The majority of ‘book orientated’ internet users will more than likely have heard of Wattpad even though they may not have used the site.
What is Wattpad?
Originating in 2006, it is a free online storytelling community where writers of all sorts may submit their works: essays, articles, novels, short stories, etc. The site has recently been extended to also allow for television content. An important point to note, especially by authors: This, in all respects, is a FREE site. In other words, authors accept they will not receive any direct financial benefit from uploading their works.
As always, this topic is being approached from an author’s perspective. However, it must be born in mind Wattpad is not limited to those who self or traditionally publish books. It is open to all, with the majority publishing whatever they wish (does not have to be a story or novel) straight into Wattpad and never publishing elsewhere.
An important aspect is the ability for writers and readers to connect and exchange comments, ideas and suggestions regarding the uploaded content.
Fifty percent (50%) of users are based in the United States of America. The other half are based in multiple countries including United Kingdom, Canada, Philippines, Australia, Russia, Libya, Jamaica, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India and more.
Ninety percent (90%) of users are readers NOT authors or writers. Though some aspire to the writing craft the majority have stated they have no such ambition.
Most of the ‘authors’ who do use the site are teenagers who do not publish elsewhere. For them, Wattpad is a good learning place where they, if they have a long term desire to be an author, may start to master the craft.
Without doubt Romance is the most popular. Nevertheless, Fan Fiction; Teen Fiction; Werewolf are also popular. Of course, especially bearing in mind the extent of the site, there are other more general as well as random genre. In truth many more authors are now considering the site including professional, successful, established authors.
Estimates suggest there are one thousand (1,000) story uploads per day.
Although the system allows authors to upload complete novels it is more usual for them to add their stories in segments. This may be random or chapter by chapter which ever suites the work and author aims. There are multiple aspects from which authors may benefit.
The site has been specifically designed to allow users to comment, vote (more about that in a moment), and share thoughts, ideas and suggestions. This, in effect, facilitates beta reading without the author having to submit individual requests. Only an arrogant, foolish author would consider they have nothing to learn from readers no matter their age or background. Everyone is unique and often have a different take on a subject as well as differing likes, tastes and enjoyments. Actively listening to a variety of observations and comments usually assists an author and may bring to light anomalies etc. they would not be aware of otherwise.
There are three primary facilities within the system which may provide authors with widespread recognition: ‘Hot Lists’; ‘Featured Story List’; ‘Annual Competitions’.
Hot Lists: Basically these are where the most popular works are shown. Popularity is principally governed by a voting system. Besides being able to comment, readers also have the option to vote on each segment/chapter of a work as they read them. The number of votes dictate where the work will appear in a list.
Authors are permitted to vote for their own work and to ask relatives, friends and acquaintances to do so. The only requirement is they have actually read the work. To vote without doing so is not only dishonest but is also against Wattpad’s rules. To gain the best advantage, it is best if all the solicited votes are made on the same day. This causes the book/work/segment to rise very quickly up the lists. It should be born in mind votes are in respect of EACH segment/chapter consequently, relatives, friends, etc. should be encouraged to vote consistently for each part on designated days.
Featured Story List: Addition to this list is at Wattpad’s discretion. As a general rule the works listed are ones that have been approved by both staff and an editorial review board. The author will have been approached beforehand. Though the site is principally geared toward the amateur, younger, writer, self-published independent (indie) and professional authors/writers do get featured.
Authors do not have to wait to be approached, they may submit a request to be featured but must bare in mind it is always at the discretion of Wattpad’s staff and editorial review board whether a work does get featured.
Annual Competitions: Authors/writers may participate in these as they wish. Success will obviously result in users becoming more aware of the author and their work.
Authors should be aware, probably due to the younger demographic of users, they are unlikely to achieve many, if any, sales by uploading their books to the site. However, there are other benefits:
- The ‘serialisation’ method of uploading makes content more mobile friendly and through the comment/discussion facility authors and readers are able to establish a more realistic, and possibly more in-depth, relationship.
- Some authors have noted increased ‘Adds’ to book shelves and ‘To be read’ lists on the Goodreads book/reading site.
- Some have gained new readers, fans and followers.
- Professional authors have started using the site because it enables them to connect with readers and to generate ‘marketing awareness’. Of course, this also applies to indie authors.
- Obviously by adding a work there is an automatic increase in potential publicity.
- Without abusing the system, authors may mention forthcoming publications, especially if it is part of a series of which the uploaded work is part.
Wattpad has worked with some publishers to get writers recognised and published.
Some publishers have approached popular Wattpad authors/writers with publishing contract offers. Presumably ‘popular’ means the book has gained a high percentage of votes and has been featured in either the ‘Hot’ or ‘Featured Story’ list.
Obviously, readers benefit by having a considerable amount of reading material available to them free of charge.
The ability to comment and vote enables them to have input into how a story is developed. As stated above, many users do not aspire to be writers but many do like to have some input into a stories development.
There are a few that need to be considered:
There have been problems with copyrighted material, for which an author has not granted republication rights, being uploaded. To help deal with this, Wattpad have introduced an ‘Author In Charge’ facility that allows authors to identify and remove infringed content.
Authors should be aware, though they may state their work is copyrighted, by uploading it to the site they are making it widely available and that, despite laws and legal constraints, there are those who will always seek to abuse, and profit from, this availability.
Wattpad’s demographic is primarily comprised of younger readers. Though it has been stated the majority are teenagers, the writer, has found many are in fact school children. Consequently, authors should take care as to the nature and content of what they upload. This became an issue for the writer because the books uploaded were factual and frequently recorded cruel and brutal treatment, unsuitable for younger readers. Primarily due to this factor, the books have been withdrawn and the account closed.
One author who gained great success, including sales, through the site did confess to effectively utilise Wattpad requires a very real, dedicated, time commitment. Not just to upload material but to also interact with the readers and to respond in timely form to comments, suggestions, questions and observations.
In addition, authors should also be reading, voting and commenting on other peoples work. It is unfair and unrealistic to do otherwise. Wattpad is a community that by its nature requires across-the-board interaction.
The idea behind Wattpad is a good one, especially for the younger author/writer and reader.
The potential for authors to gain increased exposure and recognition is a real asset.
There are constraints and limitations: Possible copyright infringement; Time commitment; Age demographic; Unlikely to result in sales.
Authors should be aware, with an estimated forty-five million users, it remains difficult for them to gain the broad exposure they would like, without a considerable amount of work and time commitment, and not necessarily even then.
Of course, bearing in mind the age demographic and a large percentage of new, amateur authors/writhers, the quality of published works is not always good. But users, are privileged to be able to help these younger people develop the art.
Wattpad is not for everyone but does have potential for those willing to make the commitment.
Link to Wattpad site: https://www.wattpad.com