Is Wattpad a Waste of Time or an Indispensable Tool?

Rachel Reuben, who blogs at writingbytheseatofmypants.com/, has a great blog for tips on social media, different writing sites, and anything else you want to know about the indie author market. I found where when searching randomly about Wattpad, a free story posting site apparently populated by girls and women 15-25 (Average Wattpad age is 20) who like romance, vampire love stories and Harry Potter fan-fic.

I sent Rachel an e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking about her thoughts Wattpad since she didn’t appear to have any good experiences using it, even though she writes in the most same genres as Wattpad’s audience likes to read. Here’s what she wrote back:

“What I meant about the Wattpad post was that I believe it’s a site for building a platform of readers who like your work but not much else.  This is ideal for those authors looking to traditionally publish because several writers on the site have gotten publishing contracts after scoring millions of views.  It’s well known that agents and acquisition editors want authors with a built in platform before they’ll dare to sign them.  Wattpad shows them that you’re marketable and you can build a following without them.

However, if you’re an indie author with a book to sell, it’s probably not worth the time.  I don’t know of any indie authors who can trace any boost in sales to Wattpad.  If you want sales, you’ll have to advertise and borrow the platforms of other influencers in your genre.  Wattpad makes it difficult to sell a book on its site because the buy buttons are nearly invisible.  I had a reader ask me to post the rest of my book on the site (I posted only the first 3 chapters).  I told her it was available on Amazon and all she had to do was click the buy button.  This caused a bit of confusion because she had no idea there even was a buy button.  Yes, it’s that tiny!  But Wattpad does this in order to keep readers on their site and not send them off to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  It’s a wise move on their part, but it sucks for us indie authors looking to sell a book.  So no, I don’t believe this site is ideal.

The only reason I would use Wattpad again is to post a short story or prequel to a novel I’m already selling.  I would link to the novel in my bio as well as mention it at the end of the story.  Bestselling authors like Margret Atwood are doing this on Wattpad too.

It’s a smart move because these days, we have to maximize our time and that means staying away from things that don’t work and Wattpad just doesn’t seem to work when it comes to sales.”

I signed up for a Wattpad account, though I haven’t yet posted anything (I will with things I don’t mind giving away for free). A review of the most-read stories shows, indeed, that romance, paranormal, and teen “chik-lit” stuff dominates. For example, fantasy and sci-fi’s most popular (non romantically-oriented) stories were in the six figure reads. But when it came to romance, some stories had as many as 40 million! Look at the genre followers, and romance far outpaces every other topic.
Now even as a man I have some romance story ideas which someday I will publish. The concerns I have are:
  •  Wattpad stories are free which means you could reach millions of readers but have zero to little sales. If you have a site where people expect a free story, then asking them to buy it is a problem.
  • If you don’t write primarily for teenage girls or young women, you probably can’t get noticed since your writing likely won’t interest the typical reader.
  • they apparently are allowing bigger names like Margaret Atwood to post on the site, which will make discovery for new writers even more of a challenge.
Among the pros, if you do write romance or chik-lit, you stand a better chance at building an audience or adding e-mail subscribers. If you want to test a story, this looks like a great place to do a run and see if it’s working.
What about you? Have you tried using Wattpad before?
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2 thoughts on “Is Wattpad a Waste of Time or an Indispensable Tool?

  1. I’ve been on Wattpad 2-1/2 years and they’ve been updating the site a lot since I started. Wattpad now has a visible Buy on Amazon link that appears on the main page of your story (right side) and on each chapter page, there is also a Buy on Amazon link at the bottom of the text of your chapter, and it’s clear as day to see with the new format.

    Stories by Margaret Atwood don’t make the discovery of new writers hard at all. When you think about the Wattpad reader demographic you stated, not a lot of them have heard of Margaret Atwood. Hell, even people my age haven’t heard of Margaret Atwood, so making it harder to discover new writers, that argument doesn’t hold water. They may have lots of fans, but their stories don’t appear on the Hot Lists because they don’t update as regularly as amateur writers do. There’s also R.L. Stine who held a contest last Halloween that garnered a lot of participation.

    It’s easy to discount Wattpad on the assumption that because they feature free stories, the last thing people want to do is buy your book. Some people still buy the book to support the author, or if the rough draft is what’s on wattpad, I’d rather get the final draft by purchasing it. If I do it, I’m sure a lot of Wattpad readers do the same as well.

    Wattpad is merely one platform where a writer can build readership. It can be a deciding factor to include when you query a story – whether your story garnered 1M reads in less than 4 months (like Taran Matharu who is now under a major publishing company: http://www.wattpad.com/user/TaranMatharu) or 1 B reads (like Anna Todd: http://www.wattpad.com/user/imaginator1D) or that you 80K fans or followers. To close that avenue is foolish, IMO, but I can see how it can’t work for some writers because to become successful on Wattpad, one has to remember that it’s also a social site. Merely posting your stories and thinking people will clamor for your work while not bothering to interact with readers and fellow writers (there are lots of older writers and readers on Wattpad as well) is as good as watching paint dry – and you’ll be doing that for a long, long time.

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    • Thanks for your feedback. I think the concerns Rachel brought up is that, in her more experienced opinion, Wattpad is frequented by people who want free stories, not necessarily something they will want to pay for. If one wants to build a following, Wattpad offers discoverability. If one wants to actually sell books, though, she said she doesn’t know any indies who can trace a significant sales bump to posting content free online.

      Wattpad’s typical user is female, mostly high school and young adults in college or just after it. No doubt romance and fan fiction dominate- so the question is, if one tries to use Wattpad for a non-romance story, does this person even have a chance?
      I agree, interaction is important. I did follow a few pages and offer to read stories and I posted on a few of the topic walls but maybe I’m doing it wrong But as I’ve posted, as a guy in his mid 20s, I don’t think it’s very easy to try to interact with girls and women 5=10 years younger than me, even if I do write romance.

      As for the Wattpad success stories, I’ve never heard of either of those people before, so I would think a billion reads would mean something in mainstream culture and I’m surprised I haven’t heard of her before, especially since I subscribe to Digital Book World, ShelfPro, and other publication sites. But to be fair, it hasn’t been done before we will soon find out if millions or billions of reads on Wattpad matters significantly in creating bestselling authors like 50 shades. This is compared to using Goodreads, Kboards, or other sites. Will be a great way to find out!

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