In this week’s Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the addition of $45,000 and some new screen opportunities to Wattpad’s Watty Awards .
Wattpad Adds $45,000 and Other Goodies to this Year’s Watty Awards
This year’s Watty Awards have just launched. And they will reward more than 500 authors across 9 languages and numerous categories. Entries will close at the end of August 19th.
The Wattys are, of course, the flagship awards from the vast self-publishing platform Wattpad. Awards centre around the key categories in which Wattpad excels at uniting readers and writers. Those are young adult and new adult, with an emphasis on compelling storytelling and a thoroughly diverse set of characters. New this year are nine $5,000 grand awards. These will go to the best story in each of 9 different languages. And there will be 10 opportunities for writers to see Wattpad studios convert their stories for the screen. Two of these will be for stories in English, and the other 8 for one in each of the remaining languages. Studio deals will be available for both live action and animated adaptations.
Past winners include Beth Reekles’ The Kissing Booth, which went on to become a huge success on screen as well as on the page. And talking of Wattpad’s stellar alumni, this year there will be an Anna Todd award for the best relationship-driven novel length fiction story. Anna Todd, author of the highly popular “After” series, will decide the winner herself.
Open AI expands its DALL-E 2 Image Creation to Allow Users to Make Money from Images Created by Artificial Intelligence Trained on Other People’s Intellectual Property
A few weeks ago, the UK government issued a response to its consultation on artificial intelligence and copyright. The result was an unsurprising and underwhelming “not much is changing.” The one change of note was an increase in the number of datasets that companies could access in order to train their artificial intelligences. Many will have noted the story in passing, if at all, and moved on wondering why it mattered.
This week’s news contains a story of the kind that shows why it matters. And a story will inevitably not be a one-off but the first of many similar. DALL-E 2, this year’s successor to DALL-E, is an AI that generates images for users. Users tell it what they want an image of, and it uses its 650 million item database of images combined with text to create the best match it can find. Like other AI art apps it’s a lot of fun. And you can create some fun pictures.
But that’s not the news. Open AI, the open source outfit behind DALL-E 2 this week announced a change in terms for its users. It will now be possible to commercialise any image you create using the programme. That means, for example, you can use it to create cover art or illustrations for your books. (Just wait till Reddit gets a hold of some of these).
But it also raises similar questions to Github’s new paid service Copilot. Those issues centre on two points. First, there are real copyright issues. While DALL-E 2 doesn’t permit obscene or illegal activity either in its database or its outputs, it seems to be open season when it comes to intellectual property. Many of the images it is possible to produce are instantly recognisable as, for want of a better way of putting it, someone else’s intellectual property.
And then there’s the related question of payment. Users can get DALL-E 2 to create images that are really rather similar to some of the ones in its database. And then those users can make money from those images. While the people who created the source material get nothing. Not even a license fee for allowing their image to be part of the dataset. It is precisely this kind of license fee that the UK government decided it didn’t want to protect. Just, it would seem, at the moment it is most needed.
Mainstream Media Starting to Catch Up on Social Media’s Uncomfortable Relationship wit Authors: this week it’s Bookstagram
Last week I reported on the resurgence of the TikTok videos showing readers how to return ebooks after reading them. It provoked an interesting discussion among ALLi members. While some remained unaffected, it was clear that there were some genres in which authors had suffered a significant uptick in returns.
One of the interesting things about the reporting of this is that the phenomenon itself isn’t new. But mainstream media had caught on at last. In the case of TikTok, it was Vice who had pursued the story. This week saw the mainstream media get interested in another subject authors have been talking about for a while. The publication that has finally “unearthed” the story is Wired. The fact that the article includes tweets from summer last year as evidence shows just how far behind the curve the media are.
The focus of the story is Instagram. But the issue is one that’s also common on Twitter. And that issue is tagging authors in negative reviews. It’s a controversial subject. The reader-writer relationship has, as the article points out, blurred with the growth of social media. Goodreads provides some really good examples of where writers need to be careful. On the other hand, while “don’t engage” is a great rule, it’s also true that when someone tags you in a negative review it’s hard not to engage. That doesn’t mean you always respond. But you always feel it. And that can have a real impact both on your mental health and your writing itself.
What the article doesn’t talk about is the paradox facing writers. People love to hand out unhelpful advice like “stay away from social media.” And they can couch that advice in terms of readers’ free speech. Which somewhat ignores writers’ own free speech. But the real issue we face is that everyone expects writers to use social media to promote their work. It’s really hard to do that and at the same time protect one’s wellbeing.