Practically the only thing I knew about WattPad before I decided to dip my toe in its waters was that the redoubtable Margaret Atwood – my Canadian literary hero – was a member and a strong exponent. The fact that she championed it was enough to make me want to explore further.
WattPad, like GoodReads, is a social media site where readers can interact with writers. The big advantage of WattPad is that it has a big membership of young readers, all hungry to find something else to read. And while Goodreads allows readers to review published books, WattPad allows readers to participate in the creative process.
In many ways, WattPad recreates for a digital age the old idea of a novel serialised – as many of Dickens’ were – in a newspaper. Author members of WattPad post extracts of their work on the site and encourage readers to follow along with them, commenting as they go, and even perhaps changing the outcome the story through their input.
Authors can in theory post in just about any genre, but given the demographic of the readers, by far the most popular genre, and therefore those most likely to attract a big following, are SciFi, Fantasy and Young Adult.
So how do you go about taking your first steps on WattPad?
Start by setting up an account (user name, email and password). Then you can add an avatar and background image, and write a bit about yourself in your profile.
As with any social media site, it is only polite to ‘give’ as well as ‘take’, so your next step should be to look around for people to follow. Find some authors working in genres you are interested in and follow them. Look for a some who have a big following to see how they operate, but also pick a few new to the site with a smaller following who will appreciate the support.
Once you have explored a little, read a few things on offer, made some comments, it’s time to start posting things of your own.
The recommended approach is to post a chapter at a time (<2k words preferred), and to do so regularly, at the same time each week (say midday on Friday). So it is ideal if you have one or more books with good drafts complete, but on which you would still welcome feedback. Or if you are part-way through something that is really flowing well and you can be fairly sure of being able to keep up the pace.
Posting is dead easy. You just drop text into the box available.
One of the best things about WattPad is that there is no competition and no ‘scoring’ of books. If readers find you, they will read and comment, and you are encouraged to interact with them.
You are at liberty, and even encouraged, to add links to where people can buy completed books. And the word is that some at least will buy the book if they have loved your writing. But it is in essence somewhere people can read for free. So if you are after building up a readership, and you have the right sort of books to offer, this could be the place for you.
YA author, Chele Cooke, is a vastly more experienced WattPad User. Here are her top tips:
The most important lesson for me when it came to Wattpad is that reads rarely translate into sales. So, if you're doing it trying to bolster sales, you're wasting your time. Readers have a wealth of books for free through the platform, and so most likely won't run out and buy everything you've ever written after reading a sample.
However, you will be able to find some fantastic fans who will shout about your work to their friends. So perhaps post that free book you're offering, or take that idea you're unsure about and post it weekly, building an organic fan base who will be thrilled to vote and comment, and might even help you work out the kinks and make your new book something readers love.
My 3 main tips for Wattpad:
1. Update regularly (I recommend weekly) with new and exciting content to get readers excited and coming back.
2. Remember that this is not marketing. Don't be that guy screaming 'read my book' but instead engage with readers in the clubs and by reading their work.
And number 3. Be nice! Even if someone gives you a horrid review, remember that this is public, and if you're 'that author', people will steer clear.
You can find Chele's Wattpad profile here.
And you can read more about her Wattpad adventure - and get some more great advice on how best to use the platform - here.
One or two Triskele members will be delving deeper into WattPad in the coming months and will report back on their experiences in due course.