a guest post by Sarah Benson
I’ve been a reader of Dave’s newsletter for nearly 6 years and have appreciated his insights. I am grateful he has given me the opportunity to share my experiences with Wattpad in hopes that many of you may benefit from what I’ve learned. Dave recently joined Wattpad, and there are a number of other best-selling authors on there as well.
My Experience on Wattpad
I have been fortunate to find success on Wattpad, with my first book Born of Shadow reaching #2 in Adventure and #4 in Fantasy. Since then, I’ve gone on to post the sequel, The Bloodstone Prophecy, which has hit #1 in Adventure multiple times. Combined, I have almost 1 million reads and almost 8000 followers in a year’s time.
When I began posting on Wattpad a little over a year ago, though, I knew no one on the website and had to start from scratch. This is how I did it.
I discovered Wattpad while reading a guest post written by David Alastair Hayden on Lindsay Buroker’s website entitled “How to Win Followers and Influence Readers on Wattpad.”
Many of you may be already familiar with Wattpad, but for those who aren’t, it is a social media platform where writers and readers come together to share stories. Over 40 million individual users from all around the world log in to Wattpad every month, with one new user joining every second. You can build reading lists, vote for and comment on chapters, “follow” favorite authors, and interact with other readers/writers through public and private messages. You can read the stories on your computer browser, or download the app for your cell phone or tablet, making it very convenient for on the go.
I began posting Born of Shadow on Wattpad last summer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The story was already written, so all I had to do was post it. Then between each post, I took the time to read other people’s stories and chat with other Wattpadders. I also posted a message on Facebook inviting my friends and family to check it out (it was terrifying to push that send button, but I’m glad I found the courage to do it).
Fairly quickly, Born of Shadow shot up in the ranks and held position in the 20-30s most weeks. I was contacted by Wattpad with an offer to feature the story (which means your book appears on a “featured” page and is advertised by the site). You can also request to have a story featured. My feature began in August, which took the story up to #4 on the fantasy hotlist and #2 on adventure category overnight! At one point, I had over 100,000 reads in ten days!
Part of the success of Born of Shadow is it fits the demographics on Wattpad well. It is a YA fantasy novel set in Egypt. It is primarily an adventure story, so it’s chock full of cliffhangers that keep readers coming back and begging for more. I also have several chapters, giving the readers more opportunity to read and vote.
Now, not everyone will approach Wattpad the way I did. I was essentially starting out with no reader base. How you use Wattpad will largely depend on what stage of your writing career you are at and how much time you have to invest in it, but even established authors with large fanbases and busy schedules may benefit from expanded worldwide readership by using Wattpad. One good way is to set up reading contests or share a short story, connecting directly with readers for a brief time. These are techniques that heavy hitters like Margaret Atwood and Amanda Hocking use. That way, readers can interact with you without a big time commitment.
Why You Should You Use Wattpad?
- Directly connect with your readers and get a feel for what they are thinking and if the story is being read the way you intended it. The readers can often make helpful suggestions. For example, I added chapters from the Shadow Queen’s point of view in Born of Shadow because the readers asked for it. The story is much richer for it.
- Learn the demographics for the readers of each of your books, including age, gender and nationality. This can be valuable information to share with an agent/publisher or for your indie marketing. For example, I know that 57% of Born of Shadow readers are female, 18% are male, and 35% are private. I know that 34% are between the ages of 13-18, and 19% are between the ages of 18-25. I know that Born of Shadow is most popular in the US with 40% of my readers originating there, but it’s very popular in the Philippines at 16%. Canada and India are tied for third at nearly 5% each.
- Tap into an international market! Wattpad is a good way to share a story all over the world. Born of Shadow is read in over 150 countries.
- Learn more about your ideal reader by checking out their profiles and reading the comments of your most enthusiastic fans. I quickly discovered, for example, that the most popular fandoms amongst my readers are the Percy Jackson series, the Harry Potter books and Mortal Instruments books. This information can be helpful when approaching agents and/or planning your book promotion (including choosing Amazon categories).
- Receive critiques from highly qualified and specialized individuals. To give you an example, since Born of Shadow was set in Egypt, it was very helpful to have Egyptians, and several who had traveled to Egypt, give me their perspectives and let me know if the story felt authentic. I also have Muslim friends who help me make sure I get that part accurate, and friends that help me with the Arabic. I have another reader (and friend) whose father worked in an embassy in Egypt, just like my character Liam. Her perspective has been very useful. Don’t be afraid to seek out new Wattpad buddies who will help make your story stronger.
Convinced that Wattpad might be worth trying out? Great. If you want to sporadically post a chapter here or there and make a few friends, you certainly can, but it’s not likely you will build a large following or rack up a lot of reads with this method. If you are approaching Wattpad to build a readership and to test a book in preparation to query an agent or self-publish, you will want a plan. Here’s what worked well for me.
