Supporting black artist’s – an interview with indie author Sylvester Barzey

Sylvester Barzey… Author of the Planet Dead series, has joined me today in a candid interview to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, and the challenges for black authors in the publishing industry.

Pixie: Hey Sylvester, thanks so much for joining me today. Sooooo, me and you go back a few years. We first met in the Reanimated Writers Facebook Group where we chatted all things zombie. Then, over the years, we’ve helped each other out with cross promos…and all the usual ‘author crap’ that goes on behind the scenes. And as a huge fan of your books, and you in general, I’ve followed your career closely and hung out with you on Instagram. 

A large part of your online presence is advocating and supporting black artists, not just in publishing, but in all forms of art. So, to recognise and support the Black Lives Matter movement, I wanted to chat to you today and learn about some of the challenges that you’ve faced as a black author in the publishing industry.

There was one post on your Instagram account that really resonated with me, and actually inspired me to do this interview with you.

You talked about the first time that you took the plunge and started to write a book. In your post, you mentioned that your initial reaction was to write a story that included a white main character… can you talk a little bit about that, and how that decision has affected your writing?

Sylvester: You are one of my favorite authors on social media. I remember when I first saw your setup for Walker Stalker Con, I was blown away. So it has been a pleasure getting to know you. When I first sat down to write Planet Dead, pretty much all the characters were white. It wasn’t something I gave much thought to, it was just something I assumed they needed to be. This was in early 2010 and while I had Ben from Night of The Living Dead & Selena from 28 Days Later to pull from as black zombie genre heroes, that wasn’t enough to overpower the training that my mind had about heroes and final girls in horror.

Final girls are those women who overcome everything, fear, pain, and death of loved ones, all to become this badass survivor at the end. I knew I wanted a final girl in my book that was like Sidney, Nancy, Connor, & Ripley but horror history’s lack of representation with the final girl trope caused me to believe a final girl could only be white. 

So, here I was writing my first book, building my own world and creating my own ultimate survivor and my mind was telling me, ‘She has to be white’ it wasn’t until my wife asked why Catherine wasn’t black that I saw my internal thoughts were just continuing the injustice and lack of representation in the genre.

I love horror and I want to see myself in horror, I want my kids to see themselves in my work. I just want my community to look at the genre and see that we can be survivors too, because history has shown us we are survivors.

Pixie: I recently read an interesting thread on twitter about the lack of transparency in the publishing industry for traditionally published authors, or more specifically, the disparity between advances received for black authors versus white authors. The hashtag #PublishingPaidMe went viral, and many prominent authors such as Roxanne Gay weighed in. 

For those of you reading this interview and are unfamiliar with how advances work; it’s the amount of money a publisher is willing to pay for a book ahead of its publication – It’s essentially an advance on the projected royalties.

Award winning author N.K Jemisin noted: “Advances aren’t an indicator of earnings and they aren’t an indicator of book quality. … What, then, do they indicate? Let’s call them an indicator of ‘consumer confidence.”

She then goes on to say…the reason black authors are receiving less money is: there’s a blatant bias in the publishing industry AND in the general public when it comes to purchasing books by black authors.

As a fellow indie author, we don’t get the luxury of advances. However, as a black author, have you ever experienced this type of bias when it comes to the sale of your books? Or have you found that the indie community is more inclusive?

Sylvester: The indie community is different in a lot of ways and the same as well. In the indie community, we join groups and talk with fans and it builds a personal connection with your readers. But while I have some amazing fans, my reach hasn’t been as wide as other authors. I can’t say if race has played a large role in that or not, but the way I see it sometimes is, I’m in the same groups, my books show up in the also boughts, my covers are great…so why haven’t you picked up my book yet?

The two examples from my time as an indie author that I know race played a role in are these: 

Once I took an online storytelling/selling course and it was done on zoom with three well known writing podcasters. I asked what I was doing wrong and one of the guys told me to send him my cover, I did. He is not racist…he just spoke to what he knows about the genre and indie books and he told me, I’m not selling because I have a black woman on my cover. It was like a punch to my soul. He said they had a set of romance books that sold really well and the only one that wasn’t selling was the one with a black man on the cover. I told him thank you for the advice and decided a black woman was gonna be on all my covers. Because I can’t expect change, if I’m not gonna do what I can for it.

