Episode 125 – Wattpad Futures, Hooked, and Kickstarter

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Question of the Week: Would you read a book made up of text messages? Do you think Hooked will be the next big thing?

After a wild week, Jim talked AMC’s Reviewer Grabber and Bryan chatted up his Cinderella launch before they slammed into the latest tips and news. After thanking their patrons G.D. Leon (and his book The Frigorifio https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KPHK98A ) and Gillian Felix (and her service Plain Talk BM http://www.plaintalkbm.com/ ) the self-pub soulmates discussed trigger warnings, iBooks, and KDP Rocket. News stories included the New York Times’ self-pub advice, novels made from text messages, Kickstarter’s publishing prowess, how stacked ads helped Joanna Penn hit the USA Today list, and Wattpad’s new Futures ad program. This week’s Question of the Week: Would you read a book made up of text messages? Do you think Hooked will be the next big thing?
What You’ll Learn:
  • Why one author refuses to add trigger warnings to her book descriptions
  • Why one author prefers iBooks to Amazon
  • How authors can find profitable subcategories in Amazon
  • Why Jim sides with the New York Times on answering self-pub questions
  • How authors can transform text messages into stories
  • What milestone Kickstarter has reached and how it helps indie authors
  • How stacked ads helped an author reach the USA Today Bestseller list
  • How authors can earn income from Wattpad
Question of the Week: Would you read a book made up of text messages? Do you think Hooked will be the next big thing?

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  • Not much of a text person but doesn’t mean it wont do well,
    as for Kickstarter, I have a feeling that most of the published and successful projects are picture based, as kids books and comics fall under publishing too? plus the margins are low at about at under 5000$. You need a good vid, nice graphics and a sample for you to have a chance at funding.
    I also see using kickstarter for promotion too. the KS community is pretty strong and active.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, there are a few other things they throw under the publishing window too. Even podcasts! I wonder what the best way to tap into that community would be.

  • Someone say summertime?


  • Would I read text stories? Probably not, though that doesn’t mean it’ll be a flop. I’m on the edge of a Millennial generation (31), so some of my practices may not garner to the demographic where this could be more effective. A story is a story, no matter what format it is given, and there is definitely an audience for this.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, looks like some of these books have been successful already! We’re too old, Raphyel.


        • Bryan


          • DON’T REMIND ME! *sniff* IT ALREADY HURTS!!! *runs away sobbing*

  • Have you seen ‘zines’? These are little hand made books made by hipsters out of photocopied, really cheap style content. But often, there’s little bite sized text conversations in them. Theres a full underground scene where the kids go and swap their zines for others or sell them for a couple of bucks each. So, there’s already a market for this format.

    • Spider McGee

      ‘Zines, eh? It may not surprise anyone, but I am old. I published a pop culture ‘zine called SMITE in the early ’90s, just on the tail end of the ’80s punk/’zine movement. I did it myself with a manual typewriter, Elmer’s glue, and a pair of scissors. There was a dense quarterly print magazine called FACTSHEET FIVE, and publishers would send copies to them, get reviewed, and trade copies with each other. I was featured five or six times. Then the internet happened, F5 went out of business, and from then on it was nothing but chat rooms and emoticons. It was quite a time, though, and it will never come again.

      • Bryan

        Ah, remember chat rooms? How awkward and fun.

    • Bryan

      Oh, I’ve seen some old-school ‘zines. Didn’t know about the text thing. Thanks, Lana.

  • I literally text all day long – and I would not read a book of texts. I’ve tried to read some other attempts at “modernized” lit, but I find it annoying. The whole point of taking the time to read a book is because that level of communication is so rare these days. I enjoy reading well-thought out paragraphs, clean sentences, and smart phrases. Texts show us where communication is, good books show us where communication could/should be.

    • Bryan

      But what if it was a book of your texts, David, that sold millions? 🙂

  • Spider McGee

    Fairly sure it’s been done already. Denis Leary did a book a few years back with nothing but copies of his Tweets in it. True. And it had to be hard, because Bill Hicks died years before, and Denis didn’t have anyone to steal from. ALLEGEDLY.

