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.

Writers Should Stick Together like Velcro: Why You Need an Editing Group

facepalm-writer

Yes, it feels like this sometimes.

Most humans are naturally wired to avoid pain and stressful experiences. I say most humans because writers are human, but they’re different: they do not avoid pain.

Writers compose a curious part of the human population.  They’re prone to share the precious artistry of their souls and ask for constructive criticism in hopes of getting better.  As a writer myself, I went this route early in my career and found that the helpful advice I hoped to receive felt more like a literary slap in the face. In one of my first experiences, I tried to smile and jot down notes as a friend proceeded to (as I saw it at the time) rip my heart out and stomp on it.

“How could you do this to me?” I wanted to say. “Isn’t this one of the best things you’ve ever read??”

combo-editing

Writing groups are tough love but totally worth it, I promise!

This experience only temporarily gave the boot to my dreams, however, because I was–and still am–determined to become a great writer (as you might also, or at least a great reader!). Understandably, I was upset with my friend (as well as delusional about the quality of my story), but upon later reflection her words became more clear and helpful than she may have ever intended. I got the feedback I needed to honestly assess my writing.

As my astute colleague Doc so aptly put it, writers who want to self-publish need to work on their craft. The best way to do this is by getting honest feedback. The best way to get honest as well as informed feedback is by utilizing the time of fellow writers. This is because fellow writers have most likely taken classes, had similar experiences, and read helpful books on writing. You just don’t have the time to take every class on novel composition, character development, and literature that’s out there, and neither do you have time to read everything by Anne Lamott, Stephen King, and Robert McKee. You also don’t have time to make all the mistakes novice writers make. Let someone else bump you ahead on the learning curve–believe me, it’ll save you a ton of time and heartache!

If someone is a “serious” writer, they must endure constructive slapping on a regular basis. This is because good writers want to improve their writing and not just get empty praise (though a compelling case can be made for the necessity of praise, no matter how undeserved–I know I need it now and then!). Decide today to find at least one other person who wants greatness as much as you do, because we writers need to stick together.

Note: I’ve credited writers for their helpfulness, and I think it’s also fair to point out the extreme benefits of beta-readers within your editing group.  That, however, is a topic for another time.

Writers Rise Up

When I started on this journey of reviewing quality self-published e-books, I had an idea of what I would find. I hadn’t read any self-published books that I liked at that point. I admit, for a long time I was prejudiced against them and hadn’t read many self-published books at all. Then I found there was a lot more junk than gold coming out of traditional publishing houses. It seemed to me that for every creative idea, there were 200 copy-cats published within the year. When I found out that the marketing department gets the final word on whether a book is published, all I could think about was the hodgepodge business of marketing:

Marketing is more concerned about whether they can sell a product than if it’s actually good. They would rather tag debut novels with labels such as “for fans of Harry Potter” or “Twilight readers will fall in love with this paranormal romance.” As far as I can tell, marketing books is about guessing what will be most popular next. Needless to say, my respect for traditional publishers dwindled when their quality decreased.

There were others things I learned about traditional publishers that put me off as well, and I became ever more convinced that writers need to take control. As writers, we may not know much about selling our products, but there are so many resources we can use that the inexperience is irrelevant. The important thing is concerning ourselves with the quality of our work. The only way writers can take control is if we are producing top-quality books.

Because of all the copy-cat books in the bookstores, I thought that I would have to wade through more in the self-publishing world. To my amazement, I haven’t sifted through any wannabes. What I’ve found are gifted story-tellers with creative ideas. I’m intrigued by many of the descriptions. Unfortunately, the amateur writer gets in the way of the story. I can tell that most of these writers have never been published before. They lack polish. What pains me the most is that they are settling for a third-draft finish when their books could be so much better. I am afraid that these self-published writers feel justified through customer ratings and reviews. Two hundred reviews are not enough to prove a book’s quality through customer feedback.

I want to plead with writers to take more pride in their work. Editing is difficult as a self-published writer because they usually do not have the advantage of an experienced editor or agent. To writers I say, Be a student of your craft. Read books that you like and identify why you like them. Read blogs about writing like Query Shark, or Brian W. Foster. Join a writing group. Critique other people’s work and accept criticism. Always practice and edit until every word is perfect.

I believe that together we can do it. Writers can take charge of the quality of published literature. We just have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.