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?

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Another Reason Why You Ought to Visit the Underworld: A Review of Disconnect by Imran Siddiq

cover-for-disconnectWhen I say “Underworld” I’m not actually talking about life after death, but the depressing underground world of Imran Siddiq’s novel Disconnect.  It’s a place where families grow up in darkness and dependent on the refuse of those who live in Overworld.  Right away I want to let you know that this book is not written in “American” English; some readers like that, some don’t.  I’ve never minded as long as I could understand the structure, and I was able to follow Siddiq’s writing just fine.  Now, on to the good stuff:

Disconnect clocks in at a light 279 pages and is told from the point of view of Zachary, the only son of single-father Marcus.  Zachary and his dad live on a space base orbiting Jupiter and they reside in the ghetto underground district known as Underworld.  Overworld and Underworld rarely interact, but Zachary happens to find a working Intercom while scavenging.  Thus his adventures begin.

Through the intercom, Zachary talks to a girl named Rosa.  She’s the only child of Ambassador Kade.  Zachary and Rosa talk several times, and even meet in person.  In their time together, however, the teens discover a sinister plot by the ruling council to clean out Underworld—of everyone and everything.

I liked this book for several reasons, one being that the main character is a boy.  I like female main characters a LOT, but it was refreshing to read something from a male perspective and especially from one that was so genuine.  Zachary grew up simply, and so he thought about things simply.  For example, when he overheard some sketchy communications between soldiers, I (the reader) understood what was going on, but Zachary didn’t—and of course he wouldn’t!  He grew up in Underworld where there was no politics!  I’m glad Siddiq maintained the integrity of Zachary’s voice no matter what happened.

What I found lacking in Siddiq’s writing was overall fluidity.  His story was very interesting and had many exciting parts, but it really, really, really needed work with a fine-toothed comb to smooth out phrasing and compositional issues.  Verb agreement, sentence structure, and so on needed some serious work.  I don’t say that to be rude, just straightforward—if you enjoy a good story and can power through somewhat novice writing, then Disconnect is for you.  I give it 3.5 stars.

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Why You REALLY Need the 12-Step Program: A Review of The Cure by Athol Dickson

the-cure-cover-athol-dicksonFriends and family know I’m addicted to reading, but the blame for my addiction lies solely with fabulous writers like Athol Dickson. While I ought to be taking responsibility for my obsessive reading habit, I’d rather tell you about how awesome The Cure is and why you should lose a few hours’ sleep reading it.

The Cure is a novel batting at 336 pages and chock full of literary goodness. I’ll point out right away that this book is not an easy read, and I mean that in the best possible way: the writing flows but the content is deep, causing many stop-and-think-about-it moments and frequent emotional overloads. It’s definitely something that feeds the reading addiction, so I’m warning you now: BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD!! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get to the good stuff:

Riley Keep is an alcoholic who’s let his life go to pot and abandoned his wife, Hope, and only daughter, Bree, for life on the street. He is constantly haunted by his pre-alcoholic life as a Christian missionary in Brazil and stint as a college professor. He’s several states away when he hears rumors of a cure for alcoholism in the town of Dublin, Maine, his old hometown. Riley drags his nearly-dead homeless friend Brice there to seek out the cure, positive that by now his wife and child have moved on.

Riley is shocked to find that there really is a cure for alcoholism. Once he’s got it, however, Riley learns that a lot of people—from desperate alcoholics to shady pharmaceutical companies—will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Death, mayhem, and violence ensue in an incredible story of fear and redemption.

While reading this book I sometimes loved the characters and sometimes wanted to slap them with a frying pan. Even if I didn’t agree with a character’s choices, like Riley’s, and even detested him for it, I was totally stuck in his head. I was aware of the many (and often painful) influences and horrific past events that directed his actions. I think the only thing that hung me up was the frequent references to Riley’s time in Brazil, the importance of which wasn’t revealed until near the end of the book. Overall, I give this book five stars and make them gold! Read Dickson’s work and you won’t be disappointed.

