The Power of Wattpad: Jaw Dropping Info & Crash Course

Wattpad is a game changer for authors, espeically YA authors if used right. It has 35 million active users, most of which are young adults. Non-YA authors can benefit a great deal, too, there are millions of speculative fiction readers on Wattpad.

Here is one success case featured in The Guardian article: “Brittany “The Book Slayer” Geragotelis is a Wattpad superstar. Her first serial on the platform, Life’s A Witch, gained more than 19m reads and lead to a six-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster.”

Excerpt from the author’s bio:
“After 10 years of rejection from the publishing industry, she began to post her original novel, Life’s a Witch, on the online writing site, Wattpad, hoping that others would enjoy reading her book. A year after the first upload, the book had received 19 million reads, which caught the attention of Publisher’s Weekly, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.”

Not kidding you. There are a few other cases mentioned in the article.

Well, how does it work?

I am no expert by any means but I am aiming to establish my presence on Wattpad, therefore I’ve spent some time analyzing how things work there. First of all, you don’t want to post long pieces. Wattpad users love serials and they get a buzz alert on their phones when an author they are following uploads a new piece. Majority of them read on their phones, so keeping it short keeps the audience engaged. I have deconstructed the pattern from the most followed and read authors on Wattpad and here is what they do:

* They upload a few pages at a time, usually once or twice a week as a running serial.
* They don’t upload whole chapters.
* They cut the text at an exciting scene, making the readers ache for the next update.
* They don’t upload new parts daily, but more like twice a week.
* At the end of each part, they remind the reader to vote and comment in bold letters. Adding the little reminder at the end of each new part makes a huge difference. I forgot in the beginning but I noticed how other popular authors were doing it so after I started adding the reminders, I started getting more votes and comments, which has resulted in more new readers.

If the story is compelling to the Wattpad crowd, they vote and then recommend it to their friends using the social media sharing widget. As I mentioned, most users read the stories on their mobile phones with the Wattpad app (yours truly included.)

If the story receives a lot of votes and comments, it climbs up on Wattpad top charts and more people see and add it. This is how I discovered a few great stories, by checking Wattpad’s top charts and daily recommendations. Social media sharing widget makes it very easy for people to spread the stories they like. Wattpad’s share button automatically tags them with #wattpad hashtag so the other Wattpad lovers see it on Twitter too, not just your readers’ Twitter followers.

When people add a story to their reading list, vote on it, comment on it, follow someone, it all shows up in their friends’ Wattpad feed much like the Facebook updates. So if someone adds your story and their friends happen to see, they might add it too or ask their friend if it’s good. This is how those authors got so many readers. Wattpad’s interface allows the stories to go viral, both by word of mouth between friends and the social media sharing tool.

To build up your initial audience, here are the steps to follow:

* First of all, link your blog, web site, social media profiles and Amazon page/book links on your Wattpad profile. Then add your Wattpad profile link to your blog, web site, social media profiles and announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and what have you. Let your friends and family know about it.

* Pick the most popular stories from Wattpad’s top charts that are in your genre and add them to your reading list. “Discover -> What’s hot” shows you the popular stuff. There are also genre links in the Discover menu which show you the most popupar stories in your selected genre.

* If you add a story to your public reading list, your Wattpad friends/followers will see it in the update feed.

* Click on the authors’ profiles and follow their followers. This is much faster to do on your phone/tablet than the computer. Trust me on this one!

* Follow Wattpad’s own tips about following and engaging the people:

* If you have a lot of Twitter followers, I recommend manually tweeting your story with a compelling text and tagging it with #wattpad and #wattpadlife hashtags. These hashtags have a lot of followers and if you choose an interesting tagline, it will get retweeted and reach even more readers.

* If you have a blog or web site, make sure to add the Wattpad widget to it. Wattpad help section has instructions on how to do that:

*Wattpad has a cap for maximum 1,000 users you can follow. If you reach this limit, unfollow some people to add more. From my experience, approximately 40% of the users follow back. But then again I have not been adding much content, I only uploaded a very short prologue piece, perhaps I would have gotten more followers if I ran a serial.

