Amazon and Write-On: Take Two on Serials

I apologize for months of radio silence. Work decided to have its own crisis which I hope will subside in the next few weeks.

While Amazon seems to have been in publishing news this entire year irritating the traditional pub world, I think it’s worth noting their interest in “non-traditional” models like serials. I’m not sure what has become of Kindle Serials which I’ve discussed in previous posts.  I haven’t seem much sign that it is currently growing nor many post-mortems on the program. Its current submissions page  remains closed — closed for so long so you wonder if it’s considered retired .  As I don’t see much publicly stated from the participants or Amazon themselves online, I point you instead to Jane Friedman’s post from earlier in the year trying to dissect the serial landscape.

While in a work-induced delirium, I caught an article very late last month on TechCrunch   regarding Amazon WriteOn (beta). The headline implied it was a counterpoint to Wattpad which is everyone’s favorite Canadian startup (if one reads all the  venture capital hype).

Like any sufficiently curious and sometimes informal reporter, I signed up to poke around. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed moderate benefit from Wattpad in terms of finding new readers (but no sales, alas) although having a work that doesn’t hit the ideal Wattpad demographic squarely in its face. (I like to say that I am on the Wattpad demographic dartboard but my work is too long, language somewhat complex, and not strict romance so I tend to graze the dartboard and then fall off it!)

I signed up for the beta and within a few days was provided an access code to log in using my existing Amazon account (currently linked to my Kindle Publishing account). As promised, it did appear to be what was advertised and has mostly writers (not readers as of yet) onboard.  What is particularly nice is that the writing quality (as a baseline) is far higher than Wattpad . My guess is that part of this is because the beta is tied to existing Amazon accounts which, I suppose, need bank/credit card info attached so skews the age of participation higher. (That said, who knows?) And I guess that the earlier invitees were all authors or people who hung out in writing forums in Kindle perhaps… makes sense… and the pay off is that the baseline quality of work is much better than what’s currently out there on a lot of “serial sites.”

I found the previous requirements in the open submission phase for Kindle Serials to be too onerous. If you weren’t done with your book and able to produce on weekly/biweekly installments at a proscribed word count, it wasn’t for you.   This looks far less restrictive and, in the beta, ideal as a writing community goes.

However, as it is a beta and everyone is starving for feedback, I haven’t yet jumped in. Tossing in a book and not engaging likely would be seen as obnoxious based on some of the forum conversations I was reading. Also, I clearly would need to bring my A-game once I do start posting my current serializing piece of fiction. The covers I see are really great and Kindle-worthy.  What passes muster on Wattpad won’t work here. (And so I need to enter when I’m ready. Not now.)

Let’s hope this effort matures. I think we need more than one Wattpad out there to help shape the serial market . Who better than Amazon?

I hope to start in on reading works in a few weeks but do have an account. If you sign up and are wanting to connect, let me know! Would be great to have some other points of view from the writer community!


News update: Changing of the playbook

Paywalls, post Patreon

The latest cover of Big World Network (a subscription based serial fiction and enhanced content site) looks like this.   BWN was one of the few sub/firewalled serial fiction sites to engage with the small community of writers that hang out at WebFictionGuide.  It looks like in spite of their efforts to find readers via conventions and other means that they’re trying something new.  Their new site relaunches next Friday with promises of a different method of compensating their creators and possibly a better way to loop in casual readers. bwn

A new webcontent serial experience for kids and families

Publisher’s Weekly announced the launch of “Storybird“‘s long-form format this past week. This site promises to focus on content for children who have really been neglected so far in the ebook realm and in the web serial realm thus far.

From Publisher’s Weekly: According to Mark Ury, who founded Storybird in 2010, the membership base of nearly four million members on the platform can be divided into three core users: educators (the platform is used in 300,000 schools worldwide), families, and, the “largest bulge,” tween and teen girls, who make up roughly 80% of the membership.

One caveat — you cannot publish your own writing alongside your own illustrations. The intent is to pair writers with illustrators (who I presume have been picked by Storybird) and I guess to keep some control over what is being generated.  Some further exploration of the site suggests you have to use illustrations or you cannot really unlock the interface. It’s also not yet clear what/how the writers who create the work will be compensated except those also recruited by Storybird. Further details on writing and copyrights are laid out in the Professional Writer FAQs.

In it’s current form this site is not favorable to writers — but more so the illustrators.

The Wattpad Prize

April 30 marks the last date to submit a complete original work for the  inaugural Wattpad Prize.

Winners for ten categories will be selected from a jury of Wattpad readers. The prize for winning is fairly modest — namely getting a hard copy of your work and a feature in June which generally translates to higher visibility for your work.   We’ll have to see how this fares — the “Feature” for one month is nothing to sneeze at given the userbase but one wonders why the Feature isn’t being extended out farther. In any case, you still have a few days to get your story posted, completed, and tagged if you want to throw your hat in the ring!

Readmill’s Epilogue, Medium’s colonization and other Newsbits

The end of Readmill, Hello Medium

Readmill was — while it lasted — a really  attractive reading (smartphone) app. However, like many “content apps” there’s a point where you can’t simply survive on being a good concept.

