Welcome to encore month. For the next few Sundays, as part of our Encore Month, we’ll be sharing some of our most popular podcasts from the last couple of years. First up we have Jandra Sutton, a Wattpad author, and Ashleigh Gardner, from Wattpad Studios.
Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice broadcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it’s our monthly IndieVoices’ self-publishing salon with interviews conducted by ALLi Broadcast Manager Howard Lovy and updates from News Editor Dan Holloway.
This Month’s IndieVoices
If you think your kids aren’t reading books like you did when you were young, they may just be doing something more important: reinventing the way books are written and read. It’s collaborative, it’s a need for instant reaction from friends, and, if you haven’t already guessed it, it’s Wattpad: a reading and writing and social network service that has your kids’ attention, and increasingly, adult writers, too, along with major studios like Netflix and Hulu, which are adapting Wattpad stories.
Today, I’ll feature an interview and a reading by Wattpad user Jandra Sutton, a special interview with Ashleigh Gardner, deputy general manager of Wattpad Studios, and of course an update on the indie publishing world with our news editor Dan Holloway. I’m Howard Lovy, managing editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors and you’re listening to IndieVoices.
Jandra Sutton, Wattpad author: My first guest is Jandra Sutton, who seems to have made the most out of Wattpad. A couple of years ago, she jumped onto Wattpad to hone her writing skills with fanfiction, anonymously. There, she developed a fan base, finally outed herself with her real name, and felt confident enough to self-publish a book called Fragile, based on her Wattpad work.
I asked her how she feels about making her writing available for a lot of strangers to critique.
“It’s still terrifying to this day, every time I post something on Wattpad because, obviously, this is the first draft,” Sutton said. “First drafts are usually terrible 99 percent of the time. But one of the invaluable things about Wattpad is that I get real-time critiques on my work as I’m writing it.”
Ashleigh Gardner, Wattpad Studios: My next guest is Ashleigh Gardner, deputy general manager of Wattpad Studios. She runs the publishing side of the business, working with publishers around the world to help Wattpad authors get book deals, self-publish, and work on projects directly with retailers. So, if you’re a Wattpad author and you hear from Ashleigh, that’s bound to be good news. She invites more indie authors to try the service.
“I’d love to see more of your audience log on and try Wattpad,” Gardner said. “I think there’s a story for everyone there. There are over 65 million members of Wattpadd that have written over 565 million stories and that number keeps growing … it’s a great place for writers to find readers for their stories.”
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer, and is launching a new Jewish-themed podcast on Patreon. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle
Read the Transcript
Howard Lovy: I don’t want to alarm anybody, but have you noticed what your teenage kids are doing? I’m not saying you should violate their privacy, but you really should, when they least expect it, insist that they turn their phones and tablets over to you for inspection. What you’ll find may shock you.
You’ll find science fiction, fantasy, memoir, and, according to one expert, stories about goblins and a new genre called “#breakup.” They’re reading this stuff, and they’re also writing it. And they’re doing it by the millions without asking permission from adults.
If you think your kids aren’t reading books like you did when you were young, they may just be doing something more important: Reinventing the way books are written and read. It’s collaborative, it’s a need for instant reaction from friends, and, if you haven’t already guessed it, it’s Wattpad: A reading and writing and social network service that has your kids’ attention, and increasingly, adult writers, too, along with major studios like Netflix and Hulu, which are adapting Wattpad stories.
Today, I’ll feature commentary and readings by Wattpad users, a special interview with a Wattpad executive, and of course an update on the indie publishing world with our News editor Dan Holloway. I’m Howard Lovy, managing editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors and you’re listening to IndieVoices.
My first guest is Jandra Sutton, who seems to have made the most out of pat a couple of years ago. She jumped onto Wattpad to hold her writing skills with fan fiction anonymously. There she developed a fan base, finally outed herself with her real name and felt confident enough to self-publish a book called Fragile based on her Wattpad work, and I’ll let Jandra explained the rest. Welcome to Indy voices. Jandra.
Jandra Sutton: Thank you so much for having me.
Howard Lovy: First, tell us more about your work and your day job and why you decided, essentially to write for free on Wattpad.
