For the love. First they tell me “tree hugging isn’t a paid profession,” and now writing isn’t either? I pick all the wrong careers. Nothing beats sitting in front of a liquid crystal display jamming my fingertips repetitively into alphameric and numeric buttons all day long to create a splay of digital information from here to timbuk-twitter. Working in my pajamas. Rejecting routine hygienics. Washing up only for weddings. An occasional tree hug. It’s the perfect life.
Franzia to FishEye
But the trick is to make enough scratch to not live from one box of wine to the next, and today’s market is a mixed bag. On the one hand, higher ebook royalties bring the sweet life into focus. If a writer can purge enough enjoyable content from brainpan to Amazon/Kindle in $2.99 chunks then said writer can upgrade from Franzia to FishEye, even with a relatively small following (say 15,000 fans).
On the other hand, electronic content is often expected to be free. No one claims that ebook prices have stabilized or will anytime soon. But there are plenty of readers out there already that lurk in the free bins. (O.K., I’ve done it. I’ll admit!) There are some quality books available in accessible formats for nada, or in Yiddish — Bupkis mit Kuduchas (shivering sh!% balls). One source for such fiction is Wattpad, but can this free source of fiction pay off in the end?
You Down with WP?
Now that you’ve either a.) stopped moaning and rolling your eyes or b.) stopped scratching your head, I’ll repeat and explain. If WP still stands for the Washington Post or the Workers’ Party of Singapore in your antiquated mind, then it is time for me to introduce you to Wattpad, the most popular ereader on the planet and one of the biggest apps in the Apple app store ever. It also happens to be a source of quality free fiction. Are there a lot of “I stole your werewolf boyfriend you vampire b*$ch,” sort of books? Sure. Approximately 3.5 x a lot, which equals a buttload (hey, I didn’t make the math).
There is plenty of good content too — compelling, edited content. But it must not be forgotten that Wattpad is primarily a social media site. Of the millions of people that read content on WP most of them read as members of the broader community. They “fan” and follow their favorite writers. They vote and tweet and “like.” So it is not only the quality of fiction that keeps them coming back, but the community as well.
The $1,000,000 Question
These readers still spend money on fiction. But the million dollar question is, when these readers decide to curl up with fiction cutoff from the social yammering of Wattpad, will they be more likely to turn to an author they know from Wattpad?
I’ve spoken to one author from Ireland who says yes. He reports that his novels where virtually unknown off of the island until he was featured on Wattpad. During the nine months after, his Sony sales (strongly tied to Wattpad) shot up to a million downloads. While he couldn’t point to exactly what percentage of sales with Sony where due to Wattpad, Sony remains his main distribution channel (how weird is that?). Of the two dozen published authors I’ve spoken to on WP, three quarters of them think posting their material (usually in its entirety) for free has increased their sales off site, but I’ve yet to find hard evidence.
A Free Fistful of Reefer
My first novel, Fistful of Reefer, is officially releasing July 28th (has released), and I’ve only begun uploading scenes to Wattpad, so I have no personal evidence one way or the other, yet. After participating in the Wattpad community for eight months I’ve gathered 72 fans via four short stories, all based in the same world as my novel. Will these fans and others want to pay money for more? Even if I publish the novels on Wattpad as well? Will they pay $2.99?
All said and done I’m an indie author looking for 15,000 fans that will buy every book I vomit out (delicious vomit, of course). If Wattpad can provide me with a few hundred of those, each of which reads voraciously and socializes with others that do as well… it could make sense that the largest social media site for readers and writers could serve as a successful platform for my super-niche fiction. (My Wattpad profile is @hachebrown. Find me, and we’ll chat.)