With an enormous base of readers (25 million at last count), Wattpad is the social reading platform that every author should at least consider. The Toronto-based company continues to make strides, finding new ways to connect readers and authors. Is Wattpad for you?
With 25 million users, Wattpad is the world’s largest community for readers and writers. Last year, users spent 41 billion minutes on Wattpad, with a new chapter uploaded every second. The platform hosts a mix of public domain fiction, fan fiction, and fiction by traditional authors. Authors who’ve amassed large followings on Wattpad have garnered attention from agents, publishers, and in at least one case, Hollywood.
We’ve talked with six authors who have found varying levels of success on Wattpad. In this panel discussion, they share how they came to be on the site, what works for them, and what we can learn from their experience.
Marketing Your Fiction on Wattpad: 6 Authors Share How They Got Started, What Worked for Them, and Their Advice For You
Robin Spano writes the fun and edgy Clare Vengel series, about a young undercover cop. The books in the series include Dead Politician Society (2010), Death Plays Poker (2011), and Death’s Last Run (2013). A review in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine proclaimed, “In a bold and bouncy style, Spano weaves Clare Vengel’s story with generous measures of action, surprise, and romance.” Robin lives in Lions Bay, British Columbia, Canada.
David Mark Brown writes in several genres, including adventure, Western, horror, SF, thrillers, and dystopian fantasy. He has published novels, shorts, novellas and serials within the DMB universe—yes, he named a universe after himself. After fabricating the life of a dime novel writer with his own name, he began producing “lowbrow pulp fiction” known as the Lost DMB Files. Under the pseudonym Jim Buckner, he writes SF thrillers in the DMB Files series. He lives in Idaho.
Nikki Kelly was working as a personal assistant, writing fantasy in her spare time, when she serialized her novel Lailah, a love story about an immortal 17-year-old girl drawn into a battle between vampires and angels. Its success on Wattpad led to a three-book deal with Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. Her Styclar Saga trilogy hits booksellers this fall. She lives in London.
Bob Mayer is a former Green Beret, New York Times bestselling author, and CEO of Cool Gus Publishing. He has published more than 50 books, which have sold more than five million copies, and been on the bestseller lists with thrillers, science fiction, suspense, action, war, and historical fiction. He is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll.
Bryony Magee is an 18-year-old student and library assistant. She completed her first novel at the age of 13, was featured on Wattpad when she was 17, and within three months found herself sitting in the London office of a literary agent. She is currently rewriting her work, with an eye toward submitting to publishers. She lives in England.
David Wallace Fleming is the author of the social media novel Growing up Wired. He podcasts his short stories, and has appeared in Out of the Gutter, Escape Velocity, and the Bizarro Press. David has worked in aerospace and semiconductor research and development, enjoys running, karaoke and sand volleyball. He lives in Austin, Texas.
1. How were you introduced to Wattpad?
Robin Spano: My publisher, ECW Press, asked me to release my first novel as a free serial on Wattpad. I write a mystery series, so they thought it could be a cool way to attract readers to the rest of the books.
David Mark Brown: I went looking online for venues to develop a platform. Having been an early blogger and user on Facebook and Twitter and the like, I stumbled across Wattpad in 2010. I gave it the same treatment I give any new social media platform, while being slightly more intrigued due to its reader/writer audience. After uploading and surfing around some I met Gavin Wilson (@theorangutan). He had found Wattpad a few months before me (maybe several), and shared an similar place and walk in life (older guy grooming a writing career and balancing family, etc.). His welcome was warm. I soon found other gents and decided to stick with it.
Nikki Kelly: My mother-in-law gave me a clipping from a newspaper about a young writer who had written her story on Wattpad, and had a lot of success on the site. I immediately went online and found Wattpad, only to be amazed that such a wonderful place actually existed!
Bryony Magee: I work part-time in a library alongside being a student, and Wattpad was recommended to me by one of our volunteers. We were having a conversation about creative writing and she told me that I should check out the site she used. Until that point, I’d never heard mention of it—but, within a few weeks of being a member of Wattpad I knew it was going to become my new favorite website!
David Wallace Fleming: I was introduced to Wattpad from a blog post on David Gaughran’s blog Let’s Get Digital back in 2012.
2. What was the first thing you published on your account?
David Mark Brown: At the time I signed up, I was working on some early twentieth century weird-western pulp fiction. I published some short stories while developing characters for a full length novel. I then published the novel as well (Fistful of Reefer) and it was “Featured.”
Nikki Kelly: My story Lailah, the first book in The Styclar Saga. Lailah is my first novel, and I serialized it in blocks of seven, over the month of December in “real time” with the actual story itself.
Bryony Magee: The first thing I ever published on Wattpad was the beginnings of a teen fiction novel set inside of a mental health asylum. It was titled Washington House and it was, in retrospect, one big mess! I took it down after setting to work writing The Popularity Debt, but I’d love to come back to the story in the future and perhaps rewrite it.
David Wallace Fleming: The first thing I published on Wattpad was a short story collection, With and Without Class. I published the whole collection in one day and, surprisingly, I got someone in France to buy the eBook soon thereafter.
3. How has your experience on Wattpad compared with your expectations?
Robin Spano: Wattpad is unlike any other site I’ve seen, social media or otherwise. When I first joined, it felt foreign, but within a day or two it made intuitive sense and was simple to navigate. What shocked me more than anything was how many readers are there. Dead Politician Society has over 500,000 reads so far. (Spread over 83 chapters, but still.) I was thrilled by how many people followed the story–to the point where I’d wake up to impatient messages on Monday mornings (my upload day) demanding the new content for the week.
David Mark Brown: My expectations were pretty low to begin with. I figured I would meet some other writers, find some creative help, some beta readers, etc. As the “reads” numbers on Fistful of Reefer skyrocketed, I started to think I might actually create a following of loyal readers via Wattpad. I did my research, talked to several other writers on Wattpad who were pursuing a livelihood via their craft. Some of them were actually moving fans off of Wattpad to support them with reviews, and an Amazon blitz here and there.
At that point, my expectations went up. But nothing of that sort ever materialized for me. While my experience has never been bad, it has never generated me money or converted to loyal readers. (Not more than a handful, anyway). I still upload. It doesn’t take much time. I still chat with some of the folk I know via Wattpad. I’ve met some really great ones. but I no longer expect my over 4,000 followers to care about anything but free reading material. (Around 30 of them are willing to buy my stuff).
Nikki Kelly: It completely superseded my expectations. The Wattpad community has become my second family. It’s a little nook in cyberspace where readers and writers can tell their stories, make new friends, and engage “in the moment” on the books they are reading. There is no other site out there like it. I realized quickly that it wasn’t just a site in which to place your stories, it’s also very much a social media platform where communication is quick and easy, bridging the gap between reader and author.
Bob Mayer: I’m not sure. Certainly a lot of people have read my material, especially my Novel Writer’s Toolkit.
Bryony Magee: Initially, I was simply looking for a place to publish my work for friends to read. I thought it would be cool for people I knew from school to see what I got up to outside of class. Within a matter of weeks, however, I’d been offered a place on the Wattpad Featured List, and since then the attention my work has received is absolutely unbelievable! I would never in a million years have thought that more than five-and-a-half million people would pay attention to what I’d written—but that’s the thing about Wattpad: it gives you the opportunity to turn your silly dreams into an amazing reality!
4. What is the best thing that has come out of your experience with Wattpad?
Robin Spano: Rob Ford fan fiction. Sounds bizarre, and it kind of is, but I commented on a post by one of the Wattpad staff, and before I knew it, I’d agreed to write a serial called High Times at City Hall, a completely fictional story where Rob Ford is the main character. I put it on hold in the new year because I had too many projects on the go, but I’m planning to pick the serial up again to take Ford through the upcoming Toronto election.