    However, in the actual literary realm, one thing does stand out. Many, many years ago, a very good and funny writer, Ross H, Spencer, wrote five novels about a private detective named Chance Perdue. It was all told in the first person, as is all good detective fiction, but each thought was a single short sentence as opposed to a paragraph. Very Tweet-like for 1978:

    “At the end of the week a woman came puffing into my office.
    She had the demeanor of a Union Pacific four-six-two steam locomotive.
    She had the body to go with it.
    And the voice.
    She slammed her purse onto my desk.
    She crashed into the client’s chair.
    She said my name is Edna Willock.
    I said you got a clear board Edna.
    Edna Willock said I want you to follow my husband.
    I said is he on the wrong track?
    She said he sure is.
    She said he tells me lies.
    I said maybe we can derail him.
    She said he shouldn’t tell me lies.
    She said he’s the preacher at Holy Trinity Gospel Joshua and Saint James.
    I said I know an engineer on the Chicago Milwaukee Saint Paul and Pacific.
    She said he simply go to quit lying.
    She said he tells me he is going to see the Cubs play ball tomorrow.
    I said how do you know he isn’t?
    Edna Willock banged seventy-five dollars down on my desk top.
    She said the Cubs are in New York.
    She leaned back and shoved her cowcatcher jaw in my direction.
    She said that’s how I know.
    I said I’ll tail him like a caboose.
    Edna Willock said you seem to have trains on your mind.
    She chugged out of my office.”

    In short, not only would I read such a book, I already have.

    • Laura Martone

      Oh, goodness! I might read one of those books, Spider, but I’m not sure I could stomach an entire series of that kind of choppy rhythm. Instead of seeming modern and Mamet-like, I fear that it would end up feeling monotonous and repetitive after a while!

      • Spider McGee

        I think he was such a good writer he pulls it off. The first one, THE DADA CAPER, is on Kindle Unlimited for sure. I don’t know about the others. I suggest them to everyone, but no one takes my recommendations seriously. “That guy who has 40 years of Playboy magazine and the typewriter collection? He says read this.” (drops book and runs away)

      • Bryan

        “And I’m gonna be 40!”
        “In eight years.”

        Thanks for the examples :).

        • Bryan

          I meant to post this on your other message 🙂

          • Laura Martone

            I figured as much! And nice WHMS reference!

          • Bryan

            Thanks! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Ooh, I kind of like the short sentences. It’s a little off-putting at first, but I can dig it.

  • Laura Martone

    I’ll be 40 in November (yikes!), so I’ve seen a variety of literary formats come and go. But one format that’s never gone out of vogue is the epistolary style of storytelling. In the 1790s, Jane Austen wrote her novella LADY SUSAN as a series of letters. In the 1890s, Bram Stoker presented DRACULA as a series of journal entries, letters, and news clippings. In the 1980s, Alice Walker published THE COLOR PURPLE, a novel composed of letters between sisters. And there are so many more examples, such as Helen Fielding’s BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (1996), which strings together journal entries, Meg Cabot’s THE BOY NEXT DOOR (2002), which is solely made up of emails, and Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN (2011), much of which is told via video entries and emails. So, a book made up of texts would just be the next step in the evolution of this format – and I’d definitely be curious to read it. That said, I’m not so sure that Hooked is the “next big thing” – as I believe that many readers (me and apparently David Ramos included) would prefer to read more straightforward, well-crafted books than nothing but endless texts!

  • Craig Lea Gordon

    Hi guyZ no, I deffo wudnt rED a whol b%k mAd ^ of txt messages. dat w%d b rly anoyN.

    • Bryan

      That was some top-notch text speak, Craig.

  • Crissy Moss

    TTYL, TTFN, and L8TER, G8TER are four books currently out on book store shelves, published by big trade publishers, and selling pretty well, that are written completely in text. So this isn’t a completely unheard of idea. In fact there are I found out about these books because my daughter brought them home one day, and she really enjoyed them.

    So yes, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more books written and produced in interesting ways. I think being different is the next big thing. People will want to find ways to make their books stand out, either by adding pictures, or formatting it in unusual ways, or adding some sort of interaction to their pages. They are the ones that will stand out in the long run.

    • Bryan

      Huh. Cool stuff, Crissy. Hadn’t heard of those.