Jandra Sutton: Yeah, so originally I actually worked in the publishing industry on the business side of things. I started in publishing working as the director of marketing for a mid-sized publisher based in Nashville, and then I ended up transitioning to a literary PR firm where I was the digital marketing director and I never really thought about writing books. I was very interested in the creative industry and obviously I loved books, but it was never something that I had thought about by myself. I discovered Wattpad accidentally through Buzzfeed, so I was really bored. One day I was on BuzzFeed and I saw a list of the best fan fiction that you could read online. I never read fan fiction before. I wasn’t very familiar with fan fiction other than you know, hearing about 50 shades and how that started as fan fiction and I ended up clicking on one that was a marvel fan fiction and it was written by a 15-year-old girl on Wattpad and it ended up being a six-book series and it was huge. Like shoot. It was very well written, very well developed and I read it in like three days and then at the end of reading it, I want, you know what? I could do this, and I talked to my, my boyfriend now, my husband and I said, you know what, I think I might want to try writing fan fiction under a fake name because I wanted to work on developing my skills as a writer because I’d already written one book and I knew that I was good at dialogue. That kind of comes with being a screenwriter, you know, it’s very dialogue intensive, but I had no idea how to really write descriptive imagery. I wanted to work on plot development, things like that, and I thought working within fan fiction would allow me to work with preexisting characters and a preexisting universe where I didn’t have to worry about character development about anything else and just work on those things that I wasn’t very good at.
Howard Lovy: So fan fiction gives you a kind of cover to experiment?
Jandra Sutton: Yes, it absolutely does because when you’re working with those preexisting characters, you can just like. I spent all of my creative time developing my main character who was an original character, developing plot, developing interesting storylines within this prebuilt world. So I didn’t have to spend any time on world building. I didn’t have to spend any time on dialogue for these other characters because it already just came out of my head because it was based off existing characters, which was really cool for me.
Howard Lovy: How much of Wattpad involve putting your work out there for other people to critique? For me, I slave away in private. I’m very old school and I’m very reluctant for anybody to look at the floor of the sausage factory.
Jandra Sutton: Honestly, probably all of it. it’s a scary thing to be putting your work out there, but for me, the, an anonymity when I first started on Wattpad really eliminated that because I was writing under a fake name. Nobody knew who I was. Nobody knew to associate me with Jandra Sutton. And as it picked up steam my, I was writing fan fiction. It got very popular very quickly. And I finally was like, you know what, I’m going to go ahead and put my real name on this. And then I transitioned into writing original works and it’s still terrifying to this day. Every time I post something on Wattpad because I’ve obviously, this is the first draft, first drafts are usually terrible, 99 percent of the time, but one of the invaluable things about Wattpad is that I get Realtime critiques on my work as I’m writing it, so it’s serialized. You Post chapter by chapter, you have the option to post all at once if you want to, but for me, I post as I write, so if I write one chapter, I upload one chapter and then I get real time feedback from the people who are following me on that one chapter. What are the things they like, what are the things they don’t understand, what are the things they like? I’ve had people guess what they think is going to happen next, be completely wrong, and then me go, wait, that’s a better idea.
Howard Lovy: Now are They mainly younger people who are critiquing your work or are they all ages?
Jandra Sutton: I do have all ages. Wattpad is primarily concentrated in younger people, but I’ve made some wonderful friends throughout the spectrum of people who. I have one girl who’s a 15 year old and she’s one of my Beta readers and she’s phenomenal, so she’s just a very dedicated, intelligent reader and it doesn’t really matter that she’s 15.
Howard Lovy: Why specifically young people, although now that the secret’s out and old people like me are talking about it, have we ruined it?
Jandra Sutton: Well, Wattpad is it particularly. It’s very successful with young people in my opinion, because it’s the perfect market opportunity, you know, when people don’t have the purchasing power to go out and support self-published authors, indie authors or traditionally published authors in mass because they don’t have the earning power. So, for Wattpad they get free content on the regular that they can access, and they can communicate directly with the author. So, it’s like a double whammy right there. and I think that for me particularly, I love working with these young people because they’re so more and more well-read. You know, I actually read something, I think it was two days ago that younger generations are now more well-read than older generations, which is not something that I expected to see because you hear about young people today aren’t reading books. Actually, they’re reading books more than we were.
