World-traveling, monkey-chasing, snake-charming, soccer mom and women’s fiction author, Kim Hornsby, is visiting MuseTracks today. And she’s got some great insight in another tool in the savvy writer’s tool kit, Wattpad.
Take it away, Kim!
Watt is Wattpad?
In the fall of 2011, I stumbled across a Canadian online site called Wattpad and realized this was a brilliant idea. Does it matter that it’s Canadian, seeing we are talking about the internet? I believe so, because I’m from the Toronto area originally, and we take kudos wherever we can. Go, William Shatner and Avril Lavigne!
Okay, Watt is Wattpad? It’s a bulletin board, of sorts, for books, stories, poetry and anything else that falls into the writing category, Wattpad calls themselves “the best place to discover and share stories” and touts the virtues of thousands of available stories for the taking – free! Their selling feature was originally that you could download books to a mobile phone via the free e-reader app, Freda. That was big stuff several years ago and made books available to a much larger audience (and possibly a much younger audience) than those with e readers or those able to afford print books. For anyone who reads several books a week or anyone who likes to start books, loses interest and moves on, Wattpad is a goldmine. Did I mention it’s free? You simply sign up and start downloading books or start uploading your latest novel if you want to share it for free. The reader’s downside is that you have to sift through a sea of flotsam and jetsum to find a well written piece of work but it can be fun, like a scavenger hunt.
Without quoting a lot of boring details about the founder Ivan Yuen, let’s just say someone was really using his Canadian noggin up there in Toronto when he established Wattpad in 2008.www.wattpad.org It’s a wonderful meeting place for young writers and/or anyone who wants to learn what the public is looking for in books. I do believe, however, that the majority of readers are young and not the average book buyer who browses at Barnes and Noble on a Sunday. More on that later.
According to their stats, only 1 out of 10 members on Wattpad are authors and 4 of 10 are U.S. based, thereby making Wattpad a worldwide phenomenon. The teens in India are accessible now, as well as college-aged Germans and U.S. military wives overseas. It is a way to reach more readers and maybe even find fans who don’t like to pay for books (Gasp!) but might spread the word or write a Goodreads review.
Note: Wattpad does not take uploads of anything that will infringe on Copyright laws. None. Nada. Don’t do it. Jealous competitors are lurking to call Wattpad a repository of bootlegged books, so Wattpad is firm about this.
So, as an author, I jumped into the Wattpad pool and here’s what I came up with: In the Winter of 2011/12, I posted a few chapters of my WIP on Wattpad to see what would happen. At that time it was called Surfacing Slowly. I did not have a cover for the book and used their generic, orange rectangle (not recommended) infused with the title of my novel. Over the next few months, I designed several covers and renamed the book “The Dream Jumper’s Promise.” It did better with this title. The novel needed editing and would eventually undergo a huge overhaul in the oncoming months but, initially, I got enough hits on those chapters to think Wattpad might be an interesting way to test theories. I added more chapters to my story and watched my stats.
Then, my two critique partners considered putting chapters on Wattpad. Lisa writes Literary, Christine writes Romantic Suspense and I write Commercial Women’s Fiction. Christine put her romantic suspense, An Eye For Danger on Wattpad, complete with a sexy-as-hell cover and sat back to watch the hits come in. (It behooves the writer to post each chapter individually to get your numbers higher. And to give the reader the complete novel.) As Christine’s readership and fan mail grew last summer, Lisa added chapters of her novel Maiden’s Veil, one at a time. I made a cover, separated my chapters and put almost the whole dang thing up there. Shortly after, I started to get hits, fan mail and votes. It was great fun as a first time author, to have strangers like what you spend all your time perfecting. On the Indie pub front, my debut was put off and put off by me, (anyone else know what I mean?) and I downloaded the full on Wattpad in its pre-edited state with a preliminary ending. My numbers rose to the point that soon I had near 800 readers on Chapter 1. With 26 chapters, you’d think I’d have 20,000 reads BUT readers dropped off as they lost interest. This was another way for me to track which chapter fell short. I noticed that I lost some after chapter 3, so I went to work making the leave at the end of chapter 2 stronger. I watched the hits go up. It was super-fun watching from day to day.
