My Fantasy World Map Reveal

Thanks for joining me as I chronicle My Self-Publishing Journey for my epic fantasy, THE SHADOW WATCH. In Part One, I outlined my reasons for pursuing this avenue of publishing over the traditional publishing model.

Many things are quickly falling into place, as I lay the groundwork for the self-publication process. My editor and cover artist have been booked, and most recently, I commissioned a beautiful world map for THE SHADOW WATCH.

The New World Complete

All this fell together much more quickly than I expected. I had originally planned to work with another artist, who ran over $500, whom I discovered on a thread on Kboards. I did not like the idea of spending quite that much, but I had a hard time finding an artist I liked for much cheaper. I also want this book to be as professional as possible, and let’s be honest, for epic fantasy, a detailed world map is an expectation.

Then, I stumbled upon an online thread that mentioned that there are several quality Map Artists on DeviantArt for very reasonable prices. I checked it out and stumbled upon the very impressive work of Sebastian Breit (check out his work here). And he was able to begin immediately.

[A Self-Pub Lesson Learned: You can find high quality work for a good price, if you are willing to look. Spend a little more time researching before booking a commissioned artist. Find a price that fits your budget and quality standards. Had I not been browsing some threads on Kboards, I would have ended up spending several hundred dollars more than I wanted to. This goes for cover artists, as well. I highly recommend Deviant Art, by the way.]

I am incredibly pleased with this map, and the turn-around time was only about a week. I was blown away as this world I’ve written about and poorly sketched on printer paper quickly turned into a detailed world.

Considering I will be writing at least 3 books in this world, the upfront cost of one map is totally worth every penny, in my opinion.

Let me know what you think of the map!

And stay tuned for more about my Self-Publishing Journey.

 

 

Best,

S.A. Klopfenstein

 

Why I’ve Decided to Self-Publish

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This post is the first of many that will chronicle my journey in self-publishing…

Feel free to weigh in, if you have insight, or ask any questions about the process as I set out. I plan to layout the various steps I am taking, as I take them, from finding designers and editors, to marketing and mailing lists and ARCs and so on and so forth…

First of all, to start, I guess: why did I choose self-publishing?

Self-publishing is an idea I have toyed around with for the past few years, particularly since running across Hugh Howey’s blog posts a couple years ago about the benefits of it, particularly concerning royalties. When I first began posting my story to Wattpad, I did it with the idea of self-pubbing in mind. But once I finished my latest story, I felt the compulsion to test out the query waters again. My novel, The Shadow Watch, had seen relatively impressive success on Wattpad, and I still longed for the validation of the traditional community, so I sent out some queries.

For the past 8-ish months (I sent a couple test rounds, and then hit it hardest around July), I was in the query trenches. Around July, I got my query and first chapter to a point where I was getting full requests. Around the same time, I also entered in the Ink and Insights writing contest and was selected as one of the Top Master Winners, and received great feedback from the editors in the contest. Several said it was of publishable-quality. But nothing came of that, or the agent requests. But I began hearing a trend: “Your writing is great. I connect with the characters, but the project is not quite right for me.”

Now, I know some will say that I barely dipped my feet into the subbing process. And I know that is true. I was in the trenches with my last novel too. And honestly, I think I wasted too much time on the whole process, before finally shelving that project. It held me back from moving on. Ultimately, with this book, I grew tired of the process, and did not have the patience to spend a year, or more, in the trenches again, in hopes that my novel would land in the right hands (a good chunk of agents never even responded). I, by no means, say that to knock trad or the query process, but it just didn’t do it for me…

Meanwhile, I have watched the fantasy market a lot this year, and there are a couple things I’ve realized.

One: my story is not quite what the trad market seems to be after right now.

Two: my story seems to fit along well with indie titles that are performing well on Amazon.