Howard Lovy: Right, right. They’re just reading them in a different way and it’s more participatory. Exactly. So there’s, there’s hope for hope for the future generation.
Jandra Sutton: When Wattpad first started, I mean I’ve only been on Wattpad for two years, so I’m still a relative Newbie, but when they first started there was a pretty heavy emphasis on fanfiction, especially like real person fan fiction. So, you’ll find a lot of stuff about, like one direction fanfic. and I think that there was also a heavy emphasis on teen fiction, but now I’m seeing other genres explode. So, there’s a lot more science fiction, romantic staff. there’s poetry exploding on Wattpad, short fiction, a lot of different opportunities. And I think having older authors come in, honestly raises the bar, you know, a lot of people on Wattpad are getting popular based on these really like guilty pleasure stories and that’s wonderful. But it also encourages young people to work harder and to improve their writing because there’s other people coming in who are 20, 30, 40 or older and have a lot of writing shops. And then there’s people who are older who don’t have any writing in shops and that’s okay. But I think it really elevates Wattpad on the whole to try and compete. And that’s it. It’s a great opportunity for everybody involved.
Howard Lovy: Yeah. Well it sounds like at least older people reminding stories from it. There’s the example that’s used a lot in the press now. The kissing booth was picked up by Netflix and it’s got sort of so, so reviews. But I’m thinking that the people who reviewed it might be older people, so I don’t know.
Jandra Sutton: Definitely agree. Yeah.
Howard Lovy: So are those similar tools for young authors? What makes Wattpad unique?
Jandra Sutton: There are similar websites that are out there. I know of Ink-it is another popular one. And so is swoonreads, but Swoonreads is actually a partnership with a big five publisher and ink-It has more of a publishing emphasis as well. So Wattpad’s is unique? Because there are opportunities to get published. There are opportunities to maybe do a partnership with Netflix or Hulu or Sony or whatever, but there’s also just that huge user base. There are so many people on Wattpad and they’re growing at an alarming rate, so that in itself makes Wattpad incredibly unique versus some of these other opportunities where you might have more of an opportunity to get published. I know that there’s one app called radish rights and you can get paid for serializing your work, but for Wattpad specifically, it’s just the size really.
Howard Lovy: You’ve run online chats about Wattpad? What kinds of advice do you give users?
Jandra Sutton: I’ve given so much advice about Wattpad. I have a whole video about it on YouTube. I’m. One of the things that I always recommend that people do on Wattpad is to really engage. You know, it’s an opportunity for you to publish your work. Yes, but it’s also an opportunity for you to read, for you to make friends. I have found so many Beta readers on Wattpad. I found other writers that I’m reading their work and kind of giving them my thoughts and I think that exchange of information and that exchange of really creativity is a really great opportunity and for someone who’s looking to grow their brand, grow their audience, it’s not just about posting your work out there, obviously that’s great, but you have to be more strategic if you want it to actually attract readers.
Howard Lovy: So, let’s move on to your work that you originally wrote on Wattpad, but then you yourself published, called Fragile. What is the book about?
Jandra Sutton: So, yes, Fragile, is it’s about a young girl in high school who is deaf and she’s struggling with what it means to be normal. I wrote, Fragile,, I think a year and a half ago because my brother is deaf and he’s got cochlear implants and it’s based off his experience in high school and how people interact with him. And I feel like a lot of times people interact with him in particular thinking that he’s somehow deficient or that he can’t communicate, and he totally can. And I also realized that there wasn’t a lot of fiction out there, especially from a young person’s perspective about being deaf. And I’m a big believer in increasing diversity in books and things like that. But I also wanted to do something that, one was very well researched, very in depth. I talked to a lot of people. It was very heavily based off my brother’s own experience. He’s read it, he liked it and my parents all like my mom cried a lot. But I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to get other young people interested in more diverse experiences and reading about experiences that were different than their own. And it absolutely worked. I had a lot of readers on Wattpad go. I’m learning sign language now because I never thought about it. I never thought about trying to communicate with somebody beyond just speaking verbally. And it’s so easy for me to take a few seconds to start learning the alphabet and start learning basic sign. I also had other young people who were saying, I’m following people now who are deaf and deaf creators because. Why not? You know, it’s an opportunity to really shine a light on this whole portion of society that needs to be more heavily represented across the spectrum. So for me, I wanted to really, I don’t know, be a lite shiner, I guess, if that makes sense.
