Like to write? We've been speaking to the people behind Wattpad to find out how posting your work from your phone could change your life...
Have you always had a great idea for a novel stuck in your head? Unsure how to get it out into the world? You’re not alone – writing the next big bestseller is a pretty common dream. Thankfully though, the power of mobile means getting published is becoming just as simple as firing off a Facebook post.
Wattpad, one of the world’s biggest online reading and writing platforms, boasts 40 million monthly users who live and breathe books. It’s a hotbed of fresh talent, helping plenty of breakout authors and ‘next big things’ gain book and movie deals off the back of success on its digital shelves.
We’ve been speaking to Ashleigh Gardner, Wattpad’s Head of Writer and Publisher partnerships, to find out if publishing your work on Wattpad can land you a book deal. The short answer? Absolutely. Ready to start working on your masterpiece? Read on…
Smartphone → Wattpad → Waterstones?
“I think that it’s that community element that makes Wattpad such a tour de force for budding writers”, says Ashleigh. “It’s a place where you can publish your work one minute, and get constructive feedback in the next.”
Someone new joins Wattpad every second of every day, and a full 24 hours of new reading material is uploaded to the app every minute. That’s a lot of words, but what’s really impressive is that 90% of those users visiting on mobile devices.
“Anyone can join the site and begin to read stories,” Ashleigh explains. “That’s what most people do right away. You can follow stories from your favourite writers, and get push notifications on your devices whenever those writers update their stories. You can connect with famous authors on the site, like Margaret Atwood or Juno Dawson, for example. You can read those right alongside stories from your best friend. Or you can start writing and add your own books to Wattpad’s collection too.”
“About 90% of our users join just to read,” says Ashleigh, “but that’s actually very appealing for writers because it means there are nine readers for every one author. And so many of our writers are also readers on the site too, so it’s a great place to get feedback on your work.”
Sounding good? Wattpad’s other great strength is its lack of pressure, with most writers uploading stories as they go:
“The latest stats say that 81% of people* would like to write a book one day, but it can be really hard to finish a story and get it all done. Unlike other places online, however, you don’t need to have your whole story finished to publish it on Wattpad. You just need a chapter.
“Once you see that there’s an audience there waiting for your next chapter, and commenting, and telling you how much they like it, you’ll feel really encouraged to write more,” she explains. “And ultimately, you’ll get your book finished. We hear from so many writers who say that’s a great way of finishing the draft they’ve always wanted to write.”
Ok, so you’ve signed up to Wattpad, started publishing chapters, and people like what you’re doing. How far can that online success take you?
“One of the first major Wattpad success stories came out of the UK,” Ashleigh tells us. “A Welsh writer named Beth Reekles joined Wattpad initially to read books, but she wasn’t seeing the stories she wanted to read, so she decided to write one herself – a very honest portrayal of teen love called The Kissing Booth. It was extremely popular, and she went on to get a three-book deal from Random House off of the back of her Wattpad fanbase.
“One of the first major Wattpad success stories came out of the UK.”
“We’ve seen many writers since move on to do the same,” she adds. “One of our most popular writers, Anna Todd (writer of the ‘After’ series), has received over one billion reads, with her books becoming international best-sellers, translated into 26 different languages, and now optioned to become a film. She has line-ups of screaming girls waiting for book signings as if she’s a pop star!”
The way Ashleigh sees it, this trend – authors posting their works for free online and gaining book deals as a result – is only set to continue. Why? Because the publishing world loves it.
“Publishers have hundreds of manuscripts coming in and someone has to read all of them to give their opinions – but that’s still just one person’s verdict. On Wattpad there are millions of readers, so publishers can crowdsource that first read and see what people like. The ones that rise to the top give writers the opportunity to get published, or turn their works into TV shows and films.”
And with everything on Wattpad available for free, Ashleigh believes the publishing industry is changing for good:
“‘Free’ allows you to reach more readers and find more fans,” she says, “especially for a debut writer whom no one’s heard of. To be able to post a story on Wattpad and create hundreds of thousands of fans that will go on to buy your book is often easier than going up behind a paywall and getting people to take that first chance on you.”
Top tips for getting noticed
It’s top tips time. With so many writers on Wattpad, how can you stand out? Here’s Ashleigh’s advice:
1. “First of all, people should remember that Wattpad is a social network, not just a distribution channel. So when writers join they should follow other people – follow the most popular writers, for instance and see how they interact with their audience. Like any social network, it’s important to listen and learn about the culture of the community.
2. “Secondly: when you start posting, reply to fans. You want to interact with people who are reading your story. You want to get to know them. The thing that’s so great about Wattpad is that there’s no distance between readers and writers, and replying to comments will encourage many more commenters to come and join too. It’s more about social connections than just the story.”
“Ultimately, Wattpad is a great way to cultivate and build a fanbase,” says Ashleigh in closing. “Even famous authors who already have huge fanbases are coming to Wattpad to reach a new generation of readers.”
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