the book and knocking some sense into her. The reason why? She ignored a lot of red flags, and in more than one person. Now on to the good stuff:

The One You Love is a decent length for a thriller, batting at 298 pages. In addition to that, it’s written by a man from England, and I just love reading British-style conversation and phrasing—I know, I’m such an American. The basic gist of the plot is Emmy, a small-time actress shooting for the stars, is engaged to be married when her fiancé Dan all of a sudden disappears. His brother, Richard, is found at their apartment unconscious and with life-threatening injuries.

Emmy is joined by her best friend Lizzy and her brother William in trying to solve the mystery of Dan’s disappearance and Richard’s attacker. Pilkington does a superb job of adding twists and turns, showing both Emmy’s group and the police uncovering different pieces evidence in each chapter. It led me to suspect no less than five different people of the crime throughout the course of the book, and that, my friends, is excellent thriller writing!

I give the book four stars simply because Emmy acted like a crazy person half the time, e.g. refusing to talk to the police when she found evidence because she felt she needed to get to the bottom of the crime herself. I understand humans occasionally do dumb stuff like that, but after about the third time I began to wonder if Emmy might have some sort of complex. Even when her best friend in the whole world, Lizzy, suggested she not visit the home of a creepy ex-admirer, Emmy forged ahead as if she really believed nothing would happen.

I recommend this fabulous read to all lovers of mystery and complex plots. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

How do you judge a book?

I just want to take a moment to discuss how I judge a book. This took some thought because I had to analyze my own reading. When I got frustrated, I had to stop and think about exactly what made me frustrated. When I continued reading despite the frustration, I had to figure out why I was still interested.

While I performed this study for the purpose of this blog, I want to make it clear that my process described here applies to any book I read, whether traditionally published or self-published. I do not wish to lower my standards for the self-published author. So without further ado, here is my list of criteria:

  1. Is the story interesting enough to keep me reading?
    For me, this has a lot to do with the characters. If I like the characters, I can forgive the plot. To some extent, it’s true for the other way around. If the plot is really awesome, I can deal with lame characters.
  2. Do I understand the main characters’ motives?
    What I mean here is that if I can’t follow the characters’ line of thought, I get irritated. I feel like I’m seeing the author instead of the character.
  3. Is the plot compelling and consistent?
    I can deal with some plot holes if the writing and the characters are strong. However, if there are gaping canyons in the plot, nothing can save the book.
  4. Is the author’s created world believable?
    In fantasy, everything should work harmoniously. I should get an idea of how the world works within a few pages. If the author then proceeds to throw a machine gun in the middle of the feudalistic, magic-based story, I will yell at the book.
  5. Does the writing support the story, or get in the way?
    I can deal with typos, although they make me cringe. However, if the whole book feels like it’s a rough draft, I lose patience very quickly. I can’t enjoy the story if the writing continues to remind me that I’m reading. I want to get lost in story.
  6. Would I recommend this to a friend?
    While this isn’t the deciding factor for a good story, it sure is important for the book’s sales. There are a few books that I like a lot because they touched me in some way, but I hardly ever recommend them because I don’t think everyone will like them.

By this time it should be clear that I am a subjective reader. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t necessarily mean no one will like it. I understand that, but it would not be fair to anyone if I reviewed books I didn’t like. I know that there are plenty of people out there who have completely different tastes than mine. I am not reviewing based on what I think a lot of other people might like. The moment I try to guess what will please the masses is the moment I lose credibility as a book reviewer. I would become the much despised marketing department.

The three reviewers of Self-published Gold have very different tastes, which allows us to reach varying audiences. We hope to extend our reach by recruiting more reviewers. For now, we do not want to overwhelm our readers with too many opinions.

The most important thing I want from a book is an element that resonates with me. I want it to impact my thoughts in some way. If it does that, I will give it five stars even if I feel the writing is a little clunky. Conversely, if a book meets all the criteria I listed above, I might still only give it three stars because it didn’t “wow” me in any way.

Now I want to hear your thoughts. How do you judge a book? What makes you keep reading and what makes you put a book down forever?