What is Wattpad? Yes, I know that 99% of the InstaScribe readers are highly intelligent, highly educated and paragons of virtue, but let’s be nice to the other one %, OK?
Wattpad is an Internet community which facilitates writing and reading. It often happens that “facilitating writing and reading” is the goal of a community filled to the brim with writers, but there is no one, at least not enough nobodies, to read what is being written, not unlike your blog. (The reason is that everybody is over here, reading InstaScribe.)
What is Write On? Write On is Amazon’s version of the reading and writing community. It is brand new. In fact it is still in Beta Mode and Zen Scribe had to use a lot of his karma to get us an invite.
“Writing it does not mean that they will come!” says Zen Scribe, mangling a Field of Dreams quote.
It was, partly with this in mind that Allan Lau and Ivan Yuen started what aims to become the “world’s biggest reader and writer community.”
Wattpad has 25 000 000 members and 40 000 000 stories.
“Reminds me of my bank account. All those zeros.” says Zen Scribe.
The good part is that there seem to be many more readers than writers on the platform, which means real feedback for the writers.
One little Wattpad story attributed to Allen Lau by Margaret Atwood, yes, she of The Blind Assassin, The Handmaid’s Tale and many other literary gems, is a thank you letter from a remote African town.
This town has no bookshop, library or high-speed internet connection. It does, however, have a cellphone through which they could access Wattpad. An old man wrote to Wattpad thanking them for the reading available to him and the others in the town.
If you look at these numbers, the reactions of people all over the world, you can understand why it has been called the Youtube of writing. Wattpad is effective at enabling people to make their writing available to others.
Is Wattpad working? The answer is a clear and resounding yes. Before we look at why it is working, let’s consider who uses Wattpad.
One automatically tends to think that you will only find wannabes and failures on Wattpad. This does make sense, because a lot of these, uhm, so called writers are looking for a jumping-off point to fame, first class flights and fortune.
The truth is that Margaret Atwood publishes here and so does Paul Coelho, author of the extremely popular and extremely successful The Alchemist. The Alchemist really turned into gold. It even holds a Guinness World Record for the only book of by a living author translated into eighty maximum number of languages.
Even the clever Zen Scribe does not know how many popular and successful published writers use Wattpad, but we are sure that there are more than two. Do your bit and further enlighten our enlightened Zen Scribe.
What we can conclude from the presence of Atwood and Coelho is that the world of publishing is changing. Success won’t exclusively be measured by a publishing contract from Hachette, Penguin or Harper and Collins. Case in point: Amazon and its mighty e-book publishing business.
Why Wattpad works
Considering Wattpad has 25 million members and 40 million stories, and has been with us for a quarter of the existence of the Internet, even Einstein would have agreed that it seems to have made a quantum-like impression on the world of writing.
“What do you mean by ‘quantum-like impression’?” demands Zen Scribe.
“Shut up!” says Jandre, that’s me. “Who is writing this? Me or you?”
Enlightened smiles work too.
More than a captive audience
Why are people using Wattpad? Some because they primarily like writing and others because they primarily like reading. (All authors love reading!)
Wattpad provides you with 25 million people who want to read. This is great! Where else are you going to find an audience like this?
But this is so much more than a captive audience! Interaction with the author is encouraged. Monthly in the order of 5 million comments are made by readers.
Generally writers crave feedback, real honest feedback. “Mom and Dad” feedback does not really help, except the bit where they suggest you go to bed, because you probably do need to sleep.
Here are two comments. They are both on the book Tough Love by Halia Harley. (This book was randomly chosen.)
Comment #1 by heidimelki “work in the nypd, army, cia etc and you’ll understand the word ‘sir’ comes before and after addressing your captain.”
Comment #2 by ohmagosh1D “My friend told me about this story I’ve heard so much! 1st chapter and I’m already in love :)”
The correction of a factual error and real honest encouragement. Don’t you agree, this is a great feature that will encourage writers, weary from slogging away without knowing what others think!
