Wattpad has about 20 million monthly users, both amateur and professional (including Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale who joined about a year and a half ago). Writers retain all rights, and upload anything from short stories to full e-books. A story is uploaded every second, with users from 200 countries posting in 30 languages.
Anyone can access Wattpad via a phone, tablet or computer and it is used by all sorts of people. Relativity Media used Wattpad to promote the release of the film Romeo & Juliet, serializing script excerpts online. Publisher Harlequin used Wattpad to host a new adult genre writing contest. Boy band Emblem3 has even used the platform to connect with fans through stories about teenage issues.
I first decided to try out this site after watching a news item about Lily Carmine who began sharing her novel, The Lost Boys, on Wattpad in February 2010. It clocked up over 33 million reads and became the platform’s most read book. Her publishing deal with Random House UK came from an editor who’d read her work on Wattpad. As a result, Lily secured a deal to publish three books in The Lost Boys series.
I wondered what Wattpad could offer me. Fellow writers waxed lyrical about the site and use it to showcase their writing or for presenting their works in progress, chapter by chapter. They claimed Wattpad had encouraged readership and on the back of it, they had sold more books.
So, how easy is Wattpad for authors to use? First off, Wattpad make it as simple as possible by offering a free Wattpad for Dummies guide. This walks you through how to use the platform, starting with the basics of setting up an account and creating a profile page, then onto the meatier stuff of how to upload a story, a cover and so on. I’ll admit, like Chris James, I had trouble resizing my photo to fit the profile page and almost gave up at that point.
However, the site isn’t difficult to master. Let’s face it, if I can grasp it easily, then so can you. Just read the guide first. Once you have read it, prepare your profile and upload a story.
Wattpad seems to be designed for writers who are posting their work chapter by chapter, or who are posting short stories, rather than complete novels, so the main editing interface is very basic. You copy and paste your work into a text box, and have only bold and italic options for styling. You cannot upload .doc or .docx documents. There is no preview option only ‘Save’ and ‘Save & Publish’, and the platform doesn’t allow you to do anything complicated which is a blessing for people like me.
When you are feeling confident, there are advanced options including the chance to pick a licence for your work. You can also add in one link to more information about the work, a YouTube link and a photo link.
Once you’ve saved your draft or published your book/story, you can add a cover. The easiest way to do that is to visit your list of stories and ‘edit’ under the cover image on the left. In order to edit your title, add a description or add extra parts to the story, you need to click ‘manage’ on that ‘My Works’ page.
The number of reads your work gets is displayed next to the story and on your profile. Readers can also vote (basic thumbs-up style voting) and leave comments on both your stories and your profile. As with other similar sites, the more reads and votes your story gets, the more visible you’ll be to readers. I posted one short story and within two days had positive feedback for it and a request to join a short story website where my stories would be showcased. My story didn’t get a million reads, in fact, it got only one hundred and thirty-five reads but that is an additional one hundred and thirty-five people who have now read my work. I’m sure if I worked harder at the site and made more effort to fan people or write more regularly, that number would gradually increase.
“Fanning” means that you subscribe to another user’s updates and messages. So, if I add a new chapter to the story I’m working on, an email notification will be automatically sent to my fans to let them know. This is an effective way to communicate. It allows not just socializing, but also mass messaging and keeps fans updated. You can also use it to ask fans questions or just to say hello.
What then in brief, are the pros and cons of Wattpad?
- Friendly community.
- iPhone app. The site has an app, so you can read wherever or whenever you fancy it.
- You can get advice and help on your book from fans.
- You may become known and could eventually get your work published.
- Lots of good stuff to read.
- Time consuming.
- Critiques. Or lack of critiques, more appropriately. Finding thorough, in-depth critiques is hard on Wattpad. There’s a 2,000 character limit for comments so for the most part, one-liners are the popular story comments.
- People could copy, paste and steal your story. I didn’t think it was possible until another user told me how to do it.
- Wattpad seems to be a popularity contest so you need to write about the things people like these days if you want to be noticed. If you write about werewolves or vampires, this is for you.
My initial feeling about Wattpad is that if you are the sort of person who likes to post your works in progress a bit at a time, then it could help build a readership. It’s a potentially powerful way to connect with readers if you have the time to devote to it, but it needs commitment, and the community there might not be right for every author.