So, after much deliberation, I decided to read the writing on the walls and accept that trad appears to be looking for other things right now, but that there is still a market for my type of story in the self-pub world. I could wait around and hope, or I could go for it with self-pub, and that’s what I decided to do…

Everyone decides to self-publish for slightly different reasons, but here are a few factors I weighed:

  1. Success (Trad): Trad publishing does not generate a lot of bestsellers for new authors. Advances are low and print runs are short for the typical author. In other words, I could wait a long time, revising and querying, and even if I landed an agent and a deal, the chances of it panning out are low. I heard recently the average advance is hovering around $6000…
  2. Success (Indie): While self-pub bears similarly low odds of success, there are some major differences. Most notably, print runs… if my book does not become a quick bestseller in the trad world, or at least enough to earn out the advance, plus some, after six months or so, it comes off shelves and that is the end. With self-pub, I don’t need to earn out an advance with book one. If I earn enough to pay for book 2, I will consider it a success. And it never leaves the shelf. And I maintain the rights.
  3. Control: With self-pub, I get lots of control. The more I have delved into the ins and outs of putting a book together, the more I like this. I choose my cover artist. I choose my editor. I choose the text layout. Etc. But even more importantly, I choose price. I choose when I want to run a discount promotion, or I want to buy an ad, or seek out a book review blogger. This is daunting to many, and it was for me too, but I have found that there are so many resources out there for indie authors, once you start looking for them.
  4. Royalties: Perhaps the biggest factor is royalties. I can price my books at a reasonable rate, sell fewer books through self-pub, and make more money. There are plenty of bloggers who have written far better explanations for this. But ultimately, this sold me. I believe there is a market for my type of story, and if I can tap into that market, I think I can sell a few books.
  5. The Fantasy Market: The more I’ve looked at the Amazon fantasy lists, the more I’ve realized how many of those top spots are staked out by indies. I’ve read some posts about how trad is doing a rather poor job at giving fantasy readers what they want, as they publish everything in fads (I think this is true for all genres, honestly), which don’t appeal to all readers. For example: trad is over dystopian, but there are dystopians doing just fine in the indie world. Take a look at the Fantasy ebook lists on Amazon (which even for heavyhitters composes about 50% of sales or more, I believe), and that certainly appears to be true. Yes, Sanderson and Martin and Rothfuss are atop those lists. But other than that, the scale seems to tilt far more towards indies. Not to say mine will join them, only that this seems to indicate that the industry is not the sole avenue to success, nor does a trad rejection (due to it not being “right for their list”) mean that the book won’t sell elsewhere.
  6. Small Publishers Don’t Cut It For Me: I considered subbing to several small publishers who accept subs from non-agented authors, but I decided against it, and here’s why: They don’t do anything I can’t do myself through putting a little money into it up front. There are plenty of publishers who offer a decent cover, basic editing, and if you’re lucky some decent marketing. Most these days don’t pay out an advance, though. Brandon Sanderson has cautioned against taking any deal that doesn’t include an advance, because essentially it shows that the publisher won’t be giving you all the things they should: strong editing, an impressive cover, and a solid marketing campaign. So I decided against any of these options. I can get a comparable cover artist and editor (if not better) for less than $1000 investment. But in exchange, I keep all the rights, and I get waaay better royalties.
  7. My Personal Preference: Ultimately, everyone has to weigh their own factors and determine what is best for them. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I felt about self-publishing, and the less excited I felt about continuing to query and wait.

So here goes nothing. I’m self-publishing…

 

Check out Part 2 of my journey here, where I discuss finding high quality freelance artists for a good price.

Getting Readers on Wattpad

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That’s why you’re thinking about posting your story on Wattpad, right? Everyone wants to have their story read. But how do you get people to read a new story on a site that has literally millions of stories?

There are stories on Wattpad with millions of views and thousands of votes, and it can be really disheartening when your story has only a few dozen reads and four votes.

I have been posting my fantasy THE SHADOW WATCH regularly on Wattpad for about 7 weeks now. I am at 2,300 reads and about 400 votes. In the scheme of things on Wattpad, that’s nothing spectacular. But it has been steadily building, and that is the biggest thing to remember. Hitting 1K reads was a sweet spot that seemed to boost daily readership. Your story begins looking like one worth checking out.

But how to get there?

The other day, I was reading Taran Matharu’s account of posting his story, Summoner: The Novice. He posted daily during NaNoWriMo and reached a million reads in about three months. Incredible! But that is not usually the case, at all, and I just started feeling a bit discouraged, really, because that would be so cool, but that is soo not what has been happening.

