Reaching Readers through Wattpad and Blog Tours — An Interview with Indie Author Chele Cooke
It’s no secret that the main challenge for all authors out there (except the bestselling ones) is visibility. “How can I reach readers?” is a question that comes up again and again… Of course, there’s no one answer, but there are a lot of opportunities out there, a lot of different paths you can try out to reach different audiences.
When interviewing speculative fiction indie author and ALLi member Chele Cooke, we decided to focus on two of them that she’s been using: Wattpad and blog tours. She might not yet be a bestselling author like some of our previous “guests”, but she has explored different paths that are worth mentioning, and has the right mindset when coming to marketing: it’s something to have fun with!
For the lovers of the written word, we’ve provided a transcript below. But I recommend just plugging in your headphones and plunging into this joyful chat we had, as we didn’t transcribe quite everything! You can also join us directly on the Hangout here!
Hi Chele, thanks a lot for being with us today. You’re a speculative fiction writer, but you also have a day job, as a residence assistant for UCL. So how do you juggle both, how do you find the time?
I pretty much gave up sleep about a year and a half ago, and started living on Red Bull! No, to be honest, I’m a bit of a hermit a lot of the time, so when I come home from work, I just go do some writing, or watch TV while I do other bits and pieces, etc.
You published your first book about 18 months ago, and you’ve got another two out there, right?
Yes, I’ve got two books from a Sci-fi series called Out of Orbit (I’m working on the third one at the moment), and then I have a paranormal book called Teeth which came out in the beginning of January. That one is part of a short book series, and I started writing them as a joke, which finally turned into something I really loved!
I’m actually writing blog posts about Teeth at the moment and there are a lot of questions about how I came up with the idea, why I decided writing about vampires, etc. And my answer is: I’m sick of vampires being tortured souls who hate being vampires! I mean, there’s so much fun to be had with actual evil vampires!
I totally agree. And you’re also the perfect example of a young, starting indie author who, like everyone, is trying to reach readers. What prompted you to self-publish in the first place?
My first book is called “Dead and Buryd”, and when I was writing it and had it at the finished stage (by that I mean I was finished with it – I couldn’t go any further without the input of an editor or agent), I started looking around at my options.
Around that time, I went to the London Book Fair, and one of the events they had that year was a pitch event. You turned up, met with a literary agent, and pitched your idea, basically. I’ve been to other pitch events since, which were very helpful and the people actually lovely, but this one was a disaster. The guy who showed up was very much into the commercial rundown of it. In my books, we’ve got two people who have been taken and my main character wants to get one of them back out of slavery. And the first thing that agent said to me was: “well, can’t you make it her boyfriend, that person who’s been taken?”
That really didn’t work for me, because at that point I had a lot of series planned out and I didn’t want my first book morphed into something that I didn’t want it to be. I then went to a lot of panels at London Book Fair, listened to a lot of people talk, including people like Joanna Penn, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre (director of Kobo), and they were all so enthusiastic and inspiring about self-publishing that I thought: “I should go for it”.
And that is definitely the right spirit! In the future, do you think you’ll stay “indie” or will you go hybrid by trying to find an agent?
It’s a possibility. I’m not massively hoping for it but I’m certainly not against it. I’ve got a new series of books called the Le Cirque Navire, that I like to describe as “Water for Elephants meets Firefly”. And I’ve got an agent who’s interested in that. I’ve sent it over to her. If she likes it and wants to take it on, then I’d be very happy to go on with that, but if she doesn’t like it I’ll just add it to my self-publishing to-do list!
Let’s dive a little bit into this great thing that indie authors love to do: marketing and reaching readers. You have tried something not many of them out there have tried: Wattpad. What’s been your experience with it?
Wattpad’s a funny one, I think. Because people believe that if they get a million reads on Wattpad, that is going to launch their sales. And to be honest, I don’t really think that’s the case. I think Wattpad is a great market to find readers, but it’s not a good one to find readers who have money, or are ready to spend it on books. If you think about it, there are around 8 million users on Wattpad, and the number of books on it is probably 10 times that! So people have enough material there to read for the rest of their lives without spending one cent.
So don’t think that Wattpad is going to translate into sales, because I believe that’s not going to happen. But Wattpad is a great way to find people who like what you’re doing and who will push you maybe to people who aren’t using Wattpad. It’s also full of people who will help you refine your stories. If you’re posting your writing week on week on Wattpad, they will comment, they’ll vote, they’ll tell you the things they like as well as the ones who they don’t think are working. It really helps push things forward, and it’s actually how Teeth came into being.