Howard Lovy: That makes a lot of sense.
Jandra Sutton: To help point people towards those people to follow because it’s not just about me. It’s about this whole community.
Howard Lovy: So what would you like to read an excerpt of Fragile for us?
Jandra Sutton: Sure. Fragile is a very short book. It’s a quick read. Most people read it in two to three hours. And I, this is just the prologue. So that’s what people always ask me to read whenever I do readings.
Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be deaf? To see the world buzzing to life around you, to see colors and faces and a swirl of activity that you can feel, taste, touch, smell, but here, nothing. you might think it sounds like a horrible thing, trapped inside your own mind, unable to communicate or express yourself to be without the ability to hear surely would be awful. No music, no movies, no phone calls. Maybe you feel bad for those who can’t hear you know what they’re missing after all because that’s exactly it. They’re quote unquote missing something. They’re lacking. They’re impaired, but what if you’re wrong? What if being deaf presented you with the opportunity to see the world through an entirely unique lens instead of missing something, you’ve gained something different. The ability to see what others might not. the chance to experience life and all of its challenges in a way that a majority of the world will never even begin to imagine. deaf doesn’t mean broken. Deaf means different.
Howard Lovy: Well, thank you very much Jandra. That sounds great.
Jandra Sutton: Thank you so much for having me.
Howard Lovy: My next guest is Ashleigh Gardner. Deputy general manager of Wattpad Studios. She runs the publishing side of the business, working with publishers around the world to help Wattpad authors get book deals, self-publish and work on projects directly with retailers. So, if you’re a Wattpad author and you hear from Ashleigh, that’s bound to be good news. Hello and welcome to IndieVoices, Ashley.
Ashleigh Gardner: Happy to be here.
Howard Lovy: Well first did I get that right? You’re a kind of a talent scout for Wattpad?
Ashleigh Gardner: Yeah, to some extent. I think that, you know, I’m always looking to see what’s happening at Wattpad and what’s happening in the traditional industry and finding out more about what our writers want and who’s a good candidate for different opportunities we have coming in.
Howard Lovy: So, tell me about what might make you take notice of the story in Wattpad. What has to click for you to make it stand out and, and does it also have to do with follower reaction as well as story quality?
Ashleigh Gardner: Yeah, I think there’s absolutely a lot of different things that we look at when we’re looking at stories. There are over 565 million stories that have been posted on Wattpad, so we rely a lot on the data around stories to help surface the best since we can’t read them all, even if it was my full-time job to sit and read. I think every minute 24 hours of reading material is uploaded to Wattpad. So, it’s a huge amount of content. I think what we do is we look to see what’s catching people’s attention. both on what’s most popular. We’ll, we’ll definitely have us looking at it and trying to understand what it is about that particular story that is resonating with readers. If there’s, you know, 10,000 stories about the circus, but one is over indexing and most readers are flocking to it. That could get our attention and we look at both what’s most popular and has the most amount of readers around it. But also for me, one of the biggest indicators is reading time spent. So if I see a story that maybe has a much smaller audience in one of our most popular stories, but everyone reading it is reading it for an average of 40 minutes and can’t put it down. that’s the type of stat that would get my attention and try to. It’s usually a good indicator of quality.
Howard Lovy: No, just about the size of the audience, but whether they have their attention from beginning to end.
Ashleigh Gardner: I was, I was going to say, it also depends on where that audience is. sometimes we’re looking for stories that are popular across, you know, a very specific demographic in a particular geography and those types of things also really influenced what we’re looking for in different categories. You know, success looks very different top.
Howard Lovy: We’ve heard about a lot of sub genres that white pad has kind of fostered. And I was reading recently about kind of a disturbing one about school shootings. Are there other ones that are unique to the experiences and maybe fears of young people today?