But, here’s a truth, even the most successful authors on Wattpad typically go through the slog of building readership over many months.

I currently average about 50-100 reads a day on my story, and anywhere from 5 to 30 votes, typically from around 10 unique readers, and I have spent the last month on the Fantasy Hot List, typically in the top 300 or 400.  Again, nothing crazy. But when I think back to being desperate for a single vote or read when I first started posting, it is actually not too bad.

I have about a dozen or so really dedicated readers, at the moment. Ones who read chapter updates right away and enthusiastically comment (a couple have been with me since the first postings, which is pretty cool) and chat about the story. But you will find these are few and far between. When you get them, treat them well. Thank them often. Dedicate chapter to them. Maybe follow them. 

The majority of Wattpad readers are “silent readers.” Meaning they don’t vote on every chapter (or not at all), nor do they comment, but every now and then one will thank me for posting the story, etc. A little frustrating when you want votes, but you will find that the people who care about votes and comments are typically writers, and the majority of your readers won’t say much, because they just want to read. But hey, someone is still taking the time to read your stuff, and that is awesome, so don’t knock on silent readers. If they interact at all, thank them for taking the time to read your stuff.

*An aside — Don’t be that person who sends messages to followers about how they wish people would vote and comment and quit being silent. No one likes that person.*

 

So how do you build readership, then?

 

Well, I am assuming your story is already top quality, with no grammar mistakes, complex characters, and wonderful tension! No? Then, edit and make sure it’s good before posting. Obviously, if you have major structural flaws, you will have trouble getting noticed (unless you are writing One Direction fan fiction, then it seems anything goes).

There is no exact formula to building readership on Wattpad, but I truly believe these things will help everyone. They have worked for me, and are what I see successful writers doing.

 

  1. COVER! COVER! COVER! —  Don’t throw a crappy cover up and wonder why no one is clicking on your story. Find someone who can make a decent one. Deviant Art is a good place to look, as well as the Design forums on Wattpad. There are people who will make you a cover in exchange for you dedicating a chapter to them, or reading and commenting on a couple chapters of their story. Pretty good deal! Get a decent cover before you post anything.
  2. BLURB! — Maybe I will write more about the blurb sometime, but for now, look up what you should include in the blurb, and check out the blurbs of popular stories on Wattpad. What makes them stand out? Be sure to highlight your Main Character and the main conflict quickly. Unless people click on your story, they will only see the first few lines, so make them juicy. Don’t give us paragraphs of worldbuilding or description. Give us tension and make us need to find out what will happen in the story.
  3. POST REGULARLY! — This is one of the biggest things you can do to help yourself build momentum early. I would recommend 2-3 updates a week as you start out. Every time you post, your readers receive push notifications on their phones and an email, that reminds them 2-3 times a week that your story is there and is updating. Also, the more they have to read, the more votes and comments you can get. Don’t post all at once! But steadily put it out there. If possible set a definite schedule. I post every Monday and Friday. My followers and readers know when the new chapters come out and can depend on it.
  4. INTERACT WITH THE READERS YOU HAVE! — I don’t care if you have one reader or a hundred or more. Respond to every comment. Thank people when they vote for your story. Even the top writers do this. Have someone who comments on your story a lot? Why not dedicate a chapter to them. It will make them feel more invested in the story.
  5. BE PATIENT! — It will probably not happen overnight. Just keep at it! While you’ve got time, read other people’s work. See what they do. Get involved on the forums. There are lots of great people there. There are forums for Undiscovered writers. Why not see if some of them want to trade feedback? You may find a new reader who will stick with you the whole way, and you may find out you need to fix some things in those opening chapters.

 

A Couple Freebies

These aren’t necessarily what everyone does, but I picked up some readers through them.