Over the year 2012 I changed covers 6 or 7 times to see what brought more new readership (check stats for 1st chapter readings) and I changed the title thrice. I also developed a nice little fan base with women who wanted the last chapters. (I’d originally withheld the ending because I planned to publish The Dream Jumper’s Promise in the Spring of 2012 and wanted only to tease the reader to the last few chapters, then provide the link to Amazon to buy the book. Kind of like foreplay with a hooker. Did I just say that?) In the next few months I changed the ending drastically to include a twist that no one saw coming and withheld it from Wattpad readership. It became only available on the self pubbed version on Amazon Kindle.
As for Christine M. Fairchild, her novel hit a homerun on Wattpad and ended up having 168,000 reads on thirty chapters. Note to self: half naked man with 8 pack on the cover works well. Note to You: An Eye For Danger has a great cover but an even better story. And it’s a series. Christine had women begging for the second one. Some novels on Wattpad (especially the Watty Finalists) achieve over a million or two hits. Those novels are usually romance or teen fiction with a sexy title and cover. Considering that Wattpad’s most popular genres are romance, teen fiction, paranormal etc, I was happy to get the Women’s Fiction readership with no hunk on the cover. Lisa’s novel is beautifully written and it would be a travesty to read Maiden’s Veil on a phone butthousands did. She is doing extremely well on Amazon and just won the Chanticleer’s Best Indie Women’s Fiction 2012.
To this date I have almost 10,000 readers for The Dream Jumper’s Promise on Wattpad, which means I lost over half somewhere along the way, but I’m told this is normal with a downloaded Wattpad novel. Silly me—I was thrilled that anyone at all wanted to read my story, let alone send me a fan letter and vote for chapters and tell me how they love characters, or even how the story helped them cope with their own lives. I was hooked on Wattpad by summer 2012 even though I hadn’t made a penny. I found myself checking my numbers several times a day.
When I finally self published The Dream Jumper’s Promise in November 2012, I warned my Wattpad readership that the last chapters were about to disappear from the site but could be found on Amazon Kindle. I’ll never know if any Wattpad readers crossed over to buy the book but in those final months of editing and slogging through the muck of formatting and cover design, having my numbers climb on Wattpad kept me going. It was heady stuff for me.
Reality check: when The Dream Jumper’s Promise went free on KDP Select over Christmas, it hovered around #20 in Women’s Fiction for the 3 days it was free and I got over 5,000 downloads. At one point it reached #5 and stayed in the top ten all Christmas Day. I was happy dancing around the Christmas tree. My Amazon Kindle numbers are still good and sales are steady. I’d like to think Wattpad helped get me ready, seeing I spent so much time on there last year.
If you wander around the Wattpad site, you’ll find helpful Clubs like “Editors”, “Readers”, “How to make a Book Cover”, “Trailer Making”, and there’s even a Cafe to chat about non-book topics (what the heck fun is that?). There are yearly awards called the Watty’s and even poetry awards (Atty’s) fueled by Canada’s award winning novelist and poet Margaret Atwood. With a backer like Atwood, Wattpad is here to stay.
Cliffhangers at chapter’s endings are essential to keep readership going on Wattpad. (I’m not sure it matters on Amazon, if someone has already bought the book.)
A short but compelling blurb with the promise to entertain is mandatory. Especially for those who are willing to read off their phone!
Typos and editing problems don’t really matter to Wattpad readers, although I did have a reader who went through my first chapter and edited it for me. Thanks Gender Girl!
Wattpad, as a testing ground, was something useful. It was a great way to tell what worked with a certain audience and I’ll use it again, especially where covers are concerned.
And last but not least for mind boggling revelations: Canadians are awesome, eh?
Kim is the author of The Dream Jumper’s Promise,( commercial women’s fiction) http://amzn.com/B00AA4FAJC
and Necessary Detour, (romantic suspense with The Wild Rose Press) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AU50M76
and lives in the Seattle area where she laments about her former life of teaching scuba in Hawaii, and her show biz days when she worked with Jamie Foxx.
Commercial Women’s Fiction
You only journey if you dare to leave home