Intro to Wattpad for the Gen Y Writer
As part of that amorphous set born in the late eighties, I pick and choose when to be a millennial. Earlier this year, when a presenter at a writing conference asked the room if anyone was on Wattpad, a long pause followed. He then concluded out loud that there must be no millennials in the room. I chose to be offended.
To justify my indignation, I looked into the site. The best way I can sum up Wattpad is as follows: a social network for young writers and readers who want real-time feedback from hundreds of teenagers. Similar to a giant writing group where no one is afraid to let people see their stuff (this can be a common anxiety among more mossy writers). And since it’s for young ones, it’s actually easy to use and pretty to look at.
Compared to a more traditional online critique group run by a writers association, Wattpad is the Yummly app to your usual asking grandma for a recipe over the phone.
Intro to Wattpad for the Gen Y Writer
My first novel, The Forgotten Seer is now available to read in full on Wattpad. I decided to post the manuscript for several reasons. First, the novel is still awaiting judgment at agencies and small publishing houses. But this can take quite a while! So, feeling the need to reach readers before the second coming, I posted it. Moreover, it is a way for anyone who has been hearing about it for three years to finally read it. I now have a little closure while starting the next project.
When the MS was uploaded and I began researching ways to let Wattpad users know I exist, I slowly realized that my writing conference instructor was sorely mistaken. Millenials are to Wattpad as car phones are to the iPhone X. So the fact that I am, culturally speaking, in no way a millennial is irrelevant. In the Wattpad universe, if you are out of high school, you’re a geezer. I hope you find that as comforting as I do.
So for those still willing to scramble up the digital learning curve, Wattpad is a big fish in a small pond scenario. Your competition is teenagers who are still learning the basics of story and prose. Also, your readers are young book-lovers who have adapted to forgive rough writing for the sake of a gripping story. If you’re like me, and you’ve slaved over a manuscript for years, your work is going to stand out on a site like Wattpad. What's more, for those writing YA, it’s a chance to gauge the viability of your story using the actual intended age group.
And the advantages don’t stop there. Consider these features of Wattpad and how they might boost your writing career in the long run.
Advantages of Wattpad
- The App: Reading a Wattpad story on your phone is as easy, if not easier than reading on a Kindle.
- Rankings: Choose your category wisely. My story is a fantasy adventure, but since fantasy is a flooded market, I chose to categorize it as adventure. Within two weeks, the book was ranked #32 in Adventure out of thousands. Wattpad is very good about bringing new writers to the attention of readers. It wasn’t that I had the most votes or reads (I’ll get to those), but I reached out to friends and family who created some buzz by voting and reading at the same time.
- Contests: Wattpad frequently holds contests for its writers, not the least of which is the “Wattys.” If selected, you can slap the award on your cover art to lend your book more respect. Some of these “Wattys” winners have millions of reads. Yes, I said millions.
- Featured and Rising: For those of us still starting out, Wattpad scours its writers for new books or books that deserve a spotlight. The Forgotten Seer was on the “Rising” list for weeks, which also helped it find readers. Can you believe this is free??
- Gathering a Fan Base: With little to no promotional work, readers find you, follow you, message you, and generally get excited about your stuff. I mean, thick skin is great and all but I have to say waking up to notifications of people’s votes and comments is a very, very good feeling. And when you do get a book published, there are already readers in your back pocket, looking to read your stories and ready to support your work.
- Voting and Commenting: At the end of each chapter is a tiny star, which, when clicked upon, becomes a magical vote. Readers also can comment within the body of the text, literally reacting as they read. Now that’s fun. Not to mention that, the more often votes and comments happen, the better chance you have of staying ranked in your category.
- Understanding the Trends: Though in no way do I advocate writing for the trends, it is still incredibly useful to know what they are. As hopeful authors, we have to know what’s selling in order to deliver strong proposals and queries. Before writing, I knew in an abstract way how starved teens were for ennobling stories, but now I have more insight into how deep the quicksand pulls.
If I’ve convinced you to give Wattpad a try, and you, too have only just mastered the Insta Story, I feel I should warn you. There are a few quirks of Wattpad to get past.
Quirks of Wattpad
- I have happened upon a fair amount of anime bizarreness that I could not decipher if I had ten years and an interpreter. Some of it is even in English ...
- As with any social media populated with teenagers, there exists an ever-changing codex of abbreviated symbols and letters to denote the book’s trendy affiliation (i.e. stories geared toward niche minorities, sexual identity issues, fan fiction for fiction I've never heard of, etc.) I've just made peace with the fact that I will never fully know what's going on. Oh, I guess that applies to Wattpad, too ...
- Because the site is relatively unmonitored, be aware of a generally seedy underbelly. I have come across profile pictures and cover art that would make Madonna blush. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to spot and avoid the offenders.
- Get ready for a lot of “author’s notes” in which the writer has a one-sided conversation about writing the work and not having time to keep up with it because of homework and exams.
- Along these lines, be careful who you “follow”, because some writers will message their followers every. single. day. I like teens, but not that much.
One month since posting The Forgotten Seer to Wattpad, I can already judge it an excellent move for the story. I’ve reached #32 in Adventure, racked up over 3,000 reads, and 558 votes as of this writing. Young readers add the book to their reading lists every day, and I always reach out to personally thank anyone who takes a gander at the book. One sweet reader recently wrote,
“Oh my goodness! It was SOOO great. I have more questions and theories and already can’t wait for the sequel(s).” -atrive2
I mean if that isn’t just the dandiest, I don’t know what is.
My advice to you, dear writer, is not to try and hide your age (hashtag I hope you like it I wrote it during assembly period it didn’t take me three years to write no way gross that’s stupid who would do that?). It seems to me that Wattpad users don’t care as long as your cover art is pretty, your MS is complete, and you have provided something to binge read that’s in a favorite genre.
Let’s be real, bffls, being a millennial is exhausting. So when you’re done commenting and interacting and scrolling through reading lists on Wattpad, I recommend a cleanse with a call to grandma and the two of you vent about how all the music is too loud. Everywhere.