Report on the Wattpad experiment

We’re done with school, and the kids are running around on all fours, talking in meows and hiding under the beds. I have a few minutes to sit at the computer and talk about hobbies.

I’ve been on Wattpad for two whole weeks now. I have 15 followers, and my story-in-progress has 382 reads, 69 votes and 83 comments. I promote/trade reads for an hour or so every night.

Wattpad is very amateur, but it’s also very fun. The intensity of the teen-excitement in all the forums is such fun.

But it’s not all amateur–there are all kinds of published authors who write Wattpad exclusive stories and novellas. I saw one book that was available for free in return for Amazon reviews. Those books have millions of reads and thousands of comments. (Just go to Wattpad.com and click on Wattpad Insider. It’s all there.)

I’ve been following the progress of all kinds of people who are using social media to promote their books. And it seems to me that promoting a book to the same people over and over doesn’t get anywhere. There has to be a way to connect with new readers.

I’ve been on deviantArt for nine years. I have 867 artworks in my gallery (holy crap!), and every day I have a smattering of favorites and comments. Usually it’s individual faves spread across my zillions of artworks. But that’s how book publishing works, too. You get a large body of work out there, and eventually it starts selling itself.

But there was at least two years on DA where I got no comments or faves. I posted there anyway because I liked having a spiffy new site to display my art on. I commented and faved other art. I networked with my friends. And once DA introduced clubs, I joined clubs like nobody’s business, and that’s when my views really skyrocketed.

All these marketing gurus say, “Promote on a platform you like! Make friends! Give something back!”

It’s all true. The trick is finding a platform somewhere that clicks with you. For some it’s blogging. (Blogging isn’t just posting an update once in a while, either. It’s actively commenting on other blogs, and constantly finding new ones, spreading the net wider and wider.)

For some it’s messing about on Tumblr (I have a friend who has done very well on Tumblr).

Other people build a following on Twitter because they tweet all kinds of funny and weird things, like that guy who tweets pictures of things he sees on his motorcycle commute to work.

My hubby’s interested in Minecraft, so he’s been making friends in the chat servers and the adventure map groups, as well as the open servers where someone always makes him a moderator.

It all comes down to where you’re comfortable and what you’re interested in. Once something clicks, man, go, go, go for it. But don’t try too many at once. There’s only so many hours in the day.

More Minecrafting

My hubby set up a Minecraft server with an immense collection of modpacks on it. We’ve been building a little “survival hub” on it, and tonight I built a farm.

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You can’t see the animal pens very well–they’re behind my crops–but I’ve got a barn with sheep, cows, chickens and pigs in pens. It’s very pastoral and was really relaxing to build.

So yeah. This is what I’ve been doing after the kids are asleep. I think my brain is tired of writing and editing, because building blocks in Minecraft is just so soothing.

Also I have spring fever and no gardening prospects, so this is close as I can get.

Marketing is sinful and other thoughts

Over on Spec Faith a few days ago, they had this article about Idolatry and Reading-Fandoms.

The gist of the article is this:

I’m trying to imagine a fan cult growing up around the characters of the classic fantasy stories. Would we ever see a Team Gandalf square off against a Team Aragon? Or a Team Frodo versus a Team Samwise Gamgee? How about a Team Lucy facing a Team Peter?

The idea seems absurd to me because Lord of the Rings and Narnia were bigger than the flawed and frail characters roaming through their pages. The characters don’t lend themselves to the kind of devotion we’ve seen in recent years–an ephemeral devotion that is white hot one day, then swept aside for the Next Big Thing.

Yet, I think I understand why fans gravitate to fictitious characters. No one is going to dig up dirt about them. No one is going to snap a picture of them yelling at their three-year-old. They aren’t going to age or get fat. They can remain in our thinking as wonderful as we want them to be. They are, in fact, the idealization of a friend (Harry Potter) or lover (the Twilight trio) or advocate (Katniss).

The problem is, we are idolizing the creature–and a fictitious creature, at that–not the Creator.

This troubled me a lot. After all, I’ve spent over a year researching publishing and marketing. The various aspects of marketing are a hot topic in the indipub and small press circles I frequent. We all want to get our books into the hands to readers. The gold standard is to get a group of people who read your works–a tribe or a fandom. Fandoms sell books. That’s how Fifty Shades and Hunger Games went nuts.

But does that mean that an author is drawing a bunch of readers into idol-worship? I asked,

“So, fandom = idolatry. But what about authors who are instructed to go forth and help create “tribes” and “fandoms” of readers to sell books? Is marketing inherently sinful?”

The article’s author replied,

“Kessie, that’s an interesting question. I’m wondering if there aren’t levels of fandom. For example, I just read an essay about someone who was addicted to football (their words). I could relate because there have been times when I would put sports higher than things God has said–loving people being the most obvious. But does allowing God His rightful place mean I must have no part of sports? Can I learn to keep it in its proper place–not an idol, but something to enjoy?

Can we do that with marketing?”

I thought back to my advertising classes in college. Basically, all advertising can be broken down into appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. “I have something you want! You need it! It’ll make you happy and fulfilled if you read my book!”

So. It therefore follows that not only marketing your book is causing someone else to sin in some way–but you’re tempting them into idol-worship, if they like your writing enough to become a fan.

Just … wow. By this logic, all business is built entirely on sin and causing other people to sin.

In order to sell books, do I have to not be a Christian anymore?

Duel – Sonic and Mecha

I sat down to draw something this evening, and wracked my brains for something fun.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about this short Sonic story I wrote called Duel. It’s about Metal Sonic chasing Sonic, and Sonic just runs and runs–and they’re both keeping diaries of the chase’s events.

