Many writers have dabbled in fanfiction here and there, or maybe even been so hardcore that they tried to organize a fanfiction virtual season of their favorite vampire show that inexplicably got canceled after one season (ahem…not guilty). Writing fanfiction is a great stepping stone because you are using characters and worlds already created, so you can really play around and get to know your writing style. But writing fanfiction can also be great for the ego since the fan communities are so involved and vocal in telling you how awesome your story is. Which is understandably cool since you wouldn’t have written it unless you
were just as obsessed thought it was awesome too.
Which is something you don’t necessarily get when you start your own original work. Sure, you can try to find beta readers and see what they say, but there’s a certain thrill to publishing your writing online that is missing. Also, it is a bummer to not be able to transfer your readership from fanfiction to your actual books if you chose to use a different pen name.
But what many writers don’t know is there are plenty of online writing communities where you can publish your work for free. I don’t recommend posting everything you’ve ever written, but if you are just starting out, it can be a great way to build an audience. There are a few that I’ve come across like Figment and FictionPress, but Wattpad is by far my favorite. I mentioned it before when talking about my self-publishing journey, but I thought I’d give you guys some more detail as to why it is so awesome.
I discovered Wattpad through an article on Publisher’s Weekly (that I haven’t been able to find since, but you can check out Wattpad: A Way for Indie Authors to Build an Audience by PW) giving tips on how to build an audience when you are just starting out, especially if you are self-publishing. One of their suggestions was to post your book on Wattpad and get it featured.
“For self-published and hybrid authors, participating on Wattpad is all about the exposure. We have 16 million engaged readers every month — a captive audience looking for their next great read. For authors, it’s a way to build an audience directly on a reading social network. They do it because they see Wattpad as a way to promote their brand, test out new ideas, and find new customers. The writers who are the most successful are those who are engaged with their readers — they respond to every comment, update often, and share as much as they can.” -Maria Cootauca, Engagement Manager on Wattpad
I did this back in September for the first book in my fantasy series and have been astounded with the results. In four months, over 6000 people have finished reading my book, 1700 people follow me, and over 700 people have commented on it. Has that translated into sales yet? I don’t know. I’ll have to follow up on that when the second book is released in March. But people are excited about it, which is awesome.
Word of mouth can be everything for an author, and this site is a great way to get some buzz started about your book. And it’s not just new authors that agree. You can find authors who are already established and selling hundreds of thousands of books on Wattpad as well. Amanda Hocking, Melissa Foster, Margaret Atwood, and the week that I was featured, Brandon Sanderson was as well. Some of you might recognize his name since he finished out the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan passed away.
Wattpad is not only a great marketing tool, it is also a wonderful community where you can truly connect one on one with readers. They can comment on each chapter, asking you questions, telling you things they liked, and you can reply directly to them. I’ve gotta say that it is pretty awesome to see people fangirl over my characters as much as I do. Even if it doesn’t leave me with 6000 guaranteed purchases, it will be worth it.
The only downside to publishing the first book in a series there is that you will break some hearts by not posting the second one. Wattpad is a worldwide community, touching countries you might not have even heard of, which means there will be some readers who are unable to purchase your second book because it just might not be available to them, regardless of how many distributors you use.
There are tons of success stories from Wattpad, such as 17 year old Beth Reekles who scored a deal with Random House after her book The Kissing Booth amassed a huge following on Wattpad. Harlequin has sponsored a contest to discover New Adult stories through the site, and I’m sure many other publishers will follow suit.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Hop on over to the site yourself and see how it works out for you. In my experience, getting featured was a great way to get a lot of readers fast, whereas just posting the book there was a bit of a slow burn for readership. It can happen without being featured, but you have to have patience. Then again, if you are trying to get published or publishing on your own, patience is probably your middle name by now. =D
Have you ever published online? What was your experience like?