What is Wattpad?
Wattpad is a free social media app for writers and readers. Writers of all abilities, from newbies to professional authors, can post stories one chapter at a time. Founded in 2006, Wattpad has more than 40 million users worldwide - and the majority are readers.
Most stories are read on a mobile phone; 50% of stories are written on a mobile phone. The most popular genres are YA, New Adult, sci-fi and romance. Wattpad is popular with teenagers, but 35% of users are aged between 18 and 30. Most users live in the USA, Canada and the UK, and it's the number one app in the Philippines.
It's not just for fan fiction either. Many established authors use Wattpad, including Margaret Atwood, Colleen Hoover and Meg Cabot.
But Is Wattpad For You?
If you are new to writing, I would suggest joining with a couple of friends. Wattpad is a great way to share and comment on each other's stories. You can add photos, videos and create a cast list of actors who you would love to play the part of your characters. My seventeen-year-old self would have loved Wattpad!
If you are a published author it can be an excellent way to connect with new readers - but it won't necessarily lead to book sales. As Wattpad is free to use, you are effectively giving away your work for free too. Consider posting the first book in a series, or a novella, or short samples of novels - the first two or three chapters. Check this is OK with your publisher first though. If you are with KDP Select, for example, you are limited to not publishing more than 10% of your book on any other website, including your own.
When I first joined Wattpad, I posted two 10,000 word short stories, originally published in an anthology, to which I still owned the rights. One of these, The Accidental Proposal, was chosen by Wattpad to be one of their Featured Reads. You don't have to wait for your story to be chosen for this promotion, you can apply here. The only rule is that you have to agree for that story to stay on Wattpad for 6 months. The advantage of having your story featured is that you'll gain more readers and followers.
If you are unpublished and serious about your writing, do be careful exactly what you post. Some competitions and publishers have a rule that they won't accept a story if it has already been published elsewhere - and that will include Wattpad.
As with any social media account, put a bit of effort into setting up your profile. Use a unique picture for your avatar, either a photo of yourself or a picture that in some way represents you. And don't forget the banner (background strip at the top of the profile). Most users have a pen name but if you are already published, or have other social media accounts, or a blog/website, it makes sense to use the same name so you can be easily found by your readers. You can add links to these accounts from your Wattpad profile, and when you post a story you can also add a link to a retailer such as Amazon or Kobo.
Each chapter of a story counts as a separate read/vote, so it makes sense to post each chapter as a separate instalment. For example, Why Do Fools Fall in Love has fifty-two chapters, so one person reading the whole story would be the equivalent to fifty-two reads.
It is up to you how long your chapters are. I try to aim for at least 1,000 words per instalment, preferably 1,500 words. It certainly makes you think about where to put your cliffhangers!
Votes are worth more than reads, so gently encourage readers to vote for your story if they have enjoyed it. At the end of each of my chapters I have a 'call to action':
Thank you for reading my story!
If you have enjoyed it, please help others find it by voting!
I also add the date the next chapter will be posted.
If you are serialising a novel, try to post a new instalment once a week. If you want your story to rise up through the charts, you will need to post at least twice a week.
Wattpad readers are non-critical when it comes to spelling mistakes and typos - to them, the characters and the story are more important - but don't use this as an excuse not to post your very best work! If you are posting a work-in-progress, you can go back and edit it at any time.
After you've published a new chapter, double-check for errors. I copy and paste my chapters, which look absolutely fine until I hit 'publish' - and then everything mysteriously shifts to the left. Occasionally words merge and weird symbols appear. So I always make sure I check through what I've posted after publishing as well as before.
Remember to share your stories to your other social media accounts. Widgets are available to add to websites and blogs. (If you're not sure what a widget is, you can see examples on the promo page of my website). You can also create quote art - a line or two from your story set against a pretty background.
Like Facebook and Twitter, you can post a message to your followers via the Conversations tab. Readers can write on your 'wall' and you can send direct messages to individual users. And every time you update a story, your followers will receive a notification.
Why I love Wattpad
One thing I found extremely disconcerting at first, was the way a reader can comment at any point during the text! But once I got over myself, I realised what a great idea it was. The comments are almost always positive and as a writer it is lovely to see how readers are engaging with your story and characters.
As stories are told in instalments, forcing readers to wait for the next part, it really made me think about where the best place was to end the chapter - and how much of a page-turner that chapter really was. It also made me think about the reader and what their reaction was likely to be to an upcoming scene.
If you are a published author, with little or no free time, looking for a social media site to do the whole 'buy my book' thing, Wattpad probably isn't for you.
If you are a published author wanting to expand on your readership, and you're happy to chat to fans about your characters and plot twists, you could post up a novella or the first book in a series.
If you are new to writing and want to connect with fellow authors, and you have a thick enough skin to cope with readers putting comments all over your work, then why not give Wattpad a try? You could set up a profile and read other people's stories to get a feel for the site first, until you feel brave enough to dive in and post one of your own.
Like all social media, you'll get the most out of Wattpad the more you use it, and by being friendly, genuine and social. You need to take the time to do it properly - set up a profile, post stories or extracts, and interact with readers and other writers. Read, comment and vote for other people's stories; become involved.
And above all, don't forget to have fun!
How to start writing on Wattpad
Novelistas on Wattpad:
Writing: Getting Serious
Louise Marley writes romantic comedy and romantic suspense, and is a creative writing tutor with Writing Magazine. Her most recent book is Something Wicked.