What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – Making friends and joining communities

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to tell you about what I’ve experienced and learnt about the self-publishing world. Staying motivated about a work in progress can be tough especially as writing books can take months and years at a time. Encouragement from readers and other writers is vital to keep you going.

Make Contacts and join communities

I started on this self-publishing journey back in 2010 when I started writing what would become Terran Defenders: Genesis.

I’d graduated from university in 2008 with a degree in journalism but thanks to the Great Recession decimating much of the newspaper industry and with the rise of online publications that profession was nigh impossible to break into.

I worked shitty job after shitty job just, so I could afford the rent and put food on the table, and I soon realised that if I didn’t keep writing, I’d lose that thing that all writers have. A need to write. So, in my spare time, I got to work on writing a daft science fiction book that in a lot of ways saved me from losing the plot and giving up on my search to break into the cutthroat world of a paid writing job.

Terran Defenders: Genesis took a year to write, and at the end of it I wondered what to do next. That’s when I discovered the world of Webook (a website that was the precursor for sites like Wattpad). Back in the day, Webook was a fantastic community of writers and readers. I met many interesting people and even made some friends (Aaron from the US I’m looking at you, buddy). I received a great response to the book on there, and it was there that indy publishing was brought to my attention. The Amazon Kindle was still relatively new to the market, and those early pioneering writers were having some great successes.

The Webook community helped me to find confidence in my ability as a writer. I was still learning much of the tricks of the trade at that point, and the advice and guidance of some of the older folks were invaluable.

Sadly, as with everything in life, good things always come to an end, and Webook was no exception. The site was sold, and soon the community began to drift apart and find new avenues for their work such as Wattpad (more on that in a minute). If you venture onto Webook, nowadays the place is a ghost of its former self. The user interface remains the same it was back in 2010 and looks ancient compared to modern sites which is a crying shame. I found that place far more engaging and useful than I ever did Wattpad.

By joining communities, you can test the waters with a work in progress. Readers always spot things that the author does not, and if a plot point doesn’t make sense, then they will most certainly point that out. Use them as critics and proofreaders, (one thing I’ve learnt is that there is always some smartass who just loves playing the role of a grammar nazi. They may come across as patronising or aggressive but look through that at the points they’re trying to make and fix accordingly if they have a point.)

Wattpad

One of the main writing communities these days is Wattpad. I fully embraced this site for a while as like Webook there was a solid community of writers and readers, however, as time went on I discovered that there are issues with plagiarism, not to mention that many of the site’s users seemed to favour genres that I don’t write in. (Teenagers really like cheesy romances for some reason). The forums were great for sharing tips and tricks of the trade, and it was via Wattpad that Heir to the Sundered Crown won the 2014 Write Awards. A competition where Wattpad users voted on their favourite entries. Winning this gave me a big confidence boost, and shortly afterwards I published the book via Amazon where it performed very strongly (and is still my best seller).

Facebook

Social media channels have hundreds, if not thousands of groups just for writers. I’ve met some great authors, and it was via one of these that I was made aware of the now annual SPFBO competition hosted by Mark Lawrence (author of Red Sister, Prince of Thorns etc..). I entered Heir into this year’s contest, but alas it never made it past the first round. I wasn’t too down about that however as simply having the experience, and a chance to meet and communicate with other Indy fantasy authors was invaluable.

Be aware that Facebook is also filled with trolls and asshats too. For every conversation about real writing issues, there’s one where a person is either insulting someone else or just posting inane nonsense. Trolls are just a part of life, and as an author, you’d best be prepared to be on the receiving end of them.

Here are some Facebook groups I’ve found most useful –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FantasyFaction/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1800355053523765/

In my next blog, I’ll cover how to get those words down onto the page, something that many wannabe writers struggle with.

Are there any writing communities that you’re a part of? Let me know in the comments!

 

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So I Found This In The Google Search Rankings

Hi everyone, as I was sorting out keywords and other SEO McGuffins to see how I could improve Heir to the Sundered Crown’s search rankings I stumbled upon an oldish article in which I and the book were mentioned.

Entitled: ‘Social media as a writers aid’ the piece mentions Wattpad and the 2014 Write Awards which Heir won.

You can read the piece here (I’ll wait. Ignore the mention of KOBO links etc., it must have been written a good while ago now.)

Read it? Good. The competition was nothing too serious, just a way for entrants to show off their works in progress and encourage them to keep going. Writing Heir was a big project that I needed a lot of feedback and encouragement to see it through to the end and winning the Write Awards was the push I needed. Nominated judges read every book that had was entered and then voted on which books would go the next round. I was just one of many indy writers taking part, and it really surprised that my first attempt at fantasy became so popular and eventually went onto to win the competition.

The article begins by highlighting the fact that Heir won and even shows the book’s blurb, so far so good right? Wrong. That’s when the article turns shall we say a tad nasty.  First off the ‘writer’ of this piece states –

If you despise fantasy books, the above précis will confirm why. Even if, like me, you are a lover of the great fantasy authors of the C20th, the blurb will probably elicit a groan (oh no, not more magic and wizardry on the same old themes!). The tenor of reader reviews us old-time SF/fantasy fans feel most sympathy for is likely that in ‘Cliché and abundance of grammatical errors make this a chore’.

You’ll notice that the kindly writer leaves a link to one of Heir’s two 2-star reviews on Amazon.(Leave a review!)  To be fair to that reviewer the book did have the issues he mentioned regarding errors, but since then it has been updated multiple times and is now in a form that I am happy with. That’s the great thing about Ebooks; errors can easily be changed. But even so, including one of the only negative reviews the book has received in the piece is a dick move. Haters gonna hate I guess…

Anyhow, the article continues with the writer railing against Wattpad and its readers despite him openly admitting he uses the site himself.

Despite my contempt for Wattpad users’ choice of an award winner, I have to admit to having been myself a user of Wattpad for a couple of years.

Hmm, out of curiosity I checked out the writers Wattpad profile (which he has the gall to promote in the piece btw).

The chap clearly has no idea how social media works something that I seem to be encountering quite a lot lately it seems. He seems to get that Heir won via the way it was pushed via social media ergo highlighting the importance of social media to authors. But then he goes on a tangent by slagging it off! Those who don’t understand social media seem to either resent those that do or dismiss it entirely. To be fair, the chap does seem to be of the older generation. (Although why he thinks he can dismiss younger people the way he does is beyond me. If he wants to target older writers there are far better websites that would allow him to do so)

One of his closing statements is this –

‘Assuming Wattpad survives which seems likely, and when the shift to a more mature user base happens, my writing may get noticed. Meantime, I attach my Wattpad account to my online avatar, Gravatar, so that some of my correspondents or followers may find what I post to Wattpad (and may even assess it as of interest!).’

Authors Should Not Bash Other Authors

Overall I have no ill will against the writer of the piece; I’m just disappointed that a fellow writer felt the need to bash another’s work. It undermines us all and makes him no better than those people who get a kick out leaving 1-star reviews just to get some sort of twisted kick out of it. The attitude displayed in the article is one of the major reasons why I choose to avoid getting too involved in writing groups in the first place. In such groups, you meet some of the worst people imaginable from grammar Nazis (really nasty ones) to those who think they poop gold.

Writing books while having a full-time job, no budget and a steep learning curve are not easy after all. The article I think is just a self-indulgent moan at his own lack of success but annoyingly for me, it remains as a fairly high up search result in the Google search rankings.

Anyway, in my next blog post, I will be writing about how to properly use social media to promote your work and in turn, improve sales and reads (without bashing anyone else’s works).

Are you a writer? Have you had something similar happen to you? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter