I’ve just done something a bit different, and maybe crazy. I put my entire new novel up on wattpad.
For everyone to read.
I know what you’re thinking…”but Jeff, you’re a professional author, are you insane?”
Yes, I am. And maybe I am.
The move was deemed newsworthy enough by The Bookseller that they covered it here: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/norton-launches-new-wattpad-project-328522
But here’s why I did it…
Over the past few years, I’ve spend a lot of time in schools touring the MetaWars novels. Doing school visits is an honour and privilege, and it gives me an unique POV on my readership. I actually get to meet my readers, talk to them. Not many creators get to communicate directly (in person) with their audience, solicit feedback and generally chat about their lives.
One thing I observed is that in the UK, as a white dude from Canada, the modern UK student body is incredibly diverse. I’ve met students from all around the world; some new to this country and others many generations in. But one thing they all had in common is that the books they have access to tended to be fronted by, yep, white dudes and gals. They’re reading Harry Potter, Wimpy Kid, Anthony Horowitz books, and The Hunger Games. I noticed a pattern, many students did not have their ethnicity reflected, or their culture celebrated. This was most apparent to me with students with Indian heritage.
In parallel, I was fortunate enough to return to India (I worked there over ten years ago, when the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ movie was in production) and relish in the culture.
When I set out to write a science fiction story about family….about turning the notion of family on its head, I knew it had to reflect the diversity I saw in schools and the diversity we should all expect from our future.
The book, which has become STAR PRESSED, is my attempt to do what Gene Roddenberry did in the 60’s…introduce intergalactic diversity in an organic way that feels completely natural to the narrative.
STAR PRESSED is set about 250 years in the future, when India is the dominant political force on the planet, and operating as a “reverse Commonwealth” has colonized space.
So, who do we meet there?
– Tez is an “ethnic Martian” who comes from a mono-sexual culture, totally disgusted by humanity’s dual-gender breeding.
– Rys is an entitled Egyptian, like a young King Tut, from Egyptia…the planet that first placed the pyramids on Earth.
– Captain Nayar was once a fast-jet flyer for the Indian run Galactic Navy. Now injured, he’s in a broken hover chair, serving as a surrogate father to five young people he’s not related to.
– Andra lives on a rubbish heap and her world is post-racial, she literally couldn’t tell you what “race” she is
I’ve been working on STAR PRESSED for over a year, and as every author knows a book is a result of blood, sweat and tears. So you can imagine my surprise when upon sharing with publishers that the feedback was it’s “too diverse.”
How can something be too diverse?!
A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of visiting schools in Sharjah, UAE. Most of the students I met were from Asia and again, it became glaringly clear to me that in print books they weren’t accessing anything diverse. But they were finding those stories on wattpad. In fact, a few of the students were already following me on wattpad and that’s when the lightbulb switched on…
If I couldn’t get STAR PRESSED into print form because it was too diverse, I could go directly to readers via the wattpad platform.
Now, spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been a long time fan and friend to the wattpad folks.
They’re based in Toronto (my home town) and I have a great affinity for what they’re doing. My MetaWars publisher, Hachette, gave me permission to put the first MetaWars novel up on the platform and it’s had an incredible response — building a new audience, spurring ebook sales of the sequels, and giving the characters a new global window.
“But Jeff, are you insane?” Which roughly translates to: “But Jeff, how you will make any money if it’s free?”
(side note: for a deep dive on that subject, I urge you to read my friend Nicholas Lovell’s book, The Curve:
As you may know from following this blog, I’m not just an author but also a TV creator and producer. In parallel with writing STAR PRESSED as a book, I’ve been secretly huddled over Final Draft writing it as a script for the telly.
I’ve just started to share it with potential co-producers and broadcasters and the appetite is rabid. My hope is that readers discover STAR PRESSED on wattpad, enjoy the book and that at the same time, I’ll be charting the long road to turning the book into a show, which will then ignite and excite a whole new group of readers.
If that happens, hopefully print publishers will see diversity as an asset, and not a liability.
On we go!