* Add new parts twice a week. Don’t make them too long and end the part at an intriguing or cliffhanger kind of scene. Just like the old school magazine serials.

* Remember, as long as you are engaged with your readers, answering comments, thanking them for following and voting, also reading and voting on other people’s stories, you will get more followers every day. Besides, you will get to read some great stories form very talented folks.

Once you follow these basic steps and get a few hundred followers, then start running your serial. One thing I really need to mention here: Covers are important. Make sure to make an eye-catching cover. There are some amazing folks in the Wattpad community who make covers for free. You can message the writers who have great covers and ask them who made it. Wattpad people help each other out, friends promote each other’s stories. It’s an amazing community and you can benefit a great deal by being a contributing member.

Now, some of the people with stories read by tens of thousands of people do not have a huge number of followers. I am guessing the stories go viral and reach a huge audience over time. I have no idea how long it took to get the number of reads for each one. The follower building strategy I wrote above should give you a good head start nevertheless and make things quicker. Remember, you don’t get a huge number of reads overnight, it takes time as the word spreads. The important thing is to run it as a serial and supply it in small pieces.

If you are trying to promote a published book, then I recommend uploading 2-3 chapters as serials in a few weeks’ time and directing the readers to buy it on Amazon with a note in the end of it, such as: “If you want to read the rest, my book is available on Amazon/Nook/Kobo and here is the link”

Some authors presell books before release by uploading teaser chapters, using Wattpad as a launchpad. Some authors build an audience by posting standalone short stories featuring the characters of their novels. There are many different strategies you can try.

Here is The Guardian article about Wattpad for additional details:

My own Wattpad profile has 382 followers to date and I haven’t invested much time on it. But I have friends there with whom I talk via Wattpad private messaging facility, I read/vote on their stories if I can find some spare time. Between the full time job, reading books to blog about, my own writing and chronic illness flaring up at the most unexpected times, I haven’t been too active on Wattpad myself, but once I finish my novel I am planning to invest more time and upload some short stories and sample chapters before my book launch. My Wattpad profile is here: You can add me and read my stories there.

If you know any other tactics and strategies for success on Wattpad, please feel free to share in the comments section so everyone can benefit. I hope this article has been useful.

I am recycling history

Quoting from a Time article by Lev Grossman:

“When Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he didn’t invent Aeneas; Aeneas was a minor character in Homer’s Odyssey whose unauthorized further adventures Virgil decided to chronicle. Shakespeare didn’t invent Hamlet and King Lear; he plucked them from historical and literary sources. Writers weren’t the originators of the stories they told; they were just the temporary curators of them. Real creation was something the gods did.”

Thus the dark high fantasy series I am writing is quasi-historical, drawing inspiration from the lesser known nooks and crevices of the actual medieval history.

Progress Update: The prologue is now live and I need some feedback

As some of you know, I have the bad habit of writing out of order. Even though I have written 40k words, the prologue was still not done. I had a hard time deciding what to put in the prologue, I had been struggling with it for some time while making progress with the later chapters. Well, now it’s out of the way!

After rewriting a few times and ditching a lot of stuff out of it, I finally finished the prologue of my first novel. Since I need to keep up my reputation for being utterly fearless, I put the whole thing on Wattpad. Feel free to rip it into shreds and let me know what you REALLY think in the comments section below.

My skin is thicker than dragon hide, I have no ego to bruise whatsoever, I might even manage to write a better version if the audience says it’s utter crap. Please don’t hold anything back. I really mean it I have no ego to bruise and I have thick skin.
If there is anything wrong with it, I want to know.
If I screwed up somewhere, I really need to know so I can fix it.
I am quite happy about finally finishing this damn prologue but I will be even happier to make it perfect. This is where you come in.

Anyone who writes a comment and gives some feedback (positive or negative, does not matter!) will get twitter promotion from me.

The Ugly Truth About Book Sales

Today I am going to share some eye-opening truths, which might shatter the illusions regarding the book publishing business and crush the dreams of some folk out there. I have recently come across a rather interesting blog post link in the comments section under a post at Suffolk Scribblings blog.