I started writing it as a joke. I had an idea about two vampires stuck in a coffee shop all day (they can’t go outside because of the sun) and going on a massive caffeine high. And I really wanted to write that. As it doesn’t fit into my current series, I started writing it as an experiment on Wattpad and it worked really well. So when I actually finished that installment I thought to myself: “you know what, it can now be a book!”
So more than for marketing, it’s really for perfecting your craft and getting a book to a point that it flows to readers’ expectations, right?
I think some people use Wattpad just for marketing purposes. I know there are some who post their entire book in one go and then see what happens with it. You can ask to be featured on Wattpad if you have a completed book and the gods of Wattpad like your book. They’ll put it on their front page and you’ll get thousands of readers very very quickly.
For me, that’s not the best way to do it. When I posted “Dead and Buryd” chapter on chapter very very quickly, I got no increase in the number of readers popping through each day/week, because everything was there and was done: they either liked it or they didn’t. With Teeth, I posted that week on week, slowly building up, and people started following me more. Because they knew that I was going to be posting stuff that they could pop in, read, and then come back the following week for more. It’s like a TV show, basically.
And serialization has become really popular. About 6 months ago, a publishing company called The Pigeonhole started up, and they specialize in serialization. They take full-in novels, break them into 10 installments, provide extra content with each installment, and I absolutely love it! So think as Wattpad as a serialization instrument, and use it as a reason for readers to come back and find you repeatedly. That’s what is really, really helpful.
Yes, and serialization is becoming more and more popular with Kindle Unlimited, right?
Yes… But I’m not familiar with KU at all. I’ve stayed out of that zone because I don’t agree on exclusivity for indie authors. I think if you’re putting all your eggs in that basket, there are a lot of people who won’t like that basket. I don’t want to limit myself to one readership.
That’s perfectly understandable. You talked about the “gods of Wattpad”, let’s talk a little bit about the gods of Amazon. They rely a lot on reviews to make the best books rise to the top, right. So what do you do as an author to get more reviews? You talked about a blog tour earlier, right?
Yes, I’m about to go on a blog tour for Teeth! I’ve actually used a PR agent to do that, a friend of a friend situation. As I said, I barely get time to sleep, and organising blog tours is incredibly time consuming, so I thought that would be a good experience. And I’m really happy with her: she’s created lots of opportunities for me, contacted lots of blogs, etc. I’ve got about 5-10 blog posts to write by the end of the week, and then there’s reviews coming in, etc.
Blog tours can be great, because when you’re looking at a blog tour, you’re not looking at your own audience. Your own audience is great for pushing to the blog tour, but, actually, you’re kind of jumping into this venn diagram of all these other little audiences for the bloggers and reviewers!
Definitely, and that’s especially great in speculative fiction as you have a lot of groups, blogs, reviewers out there with quite large audiences. And if you write a nice guest post for them through a blog tour and try to make friends, you can actually end up becoming a regular guest blogger.
Is there anything else you’ve done in terms of creative marketing that you think is worth sharing with our readers?
Yes, I’ve stolen an idea from Ben Galley, actually, whom you’ve interviewed too. He’s got these little round badges that people can put on their bags and things. He has those for his book covers. So I stole that idea. It’s just something nice and little that you can have when you’re selling books: “oh, here, have a badge!”, hoping that someone on the street will go: “that’s an awesome badge, where did you get it?”. I don’t know if that’s actually happened, but it’s nice to dream that it can.
I also have friends who do a lot of cross-stitching: they create the design, dye threads, etc. They’ve read the book and made designs out of it. They’ve actually got custom-dyed threads named after things in my books! They link to the books, so, again, I’m hoping that people who cross-stitch think “oh that’s a nice design, where does it come from?”
Yes, and it’s all about getting your brand out there. So you’ve talked about other indie authors out there, and Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, has said that 2015 would be the year of collaboration among indies. What are you going to do this year to collaborate with other authors?
Well I’m currently writing a post-apocalypse book with a friend of mine who I’ve known for a couple of years now! We’ve been writing together on an informal basis for all that time, and we had this idea so we thought: why not just write it!
I’m also doing a talk on self-publishing to students at Derby university at the end of the month.
I think with collaboration things, you don’t really know until it’s happened. Suddenly, you find out you have all these plans with different people.
I can definitely relate to that, it’s the same in the startup world. Thanks a lot for your time Chele, I look forward to seeing you at London Book Fair this year!
Have you personally ever used Wattpad to find readers or perfect your stories? What do you think about blog tours? Do tell us about your experience, or ask Chele any question, in the comments below!