Wattpad Success and My Self-Publishing Mistakes

As some of you may already know, my book “Cutthroat Carmine” was scouted by Wattpad Headquarters a couple months ago. They wanted to feature my novel on the front pages of their website as soon as I completed it. The only thing they required from me was the promise that I would keep my work up on their site for at least six months. Of course I whole-heartedly said “YES!”.

I’ve been writing short stories and poems since I was thirteen years old. But I started seriously writing fiction in 2014 when I first discovered Wattpad. Wattpad is the world’s largest online reading and writing community with millions of readers all over the world. Based in Toronto (Canadian pride, woo!), the site has recently exploded in popularity and many writers have found fame, fortune and success through this platform. I started as a regular reader on the site, devouring books and leaving a plethora of votes and comments on my favorite ones. Then I thought, why not post something of my own? People always said I had a knack for writing.

I didn’t think I would ever be famous. I just wanted to write a book that had been kicking around in my head for the longest time. I titled my first romance novel, “Popping the Big Question”. It was a book about a young unwed mother who desperately wanted her boyfriend to propose after hearing news of her best friend’s engagement. It was based on my real life experiences. I began writing it during a bout of post-partum depression following the birth of my daughter. Writing was a great way to pass the time and distract me so I wouldn’t sink into apathy and let my emotions overrun my life. I began serializing the book, a chapter at a time, through Wattpad. I slapped together a few pictures and made myself a cover. (Looking back, it was a very amateur-looking piece of crap.) Long story short, the entire reason I was motivated to finish my first novel was because of my Wattpad fans. They voted for my book, left me endearing comments and urged me to continue, even when I hit writer’s block…again and again.

By early 2015, I had finished “Popping the Big Question” but I didn’t know what to do with it. Would I polish it and submit it to big publishers? Self-publish? Or just leave it up on Wattpad and forget about it?

For a week, I contemplated self-publishing the book for $2.99. I’d get 75% royalties. It was so tempting. I signed up for an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing account and uploaded my word document. Then I hit publish.

The book was up for sale for all of two days before I unpublished it. Why? Because I did something called “research” on the internet. Turns out, I made a TON of mistakes with the “publication” of my first book. Turns out, it’s not as simple as just uploading a file and slapping a price sticker on it.

My Mistakes

  • I didn’t even edit the book first!
  • I had no marketing strategy.
  • I didn’t format it properly.
  • The cover was sloppy and unprofessional.

With cheeks burning with shame, I quickly took down my book and forgot about it. I began focusing on my next novel, a sexy vampire thriller titled, “Cutthroat Carmine”. When I told my friends and family I was writing a vampire book, their looks spoke volumes. “Oh, wow, that’s cool,” they told me. The hidden subtext being, “so cliché too”. I didn’t care. I was determined to write something for myself that was entertaining, dark and most of all, original. I created a tortured teenage half-blood vampire who was a slave to her bloodlust. I wanted to make a character who was flawed and struggled with issues of self-identity. I definitely didn’t want to go the paranormal romance route, but I did add some light romantic elements to my book.

I started writing the book in February, serializing it the same way I did with my first novel. The book received 3,800 reads from February to July 2015 and reached #79 in the Vampire genre. Not bad, right? Well,  they weren’t good results either. You see, even poorly written Wattpad fanfics about One Direction can easily climb up to 100,000 reads. Cutthroat Carmine fans told me the book was amazing, well-written, and filled with plot twists. They loved the book. But why weren’t more people reading it?

The answer: lack of marketing and momentum.

It was buried beneath the millions of other books on Wattpad. The thing about Wattpad is, sometimes it’s not even about how well you write. It’s how well you can promote yourself and your work. I was too busy writing my books to worry about marketing them so there Cutthroat Carmine sat, languishing. Undiscovered. When I completed the book, its ranking was #499.

Until June 2015, when one of the editors of Wattpad contacted me about featuring “Cutthroat Carmine” as an “Editor’s Pick”. I was floored. My jaw dropped. This was the big break I was waiting for! I quickly replied and thanked them for this opportunity. They told me I needed to complete the novel and contact them again when the book was finished and up in its entirety on Wattpad.

On August 6th, 2015, Wattpad put my book baby at the top of the sought-after “Featured List”. As of today, August 10th, my book has 13,900 reads. In the past 4 days alone I’ve received 10,100 reads. All thanks to Wattpad editors promoting my book. That’s the power of advertising on Wattpad. I receive hundreds of votes on my books every day as well as new followers and library adds. My book jumped from #499 to #35 in the Vampire category. It was insane.

All the family members who doubted that my vampire novel could ever make it have since changed their mind. I’m working hard on editing the manuscript and the extended, proofread version is now available for pre-order at
http://amzn.com/B012LM7X18. It will be self-published through Amazon on October 25, 2015. I also plan to make it available in paperback shortly after.

What have I learned from all this? The key is to work hard and just keep writing. I worked my ass off and wrote almost 145,000 words in the past 6 months, sacrificing eating, sleeping, mental sanity and family time. Was it worth it? Hard to say. But writing is something I’m extremely passionate about so I will keep doing it. I’ll update in a week or two with news about my books.

In the meantime, why not subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Facebook and Twitter?

Love,
Jackie

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