  • A D Davies

    If it was done well, I’d read a book in any form. We Need to Talk About Kevin is made up of letters, as is a little novel by a certain Bram Stoker (whatever happened to that guy?), so if a text message exchange can be a story too, why not? I don’t think the form would support a 70,000 word novel, but certainly a novella or novellette. I got paid to publish a short story in that form in the pre-smartphone era, so while there’s a question mark of the length, it can certainly be a story.

    • Bryan

      I think Bram Stoker made a sex tape leaked by TMZ and was never heard from again.

      • Laura Martone

        Thanks for that image, Bryan. Just what I need to get thru Monday!

  • Not saying it wouldn’t sell (or doesn’t already), but I would no sooner read a “textory” than a “gum wrapper story.” Seems a far cry from a series of journal entries or letters (which, incidentally, was the structure of the very first English-language novel, “Pamela,” so maybe it’s all come full circle).

    • Bryan

      It’s all coming back!

  • mica

    There is a book that is made up of notes left on a fridge door. It
    is a called ‘Life on the refrigerator door’ by Alice Kuipers. It is a
    heartbreaking story.

    I don’t know if I would read a book full of text
    messages. i already find texting annoying, especially when people write
    in short hand.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, sounds like a good read, Mica. Thanks.

  • Robert Scanlon

    Maybe really lonely people would read it on the bus to make it look like they are texting friends and reading the next installment with glee.

    Other than that, it’s just another really stupid idea destined to fail. (Which, knowing my luck, means it will be “the next big thing”)

    In a novel, it’s the flow of prose and getting lost in it that is so addictive. Even swiping the odd page gets annoying when lost in a good story. How this could be translated into short-attention-span-texts is beyond me, other than the odd novel application (no pun intended) and occasional narrative device choices – examples of which other commenters have pointed out far more ably than I could.

    • Bryan

      I like the idea of a mix. Some short-form text chapters with longer one in between. Also, I’ve received VERY LONG texts before, so maybe some of those would be thrown in there for good measure ;).

    • I think the mistake that many make is comparing it to a novel or even a short story. How many types of poems are there? Few compare to the others.

      It’s just another way to tell a story or get out a message and with technology advancing, who knows what will happen. In podcasts, shows are starting to tell stories pretending to be investigating (The Black Tapes, for instance). The Tanis Podcast is starting to include messages from listeners. Emma Approved took place on youtube, twitter, blogs, and even had a restaurant web site.

  • Cody Garrett

    Lmao, they’re basically ripping off the Cell Phone Novel style. Something like this has already been done and a lot better. First started in Japan like, ten years ago or so where people would write chapters on their cellphones and send them to people. It moved to the west, like a few years ago. There’s even a whole site where authors would post their works. Look up Secondhand Memories by S. Takatsu. Actually wrote in the cellphone novel style for a while and was active in the facebook group, lots of great times. I just find it funny that people are trying to say something like this a new thing when it has already been done before.

    • There are also published European Cell Phone Novelists. I think one of them was German.

      Oh! And the Africans also had their own site for CPN writers. I dunno if it’s still up, though. But there was one a few years back.

      • Bryan

        Very cool. Good stuff to know, Cosette :).

      • Chrss Pelagius

        Yes, the Cell Phone Novel Movement has been establishing itself and bringing it’s literary style to the West.

    • IrisC

      I watched some japanese drama series that were cellphone novels and then read some of those cellphone novels before.. there are a ton of them, alot things have been tried but it seems people aren’t knowledgeable about it, not like japan where they didn’t have any online writing places for teens before cell phone novels, so it got famous pretty fast.

      I really likereading them since they are like quiet poetry sometimes, but I think most people like the more fast paced exciting ones?

      this is an example of a chapter from Meaningless by fabrication:

      “I’ve got to go.”

      “I’ll call you later.”
      She says.

      I nod.

      The bells on the door
      chime as she walks out.

      An hour later
      I’m still staring at the door.

      Swinging as people
      come in
      and go out.”

      and from Move:

      “Like a lost

      I swim through insomniac night

      and stumble into
      my tiny desolate

      dropping my frozen

      and with trembling hands,
      gently place my guitar
      in its usual spot.

      A spot with years of wear,
      yellowed shadow
      a territorial mark
      home sweet home
      of the case.

