The publishing world has experienced many different influential changes in its history, and it seems they come more frequently than ever, in the ever-changing scape of the Internet. From the introduction of self-publishing to the explosive digital presence of the Kindle, the digital age has a massive influence on how people publish, and how people read. Wattpad.com is yet another platform that has integrated itself into the publishing world in new and challenging ways. It is a website that, since developed, has had some interesting influences that are definitely capable of continuing to change the modern models of publishing.
So, what is Wattpad? Wattpad.com is a digital publishing platform, a website that intends to “change the way we share stories”. Started in 2006, this Canadian-based company wanted to create a social-media-esque place for professionals, hobbyists, and writers of every kind, to have a sort of common ground in which to read and chat about fiction. In 2013, the company boasted an absolutely stunning 28 million uploads, said to be competing with the total number of books produced since the advent of printing (“A Brief”). While that is undoubtedly an impressive number, it simply isn’t true. Since the advent of the printing press in 1440, there have been many speculations based on an outdated Google Books algorithm that there have been something like 135 million books published since the dawning ages of the printing press (Panganiban). Even so, in the many years since that 2013 claim, Wattpad has continued to both influence, and be influenced by, the publishing industry and writers. In this era of publishing, a writer must look inward to their goals about their works, and weigh that against the models of publication available. Here, it is important to look at the various pros and cons of a platform like Wattpad, versus a traditional publishing avenue.
In being a more social-based platform for publishing, Wattpad offers several interesting and useful things to writers. Chief among them is a ready-made audience. The platform is completely free to anyone, reader or writer, which takes down barriers, and allows for anyone to interact with fiction. This option to interact with their potentially enormous reader base, and receive instant feedback is something of a novelty in the publishing world, something that traditional and many self-publishing models do not offer so easily and that is attractive to many writers who are looking for something different. Interestingly, while Wattpad is free, it is trying out different website models, in the hopes of being able to monetize authors’ stories, should they wish to make money through advertising revenue, though that is still in its infancy (Gupta). Largely, the writers on platforms like Wattpad and others, like Scriggler, and WEBook, enjoy that there is a degree of anonymity that can be maintained, if desired, and it is a much less rigid form of publishing - a writer is not beholden to traditional publishing house content guidelines or deadlines - which can be perfect for the hobbyist and amateur writer, or any author looking to benefit from a ready-made audience (Chime).
Speaking of amateur writers, there are many different things that Wattpad brings to the table that might inhibit success in a more traditional publishing setting. Not really seen as a “professional” option in publishing, Wattpad users likely will face difficulties in getting traditionally published, should they want to take that route, after digitally publishing on a free platform. Almost paradoxically, self-publishing as a whole has actually lessened some of the importance of traditional publishing, so it is a very interesting concept to see that Wattpad writers do not quite “fit in”. It is possible, though incredibly rare, for a person to make that switch from Wattpad to a traditional publishing house, but some authors have had that opportunity, like Taran Matharu, the best-selling author known for The Summoner Trilogy. His book was first published chapter by chapter on Wattpad, and eventually was solicited by publishers and agents, looking to traditionally publish his work. Being on both sides gave him some insight into the differences in publishing models. While yes, there is a significant opportunity for building a community, for collaboration, and some recognition on Wattpad, there is little to be seen in the way of financial compensation, recognition by “professional” authors, and again, a difficult time making a platform transition in the future (Matharu). Hinging on those difficulties, Wattpad is also a contributing factor to one of the biggest self-publishing problems: oversaturation (Chime). Especially during this time of the pandemic, writers and authors alike have flocked to digital platforms, and book and story consumption and output have skyrocketed (Gupta). While there are millions of users on the website, having several more millions of works uploaded makes for a potentially wildly daunting website to navigate, and get noticed on. Further, while Wattpad and other social media-based digital platforms have some established protections hard-won by organizations such as The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) for fan and original fiction, they still do not receive quite the same protections that traditionally-published authors enjoy, which can make a traditional model even more attractive in the long run.
Undoubtedly, the publishing world is constantly, if not necessarily consistently, changing. How authors publish their work is largely about what they wish to see in their writing career, and how they want to reach a significant readership. Subject to what is trending and how readers want to consume works, an author has many avenues in which to get their works into the world, and with those avenues, a hefty list of pros and cons for each. As in everything, authors will face challenges no matter the means by which they publish, be it a traditional avenue, or part of the new-ish world of Wattpad, but it is still absolutely worthwhile to pursue the goal of being published!
“A Brief History of Wattpad.” Digital Magazine, 7 June 2017, www.borndigital.com/2015/10/01/a-brief-history-of-wattpad-2015-10-01, Accessed 10 Mar 2021.
Chime, essay by Davina, et al. “Should You Publish on Wattpad?” Thanet Writers, 18 June 2019, thanetwriters.com/essay/publishing/should-you-publish-on-wattpad/#:~:text=of%20the%20world.-,Cons,hard%20work%20and%20not%20guaranteed, Accessed 7 Mar 2021.
Gupta, Kanishka, and Amish Mulmi. "While Book Publishers Slowed down during the Pandemic, This Writing Platform Accelerated." Scroll.in, Scroll.in, 30 Nov. 2020, amp.scroll.in/article/979461/while-book-publishers-slowed-down-during-the-pandemic-this-writing-platform-accelerated, Accessed 10 Mar 2021.
Matharu, Taran. “Writing on Wattpad versus Publishing ‘Real’ Books.” BookTrust, 9 Oct. 2017, www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2017/october/writing-on-wattpad-versus-publishing-real-books/, Accessed 7 Mar 2021.
Panganiban, Roma. “How Many Books Have Ever Been Published?” Mental Floss, 9 Sept. 2016, www.mentalfloss.com/article/85305/how-many-books-have-ever-been-published, Accessed 17 Mar 2021.