Friday, June 06, 2014

Query Question: serialization on the web

 A few weeks ago, I began posting a novel-in-progress entitled X on Wattpad, and to my surprise, it has found a sizable and eager audience—not the million reads some get, but respectable for a new project.

In fact, I’ve been offered a chance to be “featured” as soon as I’m really finished. Last week, to my astonishment, YBooks let me know that they were interested in publishing it chapter by chapter, finished or not.

The first chapter went up as a freebie quickly, and I’m delighted to join Sir Paul McCartney and some rather famous writers as well. But now I’m worried. I really want to sell this novel eventually. And though I’ve read that having a “platform” is the “in” thing now, I’m afraid that if I give too many chapters away to YBooks--and they seem eager to sell whatever I offer--will that kill my chances of making a traditional sale? Ether assures me their “contract” is non-exclusive, but that doesn’t mean agents or publishers will be pleased to know that even a portion of the book has been read before, for free. How do you feel about this kind of “PR?” Should I stop at one chapter or give them a few more and then stop…? Or is it best not to post anymore at all? Should I even stop posting the rough draft on Wattpad before I get to the very end?

First of all, never put the word contract in quotes as if to indicate it's not really a contract. If you made an agreement with these guys, it's a contract. Read it and understand it before you sign it.  Bad contracts hinder more careers than bad agents. If YBooks assures you the contract is non-exclusive, you better be able to point to those exact words in the contract.

Second, publishers republish things all the time. They buy books they think will make them money.  If your book gets a lot of attention there is nothing that precludes a publisher from scooping it up, publishing it in book form and making wads of cash.

The reason most self-published books don't get scooped up by publishers is that they don't do well: They don't sell enough copies to show a publisher there's interest above and beyond the author's spam list.

And publishing a book in serial form on the web is NOT PR.  It's publishing a book in serial form on the web. PR is what you do to draw attention to the book: blog tours, reviews etc. 

At this point, I'm wondering if you are even ready to query given some of your misapprehensions. (Start here to find out)

But don't worry that in publishing a book to the web you've closed any doors. It's the amount of attention the book receives that will determine that.


Thomas Pluck said...

I can point to two novels that were first serialized on a writer's blog and then went to be published, off the top of my head.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

One word, WOOL.

Oh hell, I can't stop at one.
Hugh Howey.
His series started on line free. The story is brilliant and the writing, amazing. And it went traditional. I hope it becomes a movie.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

A timely question, as I'd been toying with the idea of serializing a steampunk novel on my blog as a lark. We'll see what I decide!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I've been serializing a historical romance set in the Bleeding Kansas era on my blog and in my little newspaper for 6 months.

I will continue the serial because of my print audience, but I am working on editing and finishing it up for self-pub in the next few weeks.

Hugh Howie, 50 Shades, and the One Direction fanfic that just got picked up in an eleventy-seven-thousand buck deal show that the game has changed and there are no rules beyond a ripping good story.

I plan on going on Wattpad myself.


BonnieShaljean said...

> "Should I even stop posting the rough draft on Wattpad before I get to the very end?"

Do you really want to be doing that? Posting stuff before it's fully ready? Won't that just dilute the power of the final version?

Drafts generally need time to simmer and then grow cold, so that you can judge your work more objectively and then revise. If I showed my first attempts anywhere (no fear!), it would feel like appearing in public half-dressed, hair still wet from a shampoo.

If you're inexperienced, be very very careful about potential legal pitfalls - there are a lot of scammers out there who prey on the vulnerable and the newbies. If you're not familiar with these sites, do take immediate steps to rectify the situation:

(and especially their forum, the Water Cooler)

Sounds like you have talent! Best of luck -

jane pinckard said...

It seems the roughness of a draft doesn't matter much to readers if the subject or content is compelling enough. I don't know if you've read After, the One Direction Fanfic that got the six-figure book deal, but it reads in places like stream-of-consciousness. The author herself has said she never edits herself because it gets in the way of her creative process... or something. It's got millions of views on Wattpad (apparently 800 million... which is clearly not 800 readers, because that would be impossible. Still, it's 800M pageviews which is impressive). And that gets publishers interested. (In this case, it may be the fact that the members of One Direction take their clothes off.)

I'm curious about what would be considered an interesting or respectable response on a platform like Wattpad?

Cynthia Dagnal Myron said...

Thanks for the reply! First, I can indeed point to "non-exclusive" on that contract. I read it carefully and downloaded it, too. And I'm not nearly ready to query yet, that's true. I'm still on the first draft. Writers often post first drafts on Wattpad to receive critiques, and some take their writing down to incorporate the suggestions and fix the "holes" before putting it back up as a final draft.

To answer some of the questions from your readers, there are some great editors and readers on Wattpad who will offer a serious critique. I'm registered on Absolute Write and Authonomy, where I can be critiqued as well. When I'm ready to do that, I'll probably try Absolute Write.

The British publisher of the first chapter is quite legit, and the chapters are distributed by ITunes and by the publisher itself. I did my homework there, too. They've gotten a lot of "buzz" over the past two years or so, and some reputable British authors are using it to serialize their work.

I've really enjoyed the Wattpad experience thus far. The 2000 plus readers who've stopped by to read the draft--a paltry few considering the huge numbers some have--have enjoyed it and a few have given me valuable feedback via private messages. Comments there tend to be innocuous, but I offer extensive critiques and get the same in return. I think that's the way to make Wattpad readers take you seriously.

I'm still a wee bit nervous about continuing to post, because as you said, it's may not be considered "PR," though others have said it is. I know about the big sales and I have to admit, that was one of the big attractions for me. The fact that my novel gets read a great deal and was noticed by the Wattpad people so quickly has been great motivation. I'll think this through...and make a decision shortly.