In Part One of this article, I told the story of Madeleine who wanted to write a book and get it published. Madeleine, a fictitious character, represents the solitary approach adopted by many real world authors who feel they must lock themselves away from the world in order to succeed as a writer. Yet my real world client, Ashley Royer (www.ashleyroyer.com) did none of the usual things that many new authors do. Instead of following the traditional, solitary approach, her writing experience was entirely social. Before reaching her senior year in high school, she racked up more than 30 million reads online. Her first book, Remember to Forget, was just published by the HarperCollins Blink YA imprint in April, 2016. How did all this happen?
When thirteen-year-old Ashley Royer secretly began writing stories online at Wattpad, she didn’t know what to expect. Wattpad, an online destination for authors and readers, has more than 40 million readers and writers. This free publishing service can receive more than one-hundred thousand story uploads in a single day. How could this new writer hope to stand out, with so many stories from older and more experienced writers already competing for reader’s attention?
Ashley Royer crafted her first novel chapter-by-chapter, posting each successive installment online before writing the next. To her astonishment and delight (also panic and sheer terror), more than just a few readers became entranced with the unfolding story. Hundreds of reads turned into hundreds of thousands, and hundreds of thousands became millions. The pressure to continue writing was on!
Adoring fans left thousands of comments telling her what they liked or didn’t like about the story. They even expressed annoyance when young Ashley couldn’t keep up the pace and write fast enough to post the next chapter online. She finished her first book and started another one with completely different characters and a different kind of plot line. Existing fans continued to follow her next book, and she picked up many new fans along the way.
Proving that lightning does strike twice, her second online book won a 2014 Watty award, and like the first book, elicited millions and millions of reads. With a combined 30 million reads on Wattpad, the publishing world couldn’t possibly ignore someone who was connecting so well with her audience. Her second online story, Remember to Forget, quickly became a hardcover book.
Wattpad wasn’t Ashley’s only online outlet, either. In addition to writing stories on Wattpad, Ashley created a YouTube channel, callmeashley98, and developed a growing contingent of followers on Twitter (@singsongash) as well. Fans who discovered her on YouTube would later read her stories on Wattpad and vice versa, Wattpad would lead to more YouTube (or Twitter) followers. While writing her books she was constantly engaging people on a variety of subjects and themes, whether on Wattpad or other social media channels. Nothing could be less solitary!
By the time Ashley was published as an author, she already had a huge fan base in place. The fans who now come out and drive long distances to get their books signed at various events are always thrilled to “finally meet her” - even though the book only just came out! This is because Ashley has personally corresponded and engaged one on one with many of her fans along the writing journey, some of whom have followed her all the way from Day One. In many cases, they are not only fans but they have become friends.
In the next and final installment of this series of articles, I’ll directly compare and contrast the very different experiences (and outcomes) for Madeleine and Ashley. While no single approach to getting published will always be the “right one”, there are many things to appreciate from Ashley’s story that offer a path to publication some may not have considered. It’s also not too late to adopt some of these tactics even if your book is finished and you are in the stage of seeking publication. Here are some of the topics I’ll cover next time:
Serialization: What other famous author got his big break (180 years ago), by writing his book one chapter at a time, and then distributing each individual chapter to the public, with breaks of time in between each installment to build up demand and anticipation?
Immediate Feedback: How did thousands and thousands of Wattpad comments encourage the author and provide valuable clues that ultimately shaped the writing experience and outcome of the story?
Early Investment in Audience: By including her audience in the writing experience from the very first chapter, there wasn’t a need to “find an audience” when the book was published.
Free Content: How does offering free content build an audience and still convert to book sales?
Social Media: What are some ways social media can be used both during the writing experience and after publication? Should an author develop separate channels (Wattpad, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook) or stick with one channel? Does it help or hurt if each channel represents something different about the author?
Engagement: Whose got time to personally engage with fans when you’re writing a book? It’s actually time worth spending…
Post-Publication Publicity: When the book is finally in print, how can you build on the previous momentum achieved during the writing process?
[I’ll be telling the full story of Ashley Royer’s path to publication of her book, Remember to Forget, at next month’s New England Authors Expo event on July 27th at the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers, MA. There are several sponsorship opportunities available, please contact me for more information if you’d like to advertise your brand at this event. The New England Author Expo attracts more than 100 local authors during the daytime to participate in educational panels and lectures. The general public is invited to an evening selling event where many local authors have books for sale. Ashley Royer will also be making a special guest appearance in the evening to talk to the public about her book and to sign copies of Remember to Forget.]