In terms of learning the novel form, world-building, finding your genre, fleshing out your characters, I think this is where Wattpad could really be excellent. You can post short stories, or very short novels (none of the "books" I read on Wattpad were anywhere near 70K words, not even close to 50K, especially not the tween idol ones). Many Wattpad books get millions of reads. So it can be a perfect tool for my stage of the game. Refining my genre, deciding which readers I want and how I will hook them, is really the biggest point of clarity that I need right now, and this is a very low-risk way to go about it.
You can put something small on Wattpad to play with it and see what kind of feedback you get, how to promise exactly what you deliver so you draw the readers you prefer. You will have to put in a little work to get seen. But all of that is marketing 101 practice IMO, finding your readership. I'm thinking about ways to begin releasing my overarching series one tiny droplet at a time, which is perfect for this venue. You can find your sea legs as an author, so to speak, with really very little risk.
There are a few risks to Wattpad, though. It's actually owned by a Big Five publishing company, sorry I forget which one. In my experience any literary agent who can get you anywhere near the Big Five won't even look at your manuscript until you have a sizable marketing platform. By the time you have enough of a platform to market your own book, like you're an established author, they will maybe consider you. I've come to understand that The Big Five publishers are venture capitalists of intellectual property, basically. Their love is money. They're not invested in literature any more than anything else, no matter what they say. Literary agents may read a lot of books. But they love money much more, no matter what they say. Actions speak louder than words, always.
In a best-case scenario they give you $1/2 million to pursue the enormous marketing platform you have already established. You know, because that's what writers are all about while they live and die hunched over that keyboard pounding out the amazing literature, fucking marketing. LOL In other words by the time they will even look at you, you don't need them.
If they do sign your book, it may never see the light of day, worse than if you had simply pursued your own up-and-running marketing thing that you ponied up to get into this conversation. Or some A-list douchebag may write a foreward, and it gets republished intact as his book with your name in tiny print in the back. Cha-ching! Smile bitches! Realistically your book is one of ten that they've optioned. But they only need one of them to hit, and they don't care which one. The rest will be written off and forgotten -- along with their authors. Bwahahaha this is who the Big Five are in real life, confirmed sightings. If you're an established writer, why talk to them? Traditional publishing's long game is not sustainable. They made that bed, they can all lie in it as far as I'm concerned. They should enjoy their lifestyles and steer clear of the paramedics' table when they arrive in hell.
Anyway whoever owns Wattpad will sometimes pick up a book and choose to publish it traditionally, if it gets enough headwind. That's a double-edged sword. I believe they get first option on the publishing rights to anything on their site, fairly sure of it. I'm not publishing my series on their site, because I think it's quite marketable and very expandable, and I don't want their grubby mitts anywhere near it. But I may do a few short-story spin-offs to drum up interest on Wattpad. Basically they've forced me to the ultimate grass roots as a writer, where I have to be my own marketer and publisher, so I'm going to keep it organic, like no corporate GMO fertilizer. So I can keep my feminism dialed up to 100.
Wattpad's evolving business model is actually a much-needed self-preservation thing on their part, giving authors another way to move forward without the hideously unfair and soul-crushing literary agent process. They're looking at new ways to monetize authors with ad revenue and with paid content similar to Kindle Unlimited. (A lot of their readers balk at that, discussed below.) I'm open to pursuing this monetization via Wattpad, granted that I'm keeping all of this very simple and divorced from my ultimate project goal.
Anyway Wattpad shows that one of the Five has seen the writing on the wall and broken the back door open while the gatekeeping system still exists at the front door. With Wattpad the snake munches its own tail. You can go straight from nobody to the publishing house editors now. I'd love to live long enough to see literary agents/middle men suddenly need to decide who they are in real life and put their money where their mouths are. Would they choose to read all day for free or at the library like so many writers do? Or go get corporate attorney jobs? Wheeeeeeeeeee
So forewarned is forearmed: think of whatever you put on Wattpad as practice or throwaway. At least that's how I'm looking at it. The deal is Wattpad has millions of readers and thousands of writers. Very shitty books can get hundreds of thousands, or millions of reads, because their demographic is the most voracious readership of all. That said, it's a lot of people who feel deeply entitled to read all day, every day for free. It's a lot of girls who wish Justin Bieber would punch their father out and kidnap them.
My strategy is to practice writing different styles, find my genre niche, and master the short story and novel form on Wattpad, and hopefully develop a following. Then when I put stuff out on Amazon it will be affordable, but they will have to pay something for it. I think it's possible to curate your demographic, like not only them finding you but you finding them, if that makes sense. I'm torn between tween writing and old lady writing. If you read Wattpad you will see the absolute dearth of moral or ethical leadership the Big Five have wrought. There is no moral compass anywhere in sight. As a feminist, when I see what young women are devouring with their minds, it makes me absolutely sick. There's no reason to have all conversations framed by people whose baseline goal is never humanity. These are the fruits of intellectual venture capitalism, ruined young women. Really many of the One Direction stories are absolutely heartbreaking in their malfunction, a scathing critique of our modern world.
So for me, I feel like my target demo really should be tweens. I have given up getting the 20-or-30-something feminists to notice I'm alive. They've got this, and I'm emotionally okay with it. So I can either write for ladies my age, as I do now, like adult women who think about real things. Such ladies are less likely to pitch a fit when their short story writer from Wattpad comes up with a series that you have to pay a few bucks for each one. Or join Kindle Unlimited and literally read your face off like Wattpad but better. I don't need the moochers. Tween girls are the #1 buyers of downloads on iTunes. There is a desperate need for entertainment within the moral compass IMHO.
But I feel like I can have an amazingly fun time with Bieber-related content. I'd like to introduce the idea of well-adapted boys, clear sexual boundaries, appropriate social support, adults who take responsibility for the childrens' lives, not normalizing things like 31 y/o Harry Styles on a dream date with a high-school girl. I was thinking of having the boys of One Direction have to save a group of girls who get thrown overboard in a storm. The boys drag them to the island, then it turns out not a storm but a sea monster. The thing about writing for tweens is they're still actually children, and you can be goofy as hell while still aware of the emotional junk food, providing some soul nutrition and maybe flossing their teeth a little while they're not paying attention. Feminist emotional hygiene is in an actual state of emergency on Wattpad, not gonna lie.
That's my thought process for now. I'm going to look at the short stories and start there, maybe some horror stories from my paramedic days, gruesome and heartbreaking all at the same time with very little context, just the way paramedics live it. That should hopefully whet people's appetites for the series, too.
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