With the publication of ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ rapidly approaching, I’ve finally taken down most of the chapters posted on Wattpad, so that I can sign up for Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. I’ve left six chapters up as a sample, but I don’t expect them to get many reads.
I started posting the book on Wattpad a chapter at a time, many months ago, and then posted the remaining chapters more than a month ago. So how did it do? Some numbers:
Total reads: 2,018 (each chapter viewed counts as one read)
This is barely a blip in the Wattpad world, where the most popular books garner reads in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions. It’s more interesting to look at individual chapters.
Chapter 1: 450 reads
Chapter 2: 69 reads
Chapter 3: 60 reads
Chapter 4: 54 reads and so on.
So a lot of people looked at the first chapter, decided it wasn’t for them and moved on. This is very similar to potential purchasers looking at the sample on Amazon. I have no idea whether this is a typical distribution or not, but it’s not unexpected.
After the precipitous drop-off on chapter 2, numbers drifted slowly downwards through the first third of the book as readers lost interest or became distracted by newer, shinier books or real life. After that point, numbers stabilised, so virtually everyone who got to the one third point went on to finish the book. When a reader voted to say they enjoyed a chapter, I got a timed notification of that, so I could sometimes track a reader’s progress over many hours (in one case, eleven hours!). That was fascinating. But most readers didn’t vote or leave comments, they simply read, anonymously.
So how did Wattpad work out? In the early days, I participated in the forums, read and commented on other work and generally interacted with a lot of people. I followed 28 people, and acquired a similar number of followers (there’s quite a lot of tit-for-tat following amongst authors). After two or three months, my participation dropped to nothing, but the book had developed some modest momentum, and continued to attract new readers. I now have 43 followers.
Wattpad is a great place for beginning writers to stretch their wings in a friendly and supportive environment, but the lack of rigorous critique means it won’t help writers to improve. It’s also a good place for published authors to post a permafree book. It’s not great for building a fanbase of paying customers; Wattpadders like their free books. Even writers with vast numbers of fans on Wattpad have trouble translating that into sales.
For me, Wattpad was an interesting experiment. I enjoyed being part of the Wattpad community, and I found some awesome books to read (although you have to search for the good stuff). However, it was really the wrong time and wrong book to post, and if I’d known I would have to take it down to join KDP Select, I would never have started posting. I don’t regret posting there, I just wish I could have left the whole book on Wattpad and also had the freedom to sell it exclusively on Amazon. But self-publishing is about making these decisions for myself, and determining the direction of my writing career. Given the choice between selling the book on Amazon or giving it away on Wattpad, it’s really a no-brainer.