Since I joined Wattpad almost two years ago, I’ve had mixed feelings about the platform. Quite honestly, at this point in time, I even have a hard time remembering why I even joined, whether it was to read or to have others read my stories. Regardless, throughout these last couple of years, I’ve had an on-off-on-again type of relationship with Wattpad.
Once I started looking into posting stories on Wattpad, I quickly realized that to get any traction would take a lot of work. At the time, it was additional work (and time) I wasn’t willing to invest. Add to that mixed stories about success and I wondered many times whether it was worth it.
What is Wattpad?
If for some reason you’ve lived the last few years in a cave, Wattpad is an online community where you can post your stories for free, connect with other readers and writers from around the world, read and support each other’s stories. It’s like a social network for writers and readers which center around the stories of the writers. With over five million monthly visitors from all over the world, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Not only does Wattpad have a millions of visitors but there are also a ton of genres with a lot of stories by n any writers. Science fiction, adventure, romance and on and on it goes. It’s all there. Add to that the so called clubs (which in reality is nothing more than a forum), profile walls, private messaging, charts which show the top 1000 stories in each genre, plus featured stories, contests and more. Yes, I Wattpad is very much a social network.
As big as Wattpad is, it does have a little bit of a murky reputation (in my opinion). If you search the web for opinions on Wattpad, you’ll read posts that say that you absolutely have to be on Wattpad while others say it’s a waste of time. Others complain that the demographics skew towards the younger ages and won’t fit their books. Yet others complain that the quality of stories on there is terrible and they wouldn’t want to put their stories on there for fear of being tainted.
The fact is, all of the above is true in one way or another. I’ve seen it myself. It is also why I held back from really getting involved for so long.
What I eventually realized, as I struggled with whether to dive in or not, is that Wattpad truly is a social network and needs to be treated like one. I just didn’t think of it that way initially. To go anywhere on Wattpad, you need to take the time to get engaged, to interact with other writers and their stories. It’s the same way on other social media networks. Take Twitter as an example. I’ve noticed that when I’m really active on Twitter, my followers shoot up. People reply back, they like my stuff, visit this website when I link to posts, they retweet and all that. It’s the same with blogs. The more regularly you post, the higher the likelihood that someone’s going to come by, read it and subscribe to your blog. On Wattpad, just instead of tweets and photos about the latest birthday party, you’re sharing stories.
So, I made a decision: Jump in with both feet and see what happens.
What I Did
First, I had to decide what I wanted to get out of Wattpad. Readers and fans? Check. Interaction and feedback? Check. Make some new friends? Check. To get there, however, I also knew that I needed a good story or two to anchor my profile, to get people interested. So, the first thing I did was go back to a place I’ve visited on many occasions before: the Wattpad Scifi Writing Challenge (It was through participation in this challenge that I first started to realize what I needed to do to get my stories out there).
Several times a year, sometimes every month, they post a new challenge that anyone can participate in. One of these challenges resulted in a short story you’ve seen me mention many times before, “The Descent.” It was a pretty popular story and I received some good feedback from other participants in the challenge to the point where I rewrote the whole story to expand it beyond the constraints of the challenge (2,000 words).
While I was doing this, I also started reaching out to other writers, check out their stories. I realized pretty quickly that trying to interact and comment on stories with millions of reads may not be the best approach. Any comments I added disappeared in the noise of hundreds of other comments. So, I started looking for writers that wrote the kind of stories that I like to read, writers that themselves read other people’s stories (in my case, the type of stories I like to write) and actively commented and voted on the stories they read. I started to follow them, to read their stories, vote, and comment.
Then, I looked closer at the clubs (forums). I looked for threads where I could participate in order to get to know other writers better. For example, I found a fun thread for those 35 and older which fit me perfectly. You can find threads about pretty much any topic, from cover design ideas to discussions about science and fantasy worlds.
At this point, the number of readers on “The Descent” was slowly increasing. People were voting, leaving comments. New followers were appearing and my new readers were adding my stories to their public reading lists (which is another way to tell your readers that you like stories written by others).
Out of the blue, I’m suddenly invited by the author of a book I had just read (and he read one of mine) to participate in an experiment: write a chapter of the story of his that I had just read. His plan was simple: invite a bunch of people to write chapters of his story while he continued his own chapters. The guest chapters would be posted on the guest writer’s profile, linked there from the main story. At the end of the guest chapter, there would be a link back to the main story. The benefit of this plan: the readers of the original story, Voynich Shift, would get a varied set of stories about the main character and get exposed to other writers. For the writers, they would benefit from the high ranking of the Voynich Shift (often in the top 50 sci-fi books), gain additional readers and followers as a result of a reader going through the storyline. It was a win-win, I thought.
I agreed and a week later, I had posted my entry into the storyline of the Voynich Shift. It didn’t take long before I started seeing new traffic to my profile. As people read the Voynich Shift, they came over to read my chapter and then continued to the next chapter of the primary story. At the time of writing this post, that story, The City In The Clouds, has about 340 reads.
Around the time I wrote my entry for the Voynich Shift, I also started being tagged by other writers in awards and competitions. Due to my relative lack of completed, full-length works, I hadn’t thought of participating in these before. However, as these tags continued, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try. If nothing else, someone would notice the story and check it out.
In the last month, I’ve entered a couple of competitions. One is due to start its voting process any day while the other one, the Monthly Elimination Awards just finished. I entered The Descent into both.
Although the above only represents part of my recent experience with Wattpad, I can say without a doubt that the time I put in has been rewarding in many ways.
