Captive Prince builds steam, Wattpad ruminations, and the story of paper books

This post is mostly a reaction to three separate things that are rattling around my brain at the moment. Other than they are rattling in there together, the topics are disparate and unrelated. (Or maybe not!)

ONE

First, for those that watch my tweets you would have noticed a few pointers to “The Captive Prince” earlier in the year. For the uninitiated, it is a serial fiction that has been running on Livejournal for years.  Finally, finally, the ebook/paperbacks came out this year.   and it has been gathering quite a bit of attention overseas but not here.

Until now perhaps.

Dear Author – one of my favorite review blogs to read (because the reviews are personal and funny in tone) – took on Captive Prince and voila, endorsed the opinions of many thousands of readers (perhaps tens of thousands?) who have followed the serial for years with a rare RECOMMEND.

I think this is really one of the true success stories in serial fiction. It’s not a serialized novel (released in novellas) like Hugh Howey’s Wool (which is FANTASTIC and comes out in hardback TODAY and should be another inspiration to self-publishers everywhere) but a true text based novel.  It’s not a Kindle Serial that is designed solely to live in the ebook realm.  Rather this was a free work that built up a fandom that pushed the author to seek out publication.  As of this writing, the Livejournal site is still up there at Sucat’s livejournal  living simultaneously as a free read while her paper and ebook versions become available as a paid entity.

This is a demonstration, a true one, of how social communities can make fiction viable.

So my hat’s off to Freece/Sucat and her fans.  I hope they realize they’re breaking ground. I hope the publishing world realizes it too.

TWO

It’s been a month since I completed my story on Wattpad.  I figured I should ask for a feature and was politely declined by the tech /social media people/help desk for a feature within 24 hours of submission. I wasn’t surprised as much by the polite ‘no,’ as much as the last sentence in the response.

“Due to the high volume of submissions we receive daily, we are not able to feature every story we receive. Our aim is to create a list that represents a variety of genres and showcases some of the best writing the community has to offer. We did a quick review of your story and unfortunately, we are not able to give it Featured Story placement on the site at the present time as we are giving preference to stories that have not yet received the kind of attention your story has already gotten.

I honestly do not consider the story to be successful. (ETA: Stats link) But when examining the response, one wonders then if the average Wattpad experience is pretty dismal in comparison.  Yikes.

Wattpad is a bit odd in its current evolution. Its featured section is becoming much more populated with published authors seeking to get more readers at the existing Wattpad base.  While I think that can be good for the visiting authors and readers (who get free books to read), there really are two Wattpads still operating… one that is user created/curated and the other that is corporate curated.

While some of the featured stories do go on to huge success, it’s the efforts of those who rise to the top in the “other pool” that interest me more.  In particular, as of late I’m enjoying the success of  82 year old retired writer, Gwen Madoc, whose story (as of this posting) ranks #2 in the historical romance and #9 in the non-teen romance genre.  I am gathering she must be too, for she has been personally responding to every comment on her work thus far!

It’s an amazing thing sometimes how in spite of the designs of the curators, the social network discovers what they like and, even more amazing, how generations can come together in such an unusual place.  My hats off to this classy dame and the readers of Wattpad for their hand in a second season of writing for Ms. Madoc :).

As for me, my natural experiment on Wattpad continues without interference.  I had worried over length of my serial and entertained some concern about earlier comments from community members that “stories shouldn’t be longer than X parts.” Well, I broke that rule, but at least am glad to report that readers did not fall off a cliff, never to return. In the last month I’ve had 300 more readers cross the finish line.  I will hope there will be more.

THREE

This weekend I was back in the Artist Alley at Momocon, doing my crazy art thing.  I’ve been giving away bookmarks for my serial since last June, but this year I was able to stick them next to copies of the first proof I ran for the compiled print version of the serial.  There was nothing fancy about this display – as you can see  here  for reference). Truly, the book is lost in a table of generally shiny artwork.

To my surprise, I had a few people beeline for the book. In spite of my telling them that the book was online for free and the proof itself had an extra blank page, they purchased the copies anyways.

This surprised me honestly. The convention I was at largely caters to those who are careful about spending and I honestly thought the idea that a book was already online for free would deter them.  But while I didn’t get to chat extensively with these customers about their thoughts on why they still wanted the copy, they still quickly confirmed that they preferred print to “everything else” and/or wanted something to read at that very moment.

It’s given me much to ponder as I wrestle with the issue of putting out a paper copy.  In spite of all the flaws that exist in this work, I still think that the paper book in itself is a marketing tool on its own. I shall have to talk shop with selfpublishers who sell at conventions a bit more in the future.

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