Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Reaching the Next Generation of Readers, Stoking the Fires of Writers

People have many different journeys in their writing careers; some are born writers, some are literary geniuses, and some simply do it for the love of it and hope to make a few quid here and there. This however shouldn’t preclude anyone from having a go at it, trying new style, new genres or experimenting with their craft. And this is where a site like Wattpad comes into its own.

I am a Writer. There, I’ve said it. It’s still hard to believe sometimes, and the last few years have been a pretty odd experience for someone with a predominantly science background. I’m inordinately proud of the fact I’ve managed to get a few short stories published, but it’s also hard to tell people that’s what you do in your spare time. I’m not professing to be the next Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman here by any means but within a few years I’ve gone from rank amateur (very rank in some cases) to someone who’s been published, albeit in my own small way.

I work for Wattpad. But the reason I do is because I started writing on there first, and still do. Now while I appreciate that this sounds like the old Remington advert – I loved it so much, I bought the company! – the site does have a lot to offer writers of any level, but particularly those who have the skills or inclination to write a good story.

Exposure. Is that not the goal of writers, to be exposed to readers? There are now 13 million unique monthly visitors to Wattpad. Each of them have favourite authors who they follow and often give them critique or leave them nice comments.

Feedback. Even better. And that’s something that I’ve had constantly since I joined the site some two and a half years ago. That feedback has enabled me to go from someone who hadn’t written anything since a maudlin poem at sixteen to a published writer. Although I'm happy to admit that I still have plenty to learn.

As for reaching readers, Wattpad is purely screen-based. Whether that screen be a computer, phone, tablet, laptop or whatever else comes next: Wattpad are on it. So too are a huge percentage of people on the planet. Books are now evolving in the same way as other media. Books are catching up, and people are spending more and more time on sites like Wattpad (see graph).

I love curling up with a paperback and a cup of tea, and I’m certainly not suggesting we go Farenheit 451 and start burning all the books. But if you’re on the move, or sat waiting for a bus, or in the doctors, the chances are that you’ll have a mobile in your pocket, and hence a book. Wattpaders don’t just use the website, they use mobile devices too. The App is massively popular. 80% of Wattpadders use the site through their mobiles and read on the move. No books, no paper, just the small phone or similar mobile device that is glued to virtually every person in modern society. That's a lot of readers, of all ages.

And then you have the flip side… you’re a writer, you now have a place to showcase your work, to get feedback, to learn, to grow to practice, or simply to get exposure.

Some of the writers on Wattpad have logged millions of reads on their work, that’s serious exposure. It doesn’t stop there though, as some writers as young as 18 have been picked up by the likes of Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins for six figure sums.

The site has a great community element and is quite social, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that serious writers such as Margaret Atwood and Paulo Coelho (to name a few) are active members who see and understand the value of the site and the exposure it brings. 

And so to some sort of point. Hopefully.

I love writing, it’s changed my life utterly. But the idea of community feedback on my writing has given me the chance to develop and grow, fuel that change. Where before writers often toiled away in obscurity or occasionally in small peer groups, now you can open yourself to feedback from millions of learned or interested individuals. Millions of people now read and write online. In amongst those are the next ‘big thing’.

I personally think that a quiet revolution is starting and that the gentle tap of fingers on keyboard or scrolling of screens can only assist in preventing the decline in literary interest across the whole of society. Whatever form reading and writing take, the special effects in films still can’t compete with the power of the imagination, and hence a love of all things literary. If we can stoke that fire in the next generation and provide all writers of any age with a place to play, the only winner will be storytelling.

And I do love a good story…


Any questions, please feel free to get in touch with Gavin (gavin@wattpad.com) or have a look around www.wattpad.com

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

All Roads Lead to ALLi

By Christine Frost
Twitter: @Shahrazad1001

Not long after I began my journey as a self-published author, I realized how important it was to find some sense of community online. The self-publishing endeavor is about more than selling books; it’s about establishing a brand, developing a reputation of professionalism, and avoiding lures set by people who seek to take advantage of authors who haven’t done their research. I joined a variety of groups on social media channels and built up a following on Twitter. As much as I enjoyed the interactions, I sought a more unified community. I researched professional organizations for writers and publishers and found many did not welcome indie authors. A few did, but a degree of reticence was palpable. Through many hours of navigating the world of self-publishing online, I discovered many reliable resources providing guidance on a range of topics from formatting ebooks to best practices on blogging.

The voices I came to rely on for news and advice coalesced, under the leadership of Orna Ross, into the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). As I compared the benefits of the myriad organizations for authors, the fact that ALLi was founded solely for self-publishers had immense drawing power. The advisors and literary community builders were comprised of people I had interacted with individually or knew by reputation. The impressive range of expertise offered by this group prompted me to join without hesitation.

The organization also appeals to me from an academic perspective. As an editor who works for a large university, I often attend events where the state of the publishing industry is discussed. At a conference about the future of the book in the fall of 2010, an idea for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) formed. Their mission is the democratization of access to knowledge, and the group’s founders seek to make a vast ebook collection available worldwide. The DPLA and self-publishers deal with the same issues: DRM, discoverability, and for some who have published traditionally in the past, access to books that are out of print yet the rights are not available. Invariably, the question of self-publishing comes up at these events and I often brace myself for the negative reaction. Yet more and more, the idea is welcomed and people are eager to learn more about what self-publishing has to offer. It speaks to innovation and with the increasing emergence of highly publicized stories about indie authors who crafted their own success, there are many inspiring examples to see.

ALLi celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and is built on the unique challenges faced by indie authors. The alliance offers a wealth of information in their newsletter and through groups on social media. Their programs to arrange book giveaways on Goodreads and invitations to engage in discussions have introduced me to other authors and book enthusiasts, and my network has expanded in the few months since I joined. I no longer feel like a rogue who shyly admits to how I produce my books. I feel empowered by the amazing resources I’ve found here. This experience has helped me shape my approach to how I work on my novels and present myself in a positive and professional manner. As a result, I feel I have gained valuable marketing savvy and the opportunities I find now help me establish myself as an author who is focused and dedicated to the craft of writing.

Having the author membership badge on my blog makes me feel good about how far I’ve come in this journey. It reminds me of the supportive community I can turn to with questions. I was recently asked to be part of an author’s panel at the school where I received my master’s degree. Not being especially experienced in being on a panel, and knowing I will be the only self-published author on it, I take comfort in knowing that as the date approaches, I can reach out for advice on how to prepare for the event.

As this nascent organization grows, wonderful programs and opportunities emerge to help authors succeed in an industry that is changing rapidly. In the January 2013 newsletter, I was pleased to see ALLi announced the launch of a campaign called “Open Up to Indie Authors” to encourage traditional establishments such as stores and book festivals to welcome self-published authors. And with ALLi’s culture of excellence and professionalism, I believe they will serve as a persuasive force in opening these doors. I’m glad to be a part of it, and hope to contribute to the group’s success as much as I can.

For more information visit The Alliance of Independent Authors website.

Christine Frost    www.herravendomain.com    Twitter: @Shahrazad1001