Anyway, it’s a simple concept and doing a cover image for it should be simple enough.

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While drawing this, I realized that I’ve more or less forgotten how to draw the Sonic characters. Fortunately, Google is stuffed with reference art.

You can see how I layered in the sky first, then the foreground.

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The brush isn’t really green. It’s grayish-brown, but it looks green against the reddish background. I wanted a hot color scheme to convey the tension of the chase.

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This is how it looks as of tonight, but it needs some more value tweaking, and some polishing. I’ll mess with it some more later. 🙂

Minecraft, time sink

Lately the kids and I have been playing Minecraft. They prefer Creative Mode, which is a sandbox mode which lets you build anything.

I like survival mode, where you have to work for resources and hide at night from the zombies and other nasties.

The other day, I went crazy and built this dragon head.

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The eye is just a torch for now, because the kind of glowing red block I wanted won’t be out until the next patch. There’s a room with a door and stuff inside him. I was thinking he’d be like this stronghold kind of thing. He needs horns and spikes and things, too.

I’ve been building houses for my village, based on nifty chateau-houses from another adventure map.

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It’s kind of like doing counted cross-stitch. Seven blocks here of one color, three here and two there of alternating colors, and so on. I let my son play, and he built me the block house on the right. He’s very good at building block houses.

So yeah. That’s what we’ve been doing. 🙂

Park day pictures

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Playing in the sand and getting it primarily in his hair.

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Hanging out with the guy who’s always there working out.

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Talking through the little voice trumpet thing.

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Listening to the other end of the voice trumpet thing.

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Slides are fun!

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Whee!

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A new friend has arrived!

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What I believe to be a phoebe.

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Looking for flying insects.

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Squirrel!

Stuff that’s been happening

This will be a list, because lists are easy to write, it’s 10:30 at night and I really should be in bed.

On Monday, I got accepted into the First Five Pages Workshop, a month-long critique group for a novel’s hook. Improvements have already been made.

On Tuesday, I took the kids to the park. It was lovely and warm.

On Wednesday, nothing much happened.

On Thursday, my husband got laid off.

On Friday it rained.

It’s now Saturday. It’s been kind of a heck of a week.

But you know … it’s been really, really nice not having my husband on the night shift anymore. We’ve had so much fun just being together again! I kind of feel guilty, because I should be more upset. But for now, it’s been like a party every day. The kids have actually gotten to see their elusive father for the first time in two months.

Fun readers and boring publishing

I’ve just had this really weird experience. I feel like a character in a book–she’s lived a large portion of her life in a brightly-colored fantasyland with unicorns and dragons.

But as she grew up and new responsibilities were laid on her shoulders, she gradually left that world and entered a gray, somber world of corporate suits, office buildings and gray people. She sort of remembered her fantasy world, but as time passed, it dimmed in her mind.

She tried to recapture it in her writing. She tried to write books that people on the other side would want to read. But she was surrounded by gray, be-suited experts who told her what the fantasy world people liked and how to write for them. So she dutifully followed their advice.

Then one day, a fellow fantasy-denizen pointed her toward a gate leading back into the fantasyland. She plunged back into her old world. Here was all the color and enthusiasm she’d been missing! While the experts’ advice was technically correct, it was no match for diving into the realm itself.

Such has been my experience with Wattpad. Goodness, I used to spend most of my time in this universe of enthusiasm. I wrote the Young Adult genre because I was a young adult and so were my characters! It’s really interesting reading stories by teen authors–their perspective on being a teen is ever so slightly different from adults writing teen fiction. Because they’re THERE. They’re living this. They don’t have to worry about authentic voice because that’s how they TALK.

I read this article, and it made me consider what I want out of publication. Money? Readers? A fanbase?

Readers, mostly, and money would be nice. But you can’t have one without the other. So, while Storm Chase inches toward being ready for querying, I’m letting the somewhat-sequel, Chronocrime, loose on Wattpad. My plan is that folks will enjoy Chronocrime enough to want to pick up Storm Chase.

I’ve been comment-trading and it’s a lot of fun. (I comment on their story, they comment on mine.) I think a lot of burned-out authors I know could benefit from fooling around on Wattpad. It’s refreshing to interact with your target audience.

Odd conversations

One of the fun things about being an adult is talking to strangers. They’re usually really nice.

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Munchie: I love dogs!
Sasha: Help me! Please!

After a nice visit at my mom’s today with my sister-in-law, I had to run to the bank and the store. I hadn’t finished my grocery list or menu, but I had them written on my ipod. The line at the bank was pretty long, and I had time to stand there and brainstorm for meals.

The trouble was, I was two short. So I stood there and tapped my foot and sighed and did all the things you do when you’re trying to generate an idea. Then I wondered what would happen if I asked somebody what they were having for dinner. I was standing inches away from a whole crowd of intensely bored strangers. What did I have to lose?

So I turned to the little old Mexican lady behind me and said, “Can I ask you a weird question? What are you having for dinner?”

She laughed and told me “Submarine sandwiches” because it’s what they go out to eat on paydays. Then they were going to barbecue that weekend. We stood there and had a nice chat about how fast January had gone by and how much fun it is to have so many birthdays.

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This is what we do at Grandma’s. We eat.

So then I got up to the teller. While I was waiting for her to process my bank stuff, I remembered this question I’ve always wanted to ask somebody in a bank. So when she came back, I asked, “When somebody robs a bank, does the money they steal come out of everybody’s bank accounts, or does the bank have some kind of insurance?”

She laughed and explained that banks have insurance to cover that sort of thing, and not to worry about my account.

I left the bank feeling quite merry indeed.

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I want to touch the camera with my Cheeto-y hands!

So that’s been my day. How’s yours?