Over the past few days, Readmill has tweeted, emailed, and posted its “Epilogue” statement . This notice is effectively giving the community a way to download their books and data before closing up shop.

It looks like Dropbox has acquired Readmill (and its founders) but I’m not quite clear that the blog offers how Readmill staff will work with Dropbox (which is largely known as a filesharing site.)

Meanwhile Medium has created an App as a means of delivering its content. ( For those of you unfamiliar with Medium, the site has its roots with several founders of Twitter.)

Currently its app is “Read Only” but one can imagine they will progress towards emulating other “content providers” such as WordPress or Blogger in developing a mobile app designed to encourage mobile blogging.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised to discover that fiction was live and well on Medium. I discovered a Flash Fiction collection as well as one for posting fiction to Medium.

In a way, this change of fortune seems to be a part of the natural ups and downs of online fiction and serial novel production.  We’ll have to see who rises and falls in this next year.

Other Newsbits

  • Another community newspaper embraces the digital serial — this one promises to feature illustrations.  I rather enjoy watching this concept playing out in smaller papers around the U.S.  I’m not sure why this is suddenly popular again with smaller papers but I enjoy the idea of featuring content uniquely relevant to the readership.
  • Wattpad gets a high-profile bump in the New York Times.  Granted, this comes weeks after the NBCNews blog and doesn’t feature anything new for those who are long-time readers of this blog but the NYTimes is a unique landmark — since it is a place that has a long history with books and its bestseller lists.  It is odd, though, that it’s appeared in the “Technology” section — as if the Culture section had no interest in it.

Analytics, Kickstarters, Distributors, Oh my, mega news/blog post

Sometimes the news front is pretty quiet. For a while there I thought webfiction and serials were heading into a dark period.  However, just when you think it’s time to give up a lot of things start to converge in interesting fashion.

Do analytics mean as much as you really think they do?

I’m not quite sure how to feel about Jukepop (formerly Jukepop Serials) and analytics and how they’ve spun the feature in their blog and then subsequent PR.   Analytics are good, by all means. But interpreting them is fraught with the potential for overinterpretation.

For example, a downturn in views/votes could be due to lack of interest in your specific story. Or it could be a by-product of “low tide” in traffic or people just forgetting to vote.

People forget that website traffic itself has certain secular trends due to the impact of holidays and vacations.   To go as far as to interpret a dip to “this part of your story probably wasn’t great” is an extreme viewpoint and I’d argue that it definitely is useful to see if there might be problems with your story progression at that point, but to use that info as a proxy for “early commercial viability”  as their press release states is where I think this is overinterpretation.  Jukepop authors generally are out there on social media working hard for votes. Good stories do seem to rise to the top but “votes” are not necessarily about viability– in fact, no one can really mindread sales.

Then again, to be fair, I’m not sure how to view Wattpad ‘s analytics either as there is little stated about how they work or change over time. A recent post in a deleted thread (since rehosted as a Wattpad “story”) by one author provides an interesting bit regarding the read/vote system in place. Basically, as of March 2013, some things changed – – namely to stop counting any views from accounts not signed into Wattpad.  I get this from one perspective — it avoids shenanigans from outside accounts that could otherwise write a script and refresh the heck out of a page to alter counts.  If discoverability is triggered by pageview and vote combinations, of course you’d want to protect the system from those tempted to exploit it.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that analytics have resulted in much transparency overall.  I’ve willingly posted my Wattpad stats here (and the link is still active) because I’d like to see people talk about it more openly — not for bragging rights but as a means of understanding what is going on with both Wattpad and Jukepop in terms of discoverability.  See — I still believe that these are valuable in their own way for connecting with the readers that you otherwise can’t generate on your own (via your massive social network skills or circles family and friends) but I think there are certainly some pluses and minuses to these sites that one should consider if using them exclusively or in addition to your own host.


In any case, moving on from the soapbox to give you some STRAIGHT NEWS.

Kickstarters and Collectives

It’s been a while since I’ve seen any hint of kickstarters for serials or webfiction. The last batch I saw were mostly “publishers” such as Plympton and Maglomaniac .  However, it’s encouraging to see some single works come up to bat.

It looks like “The Peacock King” is finally back from web-death and has reached their funding goal for their Kickstarter.

Meanwhile, Jim Zoeteway of “Legion of Nothing” announced two things on a blog post today.  First, he’s part of a new Superhero fiction collective “Pen and Cape Society” which includes another webfiction/online novel writer Drew Hayes (who guested this month on this blog).

He’s been talking collectives for a while for good reason (such as sharing or increasing traffic and synergizing on marketing). I’m glad to see him finally get this off the ground with fellow writers in the superhero genre and wish them luck. The superhero genre is going gangbusters in the indie ebook and webfiction realm so think they’re going to kick statistics butt pretty quickly.

