For the last month I’ve been posting a medieval fantasy story of mine on Wattpad, and it seems to be working well for me. A lot of my followers on Facebook ask me what exactly Wattpad is, and though I’ve only been using it for a month, here’s a simple explanation: it is a safe place to post your work, build a fan base, and get feedback. Of course, there are precautions you should consider.
The first question on everyone’s mind is, “If I post it online, can someone steal it?” And the answer is ‘yes’. If anything is online, then someone somewhere will get creative enough to figure out how to steal whatever they want. No amount of protection will prevent it. However, having said that, your work is protected by copyright on Wattpad, and if you find someone stealing your work, you can report it to Wattpad. Also, I’ve learned that you cannot select any text of a story in order to copy and paste it elsewhere (I was trying to point out an editorial error to an author when I discovered this). This means if someone really wanted to steal your story, they’re going to have to type it up word-for-word or get creative some other way. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and unfortunately that goes with theft and plagiarism as well. This may frighten many of you away from ever posting anything online, and that is your decision.
Another question that is asked when I describe Wattpad is, “If I post my story on Wattpad, will I still be able to publish it with a publisher?” The answer to this is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. First of all, if you’re self-publishing, then you have nothing to worry about. You can publish it whenever you want. However, if you’re determined to go the traditional route with publishing, certain publishing houses may absolutely refuse anything you’ve posted online, but then again, other traditional publishers scour Wattpad for successful stories and sometimes offer the authors contracts based on the success of their stories on the site. Yes, this is extremely rare, and you shouldn’t aim for this. Instead, you should view your posting on Wattpad and gaining a following as proof to any publisher that you do have an audience and that your book will sell. A publisher may see this and be more prone to consider your work due to the backing it obviously has. You simply need to consider which publishing house you really want to publish with and determine if they have a requirement that bars any manuscripts that have been posted anywhere online.
Now with those questions out of the way, let’s discuss the pros and cons of Wattpad. Let’s talk about the downside first because I like ending a post on a more positive note.
Due to the fact that Wattpad is open and free with no filter to sift through its content, stories posted there may be in any stage of writing. It could be the very first draft or close-to-the-last draft or anywhere in-between. Most people on Wattpad don’t have editors, so some stories are riddled with editorial errors while others are pretty clean. You’d just have to accept this and understand where they are in the stage of the story. You can always point out errors, but I recommend doing so privately just to be considerate. Sometimes at the beginning of a story, there will be a disclaimer, “This is the rough draft! I apologize for any errors you see!” This allows us, the readers, to be a bit more forgiving.
A second downfall of Wattpad is, because stories can be posted at any stage of the writing, a lot of the stories are works in progress. This is cool as the story continues and you interact with the writer because maybe you can influence the story. However, a lot of times the writer may lose interest in the story and stop writing altogether. This is a fate worse than our favorite character’s death—an incomplete story. What is the best way to counter this? Write the story beforehand—complete it—and then post it on Wattpad, chapter-by-chapter. It’s less stressful that way, and you can update it more regularly.
To summarize the advantages of Wattpad in two main reasons: author/reader interaction and platform building.
When you publish a book, one of the things you encounter is the general feedback of your book as a whole, “It was a very intriguing story.” or “All the characters were very realistic. The struggle was difficult, and yet it was masterfully handled.” And then you could get a paragraph or two as a review, which is still a summary of your story. While all that is wonderful and much appreciative, Wattpad offers writers the unique opportunity to experience the story with the readers—chapter-by-chapter.
You see, with each chapter, you’ve poured a bit of yourself into it. You’ve struggled with the words, the sentences, maybe even argued with the characters and cried or shouted in glee when you’ve finished the chapter. You’ve snuck in little bits that tie in with the future of the story—foreshadowing, and you really want to know if anyone catches it. With Wattpad, you have the opportunity to get feedback from your readers throughout their journey through the story. They tell you their suspicions about characters, “I don’t think he’s bad, but he does have his own agenda…” Or they tell you how they had perceived a situation, “I thought he was hiding from his brothers because they were villains, but apparently not…” So on and so forth. As they discover more and uncover more about the different angles of the story, they share their excitement, and this is thrilling and makes the entire writing, revision, and editing process worthwhile. To me, it’s the best part of writing.
Throughout this, while you’re interacting with your readers, you are actually building a platform for your work—a fan base. These are people who will buy your book once you’ve published it because not only do they know your work, but they also know you, and that is unique.
Other than posting your story faithfully, there are other things you can do to broaden your scope, and that is reading others’ work, and commenting and voting on the chapters. Start dialogue with other authors. Get to know one another and come to support each other. You see, the ranking system is odd. While someone could get 100 views in a day and over 20 votes for their story, their ranking could sink into the 100s. However, the moment you begin viewing other stories and interacting with them, the ranking has a tendency to jump above 100. The higher your ranking is, the more exposure your story gets on Wattpad, so that means more people can see it, read it, enjoy it, and continue the cycle of goodwill. Is this a foolproof way of getting a higher ranking? No. The ranking system is very confusing, but due to the experiments I’ve done trying to figure out the system, this is the best way I’ve determined to at least keep the ranking above a hundred.
Will you automatically become a bestseller once you publish your book if you’re popular on Wattpad? Maybe—maybe not. I can’t guarantee that, but you do have better chances if you did participate with Wattpad than if you didn’t. Just keep in mind the risk you take when posting anything online.
So try it out, and feel free to follow me. You can find me here: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Kellannetta I tend to follow those who follow me. Whenever I want to read something on Wattpad, I usually go to my Followers first to see what they have, read, comment, and vote. Hope to see you on Wattpad!