1. beakyboo
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    beakyboo New Member

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    Looking For Publishing Advice

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by beakyboo, Jan 6, 2015.

    Hello Writing Forum!

    I am someone very new to the world of fiction writing and I am looking for some advice, I hope some of you may be able to help me...

    Last year I started writing a YA Novel for fun on the website Wattpad, which is a site where authors can post up stories for free and try and build up an audience. My story is an original "boy x boy" romance aimed mainly at teenage girls. It's quite niche in genre, but at the same time I tried to keep it as mainstream as possible and something that would also appeal to people who never normally read gay fiction.

    The whole story is pretty rough around the edges as it was something I was doing for fun, not with the intention of publishing it in any way. However, to my surprise and delight, it has taken off on the site in a big way. I have had it placed on the Featured page of the site and it is currently at 350,000 reads and counting. Every morning for the past few months I have woken up to raving reviews and comments from teens, some even saying it is the best book they have ever read on the site or that it has helped their own life in some way.

    I never thought my writing would connect to young people on such a big level, and now I'm wondering if this is something I should be trying to pursue a bit more seriously. I have never finished a novel before this and didn't think it was something I was any good at, although I have had my song lyrics used professionally as I am a songwriter who writes to brief through my publishing company.

    The only thing is, I am feeling very stuck with what to do next. I think perhaps there is potential with my story, but it is over 120,000 words long because I was pretty much making it up as I went along. I have edited it a fair bit since the first draft, but I am totally inexperienced when it comes to editing and I would have no idea where to start with cutting it down. I don't think it would even work as the same story if it was cut down too much.

    I was thinking about using this experience to fuel my writing fire and just start working on something completely new and more mainstream with the intention of finding an agent for it at the end. But at the same time, I love the story I have already written and it has a big fanbase, so it seems such a shame to do nothing further with it at all.

    These are my questions regarding this situation, if anyone has any helpful advice or tips then I would appreciate it so much!

    1. Does a website like Wattpad actually count for anything in the world of agents? If I were to send screenshots of some of my comments in a query would that be something they would be impressed by, or would it actually be a big no-no and look unprofessional?

    2. Although I know it's a very big long-shot, would it be worth sending out my story in its current state or is it just too long? Do agents sometimes take manuscripts on if they see potential in the story and ideas, or does it have to be in perfect shape for them to be interested? Would it put me on some kind of "black list" if I sent it and they thought it was too amateur??

    3. If I don't go down the agent route, I was considering putting the story up as a super cheap Kindle E-book in the hopes that it might attract some new audience/buyers. If I was to do this, would having previous work on Kindle go against me if I were to send new stories to agents? Is it something that is worth doing at all or a bit of a waste of time?

    Thanks in advance - I am trying to educate myself as much as possible in the world of fiction writing, but I am currently feeling a bit lost!! Any help would be greatly appeciated :)

    Becky
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, you said the book is still "rough around the edges" - so forget about trade publishing for the time being. You have to learn to edit. That story has to be as good as you can possibly make it before sending it out. Second, you don't send anything but a standard query letter and the first few pages/chapters - whatever the agent says they want in their submission guidelines. Follow those guidelines to the letter. It won't put you on a blacklist if you don't, but that story would be wasted as far as that agent was concerned. Last, if you decide to self-publish, you still have to edit and make it the best story possible - this is your reputation, after all.

    Work on editing the book, and take the time to learn about both trade and self-publishing while doing that.
     
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  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's available to read by the public online, then it's deemed as "published" and traditional publishers wouldn't be interested at all unless you have a very, very impressive following for your story as it stands right now. A couple of thousand readers won't cut it, I believe, but you'll have to research into what sorts of figures mean something in the publishing world yourself.

    Considering you've already as good as published it by posting it on Wattpad and I doubt your following is as impressive as 50 Shades to attract a publisher, your only option really is self-publishing. But do your research, I could be wrong.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    It could also depend on how the edited version turns out - publishing what is basically a working draft on Wattpad may not be that big a deal if the final story turns out significantly different. I would certainly say not to do any more editing on Wattpad - leave that as is and save the edits for the copy intended for submission. But you're right - the story as is has been published.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Prior publication on Wattpad or Kindle isn't the absolute bar to traditional publishing it once would have been.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Mckk yeah, you're wrong about that being the only option. You don't need 50 Shades of Grey numbers to interest publishers in a work that has already been made available online. The traditional publishing landscape is changing to reflect the realities of the digital publishing world, but a lot of advice you see on writing forums still reflects the old model.

    A few recent cases in point:

    1. The Martian, a 2014 sci-fi book that has done well traditionally and showed up on most of the "best of 2014" lists, was originally published for free on the author's web site, and then released via a Kindle edition. From what I've read, the sales were good but well shy of Fifty Shades of Grey territory, and yet the author was able to pick up a traditional publisher.

