Monday, March 31, 2014

e-publishing fiction

Crowd-sourcing an iOS publishing venture
Back in January 2009 I published a blog with the title Cellphone Novelists, discussing the new development of authors in Japan using cellphones to write and publish serial novels, some while commuting to work on the bullet train, and occasional total word counts up to and above 100,000 words.

 A similar development had gotten underway in Canada in 2006 when two tech entrepreneurs started Wattpad, a new website service envisioning a mobile reading app and hosting, initially, about 17000 public domain books. However, until the introduction of the iPhone and the Kindle, the Wattpad venture struggled to gain any momentum.   Thereafter, writers began to post original works with the app and it took off (Article by David Streitfeld, NY Times, 3/24/2014; quotes in this blog are from the NYTimes article).  "This is writing re-imagined for a mobile world, where attention is fragmentary," mused the reporter.  "Almost all our writers serialize their content," Allen Lau, Wattpad's chief executive said.  "Two thousand words is roughly 10 minutes of reading.  That makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line."

The Wattpad app allows for reader comments, and for some authors these involve huge numbers, generally complimentary, since the author can moderate comments before they are published and can use the delete button to eliminate any brutish trolls.  For a conscientious author trying to keep up with responding to comments by fans, the task can be staggering.  One author reports 14000 unread messages pending in her Wattpad inbox.

One of the most popular Wattpad authors is Ali Novak, a 22-year old Wisconsin writer who has serialized four mobile novels.  Ms. Novak has been forced to limit her own involvement with her fans, some of whom apparently would like her to read samples of their work:
I am no longer taking reading/interview/trailer/cover requests, so all related messages will be ignored.  Sorry, but I just don't have the time.
A pullback that is quite understandable.  Ms. Novak's biggest hit, My Life With the Walter Boys--about a girl who moves in with a family of 12 sons--was published this month by Sourcebooks in revised and edited form as a paperback.  Ms. Novack reflects:
Since I was little, I've been obsessed with reading and collecting books.  I always dreamed of seeing my book in Barnes & Noble and picking it off the shelf and holding it in my hands.  That's one thing I could never do with Wattpad. 
Yes, there's something magical about hefting that physical, material thing that you've imbued with something of your own imagination, and to know it will continue to sit safely on your bookshelf even if your computer becomes obsolete, or the internet implodes into a black hole.

My recent e-book publication
Nonetheless, some accomplished authors have begun to publish exclusive e-book offerings. These authors have already made their mark in the traditional hard-copy publishing world, and include writers like Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman; consequently, I have been intrigued by the development.  Anyone who has gone down the road of submitting countless query letters with catchy hooks, brilliantly honed synopses or summaries, and sample pages, to literary agents or traditional publishing houses, whom these days may or may not even choose to acknowledge your submittal, might perhaps view the e-publishing opportunities as a liberating development.  The traditional gate keepers may have been displaced.

Of course, perhaps only a portion of what is e-published may have true literary quality, but the voting audience is much larger now, and one can hope that the good books will just as readily rise to the top.  I like the e-publishing idea and decided to give the experience a try with my most recent coming-of-age fiction, Leaving Major Tela.  It is already up in Kindle format at Amazon.  Click on the link in 'My Publications' at the top right corner of my blog for a visit to the Amazon page and a look inside the book.  I'll have a paperback edition ready at the same location shortly.

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