In October 2010, I wasn’t sure where I was going with my writing. I’d been writing novels since the age of 15 and had always wanted to be an author one day. It was my biggest dream. But after nine years of trying to get published the traditional route, all I’d experienced was rejection. I’d had an agent for a few years, but he hadn’t been able to sell my books and he ended up dropping me as a client. I took a 6-month hiatus from writing after that, thinking that maybe being an author wasn’t my calling. But before long, the itch to write came back and I began to work on a new project, this time with a different mindset in place.
I asked myself why I write. The answer: Because I feel compelled to do it and hopefully, so people will one day enjoy reading my books.
As it was, I had already written six books but all of them were sitting on my computer desktop collecting e-dust. My whole goal of having people read my books (and hopefully like them) wasn’t being reached simply because I was wrapped up in how to get them into people’s hands.
This was when I learned about Wattpad
Wattpad is an online writing community site and app where people can visit and either read free stories or post them. It’s sort of like a YouTube for writers. Anyone can join (it’s free!) and writers can post poetry, short stories, full-length novels, screenplays—pretty much anything writing-related—and other users can read them, comment, share, vote, etc. It’s the number one app of its kind in the world and has about 10 million+ unique visitors a month.
Now, I’d been told by other traditionally-published authors that you never
give your work away for free, and I have to admit, for a few weeks, I really held onto that thought. But as I went back over my new goal—to get my books into the hands of readers—I realized that with Wattpad, I’d be able to do just that.
Beginning January 1, 2011, I began posting an original novel called Life’s a Witch
, on the site. It was a YA Paranormal Action book based loosely on the Salem Witch Trials but set in modern day. LAW
had a kick-ass MC and I re-mixed the history of the trials into the story, along with some killer fight scenes and a super-dreamy love interest. I wrote and published the book in real time, posting one chapter each week for my growing fanbase. Within a few weeks, I’d received thousands of reads of it and I felt like I had arrived!
And the numbers kept rising! After a few months, people were calling themselves “Twitches”, a term I used for teen witch in the book; they were acting out scenes from the novel in public; and calling Saturday, “Britt-day”, because they knew that’s when I’d upload the next section of the book. Six months after beginning to write LAW
, I finished the story, and it had garnered 6 million reads. At nearly a year after that first post—and about 18 million reads later—my fans were asking where they could buy their copies. That’s when I decided that if there was a demand for it, then why wasn’t I supplying it? So, I self-published Life’s a Witch
Because of the phenomenal numbers I was able to get through Wattpad, media outlets like Publisher’s Weekly
decided to write about me, which alerted the publishing industry to what I’d accomplished through the site. And just a month after I self-published LAW
, I found myself in an auction between four publishing houses for the rights to the series. In the end, I went with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in a 3-book, 6-figure deal.
All because I decided to try my hand at this site called Wattpad.
Now, I’m not saying that if you put your book up on a writing site like Wattpad, that you’re guaranteed to get a book deal. Ultimately you have to have a really great book that people want to read
. But the truth is: you could write the absolute BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD,
but if no one knows about it, then it’s sort of pointless. This is the problem that Wattpad solved for me, and has solved for other authors since. In fact, two other authors, Beth Reeks and Abigail Gibbs, were also discovered after putting their works up on Wattpad and now have major deals with traditional publishers. They created stories that people loved to read and Wattpad offered a place for them to build a fanbase.
The reason Wattpad is such an amazing tool for aspiring authors (and even currently published authors), is that it has an established platform of millions. And while FB, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest all have huge user numbers, the difference is that Wattpad is geared specifically to people who love to read
. This gives authors a direct route to their intended audience (well, depending on your genre….Wattpad tends to lean toward YA, though I think it’s expanding to others now). The site is full of positive people (you won’t find online bullying like there often is on so many other sites on the web) who are just passionate about books. It’s the perfect place to meet other like-minded people and to really connect with your potential fans.
But just like with any social media outlet, it only works as well as you’re willing to work for it. I didn’t just upload my stories and then wait for people to read in droves. It’s my own personal opinion that interaction with your fans or potential fans is essential to creating a successful brand. When people feel connected to you, either emotionally to the story that you write or through who you are as a person and the experiences you’ve had, it makes them more likely to become brand ambassadors—or, if you’d rather look at it another way, SUPER FANS. This means that they’ll be much more likely to encourage their friends and family to buy your book, pick up whatever novels you write in the future and help to spread the word about your latest projects. This is some of the best marketing and publicity you can get, since people are more likely to pick up a book if their friend recommended it.
