Digital Hollywood Content Summit

Conference
Helloooo, readers!  I have been absolutely remiss in keeping you guys updated. I don’t really have an excuse, other than 1) I’m recovering from a horrible cold and 2) ironically (after my last post on the blog), I am now dating someone who is not Braeden or Tristan. I find him distracting.
Let’s get the super quick writing updates out of the way. I’m hopped up on cold medicine, so I find it incredibly amusing to give you an update in the form of a sports scoreboard.
Agents Pitched: 4
Responses: 2
Rejections: 1 
Requests for more: 1
So the good news is that one of the four agents I pitched expressed interest in reviewing a partial manuscript. The bad news is, I’m now back in waiting mode. According to the experts at Wattpad (and by experts I mean the professional writers community), it could take anywhere from 1 – 3 months before I hear back from the agent with my partial. Time to pitch some more agents, methinks.
On to bigger and better (well, more interesting, at least) things…As a lot of you know, yesterday I was a speaker at the Digital Hollywood Content Summit here in New York City. Below is the (unflattering) photographic evidence:

The name of my panel was…brace yourself…Fiction and Non-fiction in New Forms: Authors and Technologists Discuss Online Publishing and Using New Tools for Storytelling. It’s a World of Boundless Possibilities, Time for a Deep Dive!

…Longest panel name ever. A point the moderator (the fabulous Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, unfortunately not in this photo) brought up as well. Directly to my left is author Brittany Geragotelis, who you might be familiar with from Wattpad. Her story is pretty amazing — after 9 years of rejections from traditional publishers and literary agents, Britt decided to publish her story, Life’s a Witch (which I’m reading on my Kindle now), to Wattpad. Within a year of publishing, she had 18 million reads. That’s crazy! I’m excited to be nearing 2 million with Paladin. Anyway, long story short, many of her fans started asking her where they could buy her book…and of course she had no answer, since Wattpad is free. She self-published, actually, before landing a book deal with Simon & Schuster, a Big Six publisher. Not just any book deal, mind you — a three-book deal for six figures. That’s a lot of money, people, even if you live in overpriced NYC! 
On the opposite side of the table from me is Jacob Lewis, the CEO and founder of Figment.com, a site that is somewhat similar in nature to Wattpad. Like Wattpad, writers can publish their work to Figment and still retain ownership of their work. Figment describes itself as “a community where you can share your writing, connect with other people who love to read, and discover new stories and authors.”  Interestingly, during the panel discussion, Jacob said Figment has more content than it does readers. Figment seems to have a lot of strong relationships with big name publishers and authors, and they often have “Spotlight Books” that are new releases from these folks. Jacob is the former managing editor of The New Yorker and an editor for Conde Nast portfolios before starting up Figment. He also mentioned that he self-published a book, which he described as a “fucking nightmare”<–that’s a direct quote, and a particularly interesting insight for me, as I’m considering going this route with Paladin.
The panel ended up focusing primarily on how to use nontraditional platforms like Wattpad and Figment as a marketing platform. According to both Britt and Jacob, publishers are paying a lot more attention to websites like Wattpad and Figment these days, and consider them a viable tool for reaching an audience and building a fan base.  Publishers see a lot of value in having a large and vocal Wattpad fan base.
Britt said her publisher, Simon & Schuster, has a good relationship with the folks at Wattpad (by “folks” I mean the Eva Lau’s and Maria Cootauco’s of the site) and they encourage her to regularly engage with her Wattpad fans.  She wrote a 90-page supplement exclusively for Wattpad (and free, obviously) after her book had been traditionally published — and her publisher loved that she did this, and better yet, that they didn’t have to pay her for it!
But how do you convert your Wattpad fan base — who is accustomed to reading for free — into a paying readership? That challenge is something else we discussed, and I mentioned a few anecdotal examples of authors I’ve seen struggle to translate their success into $$$.  Britt said that she and her publisher are fully aware that it’s unlikely that all 18 million of her readers will go out and pick up her book. Part of that is because many Wattpadders are young and don’t have access to a credit card, so their parents serve as a barrier to making the purchase. The other battle to wage — and perhaps an easier battle to win — is that of readers who’ve already read your book for free. Why should they now pay for a copy?
What Britt does is try to appeal to them as a writer. Wattpadders understand how much effort goes into writing a book…months and months if not years of work. Don’t you deserve to be rewarded (financially) for your work?
On that note, one of the audience members, a film producer, asked Britt and me if we’d ever considered going the kickstarter route — in other words, raising funds through crowdsourcing to support our writing. Both Britt and I responded in the negative — Britt because self-publishing via CreateSpace is free, so really there is no need for outside funding, and me because I’m clinging on desperately to the hope of traditional publishing.
The film producer then made this point: publishing a book might be free, but you don’t get any money for writing it…at least not until after it’s published. In that regard, it’s absolutely impossible to make a living as a full-time writer unless you’ve got a few published books behind you.
The truth is, for the time being, I don’t want to be a full time writer — but that’s a whole post in and of itself. Britt does…well, is, a full time writer, but has the benefit of that six figure book deal to support her. Definitely food for thought though, for those of you who are interested in pursuing writing as a full time career. 
The panel was 45 minutes in length, so I could go on forever about the various insights discussed, but in an effort to avoid boring you to death and to minimize my ramblings while on cold medication, I’ll just recap a few quick additional points of discussion:
  • Both Britt and I think responding to comments and messages — every message you receive — is the best way to build a fan base on Wattpad.
  • Britt is all in favor of multichannel marketing — she drives her readership to her various social platforms, like her website, Wattpad, Twitter, and even YouTube (her fiance is a social media guru so together they’ve made some cool makeover-focused videos that tie into her book)
  • Jacob says the Big Six publishers will soon become the Big Three. We already saw Random House and Penguin merge; expect HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster to merge in the next year or so.
  • We discussed paying attention to publishing trends — for instance, paranormal romance is very in right now. Personally, I think it’s important to not get too caught up in trends, because they can be fleeting. I figure it takes one to two years to write a book…do you think if you start writing a Hunger Games-esque dystopian today it will still be cool in 2015? I don’t know.

