5 Things Writers Should Know About Wattpad & the Future of Publishing

Wattpad tips for writers

A little more than a year ago, I took a chance and posted one of my novels in its entirety on a site called Wattpad. It’s a social reading site, meaning writers post their fiction for free for readers to binge on, bolstered by the force multiplier of social media. Since then, I’ve racked up three-quarters of a million reads of my work, obtained a generous sponsorship from a major television studio, had my work plugged into Hollywood movie campaigns, received serious consideration for TV adaptation of one of my short stories from a well-known producer (fingers crossed) and much, much more. Wattpad even accepted me into its Stars program, a special incubator for writers’ careers.

As I mentioned during my presentations at the 2016 Writers Digest Conference, it turns out Wattpad is proving out a publishing model that could well be the standard in years to come. Here’s what all writers need to know about Wattpad.

ben sobieck writerwriters_guide_to_weaponsThis guest post is by Benjamin Sobieck. Sobieck is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons (Writer’s Digest Books), and several thrillers, including When the Black-Eyed Children Knock, the Chase Baker series with Vincent Zandri, Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective and others. He blogs about writing weapons in fiction at CrimeFictionBook.com. He is also the creator of The Writer’s Glove, a writing glove for keeping cold hands and fingers warm while typing on a keyboard.

Despite that success, my skepticism about Wattpad only recently faded away. To be frank, a site requiring work be posted for free turned me off. Why cut myself short?

Yes, You Can Get Paid in Exposure

How to use Wattpad for writers

Image by Aap Deluxe via sxc.hu.

Even if you’re already familiar with Wattpad, you may not have heard of Wattpad Futures, announced in August 2016. This new feature on the site makes good on Wattpad’s goal of becoming “the YouTube of books.” Readers still read stories on Wattpad for free, but every now and then they are prompted to watch a sponsored video.

For writers, this means getting paid a majority of those ad dollars every time one of those videos is viewed. The more reads a story gets, the more video views roll in and the more the writer gets paid.

For readers, these ads certainly intrude on the reading experience. However, Wattpad readers aren’t typical readers. They are voracious, loyal and 45-million strong. Whether they are also understanding of the link between writers getting paid and the content they enjoy for free is yet to be seen, although I’m optimistic.

Wattpad Futures is still rolling out, and isn’t available for every writer on the site quite yet. But I fully expect it will be. That’s worth keeping an eye on, because…

Wattpad Futures Could Be as Disruptive to Digital Books as the Kindle was to Traditional Publishing

Writers Digest tips for writers using Wattpad

The publishing paradigm is going to change again. You’d do best to experiment with new models before they become popular. (Image by H Assaf via sxc.hu.)

If you want to know where publishing, or any other market, is headed, look at the way its youngest consumers are interacting with its products. Their preferences will echo far into the future.

Eight-five percent of Wattpad’s 45 million readers are between the ages of 13 and 30, and they read, read, read. Not only that, they tweet, tweet, tweet. They’re easily capable of making or breaking a writer’s career. Just Google Anna Tood.

On top of that, they expect the content they read to be free, and there’s no reason to anticipate that to change. Look at the larger media market. This is the era of the Netflix model. What is that going to look like for publishing in 10 years? Or five? Or three? Do you think readers will be more or less social? More or less likely to binge on content they enjoy? More or less inclined to offer their attention spans as payment instead of dollars?

Add these factors together, and I see Wattpad Futures playing a disruptive role in the publishing world that could rival the seismic shift Kindle introduced. And as with any disruptive force in the digital world, the sooner you jump on, the better your chances of success in the new paradigm.

Wattpad is a Slow Burn

Wattpad tips for writers from Writers Digest

Don’t count on new publishing models to get you results right away. Being ahead of the curve requires patience. (Image by Gustavo Bueso Padgett via sxc.hu.)

The future requires patience. Writers new to Wattpad shouldn’t expect their lives to change overnight. It may take several months before the gravity of the reads on your stories pulls new opportunities into your orbit.

But if you play your cards right, you’ll wind up with something more valuable to your writing career than a third hand and an IV drip of caffeine: the captive attention of thousands and thousands of readers who give a good damn about your work. What can you do with that? Well, what couldn’t you do with that?

Wattpad Will Continue to Be One of the Best Platform Builders Out There

Even if I’m wrong about Wattpad Futures becoming a major publishing force, Wattpad is still an incredible tool for building a platform. Unlike Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and other social media, the people who follow you on Wattpad are actually readers.

That gives you ammunition when you’re pitching publishers and agents. How much easier is it for someone to say “yes” when you can deliver a built-in readership?

