What is Wattpad? It doesn’t sound like something life-changing…Oh, but it is, my friends. It really is.
Wattpad is a place where readers and writers come together to fuel each other’s habits.
It is a a platform for storytellers and the people who enjoy their work. Over the years, it has evolved to create an elevated story experience, on-the-go friendly, that connects readers to the authors of the stories they read. This connection is the fundamental backbone of the experience one gets using Wattpad (properly). I have made some life-long friends through Wattpad, and I am sure I am not alone in that. (Jeanine, where are you at?!?)
I admit, it sounds rather dramatic to claim that Wattpad changed my life, but the truth is, it did. If Wattpad didn’t exist, I would be in a very different place. Without it, I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for writing. That discovery was pure chance, and when I think about life without writing, it terrifies me. Without Wattpad, I wouldn’t have built the supportive community I have now—people who see me through the publication process. More importantly, I wouldn’t have received the feedback I needed to publish multiple novels. The journey was never easy; Wattpad did not do any of these things for me, rather, Wattpad gave me the means to make these things happen. I am a firm believer that we make our own luck.
So, let’s start from the beginning:
I learned about Wattpad in 2012 as a way to read books for free. At first, it was only about the reading aspect, until I discovered something bigger: Wattpad was a place where aspiring writers could put there work in front of the world. Suddenly, it was no longer about using Wattpad as a place to read, but a place to write. This changed my life.
I posted my first story, Talon the Black, on Wattpad in late 2012. It seemed as if everyone else was doing it, so why not me? I had had the story in my head for years, so why not try Wattpad? I wrote the first seven chapters, but I had no plan; I knew nothing about writing except the basics, and even those were lacking, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to read what I had daydreamed about. Long story short, after posing my story, I got discouraged that my writing would never be good enough, so I pulled the story. Part of this was because I started comparing myself to other Wattpad authors who had millions of reads compared to my measly five. Discouraged, I left Wattpad (kept my account) and never gave it a second thought…until November of 2015.
In November of 2015, I experienced some strange inklings to write again. I thought about the story I had attempted a few years ago. What if I tried again? I pulled up the Wattpad site on my computer and saw that there was a November #justwriteit challenge that aligned with NaNoWriMo (I had no idea what that was). The challenge was to write 50,000 words in one month. I was hooked; I’m a very challenge driven person. I looked at the requirement and said, “Challenge accepted!”
I dragged those seven chapters from the depths of my hard drive and realized they weren’t as bad as I thought. Yes, they needed a lot of work, but the foundation was there. I put my head down and spent three weeks skirting life’s duties to get to my 50,000 word limit. I discovered something life-altering; I discovered that I absolutely LOVED what I was doing. Crafting the story was thrilling; reading it on paper was thrilling; accomplishing such a big feat was thrilling. I felt as if I was present in each scene as I wrote it. I felt like I was the one living out the character’s life. I was the one getting to make their choices, getting to choose the person they were meant to be. It was addicting. After all these years, I’m still addicted…
Okay, so that was life change #1: I learned that I loved writing because a challenge on Wattpad forced me to go through the process of writing a story.
Now, granted, I never planned the story out. I’m lucky that it had decent bones by accident. Even still, I ended up completely re-writing it from scratch twice afterward. TWICE! It took me three years to massage that manuscript into something publish-worthy.
The first full draft of Talon the Black was posted up on Wattpad in full by December 2015. Guess how many people read it? Zero. Ziltch. My poor story that I had poured my heart into had NO reads. The only person who had seen it was me. I needed someone to read it—anyone. I wanted to share it with the world. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I wanted everyone to get the same joy out of it that I got. Most of all, I needed feedback, desperately. Publishing a book without feedback is impossible. If you can name a single person who has published a successful work without any feedback, then they must be the exception to the rule.
Feedback and a support system are the fundamental requirements for a successfully published book.
Wattpad became both—a support system and a means for feedback—but it was far from easy. I did not simply put my book up and experience instant success. Far from it. Wattpad has millions of users and millions of books. How the heck does one book get picked out of a million? There are ways…
The first thing I did was explore Wattpad. I began snooping through other works. It was selfish at first—a way for me to compare myself to others. That comparison wasn’t exactly healthy, but it was the fuel I needed to push harder. I knew most people on Wattpad probably wanted reads as badly as I did.
