How Wattpad Is Changing My Life

WattpadOrangeWattpad is my latest big adventure, and it’s changing my writing life.

I joined Wattpad seven months ago to follow Katie Cross, who at the time had just serialized her novella The Isadora Interviews and was preparing to start Bon Bons to Yoga Pants. I wasn’t sure what I thought about it, back then. Raw, unedited writing? Authors giving away whole novels for free? Anyone can join and post random stuff? Uhh… But I needed an account to read BBtYP — Wattpad is good like that, you can’t read unless you’re registered — so I signed up.

When I read Katie’s blog post about how Wattpad has extended her author brand, I realized that my assumptions about Wattpad were wrong. It’s not all fan fiction and erotica (although those are well represented), and even well-known authors have taken to the platform (all kinds, from Margaret Atwood to R.L. Stine), enough that Wattpad has an orange “verified” checkmark for them. I also had a chance to chat with Jing Jing Tan at Wattpad (honestly, it sounds like the coolest place in the world to work); she was super encouraging, and I learned that it’s truly about connecting readers and writers.

foundmytribe-smlAt the core, it’s a social media network, only instead of cat pictures and linkbait, everyone there is sharing and discussing stories. I’m loving the feedback and support and conversation. Where sometimes trying to connect with new people through Facebook and Twitter feels like work, Wattpad is making it fun to reach out again.

But… changing my life? How can that be?

Look, I don’t share my work easily, so I don’t have much to show out there for the length of time I’ve been writing. I find excuses for why I don’t submit stuff, and why I don’t self-publish, but the truth is I’m just scared. Wattpad is making it easier for me.

  1. It’s easier with a buddy or two. E.D.E Bell started three days before I did, which gave me the courage to post my first chapter. T.J. Lockwood said she’d do it if I did it, and we both post on Fridays.
  2. Reads and vote stars are addictive. Yes, it’s true. I now live for reads and those little vote stars (top right corner of each chapter, yo!). Posting a new chapter sends a notification to all my followers so they can read it… and the number next to the little eyeball goes up, and the vote count next to the little star goes up, and I float on a cloud of happiness.
  3. Public commitment works for me. The main page for my work-in-progress says “updates on Fridays!” That’s a promise. No matter how my week goes, and no matter how fraidy-cattish I feel or how I convince myself it’s not quite right and needs more editing, Friday rolls around and that chapter has to go up.

plsvote4me-smlIn the two weeks since I posted the first chapter of A Husband for Deva on Wattpad, I’ve more than doubled my total public word count (TPWC = words available to the general public, whether for free or by purchase). The best thing is, I feel fabulous about it.

Wattpad can’t and shouldn’t be a working writer’s only platform, but as part of a wider author-brand strategy it’s brilliant, and for those who fear jumping into the pool, it’s an awesome way to get our toes wet.

Give Wattpad a try, if you haven’t already!
Share your profile in the comments.
I hope you’ll follow me
and give A Husband for Deva a read.

And remember, on Wattpad you make a writer’s day every time you click that little star in the upper right corner of a chapter.

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Social Reading Sites & Name Twins

Name twins. Such a problem for authors.

Since you can’t reserve or trademark your name, there’s a chance — a good chance, if your name isn’t an odd one — that another person out there shares your name and your literary ambitions. Maybe more than one. Not to mention the possibility that someone with your name isn’t a fiction writer but does publish books: scholarly treatises on some obscure point of economic history, say, or computer programming manuals.

Two problems: 1) you want/need to grab things like URLs and user/profile names before the other party does, and 2) search algorithms can’t tell the difference.

Now, the first one isn’t the worst of problems. If you don’t end up getting “yourname.com”, you can always go with “yournamewriter.com” or something to that effect. My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/WriterKella because that was the best available option by the time I went to create it, but… it’s okay. WriterKella is okay, maybe even good. It doesn’t match my Twitter, but I can live with that.

The second problem can be… more of a problem. For instance, the editor of Stamps, Vamps & Tramps is an award-winning author with stories in literary magazines like Joyland and Nimrod, but she shares a name with someone who writes western romances and the author of an art history textbook (as well as at least two fan fiction writers on Wattpad, who could venture into Amazon territory at any time).

