Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Reddit – the self-declared front page of the internet. This weird combo of a social news aggregate, discussion forum, and content-sharing site has been around since 2005 and, despite the occasional controversy, it continues to be an open, accessible, and mostly friendly place for those interested in, well, anything.
That’s right – there’s a subreddit (a dedicated area of the site) for just about anything, from math to, err, people with bird heads. Of course, this means there are also dozens of subreddits dedicated to books, writing, reading, marketing, and self-publishing. These are the ones that, for writers, are likely to prove most advantageous.
These subreddits can be fantastic tools for writers, and many foster a community spirit by hosting weekly discussion/question threads, interviews, and critiques. They offer a great space to share work and, most importantly, learn new things.
Often overlooked as a home for artistic communities, Reddit can actually be an excellent source of inspiration, information, feedback, and even writing job leads. Let’s see how to make it work for you.
So, prospective Reddit user, you’re wondering how to begin using this resource in a positive, writing-supporting way rather than just a time-sink. Well, approaching the writing process where it begins, you need ideas, you need (at least) a vague plan, and you need a kick in the rear to get going. Reddit can supply all three.
Writing inspiration can take many forms. If, like me, you find a still image or a landscape can spark inspiration, you might find r/photocritique, r/oldschoolcool, or r/earthporn great sources, whereas if you’re after writing prompts then r/writingprompts will have your back. If, however, you’re like Bilbo Baggins and just need to be pushed out the door, r/shutupandwrite and r/writermotivation might just give you the get-up-and-go you need.
All good writers are readers, and all successful self-publishers have a knowledge of the contemporary book market, especially the other writers in their genre. To swipe these birds out of the sky with a single stone – to get recommendations for your to-read list, inspiration from other books, up-to-the-minute news on the publishing and self-publishing industries, and insider knowledge how exactly books are marketed and sold – you’ll want to follow a few more general ‘books’ subreddits, whether those be r/booksuggestions (for great recommendations, inspiration, and literary discussion), r/publishing, r/selfpublish, or smaller, more esoteric subreddits appropriate to your work.
Of course, I’m slipping away from inspiration here, which brings me neatly into…
Okay, so you’ve been inspired to push past writer’s ennui and have, with the help of some motivating Reddit posts, got going on either writing, publishing, or marketing your book. Maybe you’re planning a new project, or maybe you’ve finally committed to getting your head around sales funnels and newsletter content and social media. The specifics don’t matter; what matters is that you need information, and fast.
Now, the aforementioned r/selfpublish and r/publishing, as well as r/writing, are going to be your three blanket sources when it comes to questions about the writing or publishing process. In particular, r/selfpublish has some excellent content, including AMA (ask me anything) Q&A sessions with several experts and wildly successful self-publishing authors (like this man, who earned $2.5 million by self-publishing nonfiction books about guitars). Needless to say, this kind of community-driven content – direct advice from people who’ve been in your shoes, made mistakes, and eventually succeeded – is invaluable. But Reddit boasts more than just these three communities.
Say, for example, you’re an author of genre fiction. Perhaps you’re writing a historical novel set in colonial Brazil or a science fiction novel set in the far future, and you’ve got niche questions – who can help? Reddit can. A bizarre number of highly qualified experts frequent r/askhistorians and r/askscience, as well as r/nostupidquestions, and the best questions spark lively debate among big-brained individuals. You’re sure to come away with a far greater understanding of the issue you came in with.
Or say you’re writing a fantasy novel and, like Tolkien before you, want to invent some fantasy languages or names. Linguists, etymologists, and word nerds band together to share ideas, creations, and advice on r/conlangs and r/etymology, to name but a couple. Or maybe you’re worried about your characters or your setting; r/psychology and r/worldbuilding have your back.
