Once-Wattpad writer, now full time self-published

So . . . I live in Shanghai and have just been quarantined in my apartment for the next week because of the WuFlu. A couple of doctors showed up at my door today and somehow they knew that my high-speed train had stopped (for 3 minutes) in Wuhan a week ago on the way to Hunan. They told me not to leave the house . . . so I’m stuck inside and going stir-crazy! Help!

Anyway . . . I thought to alleviate this boredom I’d start a thread about my experience transitioning from Wattpad to being a full-time self-published author. A little about me: I had a half-written fantasy novel that I started posting to Wattpad back in 2015, as I was desperate for feedback. Finished it here, did well in the fantasy section (spent a while in the top 10 in fantasy, couple hundred thousand reads, if I remember correctly). I briefly queried, had some nibbles, but after researching the current state of publishing became convinced self-publishing was a better decision for genre books like mine.

Published in December 2016, then had my first 5-figure month in February 2017. Started off with a bang, but there have been ups and downs, strikes and gutters since then. Finished the trilogy in November of this year and sales are right now quite good. Went full-time at the beginning of 2018. Assuming I survive the pestilence raging in China, I plan to keep on doing what I’m doing.

I’ve learned some things, made some mistakes, but I’ll just open things up for questions and see what folks want to discuss (if anything). All questions welcome (save me from the boredoms!)

If you’re a full-time self-published author, then what does that mean? What does a normal working day look like for you?

Btw, it must suck to be locked up indoors all day. I hope the situation gets better soon!

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Was wondering how you were doing! Sorry you’re quarantined, but glad you’re okay.

I would love to hear about how the launch of your most recent book differed from the launch of your first book.

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What do you hear? I saw a video of people shouting out things like “STAY STRONG” (in their own language of course," or even banging the drum or singing their national anthem. What exactly did you do to self publish? Did you choose a company or did somebody else sponsor it? And do you have garlic in your home? If we feel sick, I’ll take a raw clove and mince it real fine. Might throw it in a bowl of chilli or soup, but get that raw garlic down. Also flu germs don’t like humidity. If you don’t have a humidifier, put a pot of water to boil on your stove. I like to do that with a stick or sprinkle of cinnamon. Makes the house smell nice.

I hope you and your own are doing well and are safe. It has to be a hard time for you. (There is also an Asian Writers thread in Cafe, too) We mostly talk about dramas, animation out of Asia, and other topic along with our writing projects.

Oh and if you’re interested, the thread is here: Asian Writers of Wattpad

I take it, you’re querying in China? I’m not as sure about the Chinese publishing system since I know it differs from country to country. I’m kinda interested, but that’s more my anthropology taking effect since I roughly know the system in Korea and Japan and am wondering about similarities and differences in China’s system and how the internet affected it.

Also, total aside… if you’re willing to talk about it… censorship in China… though I know it can be a touchy subject…

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Wow! Congrats on the success of your books! I’m so sorry to her you’re stuck inside though :confused: Hope all gets better soon!

I have a couple questions actually, if that’s okay.

Why did you choose the self-publishing route over traditional? That’s something I’m back and forth on quite a bit and now even more unsure with opinions being so flipped on if you can be traditionally published with a book you previously had on WP.

What do you think helped most with your success when you first published? Marketing? Networking? Is there a secret combination? lol

Thank you for the time you’re taking to answer these! :slight_smile:

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First, congratulations.

That’s a big step to transition. I also am transitioning from a Wattpad writer to a self-published author. I too have been able to see four figures but growing every month.

What are your thoughts on ads? say facebook or instagram. I’m trying to be more organic in my approach to ads. I like to do contests that push the books to readers feeds or storyboards instead of actually paying for ads that people scroll through anyways.

Also, were you ever afraid of not putting your new stuff on Wattpad first? Just go straight to self-publishing instead?

Also, I hope you stay healthy and well where you are.

Wow. Congratulations! I’ve been wanting to ask an author with experience just like yours! I’m trying to decide the same thing whether to go traditional or self published but the only thing I was worried about is marketing.

How much marketing did you have to do to get that kind of figure in just a few months on Amazon and through what channel? How many readers from WP do you think made up the number of your sales figure?

Congratulations on your success!

I’m a wannabe published author but I have a little way (okay, a long way) to go before I can make that happen.

What does a typical day look like for you now that you’re a full-time writer? I love to hear authors daily schedules and word count goals, if any. Also, this is a similar question to what has already been asked, but, how did you approach marketing? Did you previously build social media accounts before publishing? Did you pay for ads etc or approach book bloggers for reviews etc?

