Thursday, 28 May 2015

Shining a Light on Wattpad!


Part 2 of my interview with Meredith Rose, author of Chains of Silver. Meredith gives truly excellent advice on getting the most out of  Wattpad.


How long have you been using Wattpad?
Almost a year and a half now. Im really enjoying it. Ive been a bit MIA the last few months because of working on moving house, but Im hoping to become more active again later this year after we get settled.

Is a great cover essential for Wattpad? Who designed your cover?

I did the cover myself. I enjoy dabbling in graphic design, but Im not confident that my work looks as professional as it should for a published book. I would say for Wattpad, a nice cover is very importantbut its most important for the font to be easy to read, especially at thumbnail sizes. But if I wasnt able to create a reasonably decent cover myself, I wouldnt spend money on a professional cover for Wattpad. It seems like there are a lot of very talented graphic artists on Wattpad who are willing to help out other Wattpadders, and thats what I would rely on. I think getting the best cover you can with your current resources is a good idea.

That said, the best cover in the world wont save a story that is poorly written. So I think for writers, the best thing you can do for your story is learn the writing craft and work on telling a great story. If you can get someone to do a nice cover for you, great. But if not, dont let that hold you back or take away your focus from your work.

How have you found Wattpad to be helpful?  Are there any drawbacks?
The thing Ive enjoyed most about Wattpad is meeting the other Wattpadders. They seem like lovely people and its so fun to interact with them. Its especially helpful to me when I get comments on the story. It lets me know what is resonating with readers, or what is confusing them. Wattpad is like having thousands of beta readers, and that is truly a treasure. 

Wattpad:http://www.wattpad.com/user/wildwoodgoddess

What suggestions can you give authors who are starting out on Wattpad for the first time?
Depends on the author. For authors who are more established, or who are significantly older than the primary demographic of Wattpad users, I think they need to ask themselves what their goals are for being on Wattpad. What do they hope to gain? Are they targeting primarily younger readers (like under 40) and aspiring writers? If not, then this might not be the best site for them. Ive heard some authors gripe about the demographics on Wattpad, and in every case, its because they joined without knowing what Wattpad was all about. But thats a failure on their part to research and understand. Wattpad shouldnt be something like Facebook where you join just because its what everyone else is doing. Have a purpose and understand the site and culture before you barge in.

Photo: Damian Gadal, ©2012
For younger writers, or those just starting out, or established authors like myself who are expanding or changing readerships, Wattpad is a wonderful place to network, build relationships, get encouragement, learn, and have fun. I think the key is to respect the Wattpad culture and respect other users and their work. Dont come in with a tude. I have been so encouraged and inspired by other users on Wattpad, whether theyre 13 or 60, whether they just started writing or are already multi-published. I think appreciating other users as unique and valuable people is the best way to approach Wattpad.

On the practical side, it seems like serializing your story works the best. If you do serialize, be consistent and regular with posting your installments. Communicate with your readersif youre going to be late on this weeks chapter, let them know. Respond and interact with commentersnicely, of course. Show that you appreciate the time they took to read and respond to your work. Having readers is a privilege, not a right. Be thankful. Learn to be a good self-editordont put up a rough draft. Dont abandon the story half-way through, or get frustrated and scrap the whole thing or make major changes once you post. It will confuse and frustrate your readers. Minor changes are okay, but be considerate of your readers if you want to keep them.

How can new users best engage the Wattpad community? ie What should and shouldnt they do?  (This will be particularly useful as some people whine a lot about a lack of engagement, but theyre not doing the right things on Wattpad!)
I guess this ties in with my answer to the above question about how to get started on Wattpad. My best advice is to treat others the way you want to be treated. Do you want to be constantly told read my book, read my book? Likely not. So dont do it to everyone else.
Dont message people asking them to read your work or to critique it for you. Theres a critique forum where you can do that.

If you want to build relationships, then the best thing you can do is take a genuine interest in other people. Leave comments on their stories. Follow them. Ask them how they are doing. Get to know them. You knowdo all the things you do when you want to be friends with someone.