The next one was a review I got that said they thought my book was gonna be POC (people of color) Propaganda but they were happy to learn it wasn’t. So, because I had a woman of color on my cover, this reader wasn’t going to read it because they thought it was propaganda for…I don’t even know what for. Aside from that, indie publishing for people of color is different than it is for white authors. I have to hunt for a post apocalyptic cover of a black woman…there are tons of covers with white characters and zombies. Editors are interesting as well because sometimes a white editor doesn’t get my dialogue…like if I write ‘Nah’ they say I should write ‘No’ but that’s not my character’s voice. It’s slowly getting better…sadly, a writer of color just has to spend more time finding their tribe and building their team.

Pixie: Looking ahead at the future of the publishing industry, this whole movement has forced many of us, including me, to completely re-evaluate our approach to racism. It’s not enough to say that we aren’t racist, we all need to stand up and be actively anti-racist – especially if we have any chance of changing systemic social bias. Companies have published their stance on the BLM movement, and many have released bold statements on how they plan to tackle racism going forward. And on a grass roots level, many authors have come out in solidarity to help cross promote and elevate black authors too. Based on the increased awareness we’ve seen online; do you think that, eventually, we could see something good coming out of this for black authors in the industry? Have you seen any positive changes? Or is it too early for that?

Sylvester: Maybe it’s too early to really tell. My fear is all this is for the moment and once the hashtags stop, then the help will stop, but that’s just me. The authors I normally promote with or talk to have reached out and have asked how I’m holding up and I’ve gotten some interview proposals and things…which I think is great and I’m gonna do my best to keep it going, but after fighting and posting and doing all these things on twitter and Instagram, I went to some of my normal horror and zombie groups on Facebook and it really hit me hard to see no one was talking about what was going on. I heard that these groups are an escape from the real world and I understand that, I’m not telling people to post videos of protest, but take the time to speak on it or share black authors in your group, maybe post about black survivors in fiction. 

It’s an escape, but for black fans and authors it just feels like we go from being ignored in one world to being ignored in another. I’ve been trying to post more but it sucks to feel like it’s on my shoulders because I am one of a few black authors in these groups.

Pixie: So, I want to talk a little about your writing over the last few months. First, we had the global Pandemic, and many authors online have said they struggled with concentration and creativity, which is hardly surprising… home schooling kids, changes in work patterns… even losing jobs. And now following the barbaric death of George Floyd, we have riots and marches, spilling out into our streets. Emotions are running high across the USA, so it must be tough time for you and your family. Can you talk a little bit about what’s been happening locally where you live in the US? What’s the mood like? And how is it affecting your creative process?

Sylvester: I live in Lawrenceville, GA…it’s not too far from Atlanta. I’ve seen small groups of protesters and I’ve heard about the big ones in Atlanta, but I haven’t been to any. With the virus going on, I don’t want to risk bringing anything home to my family, so I do my part donating, sharing and speaking out on social media. We just had another shooting of an unarmed black man and that lead to a Wendy’s being burned down. I find it hard to really do anything with all this going on. I have a new book coming out, but I don’t feel right promoting anything. I can’t bring myself to really write because I normally write action, horror with comedy, so, like ZombieLand, but nothing’s funny right now.

I’ve been in a pit when it comes to my creativity, but my wife just put together a small office in one of our closets and I’m going to use it the best I can to do something. I have a lot of anger and pain in me right now and I feel I need to get that on the page in one way or another.

Pixie: Let’s talk about Planet Dead and inspiration. In a statement online, you mentioned that; there’s a distinct lack of strong black women in horror. For those of you that haven’t read the Planet Dead series yet, Sylvester’s main character Catherine, is about as badass as they come. Where did your inspiration come from? Is Catherine a creation of your own, or is there a real-life Catherine?

Sylvester: When I describe Catherine, I always compare her to T2 Sarah Connor. She’s this rough and tough badass who’s only care is her family’s safety. So, I like to think that Catherine was birthed from that type of female hero, but as I look back on book one and the whole opening scene and first chapter, I can also see Ben from Night of the Living Dead in her as well. She was this random black woman with a shotgun who kept this hysterical woman from being eaten by the dead.