Of course, that’s all to do with actual writing; if you’ve already finished your book/story, you’re going to want something a little different. That’s where r/pubtips, r/marketing, and r/selfpublish come in useful; each is filled with discussions on how best to go about publishing, marketing, pricing, and distributing your work. If you decide to post your own question, remember to be as informative, friendly, and clear as possible in order to attract responses; no one’s going to waste time prying for more information if you’ve been too vague.
It’s all well and good having your friends and loved ones read your work, but let’s be real: they’re going to be nice to you no matter what. Besides, they might not be writers or even big readers, so they might not know good from bad. But where else are you supposed to find beta readers without forking out your hard-earned dollars?
Reddit, that’s where. There are loads of useful subreddits where writers, readers, reviewers, and would-be critics gather to share their work and tear apart other people’s. Now, some of these aren’t for the faint of heart, and you’d best reel in that ego (this is good advice in general; no one’s going to want to offer feedback on your work if you get instantly defensive), but the feedback offered is often thorough, detailed, and practical. A couple of my favorite subreddits for this kind of prose butchery are r/destructivereaders and r/writersgroup. The former in particular has a fantastic community of readers who are honest, critical, and detailed in their feedback.
A word on etiquette: while these communities are valuable resources that offer free feedback, you can’t just expect to swan in, splurge your work, and reap the benefits; many subreddits of this ilk will require you to first offer feedback on other writers’ work before you can submit your own. This is all part of getting involved in the community and giving back as much as you take, and is part of the reason these communities are so valuable.
Of course, remember that these noble Redditors are still just beta readers; they’re not professionals, and are no substitute for trained editors!
Even if you don’t need any of the things I’ve discussed so far – that is, inspiration, information, and feedback – Reddit is still a great place to go to make friends, meet fellow writers, and establish useful connections. You’d be surprised by how many successful people have directly engaged with Reddit; luminaries from Barack Obama to Madonna to Neil DeGrasse Tyson have done AMAs on the website, meaning they’ve sat for a couple of hours and answered live questions posted by Redditors from around the world.
While striking up a friendship with Obama is fairly unlikely, Reddit is full of literary agents, editors, authors, poets, screenwriters, designers, marketing professionals, and those self-made self-publishing millionaires we all hear about; some, of course, are more active than others, but if you make a point of actively engaging in a few lively subreddits, you’ll soon start making connections.
But how does one ‘actively engage’? Well, by amassing karma. Karma is Reddit’s system for scoring an individual’s ‘worth’; if your posts or responses are upvoted by other Reddit users, you’ll gain karma, while if they’re downvoted below zero, you’ll lose karma. Your karma score sits right next to your username, so other users will be able to get a quick idea of how many valuable posts and responses you’ve written. Karma’s not a huge deal, and some Redditors consider it a waste of time, but you’ll find your word carries more weight (and your posts garner more attention) if you have a high karma score.
Regarding the best subreddits to lurk in, they’re more or less what you’d expect: r/writing plays host to lots of literary agents and editors, so can be a useful place to be if you’re trying to gather information about the market or publishing process, whereas r/bookpromotion, r/marketing, and r/selfpublish are great places to find those who know a thing or two about marketing, design, and distribution.
If you’re looking to hire professionals (or if you want to pick up some freelance writing work yourself), you’ll find recommendations on the aforementioned subreddits and job listings on r/freelancewriters, r/writingopportunities, r/hireawriter, and others.
It turns out Reddit is for more than just cat videos and memes – who knew?
Of course, it is very good at those. So, if you’ve done the hard work – you’ve spent days engaging in several valuable Reddit communities and have found (and offered!) inspiration, information, feedback, and contacts – you deserve a break. Sit back, relax, and scroll through r/justwriterthings’s all too relatable writing memes. Maybe put one together yourself; after all, it’s important to give back every now and then.
Do you use Reddit? What are your favorite subreddits? Let me know in the comments, and check out Want To Be More Productive On Social Media? Here’s How and 9 Places To Meet Fellow Authors (And How To Connect Once You Do) for more advice on online success as a writer.