Since early May, my followers have almost doubled. In July, The Descent made it to 2nd place in the sci-fi category of the Monthly Elimination Awards. Considering that the story is short and up against more developed stories, this was a pleasant surprise.
The Descent is now at over 400 reads while The City In The Clouds, the Voynich Shift story, is sitting at 340 reads. I find that people are adding The Descent to their reading lists almost on a daily basis and slowly but surely, new readers are drawn in.
I’ve also found that I have readers for The Descent in all age groups, from young adults to retirees. I’ve discovered that 46% of my readers are from North America. 30% are from India and Asia, 9% from Europe and 3% each for Africa and Australia.
I’ve also encountered a bunch of talented writers whose stories I’m enjoying at the moment, stories I recommend you check out if you’re on Wattpad.
- The Voynich Shift by @CAMalosh – A sci-fi story set in a multitude of multiverses, this is the story by the writer that invited me to participate in his story, as discussed above.
- Singularity Matrix by @jwdowden – Although new to Wattpad, when I read the first chapter of the Singularity Matrix, a sci-fi detective story of sorts, I was instantly drawn in. In fact, here’s an example of a complete newbie on Wattpad that has a great story to tell but with few followers. Yet, the story is good enough that there’s no reason why it couldn’t attract thousands if people only knew about it.
- Abbernathy and the Cat Kingdom by @OctaviaLocke – What if that cat in your lap actually could talk and is a prince in the kingdom of the cats, full of magic, treachery, and war? Well, in this story, that’s exactly what happens. I’ve only just started reading this one but it’s a fantastic story so far that I can’t but help to recommend to anyone that likes fantasy.
- Five Minute SciFi Stories by @leahcanscience – A collection of sci-fi shorts, maybe more aptly labeled flash fiction, Leah’s stories are well crafted and hits on all kinds of very fascinating subjects. Some are odd, others fun. Her stories show an intimate knowledge of science and logic and she’s a writer that knows how to spin a tale. Overall, well worth the five minutes per story to read.
- Sceptic by @astronomicon – This story was only on Wattpad for a short while but I’m glad I got to read it. It was an interesting mesh of the future tied to organized religion and how one person suddenly turned everything upside down by simply allowing a new AI unfiltered access to the Internet. At least four of his books are currently in the top 100 list on Wattpad and several of them can also be purchased online on Amazon. If you’re at all into sci-fi, you’re missing out if you don’t check out his books.
But How About The Bad Stuff?
Like I mentioned above, Wattpad does have its share of issues. What social network doesn’t? Yet, looking at the negatives without looking at the positives wouldn’t be a fair comparison either.
For example, one criticism of Wattpad is that it often skews to the younger crowd, both from the reading audience and writers. Although this is probably true, what I found when I look at the stats of my audience is a pretty even split into age groups.
Another gripe about Wattpad is that there isn’t a clear path to publishing. Although that certainly seems true, from what I’ve seen there are plenty of authors on Wattpad that are published either outside of Wattpad or use the Wattpad fan base as a foundation to get published. I’m honestly not the right person to dive further into what’s possible in this regard since my focus at the moment is building a fan base.
There are also plenty of terrible writers (not unexpected) but quite often that’s simply because they have yet to learn the craft. There are many, many young writers that are very passionate about their stories. As they punch out chapter after chapter, they would like nothing else than someone to help them out, point them in the right direction, even pick their stories apart so they can learn and do better. You have to admire their desire to get their stories written, good or not.
For example, I’ve run into many people whose first language isn’t English, just like me. They struggle with English but they write anyway. They have that story that just demands to be written. Some do better than others but I sympathize with them because I’m in the same boat. Just the other day I ran into this story by a guy that follows me.What I found was a sci-fi/fantasy mashup that had some of the worst grammar and sentence structure of any story I’ve seen on Wattpad. Reading it was hard. It was a mess. But, behind all of that, I saw a story that appealed to me. I saw a protagonist that was different, fascinating, someone I wanted to know more about. I realized that if this guy could get a nudge in the right direction, just a few basic things, his story could be so much more enjoyable. So, I sent him a note with a few basic suggestions which he turned out to be very appreciative of.
This part of Wattpad is one that I didn’t expect. Although I’ve participated in the Monthly Writing Challenge on Twitter for almost two years now and truly appreciate the support and encouragement this group provides, I hadn’t quite expected to get involved in the same way on Wattpad. Obviously, I’m no expert on writing myself, but to be able to help at all is, to be honest, immensely satisfying in itself.
Admittedly, this maybe not for everyone but those of you that participate in the Monthly Writing Challenge on Twitter will recognize the importance of a support group and structure, to help writers advance in their craft, help them get their stories out there for the world to consume. Recognize that yes, their writing may literally suck but they have good ideas. Reach out, encourage them, find ways to say that hey, change a bit here, a bit there, it’ll flow better. Sure, it won’t make the overall story much better immediately but it encourages them to keep working at it.
The worst part about the above story? There was actually a comment from another reading telling this writer how wonderful and professional their writing was. If anything, that’s the kind of ignorant praise you have to watch out for, the kind you can expect, the kind you should ignore.
Should you post your stuff on Watttpad or not? Is it worth the time you have to spend on there? In the end, it comes down to time investment and what you want to achieve. Wattpad is not a sure way to publication and riches but it is a way to build a fan base, get to know other writers and find a place to read quite a few good ones as well. As long as you set your expectations accordingly, go for it. It can be a very rewarding experience if you let it. I know it has been for me, to the point that I know I’m sticking around.
Feel free to visit my profile on Wattpad, check out my stories and some of the ones I’ve mentioned above.
I hope to see you there.