Ashleigh Gardner: Yeah. Wattpad is Really a place where people all over the world feel safe to express themselves and sometimes they work through fears and in trauma and other things that are going on in their life through storytelling. What pads really about sharing and connecting and it’s really a way that a lot of people can come together and heal. I think the news and other events really influence what people are writing on Wattpad. right now we see really big trends around Lgbtq rights, and creating a lot of, of characters around that. The same movements that are going on in the traditional publishing industry of we need diverse books are flourishing on Wattpad. And I really love to see how different communities that are being ignored by the traditional industry are flourishing on Wattpad for example, we have a huge Latin x community in the US. one of our most popular stories in the US right now is a Spanish story and that’s not what you’d see in a traditional bookstore. So it’s really interesting to see those, to see people come to walk ahead and write stories for each other.
Howard Lovy: Right? In a lot of it has to do with the reaction is not just the writing, but the reaction that your audience has to it and there’s more of a connection.
Ashleigh Gardner: Absolutely. I think one of my favorite comparisons that someone made to express that with Margaret Atwood when she first joined Wattpad, she’s like, oh, I see how this isn’t an eBook. It’s a digital campfire. There is more of a Realtime storytelling that goes on and more of a connection to the audience because you’re getting those immediate reactions chapter by chapter. You’re not writing the whole story and then getting the reaction of a few people at a time like it’s, it’s, they’re ongoing. And I think to your point it changes it because it’s not transactional. It’s more of a social community and it’s a connection for ours. So many of our readers, they feel like these authors are their friends and they feel ownership over the story because they’ve watched it unfold in front of them and be written. They may be added a comment that influenced, what a character did or said the next chapter. And I think that that’s very much in line with how young people are consuming media everywhere today. when you look at how young people are interacting with influencers on YouTube and Instagram, it makes sense, but that’s also how they want to read as well.
Howard Lovy: So I guess that’s how Old People like me have to redefine what a book really means. My next question was going to be, does this large following necessarily lead to book sales? But that’s maybe the wrong question.
Ashleigh Gardner: I think it’s, it’s beyond just book sales. And I don’t think that everyone is using Wattpad for that in the same way that not everyone on Instagram wants to be a professional photographer. a lot of people are using Wattpad for emotional reasons to connect, to be famous on the Internet to build a following somewhere else or even just to find their voice. For a lot of people on Wattpad, what they’ve written is the first thing that they’ve ever wrote and ever put out there in the world. And it can give them that confidence to continue on and build their writing career and writing life. but we absolutely do see a correlation between, having that built in audience on Wattpad and book sales. I don’t think we’re at a point where we have a magic number of what percentage of reads will result in book sales. And as I said before, it also depends on where those leads are coming from and how accessible that book is to them. I’ve seen publishers in the UK acquire titles where most of the audience was in Southeast Asia and then you do not understand why people weren’t coming out for it when it wasn’t available to the community that was there for it. And I think that that’s so important to have helping people choose the right titles that will be successful for them. And that’s a big part of how we work with the traditional publishing industry today.
Howard Lovy: What other ways are there to sort of make revenue off your writing? Using Wattpad as a launching pad.
Ashleigh Gardner: Yeah. so, we, we allow a wide variety of different ways that authors at any point in their career can use Wattpad. It can be really valuable to get that direct feedback. And even just to get close to the reader and get that level of data on your own stories is something that we hear from a lot of authors that it’s really valuable even for someone going out to pursue self-publishing, if you realize that on Wattpad, we do share a huge amount of data to authors on their story. They can see where their readers are coming from geographically. If you see you have many users in the Philippines for instance, that might tell you that on KDP, you should set a specific price for that audience so that they’re not just having the straight conversion of US dollars, which might price you out of that market.
And a lot of those details of where the audiences you can use that to help tailor it. A, we work with a lot of hybrid authors on Wattpad. There’s a lot of authors that choose to publish directly through different online sites in English, but it’s a charter to break through in foreign markets. And that’s one area where they might choose to work with publishers for their foreign rights. that’s a big part of how we helped them as well and there’s other ways that are completely outside of publishing. We have publishers or writers that self-published but are working with us to help get their stories placed in film and TV. We also have a huge amount of, of stories on Wattpad and writers who make a living through writing sponsored content for native ads or participating in Wattpad features, which allows them to get a percentage of advertising revenue that’s shown on their stories as well.