I wouldn’t say there is a real-life Catherine, but I would say that everyone has a little Catherine in them somewhere, and she comes out when they need her the most.

Pixie: And lastly, before we go…where we can find your amazing books and what do you have planned next?

Sylvester: You can find all my work at my website: www.sylvesterbarzey.com

And as for what I’ve got next. I’ve got a few plans for future projects, some dealing with zombies, some dealing with vampires…some dealing with both. You’ll just have to wait and see, I’m not giving anything away anymore. I loved talking with you, this was awesome, thank you.

If you want to learn more about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, you can donate / learn here:

https://blacklivesmatter.com

https://www.joincampaignzero.org

https://www.innocenceproject.org

IT Chapter 2 Movie Review

The losers are well and truly back in IT Chapter 2, albeit this time they’re older, not much wiser and way more dysfunctional than their younger selves. 

I have to admit, I went in to IT Chapter 2 with relatively low expectations. I enjoyed the first movie starring Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Martell, and not forgetting Bill Skasgard as the terrifying nightmare fuel, Pennywise the clown, but I didn’t love it either. For me, it wasn’t one of those movies that I would rush to watch again. The acting was good, the jump scares were okay…it was all just…meh. After watching the first film, I remember leaving the movie theatre feeling very ‘vanilla’ about the whole thing.

So you could imagine my surprise when I left the cinema on Saturday night feeling somewhat impressed. I’m going to put it out there right now, I think IT Chapter 2 is a significant improvement on the first, and it’s not often you could say that about any sequel, especially in the horror genre. 

Firstly, the casting choices were absolutely spot on. This was emphasised by the flashbacks to the child actors from the first film. From James McAvoy’s painfully accurate stutter to James Ransone’s depiction of the neurotic, germaphobe Eddie, and even the childish and often blunt comedy from Bill Hader. All of the actors were scarily reminiscent of their younger counterparts, which resulted in an adult adventure film that could easily rival a Goonies remake, if it were surrounded by nightmarish, half-zombie, half-spider monsters…with a few severed baby limbs thrown in for good measure. Sound horrifying? That’s because it is.

You could argue that the plot isn’t anything revolutionary, but it doesn’t try to be either. In IT Chapter 2 Stephen King has firmly taken a page out of Stan Lee’s playbook and actually appears in the film as an eccentric shop-keeper in Derry. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Stephen King. Salem’s Lot is one of my favourite books. But it’s not a secret that the godfather of horror, despite all his legendary tension building and all round awesomeness, can’t write a good ending. And best of all, he knows it too.

So when the film actively pokes fun at this through the character Bill Denbrough played by James McAvoy, who like King, also can’t write a good ending for his horror novel, I found myself giggling through the lacklustre ending. It’s not often you can say that about a film that ends kind of terribly. But I guess it’s hard to feel irritated when you’re subconsciously prepared for it.

For all its foibles, the camaraderie in this rag-tag group of friends is believable. It felt as though we were genuinely watching a group of old school friends taking on a psychotic, murdering clown. The comedy was well-placed without being too over baring, and there were touching moments that heightened the tension too. Overall it was entertaining, which is ultimately the aim of the game, right? 

A small piece of advice, though; at nearly three hours long, make sure you have a good pee before you go in. Otherwise you’ll be squirming until the end, or you’ll have to run the gauntlet at some point during the film. And if you leave it until that bathroom scene with Jessica Chastain, you might never want to go into a bathroom stall again.

I rate this movie seven psychotic, child-eating clowns out of ten.

You can watch the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhJ5P7Up3jA

Can Angela Kang pull it out of the bag for season 10 of The Walking Dead?

So here’s the thing about The Walking Dead; I have a love/hate relationship with the show. In a single episode, I can find myself squealing in delight at the zombie-goodness and seconds later, I’ll be rolling my eyes, complaining out loud at how terrible the writing is, and making idle threats never to watch the show ever again.

And yet, here we are again. One month until season 10 and I find myself to be naïvely excited. Maybe it’s because the latest trailer actually looked pretty darn good, or maybe it’s the optimistic zombie-fan girl in me, hoping that the writers will bin the predictable, washed-up tropes that have been bled to death in the previous seasons, and actually write something consistent for a change.