It was a rather grim post by author Kameron Hurley. For those who are not familiar with her, she is an established author who has been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in prestigious SFF magazines such as Lightspeed, EscapePod, and Strange Horizons. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish, and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West. Impressive credentials many of us dream about accomplishing some day, if ever.

According to her blog post, her novel titled God’s War sold only 300 copies in seven months in the UK and another book of hers, titled Rapture, sold only 2000 copies. As a result of the poor sales, every single major publishing house had passed on her latest novel titled the Mirror Empire. She was considering to give up and shelve it.

When her publisher decided to release a mass market paperback version of her novel titled God’s War, she decided to market it with a blog tour and worked her ass off. It was quite brutal for her.

I emailed every writer and reviewer I knew with a UK reach. Called in every favor. I begged for blog post space. I scheduled a massive three week guest blog tour. I wrote a tie-in novelette for Del Rey UK to publish exclusively on their blog during the release.

The blog tour kicked off in early January of this year, and continued to the end of the month. It was brutal, for me – up to two posts a day for three weeks – but I wasn’t doing anything else; MIRROR EMPIRE was still on the market, so my next project, whatever it would be, was up in the air. I poured everything into the blog posts. For three weeks, a lot of people in the online genre world couldn’t go anywhere without reading a post from me, without being reminded I was alive, I wrote books, I had shit to say.

I got really fucking tired of talking about myself.

Now, I come across authors who complain about marketing and how it’s so difficult. Well, that’s the harsh reality of it. If a Hugo nominated, award winning, traditionally published author is having that much trouble selling and has to beg the bloggers and work around the clock for weeks to do blog tours and guest posts, a no-name self published author has to do more than double that. The competition is tough out there. R.A. Salvatore, who is a NY Times best selling international celebrity author, whose books sold millions of copies and translated to every foreign language you can name, works his ass off marketing his new books.

Dear author friend, if you are not willing to get your hands dirty and work your ass off to market your books, no one is going to do it for you. Even if you get traditionally published, the publisher is not going to market your books for you, as seen in the above example.

The Hugo nominated author, who graduated from the extremely prestigious Clarion West workshop, who published her short fiction in the most renowned genre magazines and published a number of books from actual publishing houses, sold only 300 copies of her latest book and failed to get her latest manuscript published, until she worked a brutal schedule and spent countless hours with blog tours and guest posts. Only after all this rough work was she able to get the word out and get her latest manuscript published. You can read the whole story here.

So, if your dream is to get traditionally published, take it into account that it’s not going to be like the fairy godmother’s magic wand. You will still have to work like no tomorrow to market it in the end. And this is not a new thing, either. Here is a news story about a letter Tolkien wrote to his editor complaining about the poor sales of The Hobbit:

Another example: The murder mystery book J.K. Rowling wrote under a pen name sold only 400-odd copies after its launch, despite the huge marketing campaigns of the publisher. They only sold serious numbers after they revealed the author was J.K. Rowling. Even after that, the book pretty much tanked and was quickly forgotten, for it was no Harry Potter.

Yet another example, from Wikipedia page of A Song of Ice and Fire:

Martin’s publishers initially expected A Game of Thrones to be a best-seller,but the first installment did not even reach any lower positions in bestseller list. This left Martin unsurprised, as it is “a fool’s game to think anything is going to be successful or to count on it”. However, the book slowly won the passionate advocacy of independent booksellers and the book’s popularity grew by word of mouth. The series’ popularity skyrocketed in subsequent volumes, with the second and third volume making the The New York Times Best Seller lists in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

It took 8 years after its initial publication for ASOIAF to make it into the NYT best seller list. Martin was no newbie either, he had been a well established author for solid two decades, and a Hollywood screenwriter to boot, when the first book of the series was published in 1991.

Long story short: You need to establish an audience, i.e. your reader base, way before you release the book. You need to establish your marketing network well ahead of time. Even then, if the audience and the reviewers don’t like it, it won’t sell. Even if it’s a splendid piece of work, unless you do rigorous marketing, it may take years before the word gets out and you start to see good sales numbers.

I hope this post serves as a wake up call to the new and aspiring authors out there.