Howard Lovy: So what is the most interesting sort of experimental literary activities going on at Wattpad? Are they inventing any new kind of genres,
Ashleigh Gardner: I think that on what we see trends happen often before they do. So, we’re always looking at who is the next big band that everyone’s writing fanfiction about and watching them spike and, and develop in, in the traditional market or things like, what’s the next paranormal creature? You know, we’ve had vampires and werewolves and we saw a spike of mermaid stories and now we’re seeing some like goblins and the fantasy area. So that’s been really interesting. one trend that I’ve been watching really closely that I find really fascinating is what’s going on in Europe where there’s this almost new genre of romance that they’re calling goodbyes on Wattpad. Writers use tags to identify their stories rather than, you know, like, buys at code or a putting it on a bookshelf in the traditional industry and because there isn’t any that are set, people can create their own. and a goodbye is a story that is a romance story about the romances that are true to real life. It can be a great love story, but you don’t end up together, which is true of a lot of teenagers and their first romance or their high school boyfriend and they’re usually romance stories that, that, where they don’t end up together, but it’s not sad or tragic or angst ridden. It’s just those romances that kind of see their natural end.
Howard Lovy: Okay, well I could hear the indie authors of the background scribbling things down now take out the zombies, put into Dublin’s and and don’t have things work out so much at the end. So tell me about the future of Wattpad,
Ashleigh Gardner: everyone talking about it is helping to grow it and I think you’re going to see more Wattpad stories everywhere. we’ve already had many New York Times best sellers. We have many Wattpad titles that are scheduled for upcoming releases and the next year and this fall, we’re working with writer’s digest to create a book for any author, whether it’s self-published professional or hobbyist writers starting out. called the writer’s digest guide to Wattpad that’s releasing this summer. And I think that, you know, in the coming year when you turn on the TV or go to the movie or even log onto your favorite streaming services, you’ll see Wattpad stories where our decisions and insights have helped lead to those projects being green lit.
Howard Lovy: Well, that’s great. You know, everybody talks about the domination of one particular company who I won’t mention in the publishing business. meanwhile innovation is still happening, and this is really great to see that, that young people are interested in reading and writing and, and, and you’re helping to make it happen. Is there anything else you want to add?
Ashleigh Gardner: No, you know, I think we’ve been so excited to see everything that’s happening this year and I’d love to see more of your audience log on and try Wattpad. I think there is a story for everyone there. as mentioned, there’s over 65 million members on Wattpad that I’ve written over 565 million stories, and that number keeps growing. It’s across 50 different languages were popular in countries around the world and I think it’s a great place for writers to be able to find readers for their story.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. Well thank you Ashley. I appreciate you appearing on Indy voices.
Ashleigh Gardner: Thanks, so much Howard.
Howard Lovy: It’s now time for an update on the news from the indie publishing world with ALLi’s news editor Dan Holloway. As I have said before Dan does more before noon then I can do in a month. He’s a poet and author, a performance artist, and now he’s also some kind of out of control punctuation mark too. I’ll let Dan explain that. I’m welcome to IndieVoices Dan.
Dan Holloway: Hi. Thank you.
Howard Lovy: So first, tell us what you’re up to and all about Rogue Interrobang.
Dan Holloway: Well Rogan Tara bang has been something I’ve had taken along for a couple of months. I had support from Oxford University to get it spun out as a company we will be incorporating on the first of August, so it will be an official Oxford University spin out and creative thinking company. So I will be getting the world to be more creative and to help solve the world’s wicked problems through creative thinking.
Howard Lovy: Well that sounds wonderful and I love the name too. Rogan Tara bang. can you give us a little sneak preview about some of the activities?
Dan Holloway: Well there is. There’s a card game called mycelium which is beautifully illustrated and that just comes up with a random creative thinking problems. So for example, you might be asked after the Zombie apocalypse, would you choose to save either a violin or an oil Well. then you get five minutes to come up with as many answers as you can and you get points according to how originally your ideas are and how well they are.
