Ama: Your publishing questions answered
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
I recently asked if you had any questions for me. And, as it turned out, you had quite a few!
In this post I'll be answering all your publishing related questions. We'll talk about Wattpad Books, self-publishing, how difficult it is to replicate Wattpad success in the publishing industry, serial fiction, Cupid's Match and Devils Inc, the ways in which being an author is like being a small business, and more!
If you have any more questions, feel free to post them in the comments. I'll write another post to answer your writing craft questions, and your questions about my stories!
You have published Cupids Match with a publisher, but compared to other countries (Germany), only the first volume was ever released in the US. What is the reason for this?
The French and German publishers I worked with bought 3 Cupid’s Match books from me. Wattpad Books, Penguin Random House (UK), and Planeta (my Spanish publisher) only bought the publishing rights for book 1. There’s not much more to it than that! Hopefully Wattpad and I can reach an agreement for the rest of the series at some point so we can get the books out in the US. I'd love for that to happen!
Your second release was self-published (Devils inc) even though your first book seemed to have had quite the high profile release (pilot episode, publishing deal...). I would have expected you to have contacts and agents now? Am I wrong to assume so?
I made an active decision to go indie with the Devils Inc. series (rather than pursue traditional publishing) because I believe it is the best strategy for those particular book(s). As an author it’s important to look at yourself as a small business. Your books are your products.
Different books are going to have different routes to market, and you’ll need to adopt different strategies so that you can make the most amount of money from them.
Sometimes traditional publishing is the best option for an author or a particular book. There are projects I would like to traditionally publish in the future. But the downside of traditional publishing is that it’s slow, there’s a lot of gatekeeping, the majority of authors aren’t paid very well, and in most cases, you lose control of your subsidiary rights. There are indie authors who are earning a lot of money by publishing books themselves, rather than working with the big publishers.
Personally, I also think that serial fiction monetization models are becoming increasingly interesting (and lucrative) for authors. And serial fiction is something that I’m experienced in, and have had some success with over the the past 8 years.
By retaining all my rights for my Devils Inc. universe, alongside being able to sell the book in physical and ebook formats, I’m free to enter into deals with serial fiction platforms (I’ve signed a couple of deals re. Devils Inc. already). And I can sell off other subsidiary rights, too (I’ve had a few interesting discussions about something potentially very exciting relating to Devils Inc.). By owning all my rights myself, I’m also able to publish the next books in the series relatively quickly. I could bring out a spin-off series in the future. I could even sell merchandise if I wanted to. If I’d traditionally published, these options wouldn’t be available to me.
That’s not to say that indie publishing is any easier than trad publishing. It’s not. It comes with its own set of challenges (and costs). But, as a small business, I think it’s worth taking the risk to see what I can learn and where it can take me. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll try something different with my next series!
(Note: Devils Inc. went through all the rigorous stages of editing it would have gone through with a publisher behind it. I worked with a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a cover designer. You can check it out here.)
The business seems harder then expected when I first started reading books on Wattpad, as some people seem to be quite successful on the platform. Is it difficult to replicate the success in the publishing world?
Yes! Publishing is difficult for all authors, and the industry is incredibly difficult to break into.
In addition to that, the Wattpad environment is very different to the publishing environment. I see Wattpad as a form of entertainment in its own right. Books on Wattpad are social, interactive, serial, hooky, fast paced, often escapist. The skills you need to be successful on Wattpad aren’t necessarily the same skills you need to succeed in traditional publishing (and vice versa). There are books that do well on Wattpad that wouldn’t necessarily work outside of Wattpad (and vice versa!).
In addition to this, the wider industry doesn’t always view Wattpad writers as serious writers (I often feel like being successful on Wattpad is a bit like being viewed as a contestant on the X Factor!). So, yes, it’s tough!
However, I personally think it’s a good time to be a writer. There are becoming more and more ways that we can earn money, if we’re willing to be flexible with our ideas around what it means to be an author.
For one thing, I think that monetizing serial fiction is becoming a viable and interesting option for writers – and success on platforms like Wattpad definitely sets writers up well for those kinds of ventures. Also, with both Wattpad and Tapas, launching their own studios, I think we’ll see more and more serial fiction authors selling / licensing / optioning rights to their content as time goes by (whether that’s their publishing rights, tv rights, gaming rights, webcomics, digital shorts etc.). Plus, I expect that we’ll see a rise in companies contracting serial fiction authors to produce original content for their platforms, too.