But before we discuss that trailer, let’s take a step back and review the highs and lows of the previous seasons.

For me, getting rid of Rick Grimes has been one of the best decisions of the show for a long time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Andrew Lincoln. He’s a great actor who was the cornerstone of the show for a long time. The opening scene when he woke up in the abandoned hospital, is firmly cemented as one of the most memorable moments of the show.

Fast forward to season 8, which in my mind, will forever be known as, the ‘all-out war that never quite happened,’ not forgetting the montage of Rick’s sweaty death stare and repetitive call to action by King Ezekiel. And of course, the cartoonish depiction of Negan that was at times borderline pantomime. It feels like the show has come a long way from the bleak, isolation of that opening scene in season 1.

So when I heard they were getting rid of Rick, my initial reaction was outrage. How could they get rid of Rick when he’s so integral to the show? And then, in the episodes that followed, there was a new lease of life. We were suddenly reminded of the other amazing characters that had been relegated to the side lines. Remember when Daryl actually had dialogue longer than the odd grunt coupled with a slightly sweaty stare? Without Rick, the show could finally move on and give airtime to other more compelling storylines.

Of course, we know in truth it wasn’t the show’s decision to get rid of Rick, it was Andrew Lincoln’s decision to move on and try new things. Although technically speaking, this isn’t completely the end of Rick Grimes in the world of The Walking Dead. Rick will return in the movies scheduled for the next year or so.

At least we can be thankful that Rick’s departure was heartful. Unlike Maggie’s that was bizarrely brushed under the rug. It’s times like this when you realise how the writers and creators of the show perpetually sacrifice quality over quantity. Instead of taking their time and releasing the next series when it’s good and ready, they’ve agreed to a ridiculous deadline set by AMC. It’s not surprising that the writing suffers as a result. For such an important character in the show, Maggie’s departure was just plain weird.

Obviously we know outside in the ‘real world’ that Lauren Cohen left the show to pursue other interests, but due to the tight filming schedule her departure was never shown or even explained. She was simply cut out. We the viewers were told about it retrospectively, in a vague conversation that didn’t really explain anything. And that was the end of Maggie.

So you have to wonder, is it really acceptable to forgive the poor writing because one of the lead actors decided to take another job? Not really. If the creators of the show took more time to produce a quality series, they could have taken the time to explain it in a satisfying and convincing way that was fitting for the character arc. And this is just another example of my love/hate relationship with The Walking Dead.

Let’s move on to one of the best additions to the show in recent years, and that’s the legendary Sam Morton and her depiction of the deadly Alpha. In years gone by, we’ve seen several villains come and go in The Walking Deaduniverse, but none quite as terrifying as Alpha and the whisperers.

In the previous season, some of the most compelling moments, if not all of, included Alpha. Remember that scene with baby and the approaching walkers? Yep, that one stayed with me too. It could have been purely coincidental, but I found that the episodes that didn’t include Alpha, were distinctly lacking for one reason or another. Maybe it’s her soft, yet terrifying southern accent or the just the right amount of psycho in her calculating eyes. Whatever it is, she brings it and the show is better as a result.

So naturally, following my new found appreciation of Sam Morton in all her glory, you could imagine my excitement over the new trailer for season 10. With the log line ‘Silence the whisperers’ this captivating trailer sees the power couple Daryl and Carol reunited in their badassery, Michonne gets on a boat and sets sail on the open sea AND kisses Ezekiel, mixed in with a whole bunch of zombie bashing, light banter and all overlaid with Sam Morton’s terrifying southern accent. The trailer finishes with Daryl casually strolling over the boundary into the whisperers land and Alpha warning “Now you have to be punished–––”

From the trailer alone, the next season seems promising. But I still have that niggling feeling that the writers could fall back into the typical Walking Dead formula; the one where at the end of each season, they kill off a bunch of characters for the sake of it. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember a season where they didn’t do that? The most notable death that fell into this formula was Jesus. And damn it I really liked him, so his death was disappointing for all the wrong reasons. I’m not opposed to killing off characters, but it has to have reason…Otherwise, what’s the point? The supposed shock value, isn’t reason enough.

