Thursday, March 07, 2019

Social Self-Publishing and Rights (Wattpad, What Rights?)

Websites for posting fiction online have been around for a long time now.  Initially they were focused on clearly amateur and non-profit writing, especially in niche areas such as erotica and fan fiction.  As such, the writers were often not very concerned with publishing rights and commercial publication potential. Over time the mainstreaming of online books has continued to be a lesser-thought-of corollary to the mainstreaming of ebooks.  Reading online or through apps has become part of the lifestyle of many people, albeit a group that continues to skew to the younger generations.

In recent years many of these posting sites have developed hybrid schemes for compensation or graduation to a commercially published level.  And in recent years the number of social publishing sites  has greatly increased.  Wattpad has been dominant since its 2006 launch, but inroads are being made by newcomers such as China-based Webnovel.  Other apps are trying to bite off genre-specific market share, such as Dreame (romance).

Social Self-Publishing May Use First Publishing Rights
One thing that is concerning is how these sites represent the impact of posting complete manuscripts online may have on the potential for future trade publishing.  While most indie ebook authors are fully aware that self-publishing is publishing, and uses first publishing rights--online authors demonstrate more confusion in this issue.

It does not help that social self-publishing websites, deliberately or not, post questionable information to encourage participation.  For example Wattprint saying no publisher will consider a manuscript on their site to be a "reprint" when, well, some will.  With the work being fully accessible for free to thousands of people, being behind a member wall may or may not be enough to avoid it being deemed a reprint--depending on individual publisher's policies.

Social Self-Publishing is Self-Publishing
The exchange of information on these topics might be better if it was clearer that publishing online is a form of self-publishing.  Essentially, format is not a defining feature of the activity and most of the needs and considerations of authors are the same whether they use a site, app, or e/book delivery method.  In fact as a reader, the difference between reading an ebook on my phone and reading on the Wattpad app is barely noticeable.

With that in mind this blog, name aside, is open to reviewing books made available for online or app reading.  I currently have a Wattpad and Webnovel account and I am willing to consider other platforms as well.  Feel free to suggest books for review in the comments.