Wattpad is a game changer for authors, espeically YA authors if used right. It has 35 million active users, most of which are young adults. Non-YA authors can benefit a great deal, too, there are millions of speculative fiction readers on Wattpad.
Here is one success case featured in The Guardian article: “Brittany “The Book Slayer” Geragotelis is a Wattpad superstar. Her first serial on the platform, Life’s A Witch, gained more than 19m reads and lead to a six-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster.”
Excerpt from the author’s bio:
“After 10 years of rejection from the publishing industry, she began to post her original novel, Life’s a Witch, on the online writing site, Wattpad, hoping that others would enjoy reading her book. A year after the first upload, the book had received 19 million reads, which caught the attention of Publisher’s Weekly, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.”
Not kidding you. There are a few other cases mentioned in the article.
Well, how does it work?
I am no expert by any means but I am aiming to establish my presence on Wattpad, therefore I’ve spent some time analyzing how things work there. First of all, you don’t want to post long pieces. Wattpad users love serials and they get a buzz alert on their phones when an author they are following uploads a new piece. Majority of them read on their phones, so keeping it short keeps the audience engaged. I have deconstructed the pattern from the most followed and read authors on Wattpad and here is what they do:
* They upload a few pages at a time, usually once or twice a week as a running serial.
* They don’t upload whole chapters.
* They cut the text at an exciting scene, making the readers ache for the next update.
* They don’t upload new parts daily, but more like twice a week.
* At the end of each part, they remind the reader to vote and comment in bold letters. Adding the little reminder at the end of each new part makes a huge difference. I forgot in the beginning but I noticed how other popular authors were doing it so after I started adding the reminders, I started getting more votes and comments, which has resulted in more new readers.
If the story is compelling to the Wattpad crowd, they vote and then recommend it to their friends using the social media sharing widget. As I mentioned, most users read the stories on their mobile phones with the Wattpad app (yours truly included.)
If the story receives a lot of votes and comments, it climbs up on Wattpad top charts and more people see and add it. This is how I discovered a few great stories, by checking Wattpad’s top charts and daily recommendations. Social media sharing widget makes it very easy for people to spread the stories they like. Wattpad’s share button automatically tags them with #wattpad hashtag so the other Wattpad lovers see it on Twitter too, not just your readers’ Twitter followers.
When people add a story to their reading list, vote on it, comment on it, follow someone, it all shows up in their friends’ Wattpad feed much like the Facebook updates. So if someone adds your story and their friends happen to see, they might add it too or ask their friend if it’s good. This is how those authors got so many readers. Wattpad’s interface allows the stories to go viral, both by word of mouth between friends and the social media sharing tool.
To build up your initial audience, here are the steps to follow:
* First of all, link your blog, web site, social media profiles and Amazon page/book links on your Wattpad profile. Then add your Wattpad profile link to your blog, web site, social media profiles and announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and what have you. Let your friends and family know about it.
* Pick the most popular stories from Wattpad’s top charts that are in your genre and add them to your reading list. “Discover -> What’s hot” shows you the popular stuff. There are also genre links in the Discover menu which show you the most popupar stories in your selected genre.
* If you add a story to your public reading list, your Wattpad friends/followers will see it in the update feed.
* Click on the authors’ profiles and follow their followers. This is much faster to do on your phone/tablet than the computer. Trust me on this one!
* Follow Wattpad’s own tips about following and engaging the people: http://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/articles/201415550-How-do-I-Promote-my-story-
* If you have a lot of Twitter followers, I recommend manually tweeting your story with a compelling text and tagging it with #wattpad and #wattpadlife hashtags. These hashtags have a lot of followers and if you choose an interesting tagline, it will get retweeted and reach even more readers.
* If you have a blog or web site, make sure to add the Wattpad widget to it. Wattpad help section has instructions on how to do that: http://support.wattpad.com/hc/en-us/articles/201339374-How-do-I-use-the-Wattpad-Story-Widget-
*Wattpad has a cap for maximum 1,000 users you can follow. If you reach this limit, unfollow some people to add more. From my experience, approximately 40% of the users follow back. But then again I have not been adding much content, I only uploaded a very short prologue piece, perhaps I would have gotten more followers if I ran a serial.
* Add new parts twice a week. Don’t make them too long and end the part at an intriguing or cliffhanger kind of scene. Just like the old school magazine serials.
* Remember, as long as you are engaged with your readers, answering comments, thanking them for following and voting, also reading and voting on other people’s stories, you will get more followers every day. Besides, you will get to read some great stories form very talented folks.
Once you follow these basic steps and get a few hundred followers, then start running your serial. One thing I really need to mention here: Covers are important. Make sure to make an eye-catching cover. There are some amazing folks in the Wattpad community who make covers for free. You can message the writers who have great covers and ask them who made it. Wattpad people help each other out, friends promote each other’s stories. It’s an amazing community and you can benefit a great deal by being a contributing member.
Now, some of the people with stories read by tens of thousands of people do not have a huge number of followers. I am guessing the stories go viral and reach a huge audience over time. I have no idea how long it took to get the number of reads for each one. The follower building strategy I wrote above should give you a good head start nevertheless and make things quicker. Remember, you don’t get a huge number of reads overnight, it takes time as the word spreads. The important thing is to run it as a serial and supply it in small pieces.
If you are trying to promote a published book, then I recommend uploading 2-3 chapters as serials in a few weeks’ time and directing the readers to buy it on Amazon with a note in the end of it, such as: “If you want to read the rest, my book is available on Amazon/Nook/Kobo and here is the link”
Some authors presell books before release by uploading teaser chapters, using Wattpad as a launchpad. Some authors build an audience by posting standalone short stories featuring the characters of their novels. There are many different strategies you can try.
Here is The Guardian article about Wattpad for additional details: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/13/wattpad-kindle-fan-fiction-end-of-professional-novelist
My own Wattpad profile has 382 followers to date and I haven’t invested much time on it. But I have friends there with whom I talk via Wattpad private messaging facility, I read/vote on their stories if I can find some spare time. Between the full time job, reading books to blog about, my own writing and chronic illness flaring up at the most unexpected times, I haven’t been too active on Wattpad myself, but once I finish my novel I am planning to invest more time and upload some short stories and sample chapters before my book launch. My Wattpad profile is here: http://www.wattpad.com/user/LRHenry You can add me and read my stories there.
If you know any other tactics and strategies for success on Wattpad, please feel free to share in the comments section so everyone can benefit. I hope this article has been useful.