David Mark Brown: A handful of relationships with other writers. I’ve Google chatted and emailed some of them. We use each other for beta readers and support. I can count on Wattpad to get me a few quality reviews on most of my new releases.
Nikki Kelly: I don’t know that there is just one best thing. There are soooo many best things! At the top of the list would definitely be the fans of the story—my Styhards! Also very high on the list would quite simply be, confidence—confidence, that it wasn’t just me that loved my characters, but that this massive cross-section of readers from all over the world loved them, too. The sheer volume of positive and sometimes explosive comments and messages were unexpected, but hugely welcome. I enoyed and still enjoy reading every single one!
Bryony Magee: Definitely the foundations to getting published traditionally. Without Wattpad, I would likely still have no complete material to send out to literary agencies, but since completing The Popularity Debt, I’ve been working with a big London-based literary agency to bring my work up to scratch for traditional publishing—and that’s all thanks to the motivation readers on Wattpad provided me with while I was writing the novel first time around.
5. What advice do you have for writers who want to get more out of Wattpad?
Robin Spano: Engage with readers, because that’s why they’re there. Be regular with posts. If you promise Monday, deliver on Monday. (Morning, if possible.) And jump in and play. Wattpad is an innovative new platform with huge readership. It’s a great place to experiment and get feedback on new ideas.
- I don’t write for the target audience on Wattpad (young females).
- I am not a true Wattpad native. After three and a half years, I could be. But I never made that commitment.
True natives on Wattpad have used it as the primary means of becoming a writer. Wattpad has the muscle to do such a thing. I have seen it happen. Passionate beginners can open an account and begin putting words on the screen. Upload. Find fans by going around and reading other people’s stuff. Talk with people. Get feedback. Finish a project. Improve it. Get support via followers. Get the book “featured” on Wattpad. Followers and reads will pour in at that point. Interact with these people. Every time you sit down to write, do it on Wattpad. Upload it all to Wattpad. Use Wattpad as your daily writing journal. Keep your readers informed with your doings both professionally and personally. Host informal contests.
Do all this, and in two years, it is a very real possibility that your traction on Wattpad will land you an agent or a publishing deal. Some of those deals might be predatory, as they always will be. Like most social media platforms (maybe all?) with enough social cred, Wattpad followers will spend money for you. But it takes a lot of time and energy. (A LOT!) Wattpad users are very savvy at identifying outsiders who upload and true natives who have grown and developed on Wattpad. I’m somewhere in between. While I’ve never been able to commit, I keep the connection out of hope that Wattpad may someday find a means of helping writers monetize their work. They haven’t been able to do it yet, and I doubt they will. But I’ve learned some lessons from their model that might help me yet.
Nikki Kelly: The best piece of advice I could give anyone who is either a member of the community or thinking of joining is quite simply to engage with your readership. There are various ways a reader can communicate with you; within the story chapters, on your message boards, direct messaging and, of course, voting. If readers are taking the time to read your story and tell you what they think, they are giving you the one thing in the world you absolutely can’t buy: their time. So respond to every message you get, and offer your support back by encouraging the readers who are also writing to tell their stories, too.
Bryony Magee: Never stop writing! It isn’t enough to upload just one or two chapters. The more you upload, the more your work appears in various places on the website, and once you’ve hooked your readers they’ll stick around for more until the very last page. There’s no use expecting to hit a hundred thousand reads within your first week of uploading. The trick is patience. I had less than 10,000 readers upon completion of The Popularity Debt—and it took almost three months for me to write. But then, as soon as it was selected for the Featured List, it had reached 100,000 readers within a week. Persevere even when it feels like nobody is paying attention, because you never know who might stumble across your work, and recognition will come eventually as long as you put your all into getting your work out there!
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Have you posted any of your fiction on Wattpad? What were your experiences? Any tips for the rest of us?
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