Tag Archives: Dmitri Ragano

How to Be A Star on Wattpad

Dmitri Ragano photo

Guest Blog Post by Dmitri Ragano

Last spring, I discovered Wattpad by accident. I was having lunch with my boss who told me his 13-year-old daughter had fallen in love with a new online fiction site where she could submit stories and get feedback from users around the world.

Needless to say I was intrigued. I knew it was only a matter of time before creative writing and social media began to intersect in a big way. Now it was finally happening.

A couple weeks later, I submitted the first few chapters of my self-published novel The Fugitive Grandma on the site. Pretty quickly and to my surprise, Maria Cootauco, Wattpad’s Engagement Manager, stumbled across my story and offered to put in on their Featured Story list. This was an incredible, completely unexpected chance to highlight my work on a site with an audience of 30 million readers, a content destination that receives roughly 1,000 fiction uploads every day.

Wattpad’s agreement around Featured Story placement is pretty reasonable: they offer to give your work marquee placement for 6 months. The most important exposure comes when Featured Stories rotate on the landing page for site’s the tablet and smart phone apps, where 85 percent of the reading takes place. In exchange, you consent to make the story available for free during the period of the promotion.

As soon “The Fugitive Grandma” began its Featured Story run in July 2013, interest spiked and I received a deluge of fan comments and followers from a variety of locales including Kenya, Iowa and Brunei. To date, “The Fugitive Grandma” has been read by hundreds of thousands of people on Wattpad. It has also received over 7,000 votes and more than 600 fan comments, both key metrics in the world of online content where engagement is everything.

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My popularity on Wattpad includes no small amount of luck and serendipity. But I can offer a few suggestions for any author interested in finding an audience on the world’s largest social reading site.

Study the Wattpad Community

Wattpad’s audience is diverse and skews young. More than 75 percent of site visitors are outside the United States, showing the growing demand for English-language fiction in developing nations like India, The Philippines and Turkey.

Though I don’t have detailed stats, I can safely say most of Wattpad’s users are under 30-years-old. Many are under 20. Generations Y and Z are discovering their love for fiction at a time when software and smart phones are the dominant platforms for all media. Book stores (along with physical books) are a fading memory, if they ever were acquainted in the first place. This is an incredible opportunity to reach the global audience, fiction’s future, a readership without pre-conceived notions who can challenge you to experiment and think outside the box.

Will Your Story Connect with Them?

Consider whether your fiction is going to connect with Millennials and their younger cohorts born around the turn of the 21st century. And don’t have any delusions. This is a site full of user-generated fiction, mostly from adolescents. Yes, there are a lot of vampires, zombies and ill-conceived teen romances. No, Wattpad is not a paragon of literary excellence and it’s not going to be mistaken for The Paris Review anytime soon.

But from my experience, your work doesn’t have to be shallow, formulaic “YA” to win hearts and minds. On the contrary, young readers are as hungry as anyone for innovative stories with serious themes and compelling characters, which is one of the reasons YA has been such a dynamic niche in an otherwise flat market, carrying authors like John Greene and Suzanne Collins toward critical acclaim and cross-over acceptance.

If your writing fiction aimed at the over-25 crowd, that’s fine too. Just be aware older readers haven’t migrated en masse to Wattpad. I suspect they will continue to grow in number, just as they followed their kids to Facebook, Twitter and What’s App. I see an increasing number of fan comments for women over 60 who empathize with Stella Valentine, the shotgun-toting “ fugitive grandma” who is one of the main characters of my novel.

Write Your Story in Bite Size Chunks

As I mentioned before, 85 percent of Wattpad’s stories are read on smart phones and tablets. Cognitive researchers have documented that people read differently on electronic screens and mobile devices. The user interface and the context of these gadgets are better suited for narratives that can be easily consumed in small doses with quick payoffs and cliffhanger follow-ons. If you’re book is composed of larger chapters of five to ten thousand or more words, you probably need to break it down into smaller segments.

“Two thousands words is roughly 10 minutes of reading,” says Wattpad CEO Allen Lau. “The makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line.”

Post Frequently

Publish serial chapters in a recurring pattern, typically once or twice a week with a shout-out to followers. Online readers are accustomed to a steady, continuous stream of content through blogs, feeds and apps. Fiction is no different. A serial strategy for sparking interest, building momentum and accumulating fans has been very effective for some of Wattpad’s most successful breakout authors. Anna Todd’s novel After was released over the course of a year through hundreds of episodes, each no more than a few thousand words. By the end of the series, she’d attracted millions of Wattpad readers and landed a major book and movie deal.

Respond to Fans

This may sound like common sense but it can’t be emphasized enough. Reciprocity is at the heart of social networks. And Wattpad is foremost a community.

Therefore, make an effort within the best of your ability to respond to anyone who takes the time to sample your work. You will need to find the right balance for you in terms of frequency and who gets a response. I have over 7,000 followers and there’s no way I can make the time to reach out and thank everyone one of them individually. But I have a system of following up every two weeks to reply to any readers who have left comments, feedback or praised my work. With a demanding day job and busy family life this is the best I can do.

Promote Purchases of Your Book, But Don’t Expect a Big Sales Impact

When you post a book on Wattpad you retain full rights and have plenty of options to promote your titles by cross-linking on Amazon and other retail channels.

My experience is that it doesn’t have much impact at all on sales via Amazon and other outlets. Many Wattpad readers are too young to purchase online or live in countries where it is difficult to obtain credit cards. Besides, it was the specific promise of free fiction that attracted most of them in the first place.

A handful of first-time authors have used Wattpad as a platform to land deals with the Big 5 publishers, but this typically goes hand in hand with a lot of traditional methods of seeking attention from the publishing world.