Weave a web
You are immediately connected with like minded people. You can read the work of other writers in your genre(s) and contact them. A bit of cross pollination might do you a world of good.
You will also be able to build relationships with readers. You might be one of those writers who hope to publish your work sooner or later. Building a network of contact of people who have read you and are aware of you will greatly benefit you in the future.
Wattpad offers various competitions. This is one of the ways they create internal awareness of books on offer.
You can also become a featured writer. This means that Wattpad will promote your work on their site for free.
There are also a whole bunch of different competitions. They might be specific to a genre or a free for all. Even if you do not win, you will surely gain some new readers.
One issue that goes hand in hand with publishing is plagiarism. As you would expect, there are cases of one Wattpad user copying pieces of another user’s story and using it as their own.
It has also been reported that whole books have been “imported.” Hunger Games is one example.
Allen Lau, founding Wattpad member has said that they are aware of this problem. In a move to combat this, they cooperate with publishers. Using the provided metadata, it is easier to catch plagiarists.
In the case of user on user plagiarism, due to the absence of this metadata, Wattpad primarily relies on the input of their “passionate” community to make them aware of cases like this. They then claim to remove the copied texts.
Write On by Kindle
“It’s called Write On by Kindle, and it’s a community where readers and writers come together around the creative process to make good stories great and great stories better.” says Nina.
Currently you still need an invite and these seem to be scarcer than good governance in Africa.
The guys at TechCrunch who have actually seen the platform said, “It isn’t very full-featured – it’s more of a blogging platform right now – but it looks to be well populated with indie titles.”
Signing up is especially easy if you already have an Amazon account. Basically all you have to do is upload a pic and choose a nom de plume.
The system seems to be functioning well. If you have a look under the “I need Help” and “Known Issues” headings on the forums, you see normal growing pain issues and normal user “mistakes”.
To create the cover, the title, etc., for a new book is very easy. Writing a book stays a challenge. Currently you cannot upload a pre-formatted file. Either you write it online and save all your work on Amazon’s servers, or you cut and paste via a text file. Cutting and Pasting via Word causes some formatting issues at Write On. Write On allows you to upload a TXT file. In both cases you will have to add the formatting online. This can be a quite tedious process.
The kind of comments you see on Write On seem to be of a higher standard than those on Wattpad. I quote what J.T. Stoll has to say on the book Loose Changeling by Andrea Stewart,
You have a really great voice. Good characterization (i.e. Owen doing things without really thinking about them). Great story description. Even really good cover. Good hook, though the “woman finds husband in bed with another woman felt a little cliche. But turning the other woman into a mouse was kinda cool.
One thing really pulled me out of the story:
If the woman was lying in the bed right there, why didn’t they notice her shrinking or vanishing? One moment, she was there. The next, they’re just wondering where she went. This seemed a little unnatural. She needs to get out of their direct eyesight to turn into a mouse. Otherwise, it seems like they’d notice the transition. They seem pretty casual about someone vanishing into thin air.
Great job, keep it up! How much of the story do you have written, so far?
Unless you have a Write On account you probably won’t be able to see it. Take my word, please.
Remember that Write On’s members are a bunch of selected individuals, and a few gate crashers like me. This, probably means, that the ratio of writers are much higher than on Wattpad. This should change over time, and then I guess the kinds of comments will be more comparable.
It will be interesting to see how Write On handles the exclusivity of publishing rites in the future. Currently, as mentioned, they appear to allow you to have a multitude of publishing partners, but what will happen when Write On considers itself mature enough to cast off the Beta tag?
Another thing is that you will access to a potentially massively huge audience. Sure not all Amazon’s readers will join, but it is possible that they might outstrip Wattpad, depending on their marketing.
It seems to me that Wattpad’s secret is the interaction between writer and reader. If Amazon can get this conversation going, then it will be very interesting to see who goes all the way!