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Can you gather a fan base before publishing?

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Yes, you can! I will share two distinct pre-publishing successes I have witnessed. So get ready to be inspired.

Series publishing your first draft

About ten years ago, when I lived in London and travelled by tube daily, I used to read stories on Wattpad to keep me sane during my commutes. Wattpad was, and still is, a free website/app where budding and experienced writers can share chapters of stories and get feedback from readers. Wattpad has since grown and is growing still, but reading and publishing on Wattpad remain free of charge. I realised ten years ago that free book-sharing platforms, such as Wattpad, are invaluable resources for writers.


Why is it such a great resource? One of the Wattpad stories I read on the tube was "Dinner With a Vampire, Did I Mention I'm Vegetarian". It is a vampire saga written by Abigail Gibbs. She was only 15 years old when she started writing it. Her narrative was in no way perfect, but her enthusiasm jumped off the page – or in my case, my phone screen – and it was a good read. She had gathered a considerable fan base. One day, the heading of her latest chapter said something along these lines: This is the last chapter I will upload here. I have received a publishing deal. The chapters I shared on Wattpad –and the ones I am working on – will be edited and published soon. The story remains available for all to read. If you want to know how this story ends, you can buy my book when it is published! Needless to say, all her followers were both gutted and excited. Her free, unedited, unfinished story has been read more than 10 million times! When the HarperCollins version of "Dinner With A Vampire, Did I Mention I'm Vegetarian" was published as "The Dark Heroine", it started selling from the start. As I said, Wattpad can be a fantastic pre-publishing marketing tool.

Amazon launched a similar platform in July 2021 called Kindle Vella, in which US-based writers can upload chapters for Kindle users. These episodes can be between 600–5,000 words. Amazon even pays out royalties per chapter read. Some Kindle Vella authors use these royalties to fund the professional editing and proofreading services they need to publish a completed novel. Once you have completed your manuscript, you can add a message to your Kindle Vella stories explaining that an edited version is available to buy.

Kindle Vella

You can read an article about Kindle Vella and Wattpad here. It includes interviews with authors of 'episode-based' platforms.

Platforms such as Wattpad and Kindle Vella are free to use. I highly recommend giving these a go if you consider self-publishing; you may even land a publishing deal – like Abigail Gibbs.

Wattpad is free for all. They do offer a premium subscription for die-hard Wattpad readers.

Kindle Vella. You can sign up as an author via your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. This platform is free of charge but only available in the US (at the time of writing – October 2022).

Do let me know how you get on with Wattpad or Kindle Vella. If you've used these platforms prior to reading this blog, feel free to share your tips below.

Social media

Are you familiar with YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok? These media-content-sharing platforms have become very popular, and users have been known to become famous. Liz Zorab is a social media star that became a published author. She and her husband, Mr J, started an organic smallholding in South Wales called Byther Farm.

Liz Zorab, author of 'Grounded'.
Byther Farm YouTube Channel

She used to live in the town next to ours; I would cycle to her house to get organic free-range eggs when my children were young. I was amazed at the progress they made in their ever-expanding garden. Liz started filming the gardening work and setup, explaining it every step of the way. Slowly but steadily, she gained thousands of YouTube subscribers.

It wasn't long until Byther Farm had a dedicated Facebook page, Facebook group, Twitter account, website, and newsletters. It was a message on Liz's Facebook group that revealed her exciting deal with a publisher; hundreds, maybe thousands of people wanted to buy Grounded even before she finished writing it! She gathered pre-orders from all over the world. At the time of writing, she is almost ready to get her second book, The Seasoned Gardener, out into the world.

What are our takes on Liz's story? Think; do you have any knowledge to share that can be useful for others? You can share your know-how on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok (BookTok), a blog, or LinkedIn groups. If you are a consistent voice on social media channels, you (and your brand) are likely to gain the trust and respect of your fellow members. You can expect support from those platforms when you are ready to publish. Your followers may share in your excitement and share, buy, and review your new book so that your brand new career as a published author will, hopefully, take off from the start.

Please note: there are many other book marketing techniques out there. These pre-publishing marketing tools that I discussed are not mandatory for success and may not work for everyone.

Will you be trying series publishing or social media marketing? Let me know in the comments.

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