On reflection, the majority of my gripes are rooted in the rushed writing and not the acting itself. I have a huge amount of respect for the actors, and over the years I’ve grown to love these characters. I guess in some ways, I feel as though we’ve all been living The Walking Deadfor so long, we have to see it through until the end. Just please, oh please, make season 10 a good one.

What are your thoughts on The Walking Dead? Post your comments below:

You can check out the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgUzJTHsbyA

Walker Stalker Con London

In this blog, I discuss my recent sell-out success at Walker Stalker Con in London, and how I managed to create a legion of loyal fans in the space of a weekend.

It’s 10:00pm on a Tuesday evening, two weeks before the big event. My husband is standing in the kitchen with a bag of alginate in one hand and a mixer drill in the other. He’s staring at me expectantly with a glimmer of tiredness in his hazel eyes, and his wild, auburn hair has a light dusting of pink powder from the previous batch.

“Are you ready to go again?” He says, in a weary tone.

We’ve both been at our hectic day jobs since 6:00am, and now we have a long night ahead of us moulding zombie hands. We’re both exhausted and neither of us wants to be doing this. But we’re invested now. We’ve come too far and we’re quickly running out of time to build the stall. To lighten the mood in this dire situation, I say with an air of sarcasm,

“Who’s idea was it to make these damn zombie hands anyway?”

He smiles lazily, with a twinkle in his eyes, “You did…this is all you. Now grab the bucket and get ready with the water…”

My husband has a saying that perfectly describes our relationship: “If you can dream it, I can build it.” I am firmly the dreamer in this partnership. I’m the writer, part-time indie author and creative entrepreneur, whereas he’s the logical realist and the literal builder of dreams. He keeps me grounded and focussed, but every now and then, he indulges my whimsical ideas and rises to the challenge with his tool box in hand. This is one of those moments.

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A year earlier I had heard about Walker Stalker Con on Facebook. It was originally created by fans of the cult TV series The Walking Dead, but over the years it has grown in popularity. Throughout the weekend you can meet the stars of the show, as well as other actors from equally popular TV shows. There’s also high profile televised panel discussions and stalls selling an array of merchandise. This also happened to coincide with my decision to publish the first book in my dystopian YA series Kill or Cure, after my overwhelming success as a Wattpad author.

When the opportunity arose to apply for a vendor pitch at Walker Stalker 2018, I took a punt without hesitating. At the time, I hadn’t even fully edited Kill or Cure yet, but I knew this was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss. It was evident from the photos and articles online, this event attracted my key demographic, and I wanted to meet them in-person with my book in hand.

I had previously attended the MCM comic-con in the name of research, to see what other authors and artists were doing at events like this, and my discovery was surprisingly little. Most authors were standing gloomily behind a table covered in black cloth, with a stack of books in front of them. Rather unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people were walking past without showing a glimmer of interest. I knew from that moment that if I was going to sell my book successfully as an unknown indie author, I would need to think outside the box.

In my mind, a stall at a convention should be an extension of your book cover, similar to a shop window at a department store at Christmas. Naturally I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and then swiftly met with one my best friends for coffee; a creative entrepreneur and wedding photographer, who loves nothing more than to brainstorm ambitious ideas for business. After a land-slide of caffeine and cakes, we had devised an interactive photo-wall of zombie hands to attract my potential customers. All we had to do now was to build it with little to no budget.

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Within a matter of weeks we had sourced free pallets from Facebook Market place, and moulded our own hands into zombie claws with alginate and plaster. I had even trawled through eBay to purchase some cheap artificial plants, disused apple crates and hessian sand bags to create a ‘dystopian look.’ The end result exceeded all expectations. I knew deep down that I was potentially on to a winner, but I was still plagued by self-doubt. After all, I had never even attended Walker Stalker, let alone as an author.

My husband and I had a bet before we left for the event, on how many books I would sell during the weekend. I said a meagre 40, thinking that even with our epic dystopian-style stall, I had doubts that people would take a chance on an unknown indie author. My husband was more optimistic and said that I would sell 50.

By two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, we had completely sold-out and had somehow managed to sell 100 books (we had even sold my personal copy!) I feel confident that If we had more books with us, we could have easily sold another 50 before the convention closed. At various points throughout the weekend, we had a long queue of people waiting (sometimes at over 20 deep) to purchase my book, and they were all eager to meet the indie author behind it.

