Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash
If you haven?t heard of Wattpad, allow me to introduce you to this mammoth of a storytelling platform. Wattpad is a free app (and website) that lets readers and writers discover and share stories. Over 55 million people around the world use Wattpad monthly, spending a whopping total of 15 billion minutes each month using the platform, which means it?s the perfect opportunity for authors to connect directly with readers in an instant.
On paper, this sounds phenomenal. Given the platform?s purpose of connecting writers with readers and the rate at which it?s growing, the idea that Wattpad can be useful for authors is pretty much a no-brainer. After all, where else on social media can you find guaranteed book lovers who are eager to join your tribe?
While it sounds great, absolutely, it?s important to answer the question: Is Wattpad perfect for everyone?
Well, it?s complicated. While Wattpad is a massive emerging player in the publishing industry as it develops new apps, partnerships with publishers (and Hollywood production companies), and fosters growth with it?s own Wattpad Stars program, Wattpad is also rife with competition. There are over 375 million stories uploaded on the platform, with over 50 languages supported, so there?s no guarantee that Wattpad is a quick ticket to fame, success, and book sales.
1. A massive potential audience of dedicated readers.
The problem with social media marketing today is that it can be difficult to identify your target audience and to judge whether or not your existing audience is actually working for you. Sure, you might have 5,000 followers on Twitter, but how many of those people are following you for your books versus that cool cat gif you shared that went semi-viral?
It?s hard to track the immediate ROI of your efforts on most social media platform. What percentage of your followers will actually buy your books? How can you truly know?
On Wattpad, one thing is certain ? the people following you are avid readers and book lovers. These are people looking for content, meaning that 500 followers you have on Wattpad has the potential to be way more powerful for your future book sales and growth than the 5,000 followers you have on Twitter.
Plus, Wattpad is growing rapidly. As the platform seeks new ways to expand, more and more readers are being attracted to the platform on a regular basis. This is a huge emerging market to connect with readers instantaneously, forgetting all of the extra bulls*t, and to start building valuable relationships.
2. Immediate feedback on your work as you write it.
This is one of my favorite things about Wattpad. As you publish on Wattpad, you submit chapters one at a time. Echoing the serialization of books in magazines and newspapers in the past, this generates a nice build of buzz for your books ? and also gives you a ridiculously awesome benefit.
Wattpad allows in-line comments in all of their stories, meaning readers can (and will) comment on the things they like, dislike, etc?as they?re reading your story. I consider this an easy way to get advanced readers ? a free focus group ? and use the instant feedback to help shape the story. Sometimes, I?ve had characters grow out of nothing after readers connected strongly to them. I?ve even had readers give me ideas for where to take the story next as they guess what?s going to happen.
The best part of all this? You can see your works? momentum building as you write it, which is hugely motivating as a writer. Having that dedicated audience hanging on my every word, encouraging me, and waiting (somewhat) patiently for a new chapter has pushed me through serious writer?s block, huge life changes, and more.
3. Opportunities for collaboration and further exposure.
While Wattpad is a great platform for connecting with readers, it?s also wonderful for connecting with your fellow writers as well. I?ve become friends (thanks, Internet) with several writers via Wattpad, and we?ve formed a virtual tribe of like-minded individuals who encourage each other to grow and kick*ss.
Wattpad is also filled with opportunities to increase exposure ? from reader nominated and operated contests to Wattpad?s own annual Watty Awards ? there are great ways to connect with readers throughout the platform in a variety of different ways.
4. Featured and trending lists, along with tags, can increase visibility.
Want another reason to love Wattpad? This is it.
After you categorize your book into the correct genre, Wattpad has several discoverable lists for readers to find new and popular books within those genres. Write Historical Fiction? As your book becomes more popular and starts to gain momentum, it might start climbing the ?Hot? charts within it?s category, which means new readers will find you as they search for what?s new and popular.
Wattpad also features books in each genre, giving select authors a boost in visibility as their books begin to gain momentum. Currently, one of my books is featured on Wattpad?s ?Teen Fiction? list with three other titles, and ? in the ten days it?s been featured ? I went from 58,000 reads to 146,000 reads. The book is now ranked #116 in the Teen Fiction ?Hot? list (one of the most competitive genres on the site) and is climbing daily.
5. Free books!
Finally, Wattpad is brilliant for writers because it?s a great place to discover and read new books ? often before they?re published. Sure, not every book published on Wattpad is a must-read, but there are tons of books worth reading on the site.
As an author, this is an invaluable resource for me because I need to read in order to grow. Reading regularly needs to be part of your writing craft, and Wattpad makes that easy.
From stellar Marvel fanfiction to some Gone Girl-level suspense novels, Wattpad has given me a wealth of new reading material that has helped me grow and evolve as a writer.
(And yes, some of the fanfiction published on Wattpad is actually better than the books in other genres.)
1. Competition is high.
If Wattpad sounds too good to be true, allow me to add a few drops of reality into the mix.
As with any growing platform, competition on Wattpad is high. Your books are inadvertently pitted against countless other books, and while ? yes ? there?s room for many books in a reader?s library, you?re going to struggle to gain visibility at first while more established writer?s continue to pick up steam.