So basically, DONT USE PEOPLE. Dont be selfish. Help others before you ask for their help. Encourage other people. If you want to have engagement, you have to engage with others. Dont wait for them to come to you.

If you find a writer you really like, tell them. Ask them if theres anything you can do to help THEM. Do they need a cover designed? Could they use a beta reader? Would they like some research help? Do they need some encouragement? (Hint: YESeveryone pretty much needs encouragement all the time.) When you give to others, without strings attached, you open the door to friendship. And when you have real friends, they usually like to help you out in return. But it has to be real and unselfish. You cant demand.
It takes time and effort. And sometimes, youll reach out to someone and they wont reach back. Thats okay. Probably not personal. Its just the way it goes. Keep at it, and youll build your circle of friends.

https://www.flickr.com/people/jdbaskin/
Have you found that to utilise it properly takes a huge amount of time?
Yes and no. I think it can take as little or as much effort as a person wants to put into it. I go through phases where I have more time to spend on Wattpad, so I do. Ive led a writing workshop, Ive done some private mentoring and critiquing, and Ive had some great conversations both on public forums and in private messages.

But other times, I barely had time to post my installment for the week and reply to comments. Right now, I havent been active on the site at all because of the move and everything going into that.

I think its important to not put too much pressure on yourself. Do your best, and if its feeling like a burden, then back off. Do what is fun. When it becomes a chore, take a break. Try to keep your posting commitments if youre in the middle of a story, but otherwise, be gentle with yourself. Wattpad is only one small part of your writing or reading life, so keep it in perspective.

Writing is a solitary endeavour and many writers are often beset by self-doubt.  Does this affect you? How do you deal with this?  Does Wattpad reduce some of this isolation?  Does the feedback from Wattpad help with those moments of self-doubt?
Absolutely! Actually, when I started on Wattpad, it was after my agent had tried for nearly a year to sell Chains of Silver to a publisher, and we came up totally empty every time. For any author, that is terribly discouraging, but it was especially for me because Ive had four previous books published. So theres always the question of am I losing my touch or did I miss my opportunity. My mind automatically goes straight to What is WRONG WITH MEEEEE?

I think thats pretty typical of most writers. Writing is in so many ways intensely personal, and so when the work is rejected or theres a career setback, it can feel like a personal rejection. Plus, as you say, its a very solitary kind of work in so many ways.
Wattpad has definitely helped me so much with this. Every time I get an excited comment from a reader, its beyond encouraging. Id say its healing. That sting of rejection gets a bit less. It makes me think that maybe Im on the right track after all, and its encouraged me to publish the series myself.

Do you get much feedback from your readers? (Do you have stats on the number of comments?) Has the feedback from Wattpad readers altered your writing?
I have been very blessed to get a pretty steady stream of comments. There are a few chapters where I dont think anyone commented, but most chapters have at least a few.
It has influenced my writing. I used the reading and commenting stats on Wattpad to try to analyze which chapters were resonating with readers more than others, and then to adjust the ones that seemed to be falling flat. I ended up making some changes to the first three chapters that seem to have helped keep readers engaged with the story and draw them in. That wouldnt have happened without Wattpad.

Has your exposure to Wattpad taught you anything new in regard to the business of writing? (Here Im thinking more of marketing, networking etc)
I dont think theres been anything new for me, particularly. But Ive had the benefit of a lot of marketing workshops and training over the years. Not sure how good I am at implementing it, but I know a lot of theory!

For me, the biggest help Wattpad has given me in terms of the business side of writing is simply further insight into my target readership. I think the more you understand your readers, the more you know what to give them in your work. Businesses spend billions of dollars trying to define, understand, and then market to their target audience. Wattpad gives me the opportunity to engage with and build relationships with my target readership for free, and thats invaluable.

Would you recommend Wattpad to new authors?
Definitely. With all the caveats above, but yes for sure. Wattpad users have managed to keep a very positive, encouraging culture for the most part, and its a great place to grow and learn and build relationships.