Howard Lovy: Well that’s wonderful. And you have. you convinced Oxford University to, to fund this?
Dan Holloway: Yes, they’re very gullible.
Howard Lovy: So first let’s talk about Lionel Shriver. Last year she famously donned a Sombrero at a literary event to make some kind of goofy point about cultural appropriation. Okay. I thought. she’s a writer and writers are naturally self-promoters and contrarian. Maybe she’s doing performance art. since then, she’s kind of doubled down on her objections to the idea of diversity and that got her into some trouble. Update us on the Lionel Shriver chronicles.
Dan Holloway: So yes, she made a comment about penguin random house has a new policy to promote diversity, to aim with the aim that is the profile of its authors will reflect the profile of the population by 2025. That’s The aim, Lionel Shriver very forcefully came out against this, perhaps chose, chose her words not very carefully about the kind of author who might get published. instead of her under this kind of scenario. And as a result, there was a very big controversy and she was dropped from the panel of judges for a writing competition run by a magazine, Mslexia, I don’t know if you have the magazine in America is very, very big in the UK, is one of our biggest lifestyle magazines and runs a very high profile fiction contest
Howard Lovy: So I guess there are two issues here. There are the merits that she is saying, which I disagree with and I’ve written before that in biology as species cannot survive in a moto culture. I’m a middle aged white male and it will be incredibly dull and the death of literature as a species if I only had other middle aged white males to read, but then there’s the free speech issue. Why should she be punished for having these views?
Dan Holloway: Free speech as far as I understand it isn’t. This isn’t the freedom to be published by some, by big publishing house or. And it’s that simple as thought of I can see it, a big publishing house gets to choose what to publish. And I think the idea that the current profile of authors which isn’t very diverse, her sudden somehow only got there on merit. I think that that’s just not, that’s just not an intellectually particularly strong argument.
Howard Lovy: Right? We all know it’s a meritocracy and it’s not who you know and whether you’re in the right place at the right time and going to the right parties. Right?
Dan Holloway: Right exactly. If you want real, real freedom of speech, then then, then that’s what we’ve. We’ve got to self-publish it.
Howard Lovy: Exactly. That was. That was a leading question because I wanted to say maybe she’d have a better time as a self-publisher and she wouldn’t have to worry about penguin random house being under case for saying this stuff and she can do what she wants and let readers decide.
Dan Holloway: Yeah.
Howard Lovy: That’s the great thing about indie publishing. The minority opinion is welcome. No matter how good, bad, or ugly
Dan Holloway: Yes, I think it is, the better for it. And that’s something we sometimes forget when we, when we give advice and a lot of the advice we give is how to be like publishers, but we tend to forget that one of the things publishers do wrong is they’re not very diverse. So even whilst it’s great to be like published in some expense, so. So get our work to a very high quality and have great covers and so on and so on. We don’t have like publishers in every extent. We want to bring to the party what they’re not bringing.
Howard Lovy: Right? Exactly. So we’re not here to imitate big publishers and that’s what a lot of people mistake about indie publishing. Let’s try to. Let’s try to imitate the big publishers as much as possible and that is not a goal at all. So let’s switch the subject to the rise of audio. Both audio books and podcasts. First, I want to give a 30-second history lesson. A long time ago there was a Greek name Socrates. He apparently was a really, really great teacher, but we only know that because his students wrote down what he said, Socrates himself was not a writer. In fact, you could say he was anti-writing. He thought everybody should just shut up and listen to the lesson. The written word would give the young a false conceit of wisdom, he said. Well, he lost that battle. Obviously. Now it’s the opposite. We have old people telling us that taking in a book through the eyes is better than through the years, but consumers seem to be agreeing with old Socrates, right, Dan?
Dan Holloway: Yes. We’re going back on. This is something I’ve seen as a poet. The spoken word scene is absolutely huge and growing and growing and growing. And if you look on YouTube, you get poets. You’ve got tens of millions of hits for performance poetry. People are increasingly consuming audio books.
Howard Lovy: What’s your opinion on whether information is retained better or worse when you listen to a book?