Here are a few things that I’ve found to be helpful in my road to success so far. You may want to consider them when building and growing a platform/fanbase:
*Consider giving away content for free. Sure, it requires a little more work on your part, but if it means you’re pulling fans in and convincing them to spend their hard-earned money on your book, then it could be totally worth it.
I, myself, started by posting Life’s a Witch
for free for a year and then ended up getting a book deal. But even after I had the deal secured, I wrote a supplement to What the Spell?
(the first book we decided to publish in the Life’s a Witch
series), called The Abby Diaries
, which gave an inside look into the book we were about to publish. Because of this, I’ve gained thousands more fans who are now willing to purchase What the Spell?.
So, sometimes it’s a good thing to give things away for free…especially when that means you get a fan for life.
*Look at social media as a mandatory part of your job as a writer. Sometimes when I tell people all the things I do online outside of just writing my books, I see the wall come up like they’ve already decided they shouldn’t have to do it. Some don’t see what Facebook, Wattpad, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, bloggi
ng, etc. has to do with being a writer. But the way I look at it, the more people you can reach across multiple platforms, the better. For instance, there may be people on YouTube who’d never visit book review sites or go to stores to browse books, but they might see your author videos or book trailers and fall in love with the story and pick it up because of what they’ve seen on a video.
Maintaining your presence on all of the above social media takes time. And sometimes it seems overwhelming. But keeping in communication with your fans is going to keep you and your book at the forefront of their minds.
*Respond to fans.
I respond to every single comment that a fan leaves on my wall on Wattpad. Does this guarantee that they’re then going to love my books? No. But it makes them feel like they have a connection with me, which makes them more likely to follow me and what I do. And then they tell their friends about my books. Also, with all the rejection that comes along with the publishing industry, it’s nice to connect with people who love and respect what you do.
*Say yes to (almost) anything.
I’m not saying, give your book away to a publishing company or agree to change your book from The Princess Diaries
to Fifty Shades of Grey
. I’m talking about when opportunities come up, even if it’s not totally clear how it’s going to help move your career along, say “yes!” I try to accept all speaking opportunities—even if I’m not going to get paid or I know the crowd is going to be small. I say “yes” to almost all interview and guest blog opps—even if it takes time away from my book writing to do it. I force myself to say “yes” to things I’ve never done before as well as things that might scare me. The reason for all of these things is that you never know what’s going to lead to your big break or someone who could change your career in a big way. The more you say “yes”, the more likely you are to have amazing things happen. If I hadn’t said “yes” to writing something for Wattpad, my life wouldn’t be what it is today. And it’s all because I took a chance.
*Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Whether you’re already published or still trying to get your big break, creating a support group of other people who are passionate about the same things as you is so
important. They’ll help you through the hard times and give you advice if they’ve been there and done that. The publishing industry is FULL of rejection and negativity. It’s incredibly helpful to have others who understand what you’re going through. That’s why joining a writing community like Wattpad or starting a writing club can be so helpful. These people will become your biggest cheerleaders.
*Take your writing life into your own hands.
We live in a really exciting time right now where we have so many opportunities available to us as writers. Long-gone are the times when there was only one way to get published and/or discovered. Self-published authors aren’t automatically considered losers who aren’t worthy of having their stories read. Just like how Justin Bieber got his start on YouTube, we have self-publishing companies like CreateSpace and writing sites like Wattpad that facilitate our ability to get our novels out there. Sure, a ground-roots approach takes a lot of work and often a lot of time to become successful, but when you finally see your dreams come true, all the hard work is worth it.
For more information on Wattpad, visit the site here
Brittany Geragotelis, a former Olympic-bound gymnast and magazine editor, is a self-professed pop culture junkie turned author. Her paranormal action book, Life's a Witch, received 19 million reads on the writing site Wattpad, before she sold the series to Simon & Schuster. What the Spell? is her first published book in the series.
You can read Brittany's stories on Wattpad, buy What the Spell? or find her online at: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Pinterest | Website
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