The second thing I did was even harder: I engaged in “trade reads”. The reason this was so hard was because I often read stories I didn’t enjoy, and that was time consuming, especially when there are already so many great books out there…oh yeah, and I was working on my PhD in physics.
I did trade reads as follows: I would go to someone’s profile who had a similar, but slightly higher following, and slightly higher read count compared to my own. I would read their work and give it honest feedback. Nearly always, the author would see my feedback, appreciate it, and then repeat the favor on my own work.
Wattpad life change #2: By engaging in feedback trades, I wasn’t merely getting feedback help, I was learning how to edit. I was developing a critical eye.
I gained a significant amount of experience by getting to judge the work of others in an unbiased way. That alone is invaluable. By participating in both spoken (agreed upon) and unspoken (polite duty to exchange) feedback trades I made some incredible friends who have become a large part of my writing circle. Writing circles are so important. I feel blessed to have my own now (you know who you are!).
Wattpad life change #3: Wattpad became the platform I used to build my community of support.
I have a handful of readers who distinguished themselves as great editors, great idea builders, great critical thinkers, etc. They were the ones I began selecting for beta readers and copy editors. They were the ones I reached out to every time I hit a wall. And when I was in dark places, questioning my work, they were the ones who reminded me how much they loved my writing. Oh, and let me tell you how much they reminded me: some of my readers leave me the most amazing, inspirational, motivating comments. These are comments that have the ability to pick me up even on the crappiest of days.
After engaging in multiple trade reads and feedback trades, a snowball effect occurred. This is due to how Wattpad’s platform is structured. When one person read my work and commented on it, their comments showed up in their news feed. Then, all of their followers were able to see my work through them. Out of curiosity, their followers came to my profile. That exposure was kind of like a fractal or a tree, where a single, large branch consisted of many smaller branches, and those smaller branches consisted of even smaller ones. My work began trickling through the Wattpad network.
The old Wattpad ranking system played an important role at this point of my journey. In the older days of Wattpad, pre-May 2017, Wattpad allowed books to rank in their genre rather than by tags alone. The more comments my work got, the more reads, the more exposure, the higher it began to climb in the ranking system. The higher it climbed, the more people saw it when they were browsing for their next fantasy read. My biggest accomplishment was when my story hit #2 in Fantasy out of thousands of works, and then held a top 10 rank for nearly a year. That exposure skyrocketed my read count and my following.
I went from about 2000 reads to 1,000,000 reads in approximately six months. One million reads…wow. That was mind boggling. I often opened my Wattpad app to look at that number because I had such a hard time believing that it was real. That was a huge accomplishment for me. My following went from a small handful of followers to over 100,000 followers in about that same time. It became a huge bragging factor for me, but it also offered me something more, something deeper.
Wattpad Life Change #4: Wattpad’s platform gave me the confidence I needed to take my work to the next level.
I would have never considered professionally publishing. Once I saw how many people loved my work, I realized that I had something that could do well on a larger scale. I had multiple people posting on my wall daily to tell me how much they loved my work. I had people sending me private messages begging me to publish so that they could see the book on their shelves at home. It was overwhelming, especially after only such a short time of exposure. It got to the point where every day I would log in and find over 1,000 notifications. I soon found that I could not keep up with all the comments and messages I was getting, but I still tried. I tried really, really hard.
My readers liked (and still do) that I interacted with them. I had people who were shocked because I responded to their comments. This alone made me feel like a Wattpad celebrity.
To this day, my reader base continues to steadily grow. My debut novel has reached 2.5M reads on Wattpad, and the second installment is just about to reach its first 1M. The support that Wattpad has afforded me and the impact it has had on my life is invaluable to me. As the platform continues to grow, it is my hope that other aspiring writers see it as a viable way to get their work on the market. We all need a place where our voices are heard, and Wattpad gave me that. To all the folks over at Wattpad, thank you for all you do, and for continuing to offer writers and readers a place to meet in the middle.
If you haven't had a chance to check out their platform, head over to wattpad.com