And with that, I am going to rest my weary head (I’m really milking this sick thing for all I’ve got). At some point, there may be a podcast available, which I will share with anyone who is interested. You know I love hearing from you, so if you have any questions or comments about anything in this blog post (or anything in general), type away in the comments section below!

11 Comments

  1. This is a great article Sally. I found it really interesting. There’s some great information in here and congrats on being on the panel! The event sounds like it was a great insight into modern publishing. Fab stuff :) (P.S. love the new blog)

  2. Thanks for this post, Sally! It’s given me a new hope that maybe, someday, eventually I might get published…somewhere…possibly…

    But really, this article helped me get some insight into how publishers and agents view online publishing and that is something I was uncertain about. I have only recently started posting chapters on wattpad. I was hesitant at first because I was afraid no publisher would accept it once it was posted online already. Now I know I can always get a fan base for one story and pitch a different one to the publishers to try and get a deal.

    Best of luck with Paladin! It really is a terrific story.

    1. You and I are in the same boat! I was really worried for a while that being “published” on Wattpad would be a deterrent to publishers, but I’ve now attended two panels (the one I spoke at, plus another panel where I was just in the audience) that reaffirmed that posting on Wattpad is NOT an issue for publishers. Anyway, I’m not published yet, but I will keep trying! Good luck to you too.

  3. Wow! I wondered what happened to you! Congrats on your panel! For someone like myself who doesn’t know much about the ‘behind the scenes’ of writing and publishing books, it’s all very interesting!

    Get better soon, can’t wait for your next update!

    1. I have no real excuse, besides the excuses I gave! Thanks for the congrats – was a great experience, and I love talking to people, so no complaints here.

      Appreciate the well wishes – I think I’m at the tail end of this thing. The worst part of being sick is being too foggy to string together a sentence and too nasally to sing in the shower!

  4. Sounds like a very interesting and informative convention! I must admit that I’ve had some doubts about posti an original story on Wattpad because of the risk of it being plagiarized, but it seems I can rest easier. I’m impressed to discover that the votes and reads that you receive on Wattpad actually mean something to publishers! And I think it’s great that you’re still trying to go the original route with publishing; personally, I think it’s the best option, and I’m positive that you can get it done! 😀

  5. That’s awesome that posting on wattpad isn’t as much of a biggie as it was back in the day! I hope the agent likes Paladin! That book NEEDS to be published. & I think you should def. try traditional publishing, I would love to walk into a huge B&N and seeing PALADIN everywhere. But if you do choose self-publishing, I will def. support you!

    Your blog is so interesting. I love reading it!

    1. LOL, that would be lovely, if B&N isn’t bankrupt before I get published…

      I AM seriously thinking about self publishing. We’ll see what happens with this agents…I’m getting impatient!

  6. I wonder if it’s possible for WP to enhance more of their non-teen market then, if the lack of credit card in their predominant teen market is the issue to convert readership to $$$ at the moment. Even a section for “mature” contents which are not explicit stuff for one thing, coz there are lots of mature aged readers on there that just have a heck of a time finding “like-minded” stories. Besides that, how does the music market like iTunes and phone apps cos deal with the lack of credit card issue? As I’d imagine teens would dominate that market too. Other thoughts was getting Wattpad to be a preferred forum in CW courses where mature aged students would frequent… this provides exposure to the “financial” consumers. I had no idea WP was so teen heavy until I started to read some of the comments in the forums… even there over 20s (or 25s) were considered oldies, which was startling coz that’s a paying audience right there! What a way to turn them off!

    Anyhoo, hope u’re feeling better, Sal. And congrats on non-Brae and non-Tristan dating… how strange is it being with a real 3D person now huh?? lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ four = 5