apps, Publishing, writing

Should Indie Authors Bother With Chat Fiction?

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Image via Pixabay

Last year, I came upon a newish trend in fiction and that was chat fiction.  For those of you who aren’t hip to what teens are up to, chat fiction is basically storytelling presented as chat messages.  Chat fiction has caught the attention of Wattpad, as well Amazon, who have invested in this new form of storytelling.  In fact, some of these companies are actively looking to commission work in order to help populate their catalogs.  I’ll get to that later, but first, let me answer the question why?

Why Are Teens Reading Books On Their Phones?

To understand this trend or evolution in storytelling, you have to understand why teens are reading these stories on their phones and not on a laptop, or an ereader like a Kindle.  According to a 2013, Pew Research Center report 74% of teens aged 12 to 17, accessed the internet on phones and tablets.  Many also reported that they often share a computer with a family member like a parent or sibling.  This means that their phones are a personal item they own and don’t have to share.  Also, most phones can access the home wi-fi network, so bills won’t be too high.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Chat fiction is a spin-off of cellphone fiction that became popular in Japan during the early 2000’s.  Called keitai shousetsu, meaning cellphone novel, this form of storytelling became a phenomenon among middle grade teens and commuters in Japan.  Several Japanese authors became very popular by writing poetry, as well as short, serialized stories that people, mainly teens, read on their phones.  The most popular cellphone stories were picked up by traditional publishers in Japan, or made into movies, and even anime.

Fast forward to 2012, a tech entrepreneur is on a sabbatical after selling her company, and as you can imagine, she’s writing a book.  While writing her YA novel, she has serious doubts as to whether it would resonate with teens and questioned whether kids even read books anymore.  So she and her husband did several experiments and learned that teens would read books but only if they were short and intense.  We’re talking just a few minutes or less than 1,000 words.  So this author had an idea to create stories that kids could read on their cellphones however, unlike keitai shousetsu, these stories would take the form of chat messages.  The app she created was called, Hooked and became popular in both the iTunes and Google Play stores.  This caught the attention of big companies like Wattpad, who created their own chat fiction app called, Tap and Amazon, not wanting to be left out of the party, created Amazon Rapids.

The most popular chat fiction apps include:

Good News: Hooked Will Actually Pay Authors

Hooked is currently looking for authors who can deliver an interactive experience for their readers.  That means choose your own adventure type stories as well short, fast paced stories.  However, this must all be written in a chat like format, so this will be a challenge for any author.  But if you’re up to it, here are some tips when submitting:

  • Must be familiar with smart phones particularly, chat features
  • You need to be able to write short fiction, as in three minutes short or under 1,000 words.
  • Though places like Hooked, accept multiple genres like sci-fi, they say horror and thrillers do best on their site.
  • The compensation isn’t a change your life type of pay but better than the nothing that the rest of the other apps seem to offer.

Stats About Hooked’s Users

  • 69% of users are between the ages of 18-24.
  • More than half of their users are female.
  • The majority of stories on Hooked are user generated but the most popular ones are from commissioned works.

 

Hooked Story 1
Sound of the Century from Hooked (Click on the pic to see the rest on Instagram)

 

Yarn is also considering paying writers somewhere down the road but as of this posting has yet to launch that project.

In Conclusion…

Is chat fiction a fad?  Who knows, many people thought online fan fiction was a fad but that’s still going strong since 1998.  Only time will tell if young people will continue reading on their phones.  Although I doubt it, like with most technology, phones will continue to evolve and if you know anything about young people, you know things that are cool now, quickly become obscure.  In the mean time, if you’re targeting middle graders or teens and aren’t having a lot of success reaching them, this might be a potential tool for you.

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Marketing, Social Media

How to Market Your YA Book

This article was written in 2013, for the updated version go to the How to Market Your YA Book where I posted a part 2.

If you’re a children’s author or a YA novelist, you know how hard it is to market to a young crowd.  The most popular advice is: to find forums and talk to your audience there, which is absurd.  I mean could you imagine hanging out in a chat room with a bunch of kids without looking creepy?  Yeah, me neither.  We can’t promote our work directly because we’d end up on Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator.” or can we?