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On reflection, I’d say the interactive photo wall acted as the ‘hook’ which resulted in crowds of people stopping to watch and take photos, and my ‘elevator pitch’ sealed the deal. Before we embarked on this adventure, I completely underestimated how many people would be interested in learning my story as an indie author, and how high levels of enthusiastic engagement and my passion for Kill or Cure could translate into so many sales.

This carefully crafted combination created a buzzing atmosphere, and we struggled to keep up with demand. So not only did we manage to sell every book in our possession, but I also met a new legion of loyal fans who managed to binge the book within a day or two, many of whom have been messaging me non-stop ever since. The reviews and feedback of Kill or Curehave been wonderful, and it has opened up an array of future opportunities.

It goes without saying that I’ll be attending Walker Stalker next year, hopefully with the second book in the Kill or Cure series too. It was without doubt the most exhausting yet exhilarating experience I’ve had as an indie author, but the long hours and hard work were completely worth it. I’d highly recommend any genre-specific author attending a convention like this, there’s so many to choose from, but be prepared to get creative. Much to my husband’s dismay, I’ve already started to brainstorm even more ambitious ways to sell my books in 2019… so watch this space.

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The Wattpad Revolution

In this blog I explore how an indie author can use the wonderful social media platform Wattpad to receive structured feedback, increase their reader base and create a brand.

Some authors would say that it’s counter intuitive to give away your story for free, and as an Indie author, it’s hard enough to make a salary from selling books as it is, without giving away content. But with over 40 million users world wide, Wattpad is considered the biggest social media platform for authors and books readers worldwide, so it begs the question:why would you not use this bountiful resource at your finger tips to grow your fan base?

For many new indie authors, they are doing exactly that, and my goodness they are nailing it! As a result, traditional publishing houses are now latching on to the success of these innovative indie authors and are using Wattpad to scout for future talent. If used correctly, Wattpad could be the catalyst for creating a legion of loyal fans, who will avidly follow your career and pay for future works. So even though you’re not seeing immediate returns on sales from your book, you are essentially laying the ground work for future sales.

As an indie author that’s in the process of publishing my debut novel with Matador in the UK; Wattpad has been integral in launching my career as a writer. On a very basic level, Wattpad has provided me with the confidence to pursue my goals of becoming a published author; which in my mind has been invaluable.

Within the space of 5 months, I have personally gained over 100k reads on my novel Kill or Cure and have built a fan base of voracious readers that have kept my novel firmly in the top 1000 horror books in the Wattpad book chart. For any new author that has zero fan base and no real concept whether their novel is good enough for general publication, Wattpad is a great place to start.

I’ve personally found that readers can be quite forgiving in terms of the odd typo and are very vocal on plot themes and characters they like. Equally, they will soon tell you if they think certain elements in your stories simply don’t work. Readers are also able to highlight sentences and comment in-line with your story, as well as ‘like’ the chapter as whole.

As a result, authors can receive real-time feedback from their readers. The ‘like’ function also gives you an indicator on how quickly a reader binges your book, or if they’re not as the case may be. This is enhanced by the Wattpad analytics, such as the ‘completed reads by part,’ which indicates how many people have completed a chapter from start to finish. So in other words, you can see quite clearly if there are points in your novel where the plot sags, and the reader puts your book down either temporarily or permanently.

As you can see – the overall benefits of using Wattpad are plentiful; indie authors can gain visibility on the areas that work, as well as the areas that don’t work. If you have any pacing issues, that will quickly become apparent, and you’ll be able to engage with your readers and receive constructive criticism from your target audience. At the early stage of your indie career, what can be more valuable than that?

So the million dollar question is; once you’ve received your feedback and tweaked your story, what techniques can you use to create a fan base and enhance your brand on Wattpad? Here are some useful tips that will help you along the way to becoming a Wattpad super star and author entrepreneur:

Young girl using smart phone,Social media concept.