It’s great that you’re doing alright! Also, that’s amazing. It’s hard to go full time and it’s nice that you’ve gotten there.

Is there any advice you would give someone who might want to go the same route eventually?

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I never heard that expression, but as a bowler I assume that’s what it refers to. Nice one.

I remember you saying that a big fantasy blogger read your novel and blogged to his followers that if they read one fantasy book that year it should be yours and that’s when the sales took off. This will have to be hypothetical, but if that hadn’t happened, what would be different?

Stay healthy. We have one case in my state. An ASU student.

Being quarantined sounds like a challenge. We almost ended up in quarantine once when there was a tuberculosis outbreak here. One of my kids was exposed.

How many books do you have out there now?

@AlecHutson, your silence is a little worrisome…

Hey Iroma. It means that writing my books is my job and pays the bills. The money varies wildly month to month for at this point (I think as I get more books out the oscillations will smooth out a bit) but I might make 10k USD or I might make 2k USD. I have no debt and live a fairly frugal lifestyle in a pretty cheap place (Shanghai is expensive by Chinese standards, but far below the cost of living in America anywhere).

In a normal (ie, not under quarantine), full-time day of work I’ll wake up, check my internets (like I’m doing now), then grab my laptop and go to the Shanghai Library (huge library a 5-minute bike ride from my apartment). I’ll work from 9-10:30 or so and try to get at least 1k words down. Then I go home (often after going to the market), get lunch, usually read or check interwebs again, then work from 12:30-3:30 or so and try to get 1-1.5k more words. 2.5k words in a day is really good for me - I’m a slow writer, but the words I get down don’t require too much tweaking. Then I’ll decompress for an hour or two and start cooking dinner. My wife gets home around 6, we eat, and I have the rest of the night to do what I want.

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Haha, I live in China. I wrote that message before I went to bed last night. It’s 7 AM here in Shanghai right now . . .

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Hey Ximera, thanks for the thoughts. So, one of the big regrets I have is not cultivating a street team or an ARC team to give my new books a shot out of the gate. A lot of authors get 60-70 5 star reviews immediately from their fans they give early copies to. I don’t do that, all my reviews are organic, and I do think it slows down my launches a bit. That said, the big difference between my first launch and my most recent launch is that I have a lot more fans now. Before, I had a decent spike on my first day of release as my friends and family bought the book. Then a lull for a month before Will Wight read my book and plugged it and sent it high in the charts. Now, I get a release day spike from my friends / my list, and then I get another much bigger spike later on when Amazon emails the people who have read my book. Also, with three long, expensive books out advertising has become much more viable. Right now I’m spending 50-60 USD a day on Facebook ads / AMS and making 250-300. The ads keep fresh readers coming to the books, so I’m managing to not rely so much on Amazon emails or new books launching. My sales have been very stable since my third book launched in November.

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Hey Brittney. When I was in rural Hunan in my wife’s hometown, a guy was going around on a little motorized cart with a loudspeaker telling everyone to stay away from crowds, be clean, etc. Here in Shanghai it’s a ghost town. (I had been going out because I think the fears are overblown, but now I HAVE to stay in the apartment, ugh).

What exactly do you do to self-publish? Good question, and I would suggest doing tons of research. Certain genres do really well SP, certain ones do not. If you decide to self-publish, you need to make certain decisions like do you want to go exclusive with Amazon (only available on Amazon, but they have 85% of the market and you get special perks) or Wide (in all the ebooks stores - Amazon, Apple, Kobo, etc). I’m exclusive, and probably 60% of my income comes from Kindle Unlimited page reads (the main perk for being exclusive).

It’s very easy to self-publish - you do it yourself by uploading ebook, cover, etc to Amazon or the individual stores (or an aggregator like Draft to Digital). DO NOT pay for someone else to publish your book. There are MANY scams in publishing, but if someone else is publishing your book the money MUST flow to you. Anyway, if you are self-publishing you have to pay for editing / covers / marketing etc by yourself. It sounds daunting, but I’ve found that aspect (the making of the book) to be fun, and there is an entire ecosystem that has evolved around providing the services self-publishers need. I would go far as to say that the high-end covers in self published (which can run 1k+ USD) are better than the average trad cover right now.

And thanks for the garlic tips - China is garlic-obsessed, so we always have cloves in the apartment!