      I make a cup of tea.

      Jasmine tonight.

      Only one packet left,
      I need to buy more.”

      Yeah, there’s a whole video and article written about it, just search for Takatsu and cell phone novels. i guess this still looks different from text message writing, though it still comes from cell phone screens. but I’ve read stories made of text messages before like on Wattpad and other places, it’s not really original or new and I don’t think we need a new app just for it

      • Bryan

        Very interesting, Iris. Thanks for the example too.

    • Bryan

      Hey Cody. Good to know! Isn’t a text novel slightly different then a Cell Phone Novel though? Were texts even around 10 years ago? I can’t remember :).

    • Chrss Pelagius

      Yes, texts have been around for longer than a decade since the Japanese market established the use of emails to sync up as texts with advanced cell phone technology at the time. This led to the Cell Phone Novel literary style being born and recognized in Japanese culture.

  • S Takatsu

    Thanks for such a great and fun coverage of these topics on online literature.

    I’m an award-winning featured author on Wattpad of over 20,000 followers and a million reads, and the pioneer of English cell phone novels and its movement since 2008. If you know about cell phone novels that originate in Japan, they are short sparse minimalist chapters designed to fit on their cell phone screens at the time, that ushered in a new revolution in reading and writing for young people and commuters of all ages, and ultimately an industry of published bestselling books, movies, tv series, anime, manga and more. We brought the first English translations over to the English speaking world onTextnovel . com and in 2008, I wrote the first original English cell phone novel there called Secondhand Memories which to date has accumulated about 300,000 reads, not that impressive by any standard of the internet age, but helped found the community of thousands of young writers and readers worldwide. Secondhand Memories has since been published as a 550 page book in 2015. There are also many examples of better cell phone novels later as they evolved in style and experimental form.

    However, it has always been a struggle trying to introduce and advocate and champion cell phone novels in the West because I’ve realized we come from a very different cultural background and context. Just to cover them briefly, cell phone novels once we translate them or write them in English we realize several important characteristics. Chapters are serialized and range usually about 50 to 100 words, and because of the original form of Japanese language which we’ve adopted, we make use of a lot of line breaks, short fragmented lines, play with vertical space and visual white space, and in content of course, tons of dramatic twisting storylines, emotional lines, snappy cliffhangers, and omission (as common in Japanese true origins). This actually empowers the reading and writing experience, making each word and line having tremendous impact emotionally and psychologically, and even youngest writers of twelve or thirteen sound like sophisticated artists in such a tight minimal, haiku esque form. It also encourages spontaneity of writing on the go but also the guidelines of the small screen and using short line breaks actually changes the experience for writers into something really in the moment, really intimate and intuitive and zen-like. I realized the power of the Japanese cell phone novel form especially in English as we are not used to writing like that and it resembles something like a perfect balance and fusion between poetry and narrative storytelling. Even the simplest language and words broken up into poetic lines and spaces has profound metaphysical effect. In Japanese language the omitted and the poetic and very metaphysical symbolic themes come through easily and we tried to adapt that. We are passionate about the best possible reading upbeat experience in a technological age, but also bringing young readers back to something we never have thought would be appealing to everyone: poetry and literature. We don’t use text message language, despite most people’s misconception on hearing the word cell phone novel, and based on Japanese original style, it is simple fragmented omissive possibly simple language.

    Back to the question, originally in Japan, when cell phone novels started, it was heavily criticized as their text messaging story telling but we have to realize several things. Japan never really had such a down to earth casual language in literature (like we do in teen fiction or just contemporary writing these days), or an outlet to express taboos like angst, rebellion, sex, drugs, teen pregnancy, gang violence and so on, and they never had technology before that which serializes online writing and allows readers to access it any time, free. Their culture is also highly driven by young teenagers, particularly, teenage middle and high school girls; they would literally make up the trends and the population density and hype was so powerful, and the confines of structured systems and normalcy forcing grassroots movements to break routine caused the industries to follow their lead. In fact, SMS, micro blogging, cell phone novels, and other similar online writing platforms followed the trend of young girls using pagers to compose short messages to friends using number codes such as 0840, which read and abbreviated in Japanese sounds like good morning. Companies saw this and decided to create the technology to make it possible. At the time, when they introduced cell phone novels, all of these things came in all at once, plus the culture being as I briefly mentioned earlier, it was a powerful market-changing wave.

