Over at the #NALitChat on Twitter (Thursdays, 9pm EST), we've been talking a lot about marketing. And one subject that has come up a lot is Wattpad and discussion about what kind of marketing tool it is. There are lots of success stories of authors gaining popularity there and selling tons of books--sometimes even getting publishing contracts like Abigail Gibbs who landed a six figure publishing deal for her vampire novel. But like all forms of marketing, these success stories don't spell out a guarantee for other authors. The big question seems to be this: Is Wattpad worth it?
Short answer from me? Yes.
I posted an older version of my first book Heirs of War on Wattpad last summer, and the book was featured in September, just a month before the release of the published version (read: the version that had an editor). The people at Wattpad were great. I originally had the book listed as Adult (it's actually New Adult, but there isn't a category for that) but they suggested I switch it to Teen in order to reach a larger audience. The promotion they gave the book was stellar--they posted a "Cover Off" for readers to choose between two covers (which ultimately helped me decide) and posted about it on Facebook and Twitter.
Eight months later, my book is still ranking on their lists. It's currently #146 for Fantasy with over 800k reads. (Quick explanation: The amount of reads you have is actually a total of every chapter. For me, Chapter 1 has almost 600k reads, but Chapter 25 has almost 10k. So I think around 10k people have finished the book.) I have 2k followers on there and am constantly getting new ones. People are still commenting on the book, and I love getting to see what they think of specific parts.
Now, the big question a lot of authors might have for Wattpad is whether or not it will help drive sales. I can't really say until the second book comes out this summer (though I will be sure to post an update), but I can try to answer some of the questions I've seen about Wattpad based on my experience.
If you post your book for free on Wattpad, won't you lose sales?
Mmmm....yes and no. On the one hand, if you have the book for free, then why will people buy it? But some people will. The great thing about Wattpad is that there are loyal readers there. You give them something, and they are going to give back and continue to follow you. One on one interaction is key in building strong reader-writer relationships, and Wattpad is the perfect place for that. And Wattpad has put my book in front of an audience I might not have been able to reach otherwise as a debut author.
But won't people expect you to post all of your books for free on there too? Especially if it is a series?
Again, there's some truth to this. First of all, your book might not be available to every country that Wattpad can reach. I've had quite a few readers from the Philippines and Africa who have told me that they can't find the book for sale in their areas. So what do I do? I ask them to tell me who they shop through, and assure them that I will do everything I can do get my book out there. Recently, this meant expanding my distribution to Google Play, which is something that hadn't occurred to me before.
That being said, there's a negative side to this as well because *some* people will get mad that you aren't offering your other books for free. I've had maybe a handful of people get snotty with me when they found out the second book won't be available in its entirety on Wattpad. And that's after I explained in my FAQs that I have an editor and a cover artist I need to pay (and those little things called bills that adults have to deal with). But those people are few and far between, even if they are quite loud. More often than not, I have people telling me how excited they are to buy the next book or promising to buy everything I write for the rest of time. Will all of those people follow through? Probably not, but the support still means something.
Isn't Wattpad a huge time commitment? I'm already on every form of social media known to man.
I guess it can be, depending on how you use it. It isn't for me, but I skipped a lot of the audience building by having my book featured. If you are doing a serial, then it can be more time consuming as you try to engage readers in the "clubs" (forums) and leave reviews for other works in hopes that the author will return the favor. I haven't had experience with this side of Wattpad since I skipped ahead with getting featured. I do take some time with it, but much less than with other forms of social media. I try to respond to every message and comment I get, and some days they add up more than others. But I wouldn't call it a huge time commitment. It's honestly one of the best parts for me. I love seeing what people have to say and answering their questions and theories about my series.
Isn't Wattpad just another place to post fanfiction?
Yes, but there's a lot more to it than that. With big name authors who have best sellers under their belts like Kevin J Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Kim Harrison, and Jessica Sorensen (just to name a few) joining in and featuring their works there, it's hard not to see the benefits of Wattpad. Brandon Sanderson's WarBreaker was featured the same week as Heirs of War. Is there fanfiction on Wattpad? Yes. After all, fanfiction is where some authors (like me) start. Are there original works on Wattpad that will make you cringe to read? Yes. Heck, the version of Heirs of War that is on Wattpad is enough to make any professional writer cringe. But as the Wattpad site and community continue to grow, so does the level of professionalism that might be seen on there.
If I'm not using Wattpad to drive sales, then what is the point?
To connect with readers! Thanks to Wattpad, Heirs of War has been embraced by readers all over the world, and I've been able to connect directly with those readers. And I continue to engage them with things like my Fan Favorites Contest and Shipping Wars, where they vote for their favorite character or relationship and are entered to win a chance to appear in an extra scene or write a scene with me. I get a lot of requests to read people's stories on there or to cowrite, so getting a chance to work with a reader is great. I hate having to say no, but realistically I have to because there just isn't enough time in the day. But contests like this allow me to still get that opportunity, which is so rewarding. I've also posted preview chapters for the second book and will be using Wattpad to post deleted and extra scenes for the entire series. I might not be able to give the readers all of my books for free, but I can do my best to give them as much as possible as a thank you for their enthusiasm and support.
The bottom line is this: Word of mouth is essential for authors. While Wattpad reads don't necessarily equate to sales for everyone, what it does mean is that you are reaching more people and building direct relationships with those readers. And they'll remember that. To me, those relationships are the best marketing tool you can have. You might not reach a million followers like some of the other success stories, but that doesn't mean the ones you do gain don't matter. They do, and I think it will pay off in the long run.
What are your thoughts on Wattpad? Do you have questions about it I didn't cover? Let me know! I'm always happy to help.