Not that there’s anything wrong with any genre, but if you’ve worked hard to build up a readership and reputation in your genre and style, you don’t want your readers confused — and what if that person who shares your name isn’t a good writer, or has a sloppy publisher and terrible cover designer, or has made enemies on Goodreads, or stands for values or politics you abhor?

This is why I claim my profile across all the social reading sites as soon as I can, regardless of whether I like them or want to use them or think they have value.

Amazon is the easiest one to take care of (I blogged about it back when I set my author page up). Once you’ve set up your page and claimed your books, it’s clear which ones are yours, and you can easily direct readers to your Amazon page to see them. Plus, if readers can easily see that Mary Smith #1 has claimed a series of gritty sci-fi adventures while Mary Smith #2 writes sweet Christian romances and inspirational/devotional short stories (with author photos and bios that show the Marys are two completely different people), there’s no confusion.

Goodreads is probably the most important one after Amazon because so many people use it. It’s super easy (there’s a link on unclaimed author pages saying “Is this you?”) and you usually get your approved status and welcome email within a couple of hours. The profile set-up is very straightforward and you can just walk through it as easily as the Amazon one. It lets you display all the usual information and, as with Amazon, you can “claim” your books.

LibraryThing is a bit trickier to use, because it’s more like a library database; there’s a learning curve. You can ask to be a “LibraryThing Author” but it takes a while for the request to be approved (in fact, at first I thought I was being ignored because I just have one story in one anthology, but it’s apparently just slow due to a huge backlog). Even while you’re waiting for LT Author status, though, you can still add an author photo and edit biographical details — actually, you can do this for anyone, not just yourself (some publishers will even take care of this for their authors). Most importantly, if you share a name with some other author(s), LibraryThing lets you split off your works from those of your name twins.

Shelfari seems to be down or slow a lot these days, and I find its mechanics a bit frustrating, but I still think it’s worth checking on your book(s) and author profile there. I believe there’s a way to claim “Shelfari Author” status, but as far as I can tell, there’s no real reason to do so since you can edit everything for your author profile anyway without officially claiming it as a Shelfari user. As with LibraryThing, there’s the ability to combine or split author profiles if you’ve somehow ended up with two or you have a name twin.

Booklikes appears to be mostly a blogging platform for readers and reviewers, but it does have author profiles so it’s worth registering to add the usual photo, bio, website link, etc. Unfortunately, at the moment I don’t see a way to deal with name twins on the site, but perhaps an author in that situation could make a report and have it rectified.

Do you have a name twin in the books-and-publishing world? What have you done to differentiate yourself and make sure your readers aren’t confused?

Having Profiles All Over

So it seems that we’re expected to have profiles all over the place, for this and that. I seriously think I could spend all my time updating here and there, if I tried to do them all, and I’d never actually get to writing. No, thank you.

But for a writer, it’s apparently important to be out there — to be findable, to have a presence. Mind you, I’m not really at that stage yet, since I’ve only recently had my first acceptance for a print anthology, and the only story I’d previously had published was in an online magazine which has sadly since gone dark (the excellent 10Flash, which was edited by K.C. Ball). Still, presence. How do you do that and stay sane? It’s about all I can manage to blog occasionally and post the odd remark on Twitter or Facebook, maybe go +1 a few things on G+ if I’m feeling energetic.

So today I stumbled across something called about.mehere’s my brand-new profile — and decided to give it a go. Why? Because it’s essentially static. See, it struck me that the answer might be found in many static points of contact leading to a few active places. So about.me wants a teeny chunk of setup effort, and then it’s done. I don’t even have to go back there and log in.

I don’t have any published books to promote yet, but I’m betting author profiles on social reading sites can work the same way. Not user profiles, because that’s just as much work as having another Facebook or Twitter account to update, but the author profile thing. From what I can tell, it only makes sense to smarten up your author profiles wherever they can be found (like Shelfari and LibraryThing and Goodreads) because they look so blank and unappealing when they haven’t been done. Someday when I have books for sale, I am totally going to make sure my author profiles on those sites look sparkly and cared-for, and they’ll point readers right here to where I already am.