Monday, February 9, 2015

Marketing Mondays: Using Wattpad to sell books!


Happy Monday! As I've said before, there's a lot I don't know about selling books, so I'm always reaching out to my author friends for advice to share here for Book Marketing Mondays. This week, the wonderful award-winning author Shawna Reppert graciously agreed to share advice from her experiences with Wattpad. In case you haven't checked out Shawna's books, I highly recommend her books Ravensblood and Raven's Wing. Great reads.

Without further ado, here's Shawna...

Wattpad as a Marketing Tool
by Shawna Reppert

When Mary Rosenblum, my indie editor, PR advisor and all-around writing-life coach suggested using Wattpad as a promotional tool, I didn’t see the point.  Give away a book for free online?  Isn’t that what we were told not to do?  Especially as she advised not to put up only teaser chapters.  (Wattpad readers are used to getting the whole story, even if the author stingily doles it out one chapter at a time.  They will get ticked off if you put up just teaser chapters with a buy link.  And one thing you never want to do is tick off readers.)

A year later, I was scrounging around desperately looking for something, anything, to get my writing noticed by more people.  I decided to look into this Wattpad thing and see what it could do for me.

Wattpad: The basics.  For those of you not familiar, Wattpad is an online writing community where people post their writing.  All kinds of writing, from scholarly article and polished fiction to fan fiction.  It is free to join, both for writers and for readers.  Anyone can sign on for free and the work you post there, but you still hold the copyright.  (An important note:  There are Wattpad-iike sites that will try to claim copyright forever over anything you post there.  Always, always, always thoroughly read the terms and conditions for any site on which you post your work!)

My game plan:  There are authors who put up the novel they are selling elsewhere (or plan to sell elsewhere) chapter-by-chapter, on the theory that the reader will become impatient and just buy the whole book rather than wait for the installment, or buy the book so that they have an official copy for their very own with a pretty cover.  (Or maybe even because they understand that a writer who makes money is a writer with incentive to continue.  Some readers are smart that way.)  I’ve met authors that have had success with that approach, but to me it felt too risky.

But because I pursued the traditional model of publishing for a long while before becoming a hybrid indie-traditional writer, and because it usually takes longer to get a book published than it does to write it, I had more novels in my ‘trunk’ than I had resources to indie-publish.  Even Kindle costs money if you do it right, with a professional editor and a good cover.  There was one in particular I was fond of, that was written to professional standards, but had a hard time finding a marketing niche.
Brother to the Wolf is one of those good, old-fashioned fantasy adventures with noble outlaws and unscrupulous nobles.  I happen to still love those old books, and I’m sure that there are others who do as well, but it isn’t exactly the latest hot thing in the publishing world today.  The novel is in many ways an homage to the Robin Hood tales, but it is an original-world fantasy with original characters.  I wanted to shape my plot without running roughshod over actual history.  (Not that that has ever before stopped anyone writing Robin Hood!)  I borrowed the set-up of my society from England about three generations after William the Conqueror, and spent a lot of time researching the culture and weapons of that period, so it has a historical feel, but it’s not actually historical.  The magic in it is pretty minimal.  If pagan spiritual were a genre, it would be in that genre, maybe.  But since there’s no shelf in the bookstore marked Pagan Spiritual Fiction, Brother to the Wolf remains without a neat marketing category.

In short, it was the perfect novel to sacrifice on the altar of Wattpad marketing research.  I signed up for Wattpad, and loaded chapter one that very night.  It got some hits.  I loaded chapter two the next week, and got more hits.  And so on.  The readership is not at NY Times bestseller level, but it is growing exponentially. 

Has it affected sales of my other works on Amazon?  Hard to say, since it’s early days.  Though I have noticed sales ticking up, and a tell-tale sign is that (until a recent PR blitz surrounding Raven’s Wing, the second book in my Ravensblood novel) the uptick pattern seems to lead with The Sword and the Kestrel, a short story I wrote that, of the things I have available on Amazon, is the closest in theme and tone to Brother to the Wolf.

At this stage of my career, any new people who learn about Shawna Reppert, author, in any capacity, is a victory.

Tips: 
  • Update regularly. I started by posting every Sunday, but found out I got more hits when I posted on Saturday afternoons. My new commitment to my readers is to post every weekend, so people know when to anticipate an update. And I know that they are waiting, because every time I announce an update on Twitter and Facebook, it leads to what I call The Pounce, where the chapter will get twenty hits or more in the first half-hour. The Pounce makes me feel like I’m not shouting my writing alone in a wilderness. Which leads to. . .
  • Promote your Wattpad stories on social media. There’s a ton of stories that go up on Wattpad each day, so people are unlikely to find yours unless you post on Facebook, Twitter (remember your hashtags!), and in forums you are already active in where the members have interests that predispose them to wanting to read this particular work.
  • For example, I announce updates to Brother to the Wolf on my own Facebook and Twitter (hashtags medieval, fantasy, pagan, Wattpad) as well as on forums for fans of Mythic/mythopoeic fiction.
  • If you are posting weekly, a mid-week reminder on social media can as much as double your hits.
  • Adding a pitch line to your update notice will also increase hits. An example from a recent update: Brother to the Wolf Chapter 14 is up! Gareth slowly heals from his wounds. But old enmities are not so easily forgotten.
  • Even an amateur cover is better than no cover at all, in terms of garnering hits. (Note: This advice does not apply to anything you offer for sale anywhere!)

Good luck and happy Wattpadding!

Follow her on Twitter: @ShawnaReppert

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