How to Succeed on Wattpad
- Have a professional looking cover. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is! That is how most readers on Wattpad will discover your writing, and the cover has to convince them it’s worth checking out.
- Post as clean a copy as possible. Readers will forgive the occasional typo, but if the story is riddled with errors, it’s unlikely that your story will take off. With over 100 million uploads, the readers have plenty of other options.
- Post several chapters in your story. On Wattpad, “reads” is the number of times any particular post has been viewed. The more chapters you have in a story, the greater opportunity to gather reads and votes and the more exposure your story gets.
- Depending on the genre, you may want to keep your chapters fairly short. Some young readers don’t have the attention span to read long chapters. I have found fantasy readers tend to prefer a little longer chapters, between 1500-3000 words. But it’s best to play with it, or even better, ask your readers directly. Those with longer chapters can break them up if necessary.
- Take a few minutes to write a good bio and post quality images on your profile. Many people follow based on the way they relate to you.
- Share your story in the club thread (choose the category that is the best match).
- Post on a regular basis, ideally 1-3 times each week. The best time to post is Friday or Saturday morning for weekend readers (though keep in mind with a worldwide readership, timing fluctuates wildly). It’s much easier to do this if you have the story written beforehand, or you have enough time between posts to write another chapter. If your posting is sporadic, the readers will never know when to come back for more and will likely quit reading.
- Ask people to follow you and add your story to their reading lists in author notes at the end of the chapters. If they do, they will automatically receive emails letting them know every time you update the story.
- Respond to comments on your story (or at least some of them). If you do, it is much more likely readers will return.
- Share your story on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. I don’t recommend bombarding people, but the occasional reminder is helpful for busy readers.
- Consider writing in a variety of categories. New categories often equals new readers who might cross over to your other stories.
How to Translate Wattpad Success into Book Sales
So at this stage, you may be interested in Wattpad, but you want to know the efforts will translate into book sales. While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how many sales come directly from your Wattpad efforts, building a Wattpad following is definitely worth it. I had several Wattpad readers who went on to buy Born of Shadow, but also a large number who were introduced to the book via Wattpad links on Facebook, but preferred to buy the hard copy or Kindle version than interact socially. Keep in mind that most people on Wattpad have already read your story for free, so keep your sales expectations realistic. Here are some ideas of how to promote your book.
- Promote your book launch and promotions directly to your Wattpad followers.
- Set up Twitter and Author page profiles to connect with and build a readership outside of Wattpad.
- Ask Wattpad readers to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s particularly nice to build up a sizable number of reviews on Goodreads while your book is on preorder.
- In your profile, include links to websites, other social media, and websites where the book can be purchased.
- Let readers know in the chapters that your story is available to buy and where they can pick it up.
- Post the first book in a series on Wattpad, then share where the other books in the series can be purchased at the end of the book. If they enjoyed the first one, it’s likely they will seek out the next.
- Set up private Facebook groups for your most devoted readers to help promote your books (I have one for my fan group called The Shadowborn).
- Use Twitter and Facebook to promote the story. Wattpad makes it easy with share buttons.
- Throw launch parties on Twitter and Facebook using hashtag #Wattpad to let your Wattpad friends know about the big event.
- Include trailers or personal videos and photos in your Wattpad book, connecting directly with your readership.
My favorite thing about Wattpad has definitely been the direct interaction with my readers, like a sweet lady in assisted living who loves my books but otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them, or the girl from Syria that told me before she read my story, she thought all Americans hated them, but now she’s changed her mind. Their feedback has been enormously gratifying, and their enthusiasm for my stories has lifted my confidence and motivated me to continue to write, even on days where I just don’t feel it. I don’t want to let them down.
As you can tell, there is much more to Wattpad than I can cover in one post. If you are interested in specifics, including techniques to grow followers, how to check the demographics of your story, how to network socially on the site, how to create a writer’s group, how to support and cross promote, advice for winning Wattpad contests, and case studies of Wattpadders who successfully navigated their way to publishing success, head over to my website at www.sarahbensonbooks.com and download the free guide.
Hope to see you on Wattpad! If you’re there, swing by my profile @sarahbensonbooks and Dave’s profile @DavidFarland (he’s posting his story The Golden Queen there) and say hello!
Sarah Benson is the author of Born of Shadow, a YA fantasy novel set in Egypt. It is available to buy on Amazon and BookDepository.com. She is a Jane Austen fangirl and addicted to green smoothies. Sarah is a binge reader, who is just as likely to consume books on how the brain functions or social injustice as a newly released YA novel or romance. She lives in a log cabin in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and four kids.
Dave will be teaching at the Kanab Writers Conference this October 23rd and 24th. Register at kanabwritersconference.com.