Wattpad is a Home for the Homeless (Stories)

Psychic detective novels

Prior to Wattpad, this was a certified dud. After Wattpad, I’m grateful I didn’t settle for anything less than thousands of dedicated readers.

My Wattpad journey started because one of my thriller novels, Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective, couldn’t find traction anywhere else. Posting the entire novel on Wattpad was a last-ditch effort to make all that work worthwhile.

Glass Eye went on to pull in 214,000 reads, a ringing endorsement from The Girl on the Train movie and a fanatical readership that requested demanded I turn it into a trilogy. The sequel, Black Eye, quickly yielded 80,000 more reads. I’m working on the third novel now, lest my readership turn this into a Misery type situation, and with any luck will attract an agent or publisher interested in leveraging this trilogy’s built-in audience. Even if that doesn’t happen, Wattpad Futures offers a way to make money without signing on a single dotted line.

All that from a novel that was, up until that point, a total dud. Huzzah.

Prove Me Wrong

The future of publishing may well be painted orange. Give Wattpad a shot and see what happens. At worst, you’ll be out some time. At best, you’ll have a head start on everyone else.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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9 thoughts on “5 Things Writers Should Know About Wattpad & the Future of Publishing

  1. Love2WriteNCali

    Hi, I’m curious if you know how Wattpad rankings work? I recently signed up and I wrote a YA/Teen Fiction novel. Virtually no readers at all, but 2, yet my rankings keep climbing. It’s a YA horror novel, so for the past couple days myou novel has been listed under “Whats Hot” under the “Horror” genre. I initially ranked in at #579, today I’m at #461and yet nobody is reading my book. I’m amazed that novel is even in the top 600 cause as I stated nobody is reading it.

  2. Kikku

    I have been using wattpad for around two years. I have recently started to post a FanFiction on wattpad. How can I increase number of readers on wattpad? Any tips from experienced wattpaders?

  3. rtistwritr

    Something about this rubs me the wrong way. Yes, I love to write and want people to read what I write. My writing must help pay the rent, so I’m not inclined to put it out there for free, especially for anything like a novel or other major work. I buy the works I wish to read or read them on Kindle Unlimited. I do not expect the author to give me their hard work for free. If it were really the future of publishing, I would not publish it. I’m not that altruistic. I’d have to do something else to pay the rent, like portrait painting which I also do not do for free. Maybe people who feel they should get the author’s work for free should read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

  4. ahrneely

    I’d be interested in hearing how much of a book or story must be read for it to be considered a “read.” Much like unique visitors to any website … just opening the “story” or “page” does not mean the reader or visitor read the entire story or site. (This is the reason Amazon’s KDP pays out based on pages read for their self-published authors.)

    Mister Sobieck claims his sequel book has garnered 80,000 reads. If that number is a direct relation to numbers of books sold through a trade publisher (or even through self-publishing), it seems a wasted opportunity to publish for free on Wattpad instead of attempting to publish and earn an income.

    I’m the last person to suggest art shouldn’t be free for all to view. Art is one of the many wonders we have left in our culture, and I think it’s a shame there are those who aren’t exposed to it because of their financial abilities, but as content creators we need to feed and clothe ourselves and our families, too.

    That being said, here are two very important points:

    1.) Based on the quality of work I’ve seen on Wattpad, I have to assume in order to achieve the level of readership Mr. Sobieck claims the quality of his own work must be quite outstanding. (I have yet to read it for myself, not would it be appropriate for me to offer a subjective criticism in this — an objective analysis of his article here). If his numbers and readership are as vast as he claims, these are outstanding numbers — numbers trade publishers want to see. Why wouldn’t someone with those numbers (and, by association that quality of work) seek compensation of all the time, energy, and effort it takes to write a novel (let alone three, as Mr. Sobieck states he has written). [The only answer which can possibly come to mind is that the work isn’t truly as great as we are lead to believe … (again, I haven’t read the work). Which leaves me to my second point.

    2.) If the demographic Mr. Sobieck discusses is correct (13 – 30 year olds), it is highly likely these are not discerning readers … readers looking for quality over quantity (after all, Mr. Sobieck states the readers on Wattpad read voraciously and volume is part of the game). Mr. Sobieck states that the readers on Wattpad will never expect to pay for what they read here (he then references the Netflix model). First, simply assuming your customer base (which is what readers are for authors) don’t expect to pay for their products and pricing your product accordingly (i.e., my customers don’t want to pay for my product, so I won’t charge anything for my product) only exacerbates this behavior. In other words, of course readers will expect not to pay for what they read if they are just handed the work for free. That also means they won’t value at much, either.

