Monday, May 29, 2017

Guest Post by Inkitt: Online Platforms - Alternative Publishing Routes

Hi guys!

Do you know of the online publishing platform Inkitt? They're an online reader-powered book publisher. I recently was given the honour of being in contact with them and having them on my blog for a guest post regarding online publishing, specifically towards YA! Given that I know there are a lot of aspiring writers out there, I figured this would be a pretty beneficial post for all of us, perking many people's interest (mine included!). 

Without further ado, here's Inkitt's guest post on "How the Internet Is Opening Up Publishing For Hobby Writers to Distribute Their Work." I definitely enjoyed and learned a lot from this post; I hope you guys do too!

Digital Dalliances - What Online Publishing Platforms Mean for Writers of Fiction 

The path toward a career as a novelist is a notoriously difficult and precarious one. Unusual talent is of course essential, but by itself that's rarely enough. There's the well-worn cliché of a frustrated author guarding a box of dusty manuscripts under the bed, alongside a faster-growing collection of rejection slips. Sadly, this image is the norm rather than the exception. Traditionally, a successful novelist needs to see the happy convergence of talent, persistence, a tap into the zeitgeist, and - of course - a willing publisher.

However, the last decade has seen a dramatic shift of the tectonic plates under the publishing industry. As in so many areas of society, technology is having a profound impact. Most pertinently to aspiring authors, digital publishing is becoming a realistic route toward getting their work in front of an audience, forging a more direct link between writer and reader - with none of the complications of a printed edition required. How is this change happening? 

Changing Reading Habits

Only a few years ago, print was the only viable way for readers to enjoy their passion for fiction. Although the internet spawned a whole subculture of writers' blogs and readers' discussion forums, serious reading on a typical computer monitor was hard going. Smartphones, tablets, and perhaps most importantly Kindle has changed that. 

Reading fiction on a device is now commonplace, and in some genres, digital readership levels are even surpassing those of printed word. Today online publishing platforms such as Inkitt are no longer the province of the tech-geek, but true alternatives to the traditional structure of agents, publishers, printers, and book retailers.

How Young Adult Fiction Fits In

This new way of reaching the reader has particular ramifications for writers of young adult (YA) fiction. Despite the common perception of the genre targeting teenagers and adolescents, its readership is in reality highly diverse, covering all ages and backgrounds. Of particular interest, however, are figures compiled by the Bowker publishing research group, that 55% of YA novels are bought by adults — 28% of which are made up of the 33 to 44 demographic. 

YA fiction fans are also likely to be heavy consumers, typically reading at least one work per week, and will often fit their reading into commutes, lunch breaks, and other daily routines. This is fertile ground for fiction to be read via smartphones while on the move. 

Further figures from the independent publishing company Blooming Twig shows that the young adult fiction market is worth over $2.87 billion a year. Clearly, there are huge opportunities surrounding digital publishing, but the market is also saturated. Amazon, for example, boasts over 4 million digital titles across all genres, and the average digitally published work will make little impact without promotional help. Luckily, today's digital arena also offers an extremely powerful way of getting the word out about new fiction: social media. 

How Social Media Helps Promotion

 Mainstream media often portrays Facebook, Twitter, and their lesser-known rivals as: at best, time-sinks full of cute cat videos, and at worst, playgrounds for purveyors of fake news or dubious commercial propositions. Although there is at least some truth to this caricature, social media can offer huge benefits to writers of romantic fiction.People visit social media for entertainment and distraction. They often read it while on the move, or otherwise at a loose end. They're looking for a little escapism, and tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time in pursuing it.

In short, there is a remarkable crossover between the typical social media user and readers of romantic fiction, and placing your work in front of this audience can reap huge rewards. What's more, the sharing nature of social media means that word can spread extremely quickly, if the right content is seen by readers with influence. 

Emerging from the Twilight – On Word of Mouth Creating Buzz

A prime example of a work which achieved stellar success on the back of social media is the infamous 50 Shades of Grey. This international phenomenon began its life as a series of fan-fiction shorts, based around Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and created expressly for sharing among online romantic fiction communities.

Such was its success, author E.L. James decided to take on board the extensive feedback her work received, and rewrite the episodes as a larger work of fiction with the Twilight connections removed. The published result was met with negative critical reaction, to put it kindly, but the existing online popularity and word-of-mouth effect quickly propelled it toward worldwide blockbuster success.

This famous example shows the power of social media in building a buzz around a work of fiction, giving 50 Shades of Grey a solid basis before it dominated the scene via print publishing. Five years on, however, the growth in digital media means the same route is eminently viable without recourse to traditional publishing houses. Once momentum takes hold on social media, the long-coveted success has a way of quickly following.  

Final Thoughts Before You Close This Tab to Pick Up That Dystopian Novel You’re Currently Reading

Young adult fiction is one of the powerhouses of the publishing industry, enjoying a loyal following of prodigious readers and many thriving online communities devoted to the genre. While online platform publishing coupled with social media promotion is by no means a guarantee for success, there's no doubt that it offers an alternative route to readership for writers willing to seize the opportunities it presents.

Patricia Doma, Head of Communications at Inkitt

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