    However, in the West, we’ve been trying to promote cell phone novels, though due to various factors including some technological limitations, we found that the main reason is that we already have the various things that made the Japanese counterpart successful. We already have very casual down to earth language in writing, we already have eBooks, we have serialized online writing and reading platforms, such as Wattpad of course, but also even simpler sites like fanfiction.net, and blogging platforms since way back like Live Journal, Xanga, Tumblr, Myspace, Blogger. Japan literally didn’t have these online things when cell phone novels, blogging and stuff came out all at once. Not to mention, with these mediums, grassroots writers such as Twitter stories ,and such as those on Wattpad have already experimented with various forms, including text message type stories. There are many that are written like a text messaged play script, a conversation between two people that tell a story, including chat lingo and spelling. Wattpad also supports multimedia now, so comic books and other graphic based stories are being created. Wattpad is used as blogs, even to run contests, non-fiction information, chain letter posts and a crazy amount of things. Wattpad created a medium that allows any sort of expression and form.

    Of course, we have also been writing cell phone novels there. We do hope to continue to educate the masses on cell phone novels and what’s special about this form of writing that originates from Japan as we go along and learn more about the industry. Back to the topic, we already have various things that empower young people to create such stories, and we already have text message conversations on our own phones, which fictional or not, is not so different from what Hooked is presenting, and unless like cell phone novels, it is a new way of using and seeing technology and art, there is not enough of a special edge to it to warrant major attention and a revolution in literature. I really suggest you to consider researching on what we’ve been doing with cell phone novels, there are tons of them on the old Textnovel site, and though we are slow, as we are all volunteers, we are trying to bring more to Wattpad and work with the staff to usher in a restart of our movement. I guess the difference for cell phone novels was that it is really a grassroots movement, with no corporate intention. We never started a company or an app or a platform for it. Textnovel was made already after the owner read about cell phone novels in Japan, probably the first site that ever educated or mentioned the Japanese cell phone novel movement. It wasn’t as successful as Wattpad which launched not too long before that, because of resource constraints but the cell phone novel community did flourish for several years.

    I guess what I’m saying is that first, our industry, market and culture is unlike Japan and it will be difficult to launch a platform against all that already exists, and the cell phone novel community has been doing something very different and special for many years that should have more attention, and has long term impact, such as in encouraging young people to see technology, poetry and literature completely differently and have both commercial appeal and traditional literary merit. It has been underground so far as most of us as young writers and readers have no idea what to do for the marketing/business/growth end of things.

    • Cody Garrett

      Wow didn’t even see that you commented haha. Still have my signed copy of Secondhand Memories.

      • Agni

        Interesting read, I’ll have to look into cell phone novels more, felt like something like this had to already been done while listening.

      • Bryan

        Wow, thanks for all that great information, S Takatsu! That’s very interesting, we’ll have to discuss this on the show next week.

      • Chrss Pelagius

        I own a copy of Secondhand Memories as well. A great example of a Cell Phone Novel being established in the West.

  • I’ve actually seen a book of text messages selling on Amazon. It comprised of screencaps of the messages going back and forth between a dog and his owner.

    As for what you’ve been trying to name as “text something”, it’s actually been done. And it’s still being done. People all across the world are actually writing Cell Phone Novels, which is a genre that originated in Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century and which later on spread to Europe and North America. They were very successful in Japan, and not only were they published in a physical book format, but movie adaptations were made as well. Some even got adapted into comic books.

    While it might be true that west from Asia not many CPNs were published in a book format (yet), and the movement is a bit shy, I’m confident that things will change. Aside from Takatsu, who pioneered the movement in North America (and had his CPN published too), there are various other Cell Phone Novelists in Europe too (some got their works published).

    Honestly, there are quite a few articles on the Internet about this movement. Really, it’s nothing new…

    Oh, and if you go on Wattpad, since you mentioned that platform, you’ll be able to find quite a few Cell Phone Novelists, sensitive warm people with an open mind, carrying on the movement, spreading the word, and supporting one another. Here, you can take a look, for example, at writers such as Ayane Nanami, Hirondelle Meirie, Nashipo, Mushi, Maoiel, Wiegenlied, and Nana Takara. And these are just to name a few. And if you are to look up Textnovel, you’ll find even more, since that is, what I usually refer to as, “our home”, the place where the CPN novement began (in the West).

