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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Addicted to Writing? I won’t tell if you don’t…

As you may have noticed, it’s been a couple weeks since posting here at Self-Published Gold (SPG). I offer three excuses: nice outside weather, water parks, and writing. Does that mean I’m using writing as an excuse not to write (on the blog)? Maybe. Don’t judge ;). Plus I’m starting to get a tan—kind of. Working in the garden and swimming will do that.

cheron-drawing Anyway, the point of this (short) post is this: what keeps you from building your online presence? As already revealed, I like to spend lots of time outdoors and lots of time pounding away at the keyboard on my latest novel. The process of getting out and about in the online communities is tricky for me and my associates here at SPG since we’re all people persons—not to diminish online contacts in any way, it’s just different. Different enough that I’m throwing this post out as an invitation for advice from all of you since I need all the help I can get! Please help me with tips and advice on how to better move among online writing circles in the comments section below!

saylind-drawing In the meantime, I’ll be working on my newest novel idea and finishing up some character portraits…still need to get the collars and shirts done, as you can see, but they’re coming along alright. Perhaps in addition to my gardening and writing I’ll get some art tutorials in too. I’m a bit rusty from my artsy heydeys of high school.

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.

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!

E-Readers and the Evolution of Publishing

ImageAt first, I resisted the emergence of e-readers. I feel comfortable with a paper book in my hands. When technology fails, I can always rely on my library to keep me sane. Then, I began researching the publishing industry and was somewhat startled to see a new pattern. I realized that because e-readers are so convenient, consumers are turning more and more to electronic book formats. More importantly, they are buying e-books for their tantalizing ‘bargains.’

Self-published authors have the leisure to apply their own price tag and still receive a good portion of the revenue. As long as these writers charge less for their e-books than the retail price of a hard copy–which they usually do–consumers feel that they are getting an irresistible deal. They don’t have to drive to the store, pay taxes, or wait for the book to arrive, and they are only spending a couple bucks. As long as the book is not too horrible, the consumer is satisfied.

I’ve seen this happen with many of my friends who bought e-readers. Then I bought a tablet and it wasn’t long before I was looking through the free e-books too. While I still love physical books, e-books offered me another medium for finding new stories. My personal experience with e-books spurred me to do research.

Circulation at my local library has steadily decreased since e-readers were released. While I’m sure there are several factors that explain the decrease, I am certain that e-books play a large part. My library has done a decent job adjusting to new technologies and trends. We have an ever-expanding library of e-books available through the Pioneer Library Database. However, we can’t expand fast enough because of publishing companies’ ridiculous restrictions.

Only a few publishing companies even work with libraries for the acquisition of e-books. One publishing house charges $80 for one e-book, and because of copyright rules we have to buy individual copies to lend out. We can’t lend one e-book to several patrons despite the fact that it’s digital. Another publishing house charges us for every 24 check-outs. That’s to compensate for the money they’d be losing because e-books don’t need to be replaced.

The whole e-book revolution seems to have caught publishing companies and booksellers off-guard. I’m pretty sure the NOOK saved Barnes and Noble (though KOBO wasn’t enough to save Borders). Publishing houses are afraid of e-books sending them under, which has forced them into hasty action. Unfortunately, decisions made in fear often create new issues that can be harder to resolve. I won’t go into detail about that right now. Instead, I want to talk about what all of this means for writers.

E-books have opened the gate for self-published writers. Publishing companies charge about the same for an e-book as they do for a paperback. It’s hard for people to justify paying that much for an item that doesn’t have any production costs. However, publishing companies charge that much because they still have to pay overhead. They figure that if they charge any less for e-books, they won’t sell enough to cover the overhead. On the other hand self-published writers don’t have much overhead, especially if they choose to publish through Amazon or any other such company.

Writers can choose their own prices and receive a significant portion of revenues when they publish electronically. They also don’t have to go through the painful process of finding a publishing house who is willing to give them their first break. They can present their work directly to readers. Then, because of the low prices, writers are even making decent money from their self-published works. Publishing has never been so easy.

The power is steadily shifting in favor of the writers. There are still several roadblocks to overcome before self-publishing earns a reputable name for itself. Still, I think that the future of publishing will bear the face of the writer.