This can be challenging on many levels. It can be disheartening to see the same book ranked #1 on the ?Hot? list for months at a time, especially when it?s gaining more reads because it?s being highlighted prominently on the site. It can be hard for new titles to break through that barrier, meaning you might be writing for a while before you start raking in the reads.
2. Certain genres aren?t as present on the platform.
Write nonfiction? Wattpad might not be the platform for you.
While Wattpad is expanding rapidly, the reader base (in my experience) is quite young. This means, if you?re writing books for 55-year-old women, you might not have as much success as someone writing snarky young adult fiction.
Does that mean you shouldn?t use Wattpad? Not necessarily. Because certain genres aren?t as popular among readers, that also means there is probably less competition in those genres for the existing audience.
It?s important to keep your expectations in line with reality. Wattpad isn?t a get-famous-quick scheme, and it won?t build you a massive audience overnight.
3. Growth requires work.
Want to grow your audience on Wattpad? You?re going to need to update your books regularly (meaning share free content), and stay engaged with your audience.
When I first started on Wattpad, I made a commitment to update my books every day as much as possible ? never allowing more than 2 days between new chapters ? meaning I was writing constantly whilst working full-time. I stayed up late on business trips to get updates finished, and I definitely made sacrifices to help grow my audience faster.
Not only that, readers crave interaction with authors. One of my policies is to respond to every single comment left on my books and profile. This means that there have been days where I?ve literally spent hours scrolling through my notifications to respond to comments.
As my audience has grown, this has become even more difficult. Once my latest book was featured on Wattpad, my reads exploded overnight and so did my comments. I?ve gotten 12,000 notifications in the past few days, and ? since I?m getting married (tomorrow) ? I haven?t been able to answer these comments because of the sheer time commitment involved.
Be prepared to invest some time into Wattpad, because the most successful writers are very active on the platform.
4. Agents and publishers might not be open to books previously published Wattpad.
This is only speculation, but it?s probably a safe bet that some agents and publishers might not like it if one of your books has been previously published on Wattpad.
I?ve had several people hesitate when they?ve heard my books are on Wattpad ? usually because they?re not familiar with the platform and they?re worried about rights ? so be sure to move forward with a grain of salt.
However, as Wattpad continues to grow and gain clout in the publishing industry, this will likely change. Wattpad already has partnerships with Sourcebooks and now HarperCollins, meaning some publishers are already using Wattpad to scout out new talent.
Curious about how it might impact you? If you have an agent, ask him/her what she thinks about the platform first ? or try asking around on Twitter.
5. Reads don?t automatically translate to sales.
This is a tough thing to swallow for many authors, especially those who have risen to ?Wattpad fame.?
There?s no guarantee that the books that become popular on Wattpad will be successful in the real world. While my books have over a million combined reads just in the last year, that hasn?t translated into a million ? or even a thousand ? book sales. I?ve got 6,000 followers on Wattpad who love my books, yes, but many of them either can?t afford to buy my books or aren?t interested in anything other than free books.
Not only this, but Wattpad is a small cross-section of the book reading population. A book that becomes popular on Wattpad might tank on Amazon and vice versa.
One of the biggest mistakes I?ve seen authors make on Wattpad is assume that ? because a book has a million reads on Wattpad ? that?s going to translate to high sales numbers in real life.
Could it? Absolutely. Is it a guarantee? Definitely not.
There are so many other factors at play, especially given the fact that Wattpad readers are (relatively) anonymous and reading books for free. Think about your favorite guilty pleasure books ? how much money are you willing to spend on those?
For me, historical romance is my guilty pleasure. When I?m super stressed or going on a trip, I love to bring a good Regency romance along with me, but ? unfortunately ? I?ve never actually bought a historical romance novel. I get them for free from the library or on OverDrive, meaning that ? while I love it ? I?m not actually supporting the authors directly except through the library?s contribution. (Sorry.)
I see many Wattpad books hitting the same problem. While someone might love that slightly clichd book about the sexy bad boy that they read in 2.5 hours flat, there?s no guarantee that they?re going to be interested in buying ? or re-reading ? that book in the future.
Think about it this way: You might be willing to binge-watch Gossip Girl on Netflix when you?re bored on a Thursday night, but are you going to buy the box set after you?ve already finished watching it if you?re not super invested in the show? Maybe not.
Bottom Line: Wattpad takes work, but if you?re willing to put in the hours the payoff is potentially huge. However, as with any platform, be sure to do regular assessments to make sure the return-on-investment (this investment being your time) is there over the long term. Keep your expectations in check, and don?t give up.
Wattpad can be an invaluable tool for connecting with readers and building your audience, especially if you?re just starting out, and ? without it ? I wouldn?t be where I am today.
Is it for you? As with any social media platform, everyone is different. There?s no guarantee that following my footsteps on Wattpad will result in the same success ? our audiences are different, our books are different, and our personalities are different. But, if you?re willing to experiment and try it out, then you might be surprised with what Wattpad can do for you.