    Two final points in reference to this article:

    The reference to the Netflix model is self-defeating. Film studios do not just give Netflix their movies and television shows for their subscribers to view. They pay licencing fees for the right to broadcast or otherwise make this media available. A comparison to YouTube might be more appropriate, but in this instance you’re either seeing highlights of shows uploaded by the content creators (but not the entire show … think “The Tonight Show,” etc.), or you’re looking at piracy. Either way you cut it, you’re still talking about professionally produced, high-quality work …

    … unless you’re not, which again brings me back to the demographic of Wattpad. Imagine there was a service for anyone to get some friends together, make a feature-length film with their cell phone … no lighting, no gaffers, no grips, no cinematographers or hair and make-up artists, no wardrobe stylists, no assistant directors or producers. Just a couple of people with an idea and a cell phone camera … and upload those movies to be seen directly on CBS or NBS. How many people would watch those films? Would they be any good?

    I’m not suggesting that trade publishing is the only way to go. There are some great success stories from self-published authors. What I am suggesting is that trade publishing is a kind of gateway for quality (most of the time — I know we’ve all had those moments where we’ve thought, “How did this ever get published?”; I’ve had those same thoughts about films, too).

    Rushing in to “publish” your work on services like Wattpad is fine if all you’re looking for is “popularity,” but if you’re looking to make a career from your writing, then Wattpad might only be a lark — just something to try once, see what it’s all about — but even if Wattpad Futures acts as a similar gateway the way literary agents, editors, and publishers do in the trade world, what will the percentages be? How will they compare to royalties?

    There are a lot of questions to answer yet before I’m sold on the idea that giving away a product I produce for free is a better way to go than to bide my time, exercise my patience, and learn my craft to join the ranks of the well-published.

  5. Jroug

    Kind of an interesting model, and very similar to how sites like Youtube and Spotify pay out to film, tv, music companies, etc. Seems like the upside here is that another middleman (in an author’s case, their publisher) isn’t taking a cut of the adrev.

    That said, those types of sites are not necessarily good for creators income and plagued with other issues. But I assume it’s if you’re writing more books for the platform, the dollar amounts are working out for you, which is great.

    My curiosity is the same as earlier poster, but more specifically, what’s the author portion of shared adrev per ad?

    Will a reader see more than one ad per book? Is amount of time spent reading the determination of ad volume per reader? Or is there another metric in use?

    What kind of term / exclusivity are you agreeing to when publishing on Wattpad?

    Finally, if problems other streaming media are now feeling (specifically ripping software) come to Wattpad or similar book services (if the model proves successful)l, adrev will be eliminated completely.

  6. Drewmar

    I’m curious. Out of 80k reads, how much income has that generated? I’m also concerned that if I post a book on there, will that kill any chance of submitting it to a publisher the usual way?

  7. laurenruiz05

    Wattpad piques my interest as both a freelance editor and a writer. I recently downloaded it, and its user-friendly ways (last commenter is right about this) are compelling, but I’ll withhold from posting any of my writing as a knee-jerk reaction and instead wait to polish it—which is the same advice I’ll give my clients and all writers out there. I think putting in the effort and taking the right steps beforehand is a big part of the potential for success on Wattpad.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  8. KGreenwood

    Thanks for the article!

    I’m a Wattpad writer too. I started out there a few years ago as a fanfiction writer. I had a couple of great story ideas and Wattpad was super user-friendly with an established readership in the fandom, so I gave it a whirl. I’m very glad I did. My stories still enjoy steady readership and glowing reviews, and while neither of those two stories have cracked 50K (I’m a tad too old for 1 Direction or other boyband stories, which are the favorite among Wattpad’s young fanfic readers), they’re popular in the little fandom niche we have on Wattpad.

    Last year I wrote an original contemporary fiction w/ strong romance elements for a writing contest that Wattpad hosted in which I placed in the semi finals…much more than I expected from a hurriedly-drafted novel I wrote on the fly in 2 months. That one has since cracked 50K reads and steadily climbing (it is a slow burn indeed), and has been ranking in General Fiction for several weeks now. Sourcebooks currently is considering it for publication, which is super exciting!

    I haven’t had quite the success you have had at Wattpad, but I’m so grateful it exists as a way for writers to get their work out there, for readers to discover new exciting voices, and publishers and agents are all over Wattpad searching for talent. So it can lead to huge things (you referenced Anna Todd, 1D fanfic writer #1 who’s enjoyed great success thanks to Wattpad and an army of readers) as well as a number of others. I think it’s fabulous and indeed, the Wattpad model could very well be the future of publishing.


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