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So, last year I had a lunch with some of the best-known Chinese science fiction writers living in Shanghai. Somehow they had heard of me and wanted to meet the 老外 writer of speculative fiction (though in China fantasy / sci fi is kept VERY separate . . . not like in America where the genres almost overlap). They talked about publishing in China and some of the interesting points included:

  1. There’s very little money in publishing novels in China. Most of these writers were hoping a studio (which are flush with cash) would buy the IP based off their novels. The real money (for fantasy writers - though their fantasy is XianXia and cultivation stuff, not Tolkien clones) was doing WebNovels (kind of like Wattpad, but readers unlock chapters. The pace is grueling, with writers expected to write like 10k words a day, but the most successful can make millions of rmb a year.

  2. All books need to be approved by the government, and they have weird regulations (I believe certain topics are not allowed . . . even kind of weird stuff like having undead in your books, as they’re trying to stamp our traditional superstitions or something like that. The culture scene is very repressive here, and I don’t think China will ever be a soft-power superpower like America, Japan, or Korea until the bureaucracy gets out of the space.

  3. I have not queried a Chinese publisher. I’m not even sure how to go about doing it, or even if there’s a market for Western fantasy in the Chinese market. I’m focused on the English language markets outside China.

Thanks for the thread! I’m actually not Asian, but I’ve lived most of my adult life in China and am married to a wonderful Chinese woman. I might stop by the cafe anyway and see what you folks are chatting about.

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Of course it’s okay, thanks for asking! Okay, so, at first I was sure I was going to try for traditional publishing. I knew very little about self publishing. And I did try, a little. I put together maybe 15 queries and sent them out in, I think, February 2016. Queries suck. It’s an idiotic system. It rewards ‘hooks’, I guess you could call them, as opposed to solid writing and plot and using tropes that are time-tested and sell books. That’s because agents don’t read your book (usually). As in, any of it. They glance at your query and see if anything intrigues them. Hooks them. But having a hooky query does not mean your book is satisfying, that you can write a good novel. So I found that very frustrating. Also, not even getting a response from some of these agents was really insulting. Like, I researched you, crafted a unique query, spent time putting everything together so it was tailored for YOU, and you can’t even send me a form rejection? I found the whole experience insulting and demeaning. Yes, I did eventually get a few partials and even a full request (from my dream agency no less - 9 months after I’d sent my query! I’d already self-published and was in top 1k of Amazon with the book at that time).

So. I dislike the query process. Also, when I started hanging out in this sub there were some great posters (Steve, Ximera, MichaelJSullivan, AWExley) who sang the praises of self-publishing. The more I researched, the more I liked the model. The success of my book would be up to me, and I could bring it directly to the readers and see if it deserved to have been published. To be quite honest, deciding to self-publish was one of the best decisions of my life, and I owe it to this sub. Since being self-published, I’ve been contacted by a senior editor at Tor who asked me if I ever had something I thought would fit trad pub, send it to her first. So if I ever want to go hybrid (which I hopefully will, someday) I can bypass the whole horrid cold query system.

What helped most with my success? I did get lucky about a month into my publishing journey because a very big name indie author randomly picked up my book, read it, and raved about it. This was what brought me to the top of the Amazon fantasy charts. But I’d actually risen to 1k in the store on my own through word of mouth and a little (like 10 USD a day) advertising. I think my kind of book - traditional epic fantasy - at the time was being ignored by trad pub (though they have since gone back to it a bit) and there was a voracious audience that wanted to read books like mine. In my opinion, trad pub is actually REALLY bad at giving readers what they want. They want to publish what THEY want to read, and they (this is a generalization, but you get what I mean) do not reflect the general reading public. Nowadays, I’m finding that so long as I can get my book in front of people through advertising I can move books. But that’s also a function of the investment I made in the cover and the social proof I have with good reviews and the like.

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Thanks for the kind words, and congrats on your growing success.

I like ads. I know a lot of authors have success with freebies, sales, newsletter swaps etc etc, but I prefer putting my effort into making ads that convert, as I think they provide a bit more stability in sales day to day. The most effective platform has varied for me - at first it was AMS, then Bookbub ads, and right now I’m putting most of my ad budget into Facebook. It’s hard to track conversions, but so long as my first book is still turning a small profit (sales + KU reads) I can make the real money on the rest of the series, which I don’t advertise. I haven’t tried Instagram.

I never was afraid of putting stuff on Wattpad. Definitely wasn’t afraid of it being stolen. Some agents / editors might not look at previously published Wattpad stuff, so it you’re trying for trad I wouldn’t (most don’t care, I think, but it will likely close more doors than it opens).

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