  1. ENTER A CONTEST — Got an awesome story? Why not enter a contest? There are many on Wattpad. For Fantasy and Sci-Fi writers, there is an awesome group called FANTASCI that holds awesome contests regularly and are hosted by top writers on the site in the genre. I connected with a couple top-notch writers through this, and also found some dedicated readers, based on a blurb and cover contest. It is a chance to stand out, because the contests are not based on current readership, just quality writing.
  2. FORUMS — I know I’ve said it before, but seriously, connect with other writers. The community is very supportive. Make friends. Are you undiscovered? Go to the forums, and connect with others? You a romance writer? Connect with other romance writers. Don’t promote yourself! Just chat and connect. Maybe check out some of their stories. But in the long run, this will serve you well.

 

Some Don’ts

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  1. Don’t create fake accounts and get fake votes and comments on your story.
  2. Don’t mass follow people in hopes they’ll follow you back, and especially don’t mass follow writers, because it is annoying.
  3. Don’t troll around begging for reads. You just look desperate.

 

 

Okay, that is all for now. I am still new to the site. But I am pleased with my progress and am excited to see how the momentum continues to build.

 

You a Wattpadder? What works for you? What doesn’t? Was this helpful?

 

Let me know in the comments!

 

And hey, feel free to follow me on Wattpad: S.A. Klopfenstein

 

And if you care to check out my fantasy story, THE SHADOW WATCH, you can read it here: THE SHADOW WATCH

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Posting a Story on Wattpad

I am beginning a new blog series discussing my experience on Wattpad. If any of you are using the social writing and reading site, I would love to dialogue about it.

If you are new to Wattpad, it is a website where thousands upon thousands of writers post stories or novels, typically serially, for free for readers around the world to read. The majority of readers are teens and young adults, largely female, and the content includes high-quality novels that have gone on to be published as well as many lower quality fan fiction stories, etc. The most popular genres are fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fan fiction, though there are markets for most genres.

I approached the site warily at first, throwing up a few sample chapters of an old story about a year ago, to gauge reader reactions, with no fanfare. Meanwhile, other complete stories were garnering millions of reads.

The more I read up on the site, the more I realized I was approaching the site wrong. It is a social network focused on writing and reading. Some writers find great success, and go on to commercial or self publication with much success.

My experience with other writing sites hasn’t been the best. I’ve found most of the time they are designed for other writers, who are reading your work hoping for you to give them feedback. This can be helpful for critique. But if you are a YA writer like me, you wonder how real teens will like your story, versus writers trading critique-reads.

If building readership and engaging with real readers is what you want, then Wattpad may be the site for you.

As I worked on a new project, I decided to test the waters, and really give the site a go. I have begun posting chapters serially for my new fantasy THE SHADOW WATCH.

I am only a couple weeks in, and I have quickly found some amazing readers who have left lovely comments and cannot wait for the next chapter. Every day, that number increases. I have experienced nothing like it yet as an unpublished author. You get in-line feedback and reactions from real readers, reading your story because it sounded interesting to them.

Here are a few tips I’ve discovered so far, in order to stand out on the site and build readership:

  1. Your cover — you need to have a good, professional looking cover. There are so many stories with bad covers that you will immediately stand out.
  2. Follow readers in your genre — Wattpad lists users who have works written or lists of books they are reading. I follow readers who have followed other fantasy writers. Many of them have added my book to their lists and enjoyed it. I try not to follow writers unless I am reading their work and want their updates.
  3. Post polished work — Wattpad is not like other writer sites, where you post for critiques. You may get some, but readers are looking for professional-looking stories.
  4. Interact with your readers — Wattpad is a social network. Consider it more like Twitter. If someone takes the time to follow you or add your work to their lists, thank them. If they comment, write back.
  5. Give your readers a schedule — I post every Monday and Friday. Readers know as soon as they finish the latest chapter when they can read the next one. It also gives you a deadline and readers who will be letdown if you don’t meet it.
  6. Read the works of other writers — Check out what some of the most successful writers are doing on the site. How long are their chapters? Do they give readers a call to action? Do they dialogue with readers? You will learn what works, and you will also read some quality stories. Like I said, many top-rated stories find great success beyond Wattpad.

All right, that is all for now. I will be sharing more tips and sharing more experiences soon.

If you are on Wattpad, what have you found works for you? How do you use the site?

 

If you are interested in reading my fantasy, THE SHADOW WATCH, check it out here: