Being a writer poses a unique challenge — getting people to read your work.
That’s not to say being a musician, a visual artist, or any other kind of creator doesn’t entail its own obstacles (obviously recording a song or creating a film require a lot more teamwork and resources, for example), but in catching the attention of an audience they seem to have the upperhand. The investment required of a potential consumer to judge the media is fairly small — listening to a two minute song, skimming through a DeviantArt gallery, watching a movie trailer — and the time it takes to form their opinion is minimal.
This is because other forms of media elicit an initial sensory response, but writing doesn’t.
Sure, you can say reading is a sensory experience in so far as you use your eyes to read the words and your fingers to turn a page (or click a mouse button) but the majority of the experience actually takes place in your imagination. Judging whether a book or story suits your tastes requires work. Not to mention time.
So how do you convince someone that your story is worth the effort?
Book covers are important, yes, but they still don’t do for a writer what a song clip does for a band or a digital gallery does for an artist. A cover isn’t the writer’s work. It is symbolic of the story they have created but it isn’t an actual “sample” of their creation. Hell, most of the time it isn’t even made by the same person.
Synopses are a little closer to a true sample, but they still cannot be consumed “at a glance”or passively.
So what can we do?
Very often we let someone else do the work for us. The easiest way to get people to invest in reading something is by having someone who is not the author say to a probable audience: read this. Publishers do this when they publish a book, market it, and stick it on a store shelf under its appropriate genre. Potential readers see that someone somewhere thought the book was good enough and that it’s categorized under something they like. By then they’re more than happy to read the synopsis and there you are!
For short stories and serials we see this happen with magazines and online markets. Readers know they publish work in tune with their tastes and can be certain that the stories are of a certain quality.
So what about the rest of us? Those of us writing fiction that haven’t been able to/ don’t want to take the traditional publishing route? The ones who want to carve out their own digital space or connect directly with their readers? The ones who aren’t sure what they want but hey maybe they have something people might like here and where can they just share it for people to enjoy?
Good news! There are some great places online where you can present your work to an interested audience:
Wattpad is an online community that hosts a variety of written content. It is organized by genres and lends itself very well to serialized content. If you’re a writer, it’s a good place to post your work and garner some feedback. If you’re a reader, there are some amazing stories there and, with such a diverse community of writers, you can probably find something that suits your tastes. (Though you may have to sift through some grammatical errors).
Now that said, Wattpad does have some drawbacks. As many other users have noted, it tends to cater to trends. Paranormal romance and chick lit were hot faves last I checked, but it does shift from time to time. It doesn’t mean that your historical fantasy won’t build a following, but you will probably have to work harder for it. Generally, if you want to succeed on Wattpad you need to dedicate some serious time connecting with other writers and potential readers on the forums and joining some book clubs. And if your book happens to be mature rated (e.g. overly violent, strong language, themes of self-harm) it can really hamper your ability to get your story discovered.
This is by far my favourite site for promoting serials and web fiction. As its name suggests, it is an online catalogue of web fiction where users can rate, review, and recommend entries. Most of my traffic comes from there and I’ve heard other people say the same. If you’re looking for a new serial to read, this is the place to look.
There is a submission process for getting your work listed and it can take a while (I believe I waited almost two months), but it is definitely worth it. Just make sure you read the submission guidelines first so that you don’t get rejected when you submit. (The guidelines are mainly about site navigation and accessibility, not content).
Oh, and while you’re there, make sure to pop on over and review Secrets and Skin. kthx.
TuesdaySerial is both a Twitter hashtag and an actual site that shares links to serialized web fiction. This one is easy… the collector opens up every Tuesday and you enter the link to the latest chapter of your serial along with the title, chapter number/name, author, and some info. Usually by Thursday they publish a report including all of the updated serials for that week. Plus you’ll get a special mention if it’s your debut or final chapter. Don’t forget to tweet out your link with the hashtag!
@SerFicDigest is a Twitter account dedicated to sharing all things serial and web fic. Tag them in your tweets and they will usually retweet.
Which brings me to:
Look, I’m terrible at social media. I’m a busy mom that gets anxious when she has to check her phone for updates, but there is a real community of web fic writers on there and it really helps to connect. Even if you don’t find new readers, by using the right hashtags you can find other writers who are more than happy to share their advice or will trade read-for-reads or even retweet your stuff to their followers. It takes some dedication and it’s a whole world of distraction, but definitely give it a shot.
#amwriting and #webfiction are great hashtags when you’re just starting out.
Now this is by no means a definitive list. There are other (albeit smaller) writing communities like Wattpad, including: Figment, Fiction Press, and Writer’s Cafe (which focuses more on improving your writing with an ultimate goal of traditional publishing). And other catalogues such as Muse’s Success.
I have tried to included the sites and communities that I have personally found worth the amount of time and dedication required for each, but if one of the others works for you please let us know in the comments below! If you’re a regular web fic reader, where do you usually go to find new stories? And if you’re writer, what tips and tricks have you found to get people to give your story a chance? I’d love to hear what you have to say!