    There really are a looooot of things to talk about on this matter, but I am not going to take over the comment section to discuss about the sensibility behind the short chapters that CPNs consist of, or the unique format they are written in, or the specific style they’re written in. So, I’ll end my comment, with the remark that this is not something new; it’s been done before, and it’s still going.

    • Bryan

      Hey Cosette. Cell Phone Novels, cool. Hadn’t heard of the term. Thanks for the info.

    • Chrss Pelagius

      Yeah, Cell Phone Novels have been a literary style for years.

  • Joeseph Simon

    The creators of Hooked are actually quite interesting people. However, Hooked is a variant of other established styles of writing. Others on here have already written about things from Leary to Flash Fiction to the Cell Phone Novel movement.

    The question remain: is will this be the next big thing? While Leary has his moments of popularity, its based on the man himself. Flash Fiction has had various moments of popularity and that is based on the strength of the author behind the titles that get popular. In other countries Cell Phone Novels are very popular. A multi billion dollar industry that produces Movies, Books, and TV show adaptations and spinoffs (which is interesting as Jim stated Hooked has those possibilities) In North America, you have the cell phone movement that was started and led by Takatsu in Canada. His efforts to create grassroots push for cell phone novels to having his award winning cell phone novel Secondhand Memories getting published is evidence again of strong writers to propel things.

    While Hooked is what one would say, curated, by Telepathic, I think due to it being a more of a turnkey operation, that even if it wasn’t a minimalist variant of flash flash fiction or cell phone novels, it lacks the grassroots to help it become anything than what it is. Which is disappointing. Not specifically of what they are trying to create, but more due to the idea that it will just exist.’

    Will Hooked be the next big thing? Unlikely. And if it has the chance, it needs grassroots and strong writers who understand the style. That takes time. You already have that with Flash Fiction and Cell Phone novels. Is it a place where a writer can experiment, get paid, and get exposure? Sure. How much the leading authors on Hooked are getting paid is unknown. Time will tell.

    One other note, It takes time for things to develop. Takatsu’s grassroots movement of pushing cell phone novels in North America is one that has taken years to get the point where it is at now. it involves a lot of people working together, with a lot of authors will to participate. He’s done speeches at schools, there have been awards set up, various authors published in print, and momentum is building. news is happening, plans can be made. With Hooked, you have an app. Its isolated, alone, walled off, and can not grow or evolve like a grassroots based company. Other than four star comments, getting on other platforms, ranking higher, and more downloads with more content, there is not much else it can do outside of licensing options.

    Based on reader comments on the app pages, there was a surprise at the subscription charging and critiques of lack of content. That might change. I hope it does. While it might not be the next big thing in my opinion, it still is something.

    Until then, find out more about Cell Phone Novels at http://stakatsu.com/cell-phone-novels/

    • Cody Garrett

      Hooked is an interesting app and all, but I definitely don’t think it can compare to cell phone novels, though cpn has had way more time to develop

      • Joeseph Simon

        I agree. It rips off cell phone novels and then reduces it to what Hooked creators thought was the slimmed to the basics. Where cell phone novels is a new literary movement with an already international reach and strongholds in various countries generating considerable money, through Takatsu is not only a literary firm, but also an art form, cell phone novels can become the next big thing and some country’s are already there.

        Hooked has serious limitations. Limitations can give way to innovation and genius, with only dialog and texting / chat shorthand you looking at one to three people plays and forced awkward sentences to make up for lack of….well anything other than dialog.

        I wrote an album of music modeled after micro stories that I wrote –Stories made up of six words. Micro stories will never become the next big thing, but they have merit as Hooked does. I’m positive a few writers will be able to really do quality work under its limitations.

        • Bryan

          Very interesting. Thanks for sharing, Joeseph!

    • Chrss Pelagius

      The Cell Phone Novel Movement has been a global writing movement for years.

      • Bryan

        Thanks, Chrss. It’s been very cool to learn more about this movement through the comments!