Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Wattpad has carved a very comfortable resting place for itself in the online reading market. With 16.9 million unique global visitors per month and an average of 30 minutes spent reading per visit, it’s easy to understand why it’s getting a lot of attention.
Hype and hysteria aside, I’m sure you’re left wondering what the real benefit is. You’ve heard that it’s a “must-have” exposure tool and that it has “revolutionized the relationship” between authors and readers, but what does all of that really mean and why should you care?
Wattpad in a nutshell
Wattpad has been referred to as the Youtube of writing because of the way it enables authors to share their work with the world. This has to be my favorite description of the social media platform as it really captures the interactive nature of the site.
Authors can upload either the completed or working version of their books for readers to read. It is not possible to upload a book as one single file, it has to be done on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
Wattpad is entirely free for all of its users which means that authors are actually giving their work away for free with no option to sell on the site.
How does it work?
Wattpad is for everyone with an interest in books. Setting up an account takes a matter of minutes and is just a case of creating a username, uploading a picture and mentioning a bit about yourself.
When authors post a chapter to the site, there is the option to customize the chapter by adding searchable keywords, pictures, and videos. There is also the option under the “Advanced” tab section to add an external link to your book, although I would not necessarily get too excited about this as readers won’t and don’t click it (I don’t know why, but they just don’t).
That being said, you can (and you should) add external links to your book on your profile page as well as on any comments that you post relating to your book or chapter. For example, if a reader asks where he/she can read more of your work, you can post the link in your reply and send them off to your Amazon page or author website.
At the end of the day, Wattpad is ultimately a social media site and should be treated as one. In other words, if you are willing to adopt a systematic approach, there are certain benefits that are yours for the taking.
Let’s have a look at this in a bit more detail.
1. You have a captive audience
People who sign up to Wattpad are clearly interested in books and because of that, there are millions of engaged readers looking for their next great read. But before you minimize my article and rush over to Wattpad right now, remember this: Wattpad is a social media platform and as such, the golden rule applies:
Always actively engage with people who are reading your chapters. If someone has left a comment, make sure that you respond to their comment as soon as you can. Take the time to look at your reader’s profile so that you can engage with them on a personal level.
If you want to breed reader loyalty, spending a bit of time getting to know your audience will go a long way to increasing sales. It will also help you better understand your readership which in turn will help you focus your marketing efforts outside of the site.
2. Serialization keeps readers interested
Serialization, if done correctly, can lead to reader loyalty and Wattpad is acutely aware of this. You have to release your content on a chapter-by-chapter basis which in turn encourages continuous engagement with readers. Loyal readers can register themselves as a “fan” and as such, will receive email alerts whenever their favorite author posts something new.
This level of engagement is a very powerful thing as dedicated fans will be more inclined to follow your writing beyond the realms of Wattpad.
However, things can go wrong very quickly if you do not post chapters regularly as readers could lose interest and move on. Consistency is crucial to the success of serialization so it is best not to join Wattpad if you don’t have a completed book (even if only in the first draft) to share. Readers like knowing that once they’ve invested in a book, they will be able to read the story to the end.
What this also means is that you need to be prepared to give your whole book away for free. Posting just one or two chapters of your book will not generate interest and will end up irritating readers.
3. Interaction is encouraged
Wattpad is all about interaction and as such, the site actively supports dialog between authors and readers. Readers are allowed to rate and comment on whatever they are reading, giving authors a chance to refine their work or test out new ideas for characters or story development.
Wattpad readers certainly seem very willing to engage with an author and provide feedback as a startling 5 million new comments are posted every month. It goes without saying that the quality of the comments will vary from the inane to the constructive.
Receiving reader comments and feedback is definitely one of the main benefits of the site, but author-reader interaction can be taken one step further. Authors are also given the option to broadcast messages to their readers.
Think of a broadcast as a tweet or a Facebook status update that is posted on your homepage and emailed out to your fans. This is a very useful feature as authors can post teasers, external links to their books, and even create reader polls to garner more detailed information about their readership.
The broadcast feature is exceptionally useful to an author, but should also be used with care as too many broadcasts can annoy your readers.
4. Meet some like-minded people
This is a benefit that is often drowned out by the idea that social media should do nothing but “work” for you. At the end of the day, social media is social, and as such, it provides a great opportunity to meet some like-minded people.
One way to connect with people is to read and comment on other author’s stories. Many authors that we work with dismiss this as a waste of time, but if you are serious about building up your network, there is no better way to do it. Of course this is a slow and steady approach, but you have to start somewhere.
5. You can (potentially) crowdfund your book
Wattpad have very recently announced their new crowdfunding platform called “Fan Funding”. Fan Funding is based on the same principles of any crowdfunding campaign in that authors can appeal to their fans to donate money to self-publish their book. Authors can offer incentives (i.e. t-shirts, signed copies, ebooks, etc.) for donations, and campaigns will run for a standard 30-day term.
Perhaps the largest distinguishing feature of Fan Funding is that all books partaking in the program will still be free to read for Wattpad users. In other words, readers can read the book before deciding whether or not to donate which means that donations are more likely to come from people who actually enjoy your writing.
As Fan Funding is still in its trial phase, I am wary of commenting on its success. However, I will say that Fan Funding is a very natural step for Wattpad as the site has an established reader-base and of course, many Wattpad authors have existing relationships with their readers.
6. Science fiction, fantasy, and YA are the dominant genres
Although Wattpad has over 20 genres available on the site, science fiction, young adult, and fantasy books are without doubt the most popular genre. A large part of this trend is because the majority of Wattpad users are teenagers and 20-somethings who lean more toward these genres.
So, if you’re a fantasy, YA, or science fiction author, this will be music to your ears. However, if you write historical fiction, the uptake on your book may be less than you expect.
Do you have the urge to sign up now?
Receiving honest feedback from real readers is an invaluable part of the writing process, and for that reason, Wattpad is a useful tool for authors. But the market research possibilities are not to be sniffed at, as authors are able to connect with and gain deeper insight into their readership and indeed their genre.
However, as is the case with all social media, there is no guarantee of success or increased sales. There is no harm in putting you and your book out there, as long as you are realistic about the response that you are after.
I’d love to hear about your experiences or concerns with Wattpad. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.