1) Engage with your readers
In my mind this is a pretty basic and obvious tip. Talk to your fans, find out what they like, find out what they don’t like. Be nice and encouraging. Many of the readers on Wattpad are Generation Z, so if your target audience are YA / teen fiction readers – it pays to be nice, quite literally. One day, these people will be buying your books. So if they can connect with you on a personal level, they are more likely to follow your career and to continue buying your books for years to come.

2) Respond to comments on your book
One of the most wonderful things on Wattpad is the overwhelming enthusiasm of the readers. If you have an action-packed story line, or plot twist where your readers are on the edge of their seats, you’ll receive lots of comments. Respond to these comments as much as possible; after all, the more comments / engagement your book receives, the higher your book will be ranked, which increases your visibility…and before you know it, you’ll have a snow ball effect where your book shoots up the list to the top 20 on Wattpad. This is what happened to me in the space of five months; Kill or Cure went from 6k reads to over 100k in a matter of weeks.

3) Professional profile set up
When you create your profile, make sure that it is a good representation of you as an author. This is one of the first things that readers look at when they find your novel. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive autobiography, just a few key points about you, your inspirations and your plans as an indie author. I would also recommend that you include a picture of yourself, rather than a cartoon frog for example. You want your readers to know who you are and take you seriously as an author.

4) Release chapters episodically
In the golden age of Netflix where viewers tune in on a weekly basis to eagerly watch the latest episode of their favourite tv show; readers of Wattpad engage with books in the same way. Therefore, one of the best ways to increase hype about your novel, is to post a new chapter regularly and at the same time every week. If readers know the exact time / day you will be posting the next chapter, you’ll often have several hundred people jumping in to read it at the same time; which again pushes your book up in the genre book chart.

5) Challenge your readers at the end of each chapter
This is another great way to engage your readers. Many authors on Wattpad will ask their readers several questions at the end of each chapter via an author’s note. By creating this forum where readers can actively voice their opinions on certain plot points or characters, you are opening up a platform for discussion.

As an experiment, I openly asked my readers: if this book was made into a movie, what actors would play the characters? At first glance, this might seem like a completely egotistical question to ask my readers, but actually there was method in my madness. Firstly, I wanted to know if my readers visualised my characters in the same way that I did, and secondly, I anticipated that this particular question would result with high levels of engagement, and I was interested to know how high this particular question could push my book up the chart.

As I expected, this question resulted with a hot debate among readers and managed to push my book to 22 in the chart; which meant, my little ol’ indie book was nestled amongst the professionally published novels and the Watty award winners. Not bad huh? Now you might be thinking that it’s more of a popularity contest on Wattpad, rather than writing good fiction; but honestly I couldn’t disagree more. There probably is an element of that, like all social media platforms, but at the end of the day – your book has to be good for the readers to be engaged and to keep coming back for more. So you can be the most social person on Wattpad, but if your book is rubbish, readers will lose interest and stop reading.

6) Create a launch squad
If you’re an indie author reading this blog, you have probably heard that to be successful, you must have a mailing list. When I went to the London Book Fair in March 2017, this was drilled into me throughout the various seminars. However, I couldn’t help but wonder; how the hell was I supposed to do that? Since then, I’ve done my research and there are various marketing techniques that you can do to build your mailing list.

One way that I am experimenting with now is by creating a ‘launch squad’ on Wattpad. With my debut novel due for release in February 2018, I have ‘recruited’ a team of my most voracious and enthusiastic Wattpadders, to help promote my book on their various social media platforms. The theory is, by incentivising my launch squad with a free signed copy of my book, and access to a spin-off short story on one of the main characters, they have volunteered to actively promote my book on their social media platforms, pre-order the ebook and write an honest review on amazon or good reads. On top of that, my launch squad have all provided their email addresses, so as well as promoting my book, my mailing list is growing.

So there you have it. Those are my top tips on using Wattpad to increase your reader base and create a brand. For me personally, Wattpad has been integral in finding my voice as an author, and has quite literally changed my life. I know that sounds like a terribly romantic sweeping statement, but it’s the truth. I had always liked the idea of being an author, and as an avid book nerd, I’ve spent a large portion of my life with my head in a novel. Wattpad gave me the confidence I needed to push forward and turn my far-fetched dreams into words and pages. So download the app and post a chapter or two, because you never know – it might just be the beginning of something great.

Question What Is Your Story ?