Having done some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may not be as difficult as we think.

Kiddults

Usually when someone says kiddult, it has negative connotations, but this is the one time where being a big kid is actually a good thing.  For example, did you know that most YA books are purchased by adults, and not teens?  In fact, the average age of a YA reader is between (30-44) years old.  Many of them like to call themselves nerds but in reality, they’re kids (at heart).

Also, most YA bloggers are adults who are either librarians, school teachers or authors themselves.  So it shouldn’t be that hard to get a review however, it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to avoid teens.

So Where are the Kids Hanging Out?

Tumblr, the micro blogging site created in 2007, is hands down the most popular choice by teens.  It’s easy to use and very to the point.  Unlike Facebook, they don’t insist on knowing everything about you and your dog.  Runner up is Twitter, another popular site, for teens to communicate with their friends.

Okay I Signed Up, Now What?

If you’re gonna make this work you have to understand how teens use social media.  Most teens (over 91%), share photos while others (84%), share things like their favorite music, books or movies.

This means what you post will have to be visual as well as entertaining.  My personal tip, create memes for your book.  A few months ago, I created a meme using a  meme generator for a friend whose romance novel had just been released.  Needless to say, she loved it and even added her own special touch to it.

Here are just a few sites that allow you to create and share funny memes:

Also, if you think your character looks or sounds like a certain celebrity go to that celeb’s website, and raid their media kit.  Many of them offer free photos for media purposes.

Flickr is my favorite as you may have noticed on this blog, they have many good pictures that are in the commons section but you have to tread lightly.  Many of those the owners  allow only shares and forbid their pics from being used for advertising purposes.  Same applies to Photobucket and stock.xchng.

So why go through all this trouble?  Because social media sites like Facebook and Google’s algorithms tend to favor pictures rather than just regular posts.  I’ve noticed that authors who are having issues reaching their followers can easily improve their reach just by adding a photo to their post.

Approaching YA Book Groups

First and foremost you NEED to read the rules, most groups post theirs  somewhere at the top of the main page, or they devote an entire thread to them.

I’d advise anyone to lurk for a while until you become familiar with the group.  Have a few conversations and don’t forget to have a little fun.

Goodreads has several groups devoted to YA books:

Facebook also has several groups and fan pages devote to YA novels.

Even Twitter has #YALitChat which is a conversation devoted to any and all things YA.

Interviews: Talking to the Cool Authors

Another way to get on the radar of a teen audience is to interview a popular YA author and post it on your blog.  If it doesn’t help the author, it’ll at least help you!  This will require careful pitching and patience.  There are a lot of authors who don’t answer their emails in a timely fashion or they just farm it all out to their agent.  Be prepared to pitch them like you would an editor or journalist.

It Won’t Sell Unless the Price is Right

This is an obvious point but many marketers ignore the fact that teens are not rich.  They can’t and won’t pay $24.00 for a hardcover book.  You have to price accordingly.  It’s your job to lure them to your book with discounts, and exclusives.

Contests

Many young people are talented and want to show off their abilities in a public way, so why not help them do that?  Run a contest and offer prizes like free books or giftcards.

Another tip: You can create quizzes on Goodreads and use them as part of your marketing.  I created one for my YA novel Hag last month.  I plan on using it in an upcoming blog tour.  They’re real easy to create and are fun for readers.

Charity

Many teens love a good cause to get involved especially a cause that’s relevant to them.  Remember the Kony 2012 campaign?  That campaign was fueled by young people who shared, commented and donated.

Why not donated a portion of your profits to a charity? Make it time sensitive, so there’s a sense of urgency.

Learn Their Language

This one is really more for YOU than them.  On the internet, you’ll eventually run into “text talk” (acronyms that are popular in text messages).  Remember many teens are viewing the internet via a cell phone, so don’t be surprised if you run into vegetable soup.

For example, if you don’t know what KMS means, you got some learning to do.  Don’t worry, there are slang dictionaries out there, here’s one to get you started called, noslang.com (Not affiliated).

The Takeaway

If you noticed, marketing to teens isn’t much different than marketing to adults.  It’s been proven, as long as you are fun and engaging, you shouldn’t have too much trouble marketing to any audience.