Writing Wednesdays: The pros and cons of publishing your book online

Are you wondering whether to publish your book online or not? In this post, I share some of the main pros and cons.

Whether it’s ao3 or Wattpad, writing a story and posting it online in chapter-by-chapter installments is hugely popular. If you’re considering it, or maybe a little bit nervous to do it, then that’s where I’m hoping that this post will be handy for you.

Pro: The communities (especially on Wattpad) are incredibly supportive.

These sites are full of other people just like you who are writing because they want to, and have decided to share it, and people enjoying reading these stories you’re all posting. Sure, there’ll be trolls (more later) but the vast majority of people will be there encouraging and supporting you in your endeavour to write a book.

You might like this post on promoting your book when you publish online.

Con: Trolls.

They are everywhere. Every blogging and social media site, every online community – the internet is full of trolls. You can’t avoid them. And a single person trolling the comments on your story can really get you down. That said, they’re few and far between on story-sharing platforms, usually, so don’t pay them any attention. I know I hardly ever came across any on Wattpad.

Pro: The encouragement from absolute strangers.

So you’re writing your first book and you’ve decided to share it online. You might have a few dozen reads, and a handful of comments – and maybe those comments are all ‘Upload soon!’ or ‘OMG can’t wait for the next chapter!’ – and that might be a bit disheartening. Why aren’t they commenting on the characters? Why aren’t they trying to guess about the tragic backstory you’ve been hinting at?

Fear not; these people may not be leaving in depth comments about your story, but look at what they’re saying. They’re excited about the next upload. They’re excited about your story. And that’s fantastic! You might not get as many readers as you’d like, but cherish the ones you do have. 

Remember that these total strangers are enjoying your book, they’re not just friends who are being polite for the sake of it. Appreciate that.

Pro: Constructive criticism from fresh eyes.

Even if most of your comments are about how much they hate one of the characters (a character you’ve written with the object of them loving to hate) and how they can’t wait for the next part, you’ll often still get some constructive criticism. It may sound harsh sometimes, but don’t take it that way. They’re probably trying to help, so pay attention and take on board what they’ve said. Are you not setting the scene enough? Is there too much dialogue? Are you not starting a new paragraph for each new speaker and it’s confusing your readers? Listen, and try and work on it.

You might like this post on how to deal with criticism of your novel.

Con: A lack of readers might make you feel like your book sucks.

This is a totally understandable because the story you’re uploading may be the best thing you’ve ever written and you feel really passionate about it – and it may have a total of three reads. One of which was you. That’s okay though – patience is a virtue, and it’s pretty necessary when it comes to these sites. I didn’t get an immediate reaction of millions of reads with my books on Wattpad – I was halfway through TKB before it started to get really popular.

And sometimes, people just don’t see your book. They’re not always ignoring it because it sounds bad – they may just not see it at all. Do your best to promote it – use the tags, make a cover and story description, use social media to send links to your story, and interact with fans and other site users. I’ll do another blog post on this soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Pro: You’ll become a better writer.

YOU WILL. You’ll realise what your readers like – that they like the way you write romance, or your style, or your dialogue, or something. You might learn what they don’t like about your writing and you’ll work on it. And besides – practice makes perfect, so you’ll hone your writing skills just by writing more. You’ll notice what type of stories you like writing (your fantasy story failed halfway through, but your chick-lit story was easy and fun to write and people loved it) and you’ll work more on that.

Pro: You’re more likely to finish your book.

If you’re like me, you’ll sometimes get a really great idea for a book and start it but then only get a third of the way in before closing the document and never working on it again. It happens. Well, posting your work online, where you get feedback and can see that people are enjoying your book will be a huge encouragement. I know I already said that, but it’s really important to emphasise. 

You’re going to feel so much more confident in your writing and believe more in your story and then you’ll feel more empowered to finish it. You’ll feel a responsibility to your readers, as well as to yourself. And it’s such a great feeling to finish a book.

You might like this post on how to stay motivated and finish your novel.

Con: People may repost your work and claim it as their own.

Most sites (I know Wattpad do this) offer an option to copyright your work, and make it ‘all rights reserved’. And some sites (again, I know this is true for Wattpad) don’t have a copy and paste function on their stories to make it harder for people to repost your work.

If you do find that someone has posted your story somewhere and said it’s theirs, you can contact the user politely asking them to take it down, or just go directly to the website and explain the situation. 

If you’re doing this, make sure to include links to your work and to the offending work.

Pro: Be as anonymous as you want.

I’ll be honest: I never told anybody I was writing until a few months after I’d been posting on Wattpad – and by that point, I’d been writing novels on my laptop for about four years. I thought writing was a weird hobby, and I was embarrassed by it, and didn’t think that what I wrote was any good. So I just put in a username, chose an avatar rather than a picture of myself, didn’t disclose my age or location, and started posting. I was anonymous. And it was such a huge confidence boost.

So, if you’re worried about posting online because you don’t want your friends to know, that’s not a problem – you can be totally anonymous and they don’t have to know!

Do you publish your book online? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!

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