Dan Holloway: I think it depends entirely on the person. I think different neurology’s retain information in different ways. I think that’s what the dangers of the rise of audio culture is, that people who retain information through the written and they’re actually writing, if we go too far back, that can be lost. We don’t want to be. I think again, it comes back to this, this the indie thing of giving people choice, having things available in lots of different formats so that whatever suits you, it’s available in that format. so I think having lots and lots of audio books is great. I think what’s slightly less great is this move to what, what people like to call voice first technology. So things like Alexa in theory.
Howard Lovy: what does that mean? I know that my son has a little Amazon Dot. And he can say, Alexa, read me a story.
Dan Holloway: So that’s, I think how books will be found. So I think I covered in the news a few weeks ago, there was a mixing voice technology with an ai algorithm. So it was, I think it’s something, it’s a google side project, so it would be literally saying, can you recommend me a good book about such and such? So can you recommend me a good book about Madeline’s and, and then you get the answer back. Oh, I recommended Proust. what do you like me to read it to you? So I think, I think this kind of integrating everything. So the whole discoverability process starts with, starts with the reader’s voice.
Howard Lovy: Last week we took on older people. So, this month we’re taking you on younger people and when you think about younger people making the news now is Wattpad. What’s you take on Wattpad? Is it because young voices are being sought out? Everybody’s talking about how young people are going to save the world because we old folks screwed it up so much.
Dan Holloway: I love it because there are people writing for their community that young people writing for young people and I think the publishing world in general is quite. Has traditionally been quite snooty. They’ve. They’ve thought that that there is a kind of person that goes back to what we were talking about diversity. There is a kind of person who’s a writer and they write for readers and they choose which group of readers they’re going to write for, but whichever group of readers you’re going to write for, it’s going to be the same kind of people writing for them and what’s something like Wattpad does, if it’s you’ve got, it’s like fanfiction. You’ve got this whole community of people who are writing for each other, so they’re sharing stories amongst themselves and I think to the outside it can. It can also seem quite alien and quite strange. The publishing industry doesn’t quite understand it. The indie world. We don’t talk about it very much, but clearly the people with the wallets have caught onto the fact that there something happening here.
Howard Lovy: Right, right. Yeah. That makes a difference with the young people know when they’re being condescended to or when it’s not really their website. I have a 14 year old son who rolls his eyes every time I say the word Hashtag, like, you know, dad just don’t, just don’t, don’t even try. So
Dan Holloway: the latest thing that I was talking about in the news this week. The Kissing Booth, which is the new Netflix film, that was bought straight from Wattpad. the really interesting figure for that. With the, on rotten tomatoes, the rating of the show. For six rating was 17 percent and the fans rating was 71 percent. And I think that is something we see with popular literature a lot, but that says a lot about the disconnect between what the so called industry insiders make of something of what people read, want to read and want to engage with.
Howard Lovy: Alright. Well, I think that that kind of wraps up the news. Anything else going on this, this month that we should know about in the indie publishing world?
Dan Holloway: There are all sorts of things. I would just point people, Jane Friedman from Writer’s Digest as most people that they will know. Jane Friedman very well. Every year since 2013. She’s been doing a different types of publishing infographic and she updates it every year and her latest one for 2018 has just come out. It’s really interesting to follow the way they’ve progressed over the five years she’s been doing it to see how the landscape is changing. And the thing I noticed most of all about this years is the way there is now a whole column for things like Wattpad, direct for serialization, for telling stories on social media and when it started out that would never have been there.
Howard Lovy: This is great how these things are developing organically. You know, there, there are some services out there that, you know, you pay a certain amount of money and like I mentioned names, but they claim to know, put your, put your work in front of a TV producer, a movie producer. And, that’s kind of dubious meanwhile, organically, what they’re really paying attention to are young voices on Wattpad. Yeah. Okay. Well Great. Thank you very much. As usual, Dan for the update and we’ll be looking forward to, to some wonderful stuff from Oxford University’s new, a college of Rogue and Tara Bang.
Dan Holloway: Thank you very much indeed. Brilliant.
Howard Lovy: Thank you Dan. Bye
Dan Holloway: Bye