There’s a lot of buzz about Wattpad lately. On twitter, on people’s blogs, in Publisher’s Weekly. A lot of people are wondering what Wattpad is exactly, and more importantly, As a writer, should I be on Wattpad?
As someone who has used Wattpad to build up a core of dedicated readers, and met thousands of awesome people who love books just as much as I do, I’m inclined to say yes. Heck yes, actually.
But there are a few things I always hear people say when they’re thinking of joining, concerns they have. I thought I’d cover a few:
Q) Is writing free stuff really going to sell books?
A) This is a valid question. The thing is, there’s no yes or no answer. I’ve had people tell me sales increased after they posted the first book in a series to Wattpad. I’ve also had people tell me they don’t think it’s working. It depends on the types of readers you get, it depends on what your book is like, it depends on the phase of the moon.
Okay, not that last bit. But you know what I mean. That’s a bit like saying, “If I publish a book, will people buy it?” Well, maybe they will. Hopefully. But there’s really no guaranteeing either way, is there? Some people might tell you putting your work for free on Wattpad won’t sell books, but I’m sure someone like Anna Todd would heartily disagree with them.
But should you throw your work up there expecting it to make the difference between working a full time job, and writing for a living? I’d advise against it. It’s about your mind set. Do it to connect with readers. To form a community, or just to boost your ego a bit (the reader comments can be really lovely) but don’t do it thinking you’re about to become the next NYT best seller. You’ll be disappointed.
Q) Will people steal my work?
A) Good question. The answer is once again, not exactly what you want to hear. The answer is, “It’s possible”. I’ve had people take my most popular story (FROST) a number of times. It’s never actually people trying to make money from it (not that I’ve experienced). It’s generally teens who don’t seem to realize just how bad plagiarism is. And it’s been pretty easy to get them taken down.
Wattpad has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism. If it’s someone on the site who’s taken your work, you simply report them and their account will be deleted, sometimes within the hour. If it’s off site, it can be a bit trickier, but my firm (but polite) emails usually work. When they don’t, Wattpad has been known to get involved. They don’t want to see people’s work getting ripped off either.
Should you let the possibility of theft stop you from posting your work? I don’t believe you should.
Q) If I post my manuscript on Wattpad can I still query it to agents?
A) Technically you can still query it, yeah. BUT (there’s always a big but, isn’t there?) for a lot of agents, once it’s out there, they consider it published. I would feel free to post the first chapter if you really want. But not much more than that if you want to be sure. If it’s a critique you’re after, there are forums on Wattpad where you can find another writer and swap beta reads with them.
If you don’t have a spare novel to throw up there, and you don’t have time to write a new one just for Wattpad, put up some old short stories. Or snippets of poetry. Some people even keep a sort of “blog” over there, like an online journal that people actually read.
There have been writers that have queried after they put their novels up on Wattpad, and went on to get book deals. Taran Matharu is one of them. But like so many success stories, he’s the exception to the rule. Not the rule.
So there you go, another wishy washy answer. For myself, I haven’t put anything up there that I intend to query later on. Y’know, just in case my dream agent decides that once it’s out there…it’s out there.
Why it’s Worth it:
My experience on the website has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve met some awesome people on there. The comments on each chapter are overwhelmingly supportive and positive. If I’m having a crappy day, I’ll read through them and find myself grinning like an idiot. I get messages over there, from people that tell me “You inspire me”. That still shocks me.
I’m not a “real” author yet. That would have never been possible a few years ago, before I joined Wattpad. There would have been no way to actually gain readers.
I’ve even become part of a group that hosts twitter chats every Monday. We (quite cheekily) call ourselves “The Wattpad4” and I pretty much talk to them every single day.
I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for Wattpad.
So if you do sign up, here’s my advice: Don’t go into it to gain “fans”. Don’t make it a numbers game. Don’t make it about sales. Sign up for the community. Join the clubs, chat with people. And if you happen to sell a few books while you’re at it, chalk it up as a bonus.
I’m sure there are questions that I’m missing. If anyone has any, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Because I’m incredibly long-winded, this will probably turn into a two part post eventually.
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