    2. My own book, available on Amazon, has sold more than enough to pay me a professional rate per word for writing it, but hasn't been extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. I had dealings with an agent who would have represented the book to traditional publishers, and she told me directly that it didn't matter to her whether the book was previously published on Kindle or not. It would have to be taken down, of course, if we were going to enter into a deal with a traditional publisher (in my case, what she did care about was the fact that I wasn't planning to write more children's book; this was a one-off written for my daughter. So that was that).

    3. A friend of mine, who helped me edit my current work-in-progress, just received a three book deal from HarperCollins. The first two of her books were already self-published on Amazon. She's also got her current work up on Wattpad. The books are good, but I don't believe she was shattering any sales figures. Also, from what I've been able to gather, she left the books up on Kindle right up to the point where she was negotiating her actual contract with HarperCollins (I've sent an email to confirm this; I will report back).

    The point is, traditional publishing is changing, and it is a mistake to assume that it still operates under the rules of a decade or more ago. It is going to continue to change even further. That doesn't mean that every publisher or every agent is going to be OK with a work that is already out there in some form, but the number who no longer care about that is growing. Ultimately, publishers want an author they can invest in and make money off of. That's the overriding consideration.
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I heard back from my friend who got the HarperCollins deal for three books. The current Wattpad book she is working on is not part of that contract, and she says she intends to publish it in its entirety on Wattpad and then go after an agent to sell it to a traditional publishing house. An unusual approach, but the fact that this is even a reasonable option tells you how much things have changed.
     
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  8. beakyboo
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    beakyboo New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for all your responses! It's really interesting to me to hear the different routes other people have taken, and how Wattpad can either work for or against you.

    I think I obviously need to learn more about the editing process and how to get better at it, as well as learning more about the trade. I purchased the 2015 Literary Agent Catalogue and it has already taught me so much that I didn't know about before. It seems that agents work in a very similar way to music publishers, so it's not completely unfamiliar territory for me in that sense.... but it's very different to music and I definitely need to expand my knowledge in the area.

    It's great to hear that agents are keeping up with the digital age and that the right numbers can potentially get you noticed. Thank you Steerpike for the info on your friend and her work, and your own work. It's good to know that publishing things for free, or even self-publishing doesn't necessarily block them from a more traditional route.

    I feel like I've found the first sparks of turning a hobby into something more professional and I want to make sure I keep moving in the right direction. Perhaps I just need to keep practicing my writing and research the industry for a while before trying to jump the next hurdle too soon!!

    Thanks again for your messages, it is all very helpful!!
     
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  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You're welcome @beakyboo, Best of luck with everything. Remember, there is more than one path available to you. If you have a specific publisher in mind, it pays to look at exactly what they've been doing lately.

    Also, I forgot to mention re: the query letter. I wouldn't post screenshots or excerpts of comments in the letter, but I think I'd mention that the work has found X number of readers on Wattpad and had an overwhelmingly positive response, and maybe even that some of those responses could be provided upon request. I don't see any harm in mentioning it in a cover letter.
     
  10. beakyboo
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    beakyboo New Member

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    Thank you @Steerpike - that is really good advice!

    I haven't even started researching publishers yet as I didn't know if it was a route worth trying or not. I think I will spend a few months working on a second edit and then just give it a try. If I get no response then perhaps I will self-publish the story as an e-book, then work on something new and hopefully better.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Best of luck to you! :)
     
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  12. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @Steerpike
    YOU'RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Also, think of the publishing world in this way:
    On the internet, 250,000 readers found your story, read it, loved it, and maybe paid 0.99$ to read it.
    However, those are most likely "frequent internet readers" who buy ebooks and read stuff on websites.
    A bookstore would attract the same sort of crowd but one that doesn't do much online reading and still chooses physical books.
    Since this latter demographic most likely never heard/read the title, they can package it for them (ie: traditional book) and make more money/more readers.
    Think of it like US products finally being brought to Canada or Japanese products formatted for Americans.
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Wow. Well, I stand corrected. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing! :D

    Sounds like Wattpad is a good place for garnering readers too...
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It could be. I've never used it. First and foremost, of course, you've got to write a great book. And doing some of these things may alienate some editors and/or agents. But they're not absolute bars anymore, or even close to it :)
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to write fanfic, and had a call with a Big 5 editor in which I said I'd dabbled in fanfic, and the editor was quite interested. Wanted to know where it had been posted, number of readers, etc.

    Now, that was when I was trying to sell a different work, not the posted fanfic itself. So I'd think you'd be pretty safe in thinking that previously internet-published work would be a good selling point for future sales, but I'm not sure you'd be right to think that you'd have a good chance of selling the actual story you've already posted.