He also announced plans for a Kickstarter to publish his next volume in the ongoing webfiction series for reasons explained in that entry.   His goals look pretty modest and reasonable (i.e., cover and editing). Will be interesting to see how it unfolds!  For those of you who are experienced Kickstarters — I’d go check these projects out and talk with the authors.

Distribution – Sparkler Monthly

This is not new news per se. However, a new marketing coordinator reached out to several people this past week with a reminder about their new distribution service.

I think it’s easier to understand certain facets of it as you now look at the shop for the respected webcomic, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, by EK Weaver

In a way it’s a fulfillment service for books and merchandise for small-time creators who do not have time or means to keep up with all the shipping and work associated with running a small storefront.  Having run a storenvy store on/off for a short period of time, I can tell you that it is a lot of work to deal with small things like merchandise or ship out hundreds of books or posters. MEH.

I did approach SM about a project of my own and found that their terms were clear and their overhead was really reasonable. While what they decide to take on also must keep in line with their mission and audience, I think it’s good to explore.  I knew I threw some odd ideas at them but found at least the folks willing to talk through what their equities were.  In any case, I’m still mulling the ideas that came out of the email exchanges and will, of course, post if I run some more ideas/pitches at the team behind SparklerMonthly.

Wattpad Prize

End of last year, the folks at Wattpad announced a new type of prize to join their current vote-drive Watty Awards.  Details are sparse (and have changed) regarding this one. Early blog posts (http://www.wattpad.com/wattpad-prize)  suggested that this would be professionally judged by industry folks and would be open to folks on a wider basis than Watty Awards. (For your reference Watty Awards are only open to stories started and ended within a specific time period. Stories that did not meet those requirements were ineligible for consideration. Also Featured stories were not eligible either.). The most recent blurb said this contest would be judged by “expert Wattpadders”

Not quite sure why they backed off or if the exclusion/inclusion criteria will change but guess we all shall find out next week what they really mean on April 2.

I do hope that this does turn out to be a transparent and open judging process that employs some of the professionals authors  on Wattpad.  It’s been clear that the Watty Awards sometimes are more about popularity as some entries have been nominated that are grammatically weak and unpolished.

Catching up on the remaining 2013 News stories | Call for completed works

Site News

I apologize in advance for what will be some instability in the look of this site.  This blog is hosted on the wordpress.com backbone and makes use of free themes. Finding one that incorporates all the widgets and menus I’d like to build into the site can sometimes be a bit messy.  I may upgrade this blog in the next few weeks but please be patient if things seem to move left to right back to left over the next few weeks.

On to more interesting things, on January 1,  I will be hanging a page off the top menu for serials completed in 2013.

While there are ways to access/find complete serials on  Webfiction Guide or Tuesdayserial.com, I still think that the completed works aren’t highlighted enough within this community of writers and readers.  For this first attempt, I’ve made a call to the existing communities where authors who have contributed content /input into this blog participate.  So look forward to yet another post this week 🙂

Now on to the rest of the news! 

Forbes.com blogs cover Wattpad and other self-publishing efforts

Suw Charman-Anderson regularly covers the self-publishing world for the Forbes.com site and unfortunately I neglected to post this last month when she decided to talk about Wattpad. 

Make sure you watch her posts — she also covered the unveiling of the  new look at Smashwords  and their partnership with Scribd.  This should be of particular interest to to those of you looking for eventual outlets for your compiled serial.   Mark Coker’s blog  brings insight into the deal’s benefits for authors:

For Scribd’s subscription ebook service, authors will earn 60% of the list price on all qualifying reads, and here they’ve added a cool twist.  With subscription services, the author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read.  The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer.  Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read…

Harlequin makes good, signs deals with several Wattpad Authors

Wattpad’s partnerships with the traditional publishing world seem to prove the adage that perhaps publishing online isn’t a kiss of death, after all.  Harlequin is among the best known of romance publishers (although to be fair, they also have their fair share of critics for some of their deals they cut with authors.)    But this overall news is positive . Instead of four final selections,  six authors are signed for books . The winning book titles are listed at the Wattpad blog.

Huffington Post continues it’s ongoing love/hate with serialized formats

Huffington Post’s cadre of bloggers do occasionally pay attention to serialized fiction (see tag: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/serialized-fiction ).    I think, however, compared to other formats it hasn’t been as well covered . Still there are a few references from this past month worth looking through. You have the overall positive comment from Mark Siegel, “The New Serial Revolution” which really talks about fiction and comics, among other works.  And there’s the sort of impatient content consumer argument outlined in John Branch’s dissection of “serial television.”

Good Business Advice

In her post, Crowdfunded Anthologies: Concerns For Writers, Victoria Strauss translates a lot of the knowledge the crew at “Writer Beware” has acquired over the years about predatory /careless practices by publishers.   Anthologies are starting to become increasingly common as Kickstarter projects for several reasons — some altruistic and some perhaps not so much.   She poses several interesting ethical dilemmas/questions as do some of the commentators. Excellent read.  And the blog is an excellent resource if you as an indie or new writer isn’t quite sure if something is on the up and up.

Discoveries — Serial sites /Publishers