SPILLING INK: What does Wattpad Books mean for Indie Authors?
With approximately 70 million unique monthly visitors, the digital literature /social networking website Wattpad is a massive focus group for original storytelling for the millennial generation.
For authors, participating on Wattpad can have many benefits. It is a way to build an audience directly on a reading social network. Harkening back to the turn of the 19th century the draw of Wattpad’s social reading platform allows authors to serialize a story, drip-feeding chapter to readers who then have the opportunity to devour and comment on what they have read. This beta-reader like experience is chock full of the feedback authors need to revise their story to further develop and deepen plots and characters. The element of continual engagement with the reading audience also serves to develop that much needed platform and fan base the author needs no matter which path they choose in publishing.
On the surface, it sounds like a perfect storm, but Wattpad is not without its drawbacks. Wattpad is home to many aspiring authors, all of them trying to stand out amongst millions of others doing the exact same thing.
Let me say that again, MILLIONS OF OTHERS ARE DOING THE SAME THING.
Like with the traditional model of publishing, there is a slush pile to be waded through to find the hidden gems. It’s the thing that authors hate most about getting published. Well, in the case of Wattpad, the slush pile is not on some agent’s desk, it’s out there for all to see in the digital realm. And rising to the top is no easy feat. The time an author must take in marketing their free book to read on Wattpad is equal to the time the same author would put in trying to attract and agent or self-publishing and marketing that book for sale in the public marketplace.
This is not to say Wattpad is a bad choice, it merely another choice in the uphill battle an author faces in getting any recognition for their work.
That said, Wattpad does have some major credits to its name. Wattpad Studios, has made headlines over the past year for its film and TV projects as well, with Netflix Original teen romantic comedy The Kissing Booth and Hulu show Light as a Feather as examples of their success.
After finding initial success with its film and Tv adaptation division Wattpad Studios, Wattpad has decided to launch a new publishing division called, (what else?) Wattpad Books.
The company has already picked six debut stories to bring to print in 2019, with the help of its special form of AI the Story DNA Machine Learning technology.
“Wattpad Books is equal parts art and science, and our human content and editorial experts are just as important for everything we do at Wattpad Books,” says Ashleigh Gardner, the Deputy General Manager at Wattpad Studios, Publishing.
Story DNA AI deconstructs stories into their elemental features while also looking at multiple data points of audience engagement for each of its story submissions. After all that data is compiled a human team of Wattpad staffers will read each selected story to decide what gets published.
All Wattpad Books titles will be available at retailers across North America, using Macmillan as its U.S. distributor and RaincoastBooks as its Canadian distributor.
At least one of those names should sound familiar to you.
This isn’t Macmillan’s first foray into crowd sourcing for the next break out book. The publishing giant operates Swoon Reads through its YA imprint Feiwel and Friends. Similar to Wattpad in its platform base, writers submit manuscripts directly to the publisher, and readers rate, comment, and vote on the submissions. Through this crowdsourcing platform Swoon Reads releases between 20 and 30 titles a year in various formats: ebook, softcover, & hardcover.
Some of you may remember Pronoun (Originally launched in 2009 as Vook), another initially popular self-publishing platform acquired by Macmillanin 2016. When the publishing giant took hold of the company it had been touted as a sort of feeder platform, allowing the more popular indie published books a chance of being seen or fast tracked into the traditional realm if sales proved there was a viable interest. However, January 2018 Macmillan closed Pronoun, after only 18 months stating the closure was due to its lack of profitability. One of Pronouns draws in the indie publishing realm was its generous royalty structure offering authors the highest payouts across any platform.
Macmillan’s history in partnering with platforms that allow indie authors a sort of back door into traditional publishing can be seen as a positive for this new Wattpad Books venture giving independent authors yet another avenue into the traditional sphere, if they so desire, that circumvents the standard query and rejection circuit that, let’s face it, sometimes sucks the life out of being an author.
Only time will tell, but for now, I’ll be watching to see what happens with these new title from Wattpad Books as they are published later this year.