Not a very productive day

Cats ran like a tornado playing tag-and-chase all night, leaving me with less than 4 hours of sleep.

I headed to my usual writing pub in downtown Helsinki after work but I could only write a few lines before I felt too exhausted and headed back home. I’ve been laying down and reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. At least some progress with the reading…

A fine night of writing gone to waste and it’s quite depressing. I was planning to finish the prologue of my WIP novel (part of which I uploaded to Wattpad, go here if you are curious) but alas, not tonight. Damn you, cats!


Am I crazy?

As some of you might know, I am working on my first novel, which is the first book of a trilogy. It is going to be a quasi-historical grimdark high fantasy series loosely based on the 11-12th century Byzantine Empire. Historical in the sense of A Song of Ice and Fire being loosely based on the 100 year wars.

The shamanism lore, mythology and the spirit creatures are mostly based on Central Asian/Siberian Turkic shamanism and Armenian mythology. It’s going to be a very Eastern setting, drawing inspiration from severely underrated Eastern history and mythology. I know some of it since I grew up surrounded by the magnificent Byzantine legacy, Anatolian and Central Asian Turkic fairy tales & epics, Turkish and Armenian folklore, but I felt that I should do serious academic research to get a deeper insight.

That is where the Tolkien influence comes into play: Doing the advanced research like Tolkien, not writing elves and dwarves and halflings into my stories.

Now I am going to give you a glimpse of the reading and research I have been doing for this series.

The Alexiad – Anna Komnene (12th century Byzantine chronicles)
The History – Michael Attaleiates (11th century Byzantine chronicles)
The Chronographia – Michael Psellos (11th century Byzantine chronicles)
Armenia and the Crusades Tenth to Twelfth Centuries – Chronicles of Matthew of Edessa
The Armenians in the Byzantine Empire – Charanis et al
Armenian Folk Beliefs, by Manuk Abeghyan.
Armenian Mythology, by Mardiros H. Ananikian. From The Mythology of All Races Volume VII
Armenian Historical Sources of the 5-15th Centuries, Selected Works
(Master’s Thesis, Military Art and Science)
Byzantine Intelligence Service
Byzantine Magic by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
The Beliefs and Practices on Mountain, Tree and Fire Cults in “Kaz Mountains” – Duymaz-Sahin et al
A Mythic Creature in the Narratives of Altai Turks: Celbegen – Turker et al
Some Determinations about the Relations of the Hero with the Underground World and Sky World in Siberian Turkish Epics – Dilek et al
Altaic Turks and Their Beliefs – Yugasheva et al

This is not even half of it. There is a rather huge list of mythology, folklore and shamanism books in Turkish language and a myriad of other scientific papers on Byzantine culture and medieval military tactics. This is why I am not churning out tons of book reviews and writing 2k words a day.

I am doing all this research to make sure the mythology, spiritual aspects, shamanism stuff, battles, military tactics and the politics are as realistic as possible. Those books better turn out decent after so much hard work. Come to think of it, it’s rather funny that I am reading the above pile of academic books & papers to create a grimdark high fantasy series, not a Ph.D thesis.

Twitter Etiquette For Authors

In the light of Tricia Drammeh’s excellent post titled Facebook Etiquette For Authors I decided to write one on Twitter etiquette.

I have heard countless complaints from many book bloggers and other authors about Twitter accounts set up like annoying spam bots. Here is a list of things which should help those new to Twitter:

1. Don’t set up automatic DM’s and replies. No matter what the internet marketers are telling you, setting up automatic DM’s and replies is a very bad idea. For the love of God, don’t do it. You are not the only person on Twitter and you are definitely not the only person I am following. Each time your spammy script sends a DM saying ‘Click my Facebook page! Here is my book!’ a little puppy dies. I am following over 1000 people and have over 1000 followers, I really don’t have the time to click every Facebook/Amazon page/book link sent via DM. It floods my inbox and cleaning them up wastes my precious time. There is a place to put your link on your Twitter bio and if you are an interesting enough person, if you actually interact with me, I will click it and seek out your books and subscribe to your blog myself.

