31 January 2011

The Text Novel

I have been vaguely aware of the term text novels for a while, but never taken it seriously. Then, while investigating self publishing platforms in China, India and Africa, I came across the Text Novel site 17K.com in China, reputed to be the largest website in the world

17K charge the equivalent of 3 cents per 1000 characters, with a maximum of 3000 characters per chapter, which sounds trivial until you realise that the most popular story has received 7.7 million hits – that’s a worthwhile income. I tried to upload my stories to the site, but it will only takes Chinese characters. That set me on the trail of Text Novel platforms round the world, with a special interest in India.

Why India? Because as the most populous nation on earth, with 39 official languages, English is widely spoken and read. While only a small percentage of the population have private computer access, half of those under 35 have mobile phones

So far, I have failed to find a specific Text Novel platform in India, but I did discover that Wattpad.com, a Canadian company, and one of the largest Text Novel sites outside East Asia has recently done deals with publishing companies in India.

The other Text Novel site to catch my eye is TextNovel.com. Both Wattpad and TextNovel are entirely free so can’t be used to generate a direct income. However, I write for the teen age group and guess which demographic group inhabit the world of Text Novels – you got it, the teens.

If the world of Text Novels is where my target audience hang out and read literature, however brief in nature, I recon this presents a good opportunity to build a fan base, funnel teens towards my website, and eventual sales.

So, if you want to read sections of Nina Swift: Gaia’s Brood as I write it you much visit Wattpad.com or TextNovel.com – You can even read them on your mobile/cell phone.


29 January 2011

Constructing a Multi-Layers Framework for your Story

Constructing a grid with many layers provides not only a framework in which to build your story and story world, but also provides the opportunity to test whether your story and characters work before committing a huge amount of time to writing. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of getting three-quarters of the way through a story and realising it’s not working and we don’t know how it is going to end. However, this is a very process driven way to go about story writing and if you’re the sort who likes your characters to lead you all over the place, stop right here, because you will only feel frustrated.

To construct a multi-layered grid you start with the most basic elements of the story: The premise – often a ‘what if.....a boy were to meet a girl on a bus,’ etc.

Next you construct the characters, and the villain (arguably the most important character): who are they, what are they like, how do they relate to the villain of the piece, how do they relate to each other, what are they all after, how are they going to grow as individuals during the story?
Got your characters sorted? Now give each one a moral flaw and an immoral action in your story, this will make them much more interesting and give the other characters something to react against.

The thematic story line follows next: what is the story really about? What value are you trying to convey to your readers when they read this story. It could be a moral point, a political point or something quite ordinary like ‘true love never fails’ or ‘love needs more that true love,’ whatever takes your fancy. If your story has an underlying theme it will automatically have more depth.

Now you need to decide what everyone is after, this is the thing that drives all the characters to act and react against each other, it could be money, love, happiness, saving the world etc, though it doesn’t have to be what they eventually end up with.

Now map out your main scenes and briefly what happens in each, making sure each is a consequence of the actions taken by characters in the previous scenes.

At this point you should have a good idea if your story is going to work or lose its way.

You can carry on giving your framework more layers if you wish - it really depends on how much freedom or direction you want in your writing.

26 January 2011


In the year since I actively started marketing Helium3 as an e-book I’ve learned quite a lot about e-marketing. Here are the main things I think I’ve learned:

It’s difficult - it takes a good deal of time and effort.

The returns don’t justify the time investment, yet – but hopefully the hits will grow eventually until the time input does become justified.

No one will read anything from a self-published author unless it’s free. This means everyone need at least one book which is a loss-leader – if they like the free one they may return for another, and if they liked it enough they may pay for one.

Quantity is more important than quality, though, ideally you want both. A long backlist is important, because once a reader decides they like your work they will often return to purchase other books from you, especially if they feature the same characters.

Size does'nt matter – a lot of the best selling e-books are more novella than novel, often less than 20,000 words. In fact, brevity seems to be preferred when reading online. Whether this has to do with the nature of reading from a screen or the social settings in which the works are read, such as on a commute to work, is unclear. So it’s ok to write a trilogy of 25,000 words each rather than one saga of 80,000 words.

There appear to be three main approaches adopted when marketing e-books:

  • The scatter-gun approach – getting the book listed on as many sites as possible.

  • The funnel approach – channelling potential readers towards one sales website by contributing to as many blogs, chat rooms, and discussions as possible.

  • The third party approach – paying someone else to undertake on or both of the above approaches.
    I prefer the funnel approach, because I think I will get more return for my effort and I can keep a tight control over marketing efforts.
A lot of independent authors seem to spend a lot of time promoting their book to other independent authors – many of the site chosen to list work appear to only attract other authors.

There are plenty of people prepared to make money our of helping independent authors sell their works – typically these people promise lots, charge high, and deliver little. Do it yourself.

Everyone loves a special offer – discount codes really do work.

In future posts I will be working these ideas up into a marketing plan for the coming year.

18 January 2011

New Year Reality Check

With the new year I’ve decided to review where I am with my writing, so here goes:

Helium3 is never going to make it into print in it’s current form. It gets out of the slush pile, which puts it into the top 10% of manuscripts being submitted, but it never gets any further. Even got into the final thirty of the Chicken House/Times Children’s Writing competition. I know this because Barry Cunningham, from Chicken House, only read the last thirty runners up and he referred to the end story line of Helium3 in explaining why the runners up didn’t make it.

Helium3 has serious story flaws, not many, but enough to matter. The main characters are great, it’s fun to read, and at least 3000 people have liked it enough to download it, but ultimately the flaws can only be fixed by a complete rewrite – from the premise upwards. This would make it into a completely different story and I’ve already moved on to other things so it’ll just have to stay the way it is.

I can still make a bit of money from Helium3 as an ebook, because even with flaws it’s still better than the majority of ebooks out there. More importantly, I can use it to attract people to my website for the better stuff I am/will write now I know what I’m doing.

Smashwords.com is by far the best publishing/distribution platform on which to sell Helium3 as an ebook.

I’m not reaching my target audience. The teen audience I’m aiming at are not the ones downloading Helium3 from Smashwords. I need a marketing plan that drives/attracts my target audience to my website to download from Smashwords.com - more about this in later posts.