Wattpad is a website where authors can post their writing and readers can read it, free of charge. It’s been touted as a great way to bring your writing to readers’ attention, especially if you have a series of books out and are prepared to essentially give away the first in the series to draw in readers to the rest of the series. It can also work if you have novellas or short stories set in the same world.
Since I’m initially going to be putting at least my earliest work out in the world for free on this blog, it seems like a good idea to post it to Wattpad as well. The idea is that you can post a chapter a week (or whatever) and so build a readership slowly. This can also direct readers to your website/blog where you can sign them up to a newsletter or email list.
I signed up to have a look at it. Like most such sites nowadays, it’s clean to the point of austerity, but there’s no obvious ‘getting started’ button. Signing up on the tablet was a bit strange. I tried to verify my email address but no email was received, no idea why (possibly because on the tablet there may not be a default email client specified). Later I found it doesn’t work on the computer, either, and there are lots of disgruntled users with the same problem. It works if you connect to a Facebook account, apparently. Also, the buttons are a bit random on the tablet, so I had to install the app, which works fine. The app is mostly designed just for reading; it opens at your library and keeps your place between reads (this synchronises between tablet/phone/pc). It also scrolls nicely through each piece of writing with a very clean interface. The web-based version works fine on the computer, but it’s much more clunky to read stories, as you have to click for each separate page, and each chunk may be several pages long.
As a reader looking for material to read, the search function is a bit lacking. Each work is defined in two categories (and if ‘fantasy’ is one, then you can have ‘action’, ‘adventure’, ‘teenage’ or ‘non-teenage’, ‘werewolf’, etc, but not ‘epic’). Then each has tags (magic, sorcery, steampunk, or whatever), but at least there are lots of those. Unfortunately, while you can narrow your search by one or two categories, using tags as well is restricted to those listed as ‘trending’ and reduces the number of results drastically. You can sort the search results by various nebulous concepts (‘hot’, for instance), or by whether it’s complete or not. Wattpad has an awards system, and you can search for past winners to get some guarantee of quality.
Then it’s a matter of trawling through umpteen pages of work to find something that looks remotely interesting. Presumably a lot of people do this, because some works have millions of reads recorded. Readers can also favourite pieces they enjoy, and post comments. I found it very difficult to find anything worth reading. Casual searching revealed Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, which is a very good deal. Lindsay Buroker also has a few books posted there. Trouble is, it’s almost impossible to find the gems amongst the dross. Some of it is just sample chapters, with typos in the blurb, some is fan-fic, and some is non-English. The few I found that were readable were still naive in style, not polished, although entertaining enough.
It’s fairly clear that Wattpad appeals to a certain kind of reader. The biggest categories by far are Romance, FanFic and Teen. There are separate categories for (for instance) vampires and werewolves, which is a good idea. However, any author who isn’t aiming at this particular market will find it less productive.
Posting work seems to be very easy, just upload a txt file of less than 2Mb for each ‘chunk’ of story. You can add more chapters later. It seems to be very common to post a chapter a week. People then find your work, read it, become followers, favourite stories and add comments. There are clubs (like a forum), including one for fantasy, where you can advertise your story to bring it to people’s attention. Although there is a lot of amateur dross, there’s also a surprising amount of professional presentation going on, with proper covers and well-designed blurbs (although I found a lot of blurbs with typos). Wattpad has its own cover creation section, but it’s a bit limited.
Conclusion: it will probably be a useful place to post anything I’m posting for free on the blog, and since it allows links to the blog, it may well bring readers here. So it could be useful.