2. Don’t set up automated, scheduled tweets constantly advertising your books. It’s irritating. Do advertise giveaways, valuable blog posts you wrote, book sale campaigns benefiting charity, but don’t spam links. Thousands of people are spamming links and no one is clicking them.

3. Don’t follow me back to send me your book or facebook page link and then immediately unfollow. That is outright rude and disrespectful. I go through my DM’s and if I see people following me back just to spam links and then unfollow, I block them for good.

4. Be a human being and talk to people. Look at Neil Gaiman’s Twitter feed for a good example. He talks to his readers all the time.

5. Make sure to put your web site or blog link on your bio. Also list your genre in your bio, so that the people looking for a specific genre can find you.

6. Don’t spam the hashtags. That is rude and irritates everyone. Tweet things relevant to the hashtag.

The less automated, the better. Automatic tweeting of new blog posts is ok, scheduling a few tweets to announce book launches, discounts and giveaways is ok, but setting up a Twitter bot is not. If a big shot celebrity author like Neil Gaiman can find the time to type tweets and talk to people with his extremely busy schedule, we the little people have no excuse for setting up spammy Twitter bots.

I followed celebrity authors and never not received a spammy automatic DM from a single one of them. Yet my DM inbox is full of spam from no-name indie authors. If you want to be successful, then make a point of acting like the successful people out there. I personally follow the example of authors like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, not some no-name internet marketers who spread false information to make a quick buck.

How Amanda Hocking sold 1.5 million on Amazon: I’m revealing the secret!

You might have heard of Amanda Hocking, the indie superstar who sold 1.5 million on Amazon and got picked up by a big house and signed a movie deal for her Trylle Trilogy.

This is the exact quote from her explaining how her sales exploded after the book bloggers spread the word:

Then in June, something truly magical happened. I discovered book bloggers. I had no idea such people existed. They just read books and write about them. And I don’t mean “just.” These people take times out of their busy lives to talk about books and have contests and connect with followers and writers and other readers.

These guys are honestly my heroes. I’m a little in love with all of them.

I asked several if they would be interested in reviewing my books, and most of them said yes, even if they didn’t generally review self-published work.
Then something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling.

Here is the whole story in her own blog:

She mentioned she owes her great success to book bloggers in many interviews as well. So, many indie authors took the cue and started flooding book bloggers with review requests. But the thing is, she didn’t approach the book bloggers, she asked people to review her book in her own blog. She started blogging in 2009 and had been very active. She talked about herself, her life, her books. She interviewed indie authors on her blog. She published a load of books on Amazon, and answered the questions of her readers. She also talked a lot about movies and music. She interacted with people and wrote in a very sincere manner, as a friend. She built a reader base over the months, ran giveaway contests, did author interviews and promoted other authors.

This is the blog post where she asked the book bloggers and Amazon reviewers to review her new book:

Look at the comments. Dozens of people said they are interested in receiving a review copy. They asked for it. So she didn’t go around pestering book bloggers, she already had a whole bunch of them among her followers and she got them interetested. After these people reviewed her new book on their blogs, Amazon and Goodreads, her book sales have exploded and avalanched from there.

I think as indie authors we all have a lot to learn from Amanda Hocking’s experience. There really is no secret recipe to it: Be active in the blogger scene and the social media, interact with people, write sincere posts, write about your life, write like you are writing a letter to your friends. Write comments to other bloggers. Find the people who are reading your genre and interact with them, but refrain from promoting your book. Promote their blogs, their books, do author interviews featuring other indies in your blog, be a nice person. Chat with other authors and bloggers on social media, ask how their day has been, what they are reading, actually care about people (this comes natural to me cause I’m an extrovert and very friendly by default, but it’s really not a hard thing to do!) You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will meet some awesome new people in the book scene and make friends.

If you act like a human being and not a spam bot, people will eventually ask to review your books. I myself would rather promote a friend than a stranger. I promote the books of people who are nice to me on Twitter and help me out in my writing journey. Not even one of them asked me or offered ARC copies, I purchased all of the indie books I review or plan to review soon. I wanted to be nice and I believe in supporting indie authors, so I purchased the books of the indie authors I have befriended and I review them as I read. If a friend offers an ARC and asks for reviews, I will drop everything else and give their book the first priority. If a random stranger contacts me for a review, they will wait for a long time. That’s basic human psychology.