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Move Over, Vampires! A Review of Everblue by Brenda Pandos

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Cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Vampires are cool, but I always thought it was creepy to fall for a creature that drinks blood for sustenance. I mean, really. However, mermaids and mermen are a totally different story. That’s what Brenda Pandos’ book Everblue is all about, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in. Now on to the good stuff:

Everblue clocks in at 305 pages and is aimed at a younger YA audience; I’d say 12- to 16-year-olds. It’s written from two points of view: regular high school student Ashlyn Lanski (Ash) and home-schooled teenage merman Finley (Fin). Ash is best friends with Tatiana, Fin’s twin sister. They grew up together on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Ash is the high school swim captain and has a secret crush on Fin, not knowing he’s a merman. He knows that one kiss from his lips would seal them together for eternity, so he tries to avoid a relationship. Most merpeople avoid all contact with humans, but Fin and Tatiana love living on land. There’s just one problem: the mer king is ordering merpeople to start preparing for a war with humans and has a hidden grudge against Fin’s parents.

There are several points in favor of Everblue, namely that Ash, even though she has a crush on Fin, is not completely obsessed with him. She enjoys the company of other guys at the school and lives a normal life. Also, Pandos does an excellent job writing the story from Ash’s point of view—I was really able to get inside her head! I also enjoyed the lore and history of merpeople and the way their world worked. It wasn’t perfect but it made sense and it was consistent.

The novel also includes intrigue and fighting among the merpeople, but the violence doesn’t escalate to gruesome levels. This was refreshing because a lot of YA novels nowadays go for shock factor (case in point: Hunger Games). Pandos kept it realistic and tense. Anyway, keep this in mind in case you’re looking for something edgier, but for those who enjoy a good, clean YA, this is it. The only issue I had with the book was how rapidly the chapters changed perspective; at times I think Pandos could’ve had 2 or 3 chapters from one character before moving to the other, but that’s just me.

This book deserves 4.5 stars. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Changing Perspectives: From Traditional to Self-publishing

I know I’ve been over this before. The publishing world is going through a revolution and authors are the ones who stand to benefit most. If you’re a writer you have to think about why you are publishing your work. Perhaps you just want to write and practice your art, in which case you understand that your readership may be very small and you don’t mind. Or perhaps you are hoping to make a living or supplemental income from your works. Or maybe you’re writing for your posterity and don’t intend to sell many books. And maybe you are a super talented, hard-working writer with books screaming for an audience. Whatever the reason, self-publishing is probably the best route for you. Take a look at Hugh Howey’s post on Salon about self-publishing if you don’t believe it.

Breaking into the traditional publishing crowd takes talent, hard work, and a bucket of luck, unless you’re already a celebrity and then you don’t need any of those traits. Traditional publishing houses are businesses. They are going to publish what they think will get them the most sales. This means they want well-written material (for the most part), pre-established social platforms for new authors, agented writers, and proven subject matter. I’m sure you’ve noticed that as long as a book deals in the recent trends (i.e. vampires, zombies, post-apocalypse), the writing quality does not need to be perfect. You need most of these things to be a successful self-published author, too. Only, in traditional publishing, you sell all rights to your work. You give it up for an upfront fee. So I ask you, what is the advantage of traditional publishing?

Marketing? Not necessarily. In fact, most publishing houses require new authors to orchestrate their own marketing strategies. They don’t have the money to invest in marketing for a book that may not sell more than the advance given to the writer. Publishing houses do have the advantage of selling directly to book distributors and libraries. Self-published writers can do this as well, but they have to use their own time and effort. The leveling field for this advantage is Amazon, which does not discriminate against self-published authors. Traditional publishers have to price their products higher than self-published authors because they have to cover overhead. E-books don’t cost anything to produce, which means pure profit for the self-published author and they can set their price low and sell much more than the traditional publisher.

Advances? Yes, if that’s all you hope to make from your book. Most traditionally published authors do not make more than the advance. After a while, these books go out of print, which means no more money from them. With a well-implemented marketing plan, a self-published work can bring a steady income and never go out of print unless the author chooses.

Editors? Sometimes. The truth is your work has to be nearly perfect already to get accepted to a publishing house. Some agents act as editors and some ask the writers to hire a freelance editor. Either way, writers advantage from hiring their own freelance editors.

Validation? This is a matter of opinion and subject to change. This is the topic that fuels my inner publishing conflict. I still feel that breaking into traditional publishing will somehow validate me as a writer. This idea stems from the many impatient writers who fill the self-publishing sphere with first and second drafts. I am terrified to fall into their ranks. Yet I know that my idea of validation is flawed. Much of the recent traditionally published literature lacks imagination. I’d rather be guilty of sloppy writing than mundane storytelling. Fortunately, self-publishing does not equal immature technique. The trick is to master your craft as if you were trying to make it through an editor’s slush pile and then self-publish your work and retain all rights to it.

What do you think? Is traditional or self-publishing the way to go? Have I missed something? I want to hear all the angles.