All of these options are viable ways to make money as a writer that mostly exist outside of the wider publishing industry.
(Note: You can find out more about some of my serial fiction projects here)
After having had a TV pilot and a few releases under your belt, are you now able to live off your books earnings now, or is there still a need for a day job (full-time?)?
Most (if not all) contracts I’ve signed don’t allow me to talk openly about money, but yes, I am currently writing full time. It might be worth mentioning that none of the individual deals / sources of income I have are enough for me to live off in isolation from one another (yet!)- but they've built up over time. I hope that I can keep on writing full time! Time will tell!
Also, just to clarify, Cupid’s Match was produced as a short digital pilot (which was very cool, but different to TV. You can check it out here.).
I would love to know more about self-publishing. Are you happy with how it's gone with Devils Inc? Any advice for those of us thinking of going down the same route?
I’m so new to this that I’m wary about giving advice! But if I was to give advice, I’d say firstly, do your research. Make sure you’ve looked into your options. And make sure you’re 100% committed to whether you want to self-publish or traditionally publish your book (once you’ve committed to one option, you won’t be able to change to the other option for that particular book/series).
Then, if you’ve decided on self publishing a particular project, I’d advise you to just go for it! You’ll make some mistakes along the way, but you’ll learn as you do it. One thing I’ve learnt from the experience is not to get too hung up on perfection, and to just get on with it. The more books you put out there, the more chance you have of making money. And self publishing is faster moving that trad publishing.
Other than that, prepare for some costs (cover, editing, marketing) but don’t feel like you have to spend more than you can afford. If it’s your first book, it’ll probably take some time to make that money back. I’d recommend working with a developmental editor at some point in your writing career, for example, because they’re amazing and you’ll learn a lot from the experience! But I don’t think this has to happen for every book as it’s expensive. Also, be prepared that it will take some time, and probably a few books, before you start making money (which relates back to what I said about seeing yourself as a small business earlier. Like any small business, it’s going to take time to build).
I hope that in 6 months time I’ll have a lot more practical advice to give! (and if there’s anything specific you want to know feel free to DM me). But Devils Inc. has only been out a month so I’m still a newbie in terms of self-publishing! As for how it’s gone, I’ve been happy so far! My sales at this point are around what I expected them to be, and I expect to get a boost when I bring out the next book in the series early next year. I’ve also enjoyed being in control of everything, having the flexibility to experiment and change things if they’re not working (like blurb / key words / pricing etc.), and being able to see my sales data.
Please give me some tips and advice on how to get a Wattpad novel published with Wattpad Books. I am eager to know the story of "Cupid's Match" getting published.
If you're serious about publishing, I don’t recommend narrowing your options to just Wattpad Books. They're one publisher among many, and they don't have a submission process so it's all very much out of your control (they pick books that are posted on Wattpad that they think they can sell).
BUT if you are interested in Wattpad Books, at the very least you’ll need to have a completed novel on your profile, it would need to be high quality (and/or have managed to garner a lot of reads), and you would need to catch the attention of Wattpad themselves - maybe through submitting to Paid Stories, or by winning a Watty award, or by having a strong presence within the community, or through getting a lot of reader engagement, etc.
I don't recommend waiting around to be noticed though. If you really want to be published, do your research. Learn about the different types of publishing (self publishing vs. traditional publishing). Learn about the industry. And if you want to be traditionally published and get into bookstores then you should be querying agents once you have a polished manuscript!
I hope these answers to your publishing questions have been interesting! If you have any more questions, feel free to drop them in the comments.
Are you a writer? Have you published any books? Do you write on any serial fiction platforms? Tell me about your journey in the comments!
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LAUREN PALPHREYMAN is a writer based in London. She is best known for her supernatural teen romance series, Cupid's Match, which accumulated over 60 million views online and was published by Wattpad Books / Penguin Random House, October 2019. She writes books full of magical organizations, modern myths, silly jokes, and lots of kissing. Her urban fantasy, Devils Inc, is out now! Find her on Instagram @LaurenPalphreyman and on Twitter @LEPalphreyman.
Get your copy of Cupid's Match here!
Get your copy of Devils Inc. here!