A glimpse of my main characters

Here is a teaser post introducing the main characters in my WIP book. The descriptions are pathetically short but I had to keep it spoiler free.  Let me know what you think via comments.

Liberius – The main character, an accomplished general in the imperial army. Later on he becomes a rebel leader and deals justice in his own twisted way… And attracts the attention of the deities. He is a very complex antihero, and he cost me my main beta reader (the guy got too attached to him and was no longer able to give me objective feedback… damnit!)

Thalios – The emperor, whose reputation goes before him. He is a hero, famous for being a man of virtue, but his serious flaws cost him one too many times.

Rathar – Scheming and plotting for his own gain, to seize the throne and install a puppet emperor. He doesn’t hesitate to endanger the interests of the empire for is own goals.

Taron – The closest friend and accomplice of Liberius, supporting the emperor against Rathar’s faction.

Leira – Once the queen of the ice elemental race of Thua, she went on exile to the realm of the mortal men after losing her family in a tragic accident. She made fighting and killing the purpose of her new life and became the general of the reputed and feared mercenary army of women. She is an antihero with no real purpose, letting fate take her to the new adventures.

The mysterious spymaster – He has an extensive spy network installed in every corner of the empire, from the palace chambers to the lowliest inns. His spies cannot be found, no matter how hard they search. His motives are known to no one, though he seems to work for the good of the empire. Very few people ever got to meet him, without seeing his face, of course.

Rurahn – The god of chaos. He turns up to unleash chaos, as unexpected gifts or total mayhem. He is not good or bad, for chaos is just chaos and has no purpose. He does strange deeds, affecting the fates of many different people. He is quite unpredictable.

Rao – Half human and half ice elemental, he was the heir of a kingdom. He left everything to seek the arcane wisdom of the nature, and became a hermit-shaman in the wilderness. He comes out to prevent the world from falling into the ultimate chaos and destruction.

Mahar – One of the first people of the world, the immortal hermaphrodite race of Drugeri, who don’t deal with the mortals other than trading. He is a brilliant artist, engineer, scholar and many other things. He joins the cause of Liberius, since more than the empire is at stake.

P.S. The book is 1/3 done so there may be new characters. This is the “as of now” list.

Here is a fun challenge for authors

C.S. Boyack came up with a rather fun idea for writers. You pick your favorite items from your works of fiction for putting in a trophy case. Poetry counts, too. Unfinished books are also ok from what I gather. Make a blog post about the trophy case items you pick and where they are mentioned, then visit the original blog post where the game started and share it via comments:

My upcoming debut novel is roughly 1/3 done but I will participate anyway, it’s just too hard to resist this!

The title of my book is The Coin of Liberius and the first item is the mysterious coin in the title of the book. I can’t say much about it, for the sake of not spoiling my precious unpublished story. This coin is very special and everyone comes to suspect it has magical properties. But it was just an ordinary gold coin Lord Liberius pulled out of his coin purse. Liberius is an imperial army general who has absolutely nothing to do with sorcery. The mystery around the coin grows along with its fame.

The second item is shrouded in arcane mystery, for it’s a great artifact of power but it’s not a solid object one can get hold of. It’s the ethereal scepter of destiny, which grants undisputed authority to the newly crowned kings of a certain realm. Select few people who take part in the king-making ritual get to see a glimpse of it as the new king grabs it form the realm of the dead, and then it vanishes from sight until the king passes away and it’s time to crown a new king. (I have released the piece of prologue featuring this item on Wattpad)

The third item is from the partially written book #2 of the same trilogy, untitled for the time being (yes, I’m weird like that, I don’t follow order when I write.) This is the arcane locket of the Thua king Aerion. Thua are immortal creatures fashioned from the glaciers, you can say they are ice made into flesh. Aerion uses this locket to summon the Sylphs of air, the elemental female spirits who are bound to the locket.

So here are my trophy case items. What are yours?

Here is the list of items from Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere series: