While attending the Superstars Writing Conference in February of 2015, I ran into Ashleigh Gardner, the Head of Content and Publishing at Wattpad. Okay, okay. I didn’t just “run into her.” I cornered her. For 45 minutes. She’d just been telling us about all the awesomeness of Wattpad, but I was skeptical.
She graciously talked to me, answering #allthequestions. Like: “What can Wattpad do for me?” and “How can I be successful?” and “How can I make money on Wattpad?”
Her answers? It can extend your brand as an author and write, network, and write some more and we’re working on it. (More on that later).
I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and signed up. Two years and two months later, here I am.
Note: Please keep in mind this is MY experience and not comprehensive.
A Little Background
At first I was just learning the ropes and figuring out the culture, so I started following other stories and threw up an easy cover for my own that I made on Canva. Finding readers started out slow enough. Maybe 2-3 per day. But the more I read and commented on other people, the more response I had on mine, so I kept going.
That whole networking thing, you know.
After awhile, I was getting about 20-30 reads per day. And I was satisfied with that.
I soon realized the importance of cover art on Wattpad, so I changed it up. Things started to pick up just a bit. I was heading toward 1,000 reads overall and getting a few regulars. At that point I was posting about 2-3 times per week. I realized that I needed to up the heat because the story had a lot of potential.
So I finally tweaked the cover again, then spoke with author Leona Henry, who had more experience on Wattpad than me. I learned a lot about success on Wattpad by reading this blog post. She figured out a few tweaks that the most successful authors employed and put all the secrets in one article.
Over time (and with a great story, lots of engagement, and consistent posting) BBTYP gained a lot of traction. Wattpad HQ emailed me about promotional opportunities, like being on a reading list sponsored by Athenos Greek Yogurt and a special sticker on my book.
I freaked out. How exciting! Then lots more came. The increased reads weren’t drastic, but steady. They went from 1,000 to 10,000 to 100,000 and I’m currently sitting (2 years later) at 1.5 million reads and over 41,000 followers. As of April 2017, I have 8 published stories, well over 2 million collective reads, and post every day, Monday-Friday.
The first thing I think of when I think of Wattpad is that this company works hard for readers and authors. There’s no doubt about that. They’ve introduced numerous programs, including Wattpad Stars, Wattpad Futures, and Wattpad Studios. I’m always seeing new headlines. They partner with huge brands to bring new stuff. I like a company that is responsive and moves fast, at Wattpad has proven to be adaptable in a free-content market.
Here are a few things I really enjoy about Wattpad.
I received an email from HQ asking me to Skype with Aron Levitz, and he and I chatted about a few things with one of my stories on Wattpad, and then he invited me into the Wattpad Stars program. It’s an invite-only group that consists of a really broad, diverse group of authors that have shown talent and promise. (Seriously: there’s a little of everything represented. For a reading list of authors in the Wattpad Stars group, click here.)
For anyone wondering what it’s like in the Wattpad Stars program: it’s great! I love being part of it. They provide further opportunities to work with brands that partner with them. (I’ve contributed to a few possibilities but have never been chosen. Some of them I just never heard anything again so the brand may have dropped it.) There are some more VIP options that I’ve seen cycle through but haven’t been a part of.
In truth, Wattpad has a lot going on. I know they used Wattpad Stars to help drive their new venture Tap, but I hadn’t heard anything about it before the release just because I was a Wattpad Star.
But in another truth . . . not much changed. (Caveat: I’m not super active in discussions, but do participate when I can.) While I’m honored to be part of such a great group of people, it didn’t really change what I did on Wattpad or how I did it. Success on Wattpad still depends on consistent posting, reader interaction, great stories, and a little luck.
Here’s a helpful link: How to Become a Wattpad Star.
New Ad Options
In April of 2016, Wattpad announced an exciting new program: in-story ads. This was a monetization strategy that would give them a way to pay the authors. For every ad watched (or played—they have games sometimes!) the author gets part of the payment.
Luckily, I was chosen as one of these authors! I was super excited. After almost two years of putting up free content on Wattpad, finally a way to monetize! Their tests came back very exciting, with some authors making up to $1,000 per month on these ads.
Not quite my (or the average) experience from what I’ve gleaned. (More on that later).
A few helpful links:
Market Exposure for My Audience
There’s no denying that Wattpad has Millenials (and others) attention. On my story BBTYP, over 64% of my readership is 13-24, and 25% of all my readers have a private age setting. Since I write in Chick Lit and YA Fantasy, this is a great way to get in front of these people.
Whether that translates to sales is another matter.
Seeing my story unfold for my readers through their comments is so motivating. Plus, it’s like instant beta reads. I know what people find sketchy, what they love, and what they really desire more of. It’s also a study into the audience that helps me serve them better.
Wattpad is a wonderful place or I wouldn’t stay there. But like everything, there are downsides. Most of them revolve around factors outside Wattpads (as a company) control, but factor into the overall experience.
Like any other indie/indie parent, time is a precious commodity. Posting to Wattpad is something that requires time away from other projects. I spend probably an hour a day generating new content and responding to comments. The good news? I don’t have to post. But I love my following, so I do.
I’m stoked to be part of the program with in-story ads, but realized I set my expectations way too high at the beginning. They’re still working out how this system works, which is fine. And it’s consumer run, really, so my revenue is at the mercy of those few people who actually pay attention to ads.
I’m not even one of those people!
While I commend Wattpad for working out a monetization strategy, for me the results have been underwhelming. The average ad is based off of 30 minutes reading (which is the average amount of time a reader spends on Wattpad). That means the reader can just skip the ad by closing the app, or won’t even hit the timeframe. So my strategy to post every day in order to draw more traction, more eyes, and hopefully more money is a little bit moot. The reader can read my chapter in twenty minutes and never see an ad. As of April (and after 7 months), I have yet to make enough to receive a payment. (Although I will note that the end of the first quarter is upon us and I haven’t received word of what my combine sales from Q4 in 2016 and Q1 in 2017 will be.)
Caveat: this is not the case for every author from what I hear, although I haven’t found actual statistics released of average income.
Expectation of Free Content
This is probably my biggest struggle with the platform. While I love Wattpad and the friendly culture, there’s an expectation of free content that—obviously—comes with the territory. Isn’t that why authors are on there? And readers as well? This means, however, that anything outside of giving them free stories is very difficult to swing.
The current media world revolves around free content. (Like the free content you’re getting right now!) But it’s fair to say that sales conversion from my website is *likely* much higher than Wattpad. Trying to gain sales from readers on Wattpad just doesn’t happen. It’s not the right market.
It’s not all vicious. A lot of my readers are 12-18 and just aren’t allowed to buy ebooks, don’t have the money, or aren’t allowed. I get it. Why buy when you can just click on a different story in Wattpad and read something else free? Of course, I have had some sales conversion, but very little when compared to time investment.
Dedicating that much time every day and not seeing a return adds up to a frustrating arithmetic. It also means that when I have to cut back on work, Wattpad is the first to go because I see so little return on investment.
Releasing a Book Originating from Wattpad is . . . Tricky
I’ve also learned that for my stories, leaving what’s on Wattpad on Wattpad is best, and then not introducing changes. Let me explain.
I work my first drafts for my Chick Lit novels on Wattpad because it’s really fun! I love it. But then I leave it there. As I develop the story and rewrite and edit for publication with later drafts, it’s best to just not even introduce the changed story back into that world or, in some regards, not even let the readers know it’s available in a changed form.
My rule: Leave the published work for the published sphere, and Wattpad work on Wattpad.
I extensively rewrote a book that started on Wattpad and received harsh feedback on the final published edition because my audience loved the Wattpad version best. (Even though it was undefined and needed a lot of work.) I’ve since realized that my audience doesn’t wants change, so as a strategy I do not plan to announce book releases anymore on Wattpad.
I’ll just leave the final books for other audiences.
Note: I have had some super star fans that always help me out, and have purchased my books, so I don’t want to put the impression out there that it never happens. In the big picture, however, I feel this strategy is best for my specific books with my followers.
This is definitely a double-edged sword.
Fan interaction is my absolute favorite thing about Wattpad. Learning what people think, becoming friends, messaging with them everyday: I love it. The fans are amazing. They really are. I love it enough to invest almost 7 hours a week into this platform and I have an almost two year old sucking up my time.
Just like book reviews, however, you can get some seriously ridiculous, nitpicky, or just plain mean comments and they often just keep coming. For me, it’s most difficult to accept through Wattpad because all of that content is freely given. They didn’t pay for any of it! This is more about me than anyhting else—I get that and I deal with it as it comes—but it’s a facet that I’ve had to face.
Ashleigh Gardner was right on when we spoke at Superstars. Wattpad has extended my brand. It does work hard for me. And they’ve provided a monetization option. Just because it doesn’t work at the speed I’d like it to doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. For now, Wattpad and I are still besties.
But we’re figuring out ways to move into a more intense relationship. 😉