    I really wish I could find the article, but I'm a fairly critical reader and I know I thought the source was reputable... anyway, a couple months ago I read an article that said publishers are backing away from the trend of picking up successful self-published books. They're finding themselves disappointed by the sales they get, which kind of makes sense - when a book's been available for a year for $1.99 (or, in your case, for free), the people who like books like that have bought it already. So there aren't that many people left who are going to pay $12.99 or whatever ridiculous price the publishers come up with for the book.

    Anyway - I think you're on the right path with just writing more. Work on your style, work on your skills, and the next book? Don't post it anywhere. Sub it, and see what happens!
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015
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  16. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    I work for a small press. We have had submissions from authors who have had their manuscript up on Wattpad, but have since decided to seek publication for it. In honesty, the numbers have to be STAGGERING to get us to take on a book that has already been available to the public (and maybe not even then). I;m sorry to say it, but typically, having had the book up on Wattpad equals an instant rejection from us.

    You see, as with many houses, we want to buy first publication rights. If the book has been available to the public, in publishing jargon, it is already published, so you no longer hold those rights (you cannot sell what you don't have). There are places that will take on previously published work, though you may have to do some searching to find them. Still, they are out there.

    Saying that, if you do decide to submit your story, definitely send in only your best work. Outrageously high (or low) word count numbers will turn off an agent or publishing house (120k for YA is not super outrageous and there are many exceptions, but the norm is around 80k, so you should try to trim it a bit if you can), but saying that, it is easier to crop a manuscript down than to add to it.

    What else did you ask...

    Having a self published book on your backlist is not a bad thing, especially if any of those readers you had on Wattpad are willing to buy the book (and your next one). Wattpad is good for building a reader base. However, a huge list of publishing credits in your author bio paragraph is not as big of a deal as it used to be; many agents and houses like to "discover" new writers.

    Best of luck with it, regardless of what you decide to do.
     
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  17. beakyboo
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    beakyboo New Member

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    Thanks so much for all your advice everyone! This is all great help - I don't really know anyone else who writes fiction in any way so it's been good to hear some opinions and just get some people to talk to :)

    I think after reading everyone's thoughts, I'm leaning toward using this experience as something on my writing CV so to speak, and starting something new to send out to publishers. I really like my story and obviously others do too, but I know deep down that it's not up to scratch for traditional publishing... and it seems like so many elements are working against me such as the length, the fact it's already readable on Wattpad etc. I think perhaps I could knock it into better shape but it would be a hell of a lot of work to do for something that has the odds stacked so highly against it. In some ways I think I'd rather attempt something new which is better planned out and a lot shorter, as I think when it comes to editing I won't feel quite so overwhelmed by it!

    So that leaves the question of whether to post it up on Kindle or not... I think perhaps I will work on a second edit to the best of my abilities and then publish it as an e-book. I would love to attract some new readership (I approached a forum of readers for the genre and many point blank refused to read it unless it was on Kindle!) - and it would be good to have my own author page and some reviews etc.

    In the meantime I am practicing my writing by working on a spin-off sequel revolving around one of the characters in the first book. I will also post this one up on Wattpad for the fans of the first - but now I think any new series or ideas, I will keep off the website !!

    Re: Wattpad - it has been great for someone in my position because it gathered me a lot of readers and positive comments when previously I had none, and really gave me the confidence to step into the world of fiction. It has also been really helpful to read people's comments as I was writing. I could see exactly what people were liking and what they weren't, it has definitely helped me understand my audience. A few awkward paragraphs and typos were flagged up almost straight away and I got a lot of helpful constructive criticism.

    Of course it's very hard to get people to pay for something once it has been published for free. I think most of my current readers won't pay out if/when I eventually put it on Kindle, although they may leave some reviews for me. I am really hoping for new readers and some positive reviews more than anything.

    It is also completely random what stories will or won't take off on Wattpad. Mine sat dormant for weeks before suddenly taking off out of nowhere from a snowball effect of readers. When one person rates or comments on your work, all their friends list can also see it, which seems to set off a domino effect. Most of the readers on the site are teenagers, so I think anything in a more adult genre will probably get totally ignored no matter how well written it is. Also, I have seen some absolutely terrible stories with poor grammar getting millions of hits.... so in some ways there seems to be no rhyme or reason to success on the site. Perhaps it's just about having that hooky concept or title that stands out and makes people want to click on your story.

    Anyways, apologies for the rambling on... you are all helping me get my thoughts in order with this, so it's very much appreciated !! :)
     
  18. Drmoses
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    Drmoses Member

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    Thanks for letting us know about Wattpad. I personally had not heard of it before but it offers an outlet for some of my ideas/work that didn't seem to be a good fit for trade.

    So now I can still put those stories somewhere and, although I don't make money off of it; I still get exposure. That can be just as valuable in some ways.
     
  19. islampharm
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    islampharm Member

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    I do not think wattpad is the only measure to assure you are ready to publish. I think the publishing market is something more bigger . Maybe you can publish your novel as e-book in kindle , lulu and other e-publish websites and see from there .
     

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