So the title of this blog post is a reflection of what I’m doing right now: I’m freakin’ out. Not in an omg-I-just-effed-up kinda way, but in a holy-!@#$-this-is-awesome kinda way*. It’s an important distinction.
As to the source of my freak out–last night I got home from welcome drinks with my new coworkers (I just started a new job last Wednesday) to a private message in my Wattpad inbox:
Hi Sally, I work for a company that books panelists for the Digital Hollywood conference. Our next one is March 5-6 and we wanted to see if you would be on a panel about modern book publishing and reaching your audience. As you can see we are currently booking the panel (we have a few TBDs to fill....)
It’s probably worth reiterating that when I’m not moonlighting as a wannabe author, I work in public relations. Part of my job is vetting speaking opportunities for my clients, so of course when I receive a speaking opportunity myself the first thing I think to do is vet the event. I conveniently forgot that a) I’m not the CEO of a company and b) I’m not a renowned expert on anything. I don’t need to be vetting opportunities.
But while I was still pretending to be this vastly important person who gets asked to be a guest on panels all the time (I also conveniently forgot that the last time I was asked to be a panelist was, oh, never), I did some research on the Digital Hollywood conference…
Holy shit (shite? should I just make that my permanent staple?). This event is LEGIT.
I was looking through some of the previous guests they’ve had attend this thing, and they’ve had some seriously big names. People like the founder of Wikipedia, the EVP of Sales of Photobucket, the president of Scholastic Media…and you can see the March 5-6 conference’s impressive lineup in this link.
So this leaves me scratching my head. How the heck do I fit into this event? I mean, I know me. I hang out with myself everyday and I can tell you that I’m really very normal (well, normal in the sense that I’m not Mark Zuckerberg. Otherwise I’m arguably very weird). It’s not like you hear the name “Sally Slater” and you’re immediately filled with recognition (although let’s be real, my parents gave me a bad ass name). I feel like I just won the lotto, and you know how those stories always end.
But I’m no dummy–this is a great opportunity and there’s no way I’m passing it up. The conference and the panel itself are sure to be filled with folks in the publishing industry and I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of interesting people. Besides, I’m a total ham: I love talking to people. Stage fright shmage fright. This will be fun.
I did ask the event organizer why he chose little ol’ me to be on this panel, because in all seriousness I’m beyond flattered and am super excited, and I’m also a little shocked. He explained to me that my success on Wattpad with Paladin is an interesting and relevant addition to the conversation on modern book publishing. I can kind of see that–I recently attended a panel on book publishing myself, and while the panelists provided a lot of insight on the differences between traditional and self publishing, writers’ communities like Wattpad, Figment, Authonomy, etc., didn’t come up at all.
And sites like Wattpad are increasingly relevant, I think. According to their blog, Wattpad surpassed 10 million uploaded stories in 2012. I think Amazon Kindle–and don’t quote me on this–only has around 2 million e-books. Although as a caveat to those numbers, not all 10 million (and probably not even half) uploads on Wattpad are completed stories.
But what does success on Wattpad really mean? I’d like to think that the traction I’ve gotten is a result of Paladin being a good story. Certainly, publishing houses are paying more attention to the website–all of you on Wattpad have probably seen the advertisements for Simon & Schuster’s What the Spell?, which originated as a Wattpad story. Most of the books that do get traditionally published have upwards of 10 million reads (meanwhile I’m stuck around 1.2 million). And I hate to say it, but some of the books that have millions upon millions of reads are not good books. I think Wattpad can be about good stories, but it’s also somewhat of a popularity contest. Which is funny, because I’ve never been the popular kid before. I was always the popular kids’ nerdy friend, or alternatively, the loser. I doubt I’ve changed my stripes.
I’ll have to give some thought over the coming weeks as to what I’m going to talk about on this panel, especially as it relates to publishing. Would you consider having a completed book on Wattpad “being published”? Up until now, I haven’t, but now I’m not so sure.
*I really love portraying swear words as numbers and symbols. I have no objection to using actual swears, but I’m obsessed with !@#$. Well, that and the word “shite”.