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!

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?