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The Wattpad Experiment

Entering the Wild World of Wattpad

What Is Wattpad Anyway?

According to their website, Wattpad is “the world’s largest community of readers and writers.” With a free account, you can read thousands of stories in every genre imaginable, as well as post your own writing in serial form. Wattpad can be accessed via the Internet or an app on your phone or tablet, and has a social element where you can vote, comment, and message with other readers and writers. Plus, they host various awards, such as the Wattys, where writers can be recognized for their work.

 

Why the Experiment?

Wattpad is a big buzzword in the publishing industry right now. Dozens of Wattpad writers have been snatched up by publishing houses across the country to rerelease their stories in a traditional format. The Cellar, published by Sourcebooks, Inc., has sold over 100,000 copies since it’s publication in March of 2014. On the flipside, publishers are also using Wattpad as a hosting site for books in print. They publish excerpts or full novels on the site in hopes of bringing in new readers.

I had a young adult manuscript gathering dust on my hard drive, and it seemed perfect opportunity to see what the hype was all about. How easy is it to go from zero reads to a thousand? How social is Wattpad? Can Wattpad really launch a career? After posting my novel, Unpretty, I tried to find out. I took a four-week Wattpad challenge and managed to get 1,000 reads and over 400 votes—not too shabby for a newbie! Keep reading to see how Wattpad works and how you can turn the site into a platform for your novel.

 

How to Join and Publish

Creating a Wattpad account is free and very easy. You can either log in with a Facebook account or create a new Wattpad username. You then fill out a brief profile with some details about yourself.

Publishing your book is just as simple. Once you have an account, you can go to “My Works” and create a new story. You can then copy and paste text from an existing manuscript or write directly into the text field. When your chapter is done, you click “Publish” and voila! You’re an author.

My Experience

Here’s how my Wattpad weeks went as I tried new things and attempts to gain new readers.

Week One:

6 Parts, 146 Reads, 26 Votes

During my first week I had almost no strategy. I uploaded my cover and the first part of the story on a Thursday evening and tried posting chapters on different days of the week to see which days worked (Monday bombed, but Friday and Saturday were more successful). I followed a handful of friends and authors I knew on Wattpad, but didn’t actively seek connections with others on the site.

 

Week Two:

21 Parts, 285 Reads, 89 Votes

Week 2 was spent reading, voting, and commenting on as many worthy stories I could find. I stuck to my genre (Teen Fiction) and tried to find works that were similar to mine. I would read a few chapters, vote if I liked them, and comment positively (“Great chapter!”, “I love the main character!”, “Cool plot twist!”, etc.) when I felt so inclined.

 

Week Three:

35 Parts, 711 Reads, 373 Votes

In week 3 I sent out a few emails to friends and family asking them to take a look at my story. This was probably the best thing I could have done. Over the course of a weekend, I got almost 400 new reads and 200 new votes! I also switched covers to one that matched what I was seeing on Wattpad’s “Hot” list—an Instagram look with a few pops of color.

 

Week Four Stats:

41 Parts, 1K Reads, 414 Votes

For week 4 I decided to sit back and not do too much (mostly because I was on vacation!). I posted chapters but didn’t reach out to readers, which shows with the minimal boost in reads. The takeaway from week 4: Wattpad is social! If you aren’t involved with the reader community, you won’t get reads!

 

Other Notes

Marketing: I posted a link to my Wattpad story on Facebook twice, which probably earned it a few looks, but nothing spectacular. I also created a brief book trailer (hooray for the wonders of iMovie!). The video got 39 views, but I’m pretty sure all of those were from me!

Demographics: Wattpad has a handy tool that lets you see some reader demographics. According to this data, 39% of my readers were in the 13-18 age range (pretty standard considering the average Wattpad user), 35% were private, 17% were 18-25, and 8% were 35 and up. 57% of readers were female, and 43% were private (though probably most of them were ladies too per Wattpad’s usual readership). 70% of my readers hailed from the US; 30% hailed from the UK, Australia, and South Africa. I’ve gone global!

 

What I’ve Learned

  • The majority of folks using Wattpad (both readers and writers) appear to be teens or novices of the craft. This means that when you are looking around for a story, expect to run into typos and other errors. A lot of people look down on Wattpad for this reason, but I’m of the mind that the more people who are writing—especially young people—the better!
  • Some stories do better than others, and not because the writing is better. Certain genres and storylines (especially fan fiction) often out-perform other works because they appeal to the core demographics of Wattpad.
  • Getting noticed is HARD. I read a lot of stories, and even some great ones didn’t have the reads they deserved. To succeed on Wattpad you need to write something halfway decent, market it, and be engaged with your audience. Wattpadding could be a fulltime job! There are folks out there with tens of millions of views—a far cry from my press toward 1,000.

 

Final Thoughts

Do you have a novel you want to try out on Wattpad? I say, go for it! It is exciting to put a story out into the world, especially on a platform that allows you to get feedback from fellow readers. If you try your own Wattpad experiment, let us know how it goes! Share your story in the comments below. Best of luck!


Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com. Follow her at @LillianJaine.    

 

 

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