Does my writing have value?

Ideas on how to convince people to pay

It’s a good time to be a reader. Shelves in bookshops are overflowing with traditionally published books. If you want something more niche, online stores are packed with endlessly specific self-published work. If you want to read short stories or serials instead of novels you can find amateur and professional work all over the internet.

It’s a tricky time to be a writer. It’s never been easier to publish, which is a wonderful thing most of the time. Finding hundreds or thousands readers is within reach of any writer.

Getting paid for your writing? Now that’s a whole other thing.

It’s been near-impossible to earn a living as a writer for decades. Most professional, traditionally published writers still maintain additional jobs to maintain a liveable income.

How to convince readers to pay to read when there is so much free material on offer online and more traditionally published novels in libraries than anyone can read in a lifetime?

Here’s what I’m thinking

I’ve written three books in the last six years, which I’ve put out in serialised form via the website Wattpad. It worked out well, attracting approximately 43,000 readers. These were free reads, though. I’m gearing up to start my next book and the challenge with this one is going to be trying to convince readers that it’s worth paying for.

This newsletter is all about writing and I’m intending to share the process as I go along. Hopefully it’ll be useful information for anyone else who is thinking of going down this route.

The core of the plan is to publish chapters of the book via this newsletter first, accessible only to paid subscribers, on a weekly basis. These same chapters will then go up on Wattpad (and possibly other publishing platforms like Royal Road, Inkitt and Tapas) after the early access period. I’m yet to decide on the time gap - more likely it’ll be a month.

(I should mention that newsletters like this edition will remain free, and the book will exist as a separate, opt-in and optional thing. So if you subscribed to this newsletter for the writing tips and don’t want to read my fiction, that’s fine and you don’t need to make any changes.)

The theory is that some readers who enjoy the free chapters on Wattpad will like the idea of getting the future chapters sooner, and jump onto the paid subscription version. The subscription will be very affordable, though I haven’t quite settled on the numbers yet. Think along the lines of being equivalent to buying a coffee.

I’m not sure that’s quite enough, though. A lot of readers will simply be patient and quite happy to wait for the free chapters on Wattpad. I suspect there will be a need for additional value, which is what I’m currently planning out. This is extra content only available to the paid readers, but which is supplemental to the main book. In other words, it’s stuff that will appeal to the fans. Because, let’s face it, they’re the ones who will be enthusiastic enough to pay.

This extra material can take the form of short stories, ‘deleted scenes’, in-world encyclopedia entries, character interviews - that sort of thing. Stuff that supports and enhances the story and the fictional experience.

Insight into the writing process which might be of use to other writers (and what you’re probably subscribed for in the first place) will remain on the free newsletter, as I don’t want to lock that stuff away.

That’s the plan. Lots of details to work out still, but I’m getting there. If you’re already way ahead of me and doing this sort of thing - or have detected that I’m missing something obvious and about to fall into a hole - then please do:

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I did a podcast with Elle Griffin

I probably wouldn’t be using Substack for my newsletter if I hadn’t stumbled upon Elle’s. She’s about to embark on her own serialised fiction expedition and has been interviewing other fiction writers to find out what people are doing. Upon reading one of her articles I immediately dropped her a line via Discord to arrange a chat for The Writing Life.

It’s a great interview full of really useful tips and some bold ideas. Check it out:

Thanks for reading. I’ll be revealing more about my next book soon, as well as chronicling its journey towards serialisation and my efforts to make some actual money off my writing. It’s going to be fun!

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