We all write for different reasons. For me it was important to share my work and see if it resonated with readers I never could’ve reached on my own. My fiction was experimental, combining themes and genres. It was unconventional enough that I felt I’d have to show evidence of reader interest before anyone in the publishing world would take me seriously.

If you are focused on the traditional goals of a professional author, such as sales or attracting the attention of agents and publisher, Wattpad is probably not going to be the single thing that makes your career. But it is a great tool to test out new story ideas, prove they have an audience, and find fans in exotic far-flung corners of the world.

About the Author:

Dmitri Ragano is an author and journalist. His latest novel, The Fugitive Grandma, is available on Wattpad and Amazon.

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Writeliving Interview – Dmitri Ragano

The Writeliving interview series kicks off its first foray into genre fiction with journalist and internet professional turned mystery author Dmitri Ragano. I had the pleasure a few years ago to read part of a manuscript by Dmitri from a mystery called The Fugitive Grandma, and I’ve been a fan ever since. His first novel Employee of the Year, is a mystery must-read, and he is now releasing his second novel The Voting Machine.

Martin Ott

Tell us about the new novel.

It’s a thriller set during an election in Las Vegas. Two political activists are killed as they cast their votes in a critical swing state Senate race.  The murder victims are rival campaigners on opposite sides of the liberal – conservative divide. One is a retired school teacher, an ex-hippie who remains active in progressive causes. The other is a rich Tea Party supporter whose son served in Iraq.

Temo McCarthy, the hero of the story, is a volunteer in a voter registration drive and he knows both of the murdered men. The FBI asks Temo to assist their investigation based on his experience canvassing Las Vegas during the election campaign. The killings are then linked to broader threats of a terrorist attack on the general election. Temo has experience with main suspects in the attack: a mysterious Middle Eastern charity, a Mexican drug cartel and anti-government, white-supremacist militia.

What inspired you to write this story?

I love elections. I love politics. Social studies was always my favorite subject in grade school. I worked as a voter registration volunteer in Las Vegas in 2008 and it was an amazing experience. You put yourself out there in front of strangers and try to persuade them to take an action because you believe in the ideas behind democracy. Some people admire what you’re doing and some people hate you for it. One day you’re going door to door in a neighborhood full of rich retirees with Jaguars and BMWs in the driveway. The next day you are block walking with your clipboard in a rough part of town, talking to homeless and ex-felons who can’t vote until they get off probation.

It’s a big, sprawling country and it’s easy for us to become disconnected from the majority of our fellow citizens. We are rarely drawn into civic collaboration or public discussion beyond our own social/professional network. But elections are one of the ways we engage around ideas and common themes in public life. It’s a messy, bitter process but it is fascinating.  It shows you all the different things that either motivate people or make them apathetic. It shows you how individuals construct their relationship to other people and society as a whole.

I want to emphasize that while I may have my own personal politics, this book isn’t a polemic. It merely aims to tell a good story that is rooted in real experiences. It’s about the human needs and the contradictory emotions that fuel our participation in politics.

This is your second novel featuring Temo McCarthy. He was also the protagonist the first book, Employee of the Year. Tell us the background behind this character.

The idea for this character was to create a kind of everyman in a modern urban setting. I wanted a hero who was flawed, humble and recognizable… He shouldn’t have exceptional skills or talents like say a Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. Temo isn’t particularly smart or tough and he has no elite training or background. His awareness of his limitations becomes an advantage. He’s spent most of his life as a loser and he goes into most situations expecting things to work against him. And yet he never gives up, just like his historical namesake Cuauhtemoc,  who kept on fighting as his whole civilization collapsed in a way that must have been unimaginably horrific. Temo never loses his will to survive and maintain some kind of integrity.

Why did you choose to self-publish your novels?

I’ve been working around the Internet space since 1995, first as a HTML programmer, then in start-ups and more recently as a product manager. I think if you come from that background it’s always your first instinct to try and do something yourself – get it our there in front of an audience and get feedback. That iterative, interactive process is how you are used to working.  I wanted to be able to have a book I could share with readers in a relatively short cycle and I knew the process of finding a traditional agent and traditional publisher can take years. At the same time, there’s this massive sea change going on in the book industry with the push towards e-book distribution and marketing so I thought it would be useful to get first-hand experience even if I ended up partnering with a traditional publisher in the future.

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Enter a Mysterious Galaxy of Authors

Mysterious Galaxy bookstore is putting on a local author meet and greet in Redondo Beach from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, June 23. This is a great example of an independent bookstore reaching out to both its local authors and readers with a unique event.

One of the featured authors will be novelist, journalist and blogger Dmitri Ragano, who was featured in the April blog post Great American Novel 2.0. Feel free to enjoy the light appetizers and spirits, and ask him about his process for successfully self-publishing and promoting his well-reviewed novel Employee of the Year.

Other notable authors include Todd McCaffrey, co-author of Dragon’s Time: Dragonriders of Pern, Gary Phillips, author of Monkology and Linda O. Johnston, author of Hounds Abound.

There looks to be a wide mix of genre fiction and it’s a great way to get to spend time with dragons, private detectives, Martians, zombies and the authors that create them.

Martin Ott

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Great American Novel 2.0

Pittsburgh native and journalist turned internet professional Dmitri Ragano shares his story about self-publishing his first mystery novel Employee of the Year. His article Great American Novel 2.0 first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is recommended reading for anyone considering self-publishing as an option.

Dmitri is a talented fiction writer and makes a conscious decision to pursue electronic publishing as his primary option. Social media is a professional and personal interest, and Dmitri is excited about his ability to connect to readers in the continually evolving digital community.

Employee of the Year is garnering stellar reviews from readers and is available on Amazon.

Martin Ott

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