Can Wattpad Make You a “Real” Author?
Like many other creative-adjacent folks, I’m someone that goes through a lot of phases. I always need to write in order to stay sane, but my goals and preferred platforms are always in flux.
I’ve half-written dozens of books, somewhat-fleshed out hundreds of narratives, and forgotten more blogs than most people have Facebook friends. The one place I seem loyal to in sporadic bursts is Wattpad, because it’s perfectly tailored for someone with my personality.
I’m someone that loves to write, until I don’t. Writing a novel requires months or years of dedicated time and attention. You need to write an entire draft before re-writing and workshopping it until it has morphed into a coherent and compelling narrative that people actually want to read.
Wattpad doesn’t require this level of dedication, and the readership seems to know and understand this.
They know almost everything is a first draft, and they’re totally fine with it.
What I’m noticing more and more as I come across Wattpad readers is that they want extremely niche books that give them unique characters they can relate to. What I’m noticing about Wattpad writers is that they want money.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
As is the case here on Medium, people are writing online to monetise a passion they already have, which is great!
Money is a perfectly reasonable motivation to do anything. But a realistic expectation of what amount of money is deserved for how much work seems to be where reason and logic find their end.
Statistically, most of us will never be traditionally published, which is fine, because traditional publication hasn’t been the most efficient way to make money as a writer for many years.
But with an alternative platform should come altered expectations. That, of course, is not the world we live in.
Watt is Wattpad?
Wattpad is a 13 year old Canadian platform that’s most heavily favoured by fiction writers.
Just as Medium is best suited for non-fiction, mid-length articles; Wattpad is most successfully utilised by fiction writers who can smell-out and cater to a trend.
Werewolf romance is super hot right now. Jump on it.
Writers on Wattpad can set up a book on the site and add new chapters to the book over time.
Readers can follow the author and read chapters as they’re released. The fun part for the reader is the ability to interact with the book as they like, such as rating it and adding comments.
Readers can comment on individual lines of text, or on each page or chapter.
The site fosters a lot of interactivity between readers and authors, so it’s very possible for authors to develop large groups of dedicated and vocal followers.
So what happens to the authors that build an enormous base of followers? Isn’t the next step fame and fortune??
Joining Wattpad for Literary Fame
Over the years, we’ve often heard tales of writers signing book deals because of novels they’ve written on the site.
More than a few Wattpad authors have written entire books using suggestions made and voted on by readers. Once completed, these capitalists then spin these completed works into published novels and make a mint.
Publishers love an author with an established readership, so the connection between the platform and the gatekeepers of publishing makes perfect sense in theory.
In reality, the number of Wattpad writers clawing their way out of obscurity is even lower than the number of Medium writers quitting their day jobs to write ‘the nature of my orgasm’ articles full time.
Very few Wattpad authors are ever discovered by more than a few people, and very very few of these authors become eligible to earn royalties for their work.
Unlike with Vocal and Medium, writers are not automatically eligible to earn royalties from readers. Instead, the platform will invite you to join their paid program once you’ve written something noteworthy and have a readership to back it up.
If you do manage to join the special few who make royalties, a far far tinier percentage of these writers ever make the godly ascension into the world of traditional, or, real publication.
The reason it’s so rare isn’t that a good writer is nearly impossible to find, it’s because of the truest fact of the capitalist world… it’s easier to climb a mountain in high heals than it is to convince someone to give up their hard earned cash for anything.
Readers aren’t necissarily shoppers
Building a true readership is really difficult. A true readership is a group of people that will regularly comment on your writing, interact with you, and support you throughout your literary projects.
There’s only a handful of people who have pulled it off on this platform, as there is on every other. But just because these people love you, it doesn’t mean they’re going to spend money on that love.
Publishers may love that a Wattpad writer has attracted over a million reads on a book, but the publisher doesn’t love that each reader didn’t have to buy the book, or even pay a subscription fee to be on the site.
This means that they can’t reliably analyse this person’s likelihood of going to a bookstore and paying actual money to read more words written by this author.
A traditional publisher has enough trouble making money from an established and popular author who hasn’t made their work available online for free. How much harder must it be to monetise someone who’s fan base is accustomed to free content?
As more and more words are available at no cost online, and these words keep increasing in quality, the nature of publishing has to change.
Publishers have to assess their ability to move books while taking into account the popularity of the author, the ways in which this author has provided content in the past, and how this past will likely translate into future profits.
For some Wattpad authors, the numbers will add up.
An author may write such compelling werewolf romance novels that their readership base will do or pay anything to get their next fix of interspecies lust.
Paying an advance to this author and promising their fanbase a followup novel is a safe bet, and a high percentage of this base may turn up to actually buy the book.
These people want their sexy wolves, and a $15 price tag is reasonable enough for them to pay.
It’s also safe to assume that these consumers are picky about the voice in which their furry romance is written. This means that the publisher won’t feel too worried that the entire base will simply switch authors once the price tag is added.
Outside of very specific situations such as this one, it’s just not likely that you and and your Wattpad book are a safe enough bet for a publisher who’s trying to scratch out a living.
The moral of the story?
Go write a werewolf book and make those fuzzy dollars. Or, write for the fun of it. Because fun is statistically the only currency with which you’re going to be paid.