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How Wattpad Gained My Self-Published Novel 500,000 Reads

Drawing on her own success story, indie author Dianne Greenlay explains why she thinks all self-published writers should try using Wattpad to increase the discoverability of their books.

Wattpad logoLast weekend, my novel, Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest, surpassed the incredible number of a half a million “reads” on Wattpad, the free online app connecting writers with readers.

I first heard about Wattpad on David Gaughran’s blog in January 2012. At that time I was struggling to define my novel’s readership. My protagonist was sixteen years old and therefore the novel should have been classified as YA (Young Adult), but most of my readers at that point were adults. I was looking for a way to introduce the story to the YA crowd, and much to my excitement, Wattpad’s membership seemed to fit my needs.

At the end of April, 2012, I set up a free account with Wattpad and tentatively began to upload my novel, chapter by chapter. You may upload as much or as little as you like, as well as an author bio, picture, and “wallpaper”, for which I chose my book’s cover. Much like Amazon, you may also select genres and tags for your story.

Almost immediately, I began to get messages from YA readers begging for more chapters. A few weeks later I was contacted by a Wattpad administrator, who offered me the chance to become one of Wattpad’s featured authors through the Wattpad Writer Partner Program – “an exclusive marketing opportunity for professional writers who want to create an active fan base of readers with free marketing help from Wattpad”.

Extra Opportunities for Wattpad Writer Partners

Every month, Wattpad selects a handful of writers to promote. To become a featured author, I had to write a 1,000 word post on a topic or angle that that pertained to my writing or to my book and to upload the entire novel by the promo date, leaving it on Wattpad for at least 6 months. In exchange, they would publish my post on the featured blog and promote my novel in the “Recommended Story” area on their home page.

I also had the option of a branded placement on all mobile Wattpad apps, co-hosted contests and giveaways, a podcast interview and marketing advice. Since I had tried Amazon’s Select program a couple of times, offering my novel for free did not bother me, and it seemed a good way to get my novel in front of YA readers without the need for Amazon’s exclusivity. I agreed to their terms.

I had no qualms that my pirate novel would be pirated (no pun intended!) As a debut author, my far greater concern was having my book fall into oblivion.  And my desired audience of YA readers loved Wattpad because the reading material was free to them.

Long-Term Benefits of Wattpad Visibility

I still watch in amazement as the number of “reads” continues to climb, and every day I receive comments from readers about how much they are enjoying the story.  When I am having a “down” day with my writing, I read the comment list and am immediately buoyed up. On a more practical level, by quoting some of these comments in my submissions, I have been accepted for BookBub promotions as well as by a few other sites having rather “high acceptance” levels. Also two agents have asked to read the complete story.

Sequel Gains Increased Discoverability

I also had a further free marketing opportunity with Wattpad for Deadly Misfortune, the second book in my series. I uploaded several chapters, but not the entire novel, and ended the last upload with a clickable link to its Amazon Buy page. I have had a steady number of sales of this second book without any other marketing, and therefore I think that getting Quintspinner in front of so many readers made them so keen to read the rest of the story that they were happy to buy the whole novel.

Although Wattpad has a high proportion of YA users, it includes readers and writers of every age and genre, including the much-acclaimed Margaret Atwood. Several writers on Wattpad have caught the eye of literary agents and received offers based on the number of “reads” that their writing has accumulated.

With over 8 million unique monthly visitors and usage doubling every 6 months, Wattpad is a marketing opportunity that indie authors should at least consider. I’m glad that I did.

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27 Responses to How Wattpad Gained My Self-Published Novel 500,000 Reads

  1. Patrick Dacre July 25, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Another ‘success’ in a narrow genre called YA fiction. For the rest of the thousand subject areas and genres, perhaps a non warehouse approach makes just as much sense. See my web link for a case study diary to that end.

    • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      Patrick, I agree that Wattpad is particularly effective for gaining discoverability with a YA readership. I have no experience with other genres, except that the novel that I put up on Wattpad, is also listed in the historical genre there, and surprisingly, readers of that genre are frequently leaving me comments as well.

  2. Ian Sutherland July 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Dianne, it great to read about someone else’s experience with Wattpad. I too have been using Wattpad for the last three months. As an unpublished author not far off finishing my first novel, I used it as a way of reaching beta readers. I simply wanted to see if the premise was going to be of interest and get some confirmation that my writing style was a good standard. And the Wattpad readers have given me a resolute thumbs up on both counts, which is fantastic, reaching over 8,000 reads without even being featured. (Many of them have also given me lots of constructive feedback, almost acting as a legion of free proof readers and copy-editors!).

    And then, like you, I was approached by Wattpad about being featured on the site. One of the conditions is that the novel has to be complete and loaded up in full, which I’m a few months away from. But even so, I’m reticent to do so. My novel is a crime thriller and, as you rightly point out, Wattpad is dominated by a YA readership. So for me, the idea of publishing the book on Wattpad, for free, is a counterintuitive. I get that it will help to drive a readership, but without a second book to pull through real sales, is it really worth doing over properly indie-publishing?

    I also see you make a point about several writers who have caught the eye of literary agents and received offers based on the number of reads. For obvious reasons, I’d love this to be true, but it feels like hearsay. I’m not aware of anyone owning up to this yet. Do you have any examples, especially previously unpublished authors?

    • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Ian, here are a few names of authors who have made traditional deals after havinging been discovered on Wattpad:
      1. Kirsty Mosely -her novel NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE gathered 5 million reads and is to be published Nov. 2013.
      2. Abigail Gibbs received a 6 figure deal with Harper Collins for her vampire novel THE DARK HEROINE, in Sept 2012
      3. Shanice Williams received a publishing offer for KANE RICHARDS MUST DIE
      4. Isabelle Rae received a publishing offer for WHEN SUMMER ENDS
      5. Brittany Geragotelis signed a 3 book deal with Simon and Schuster for her LIFE’S A WITCH series
      6. Maree Anderson signed an initial option offer for her Wattpad novel FREAKS OF GREENVILLE HIGH, to be made into a TV series
      7. Beth Reekles was signed by Randon House for her
      Wattpad novel, THE KISSING BOOTH.

      I think there are probably many more, but these are some that I have heard about. BTW,I really like your idea of using Wattpad readers as your beta readers!

      I indie published my novel QUINTSPINNER as well as put it up on Wattpad, and I think the combination has helped sales of the series. What you might do, is post a few chapters of your crime thriller on Wattpad and finish up with a note that includes a link to your buy page(s) for readers who would like the full story.

      Best wishes for your novel’s success!

  3. Peter thompson July 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Dianne, i think i shall give this a try, i am prepared to give away one novel if i get publicity, nothing comes free, so giving away my book is payment in itself. i already have three books on amazon and nothing is shifting yet. i only started to publish in jabuary this year, so i am still finding my feet.
    thanks for the tip
    sincerly Peter thompson

    • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      Hi Peter, for me, Wattpad has been a great way to introduce the first novel in my series to many, many readers. I have used Amazon’s KDP Select, too, so I do not have any concerns about the concept of providing my novel to readers for free. Wattpad readership more closely fit my audience description that having it get lost in the thousands of free books out there on KDP SELECT free days.

      And you can remove it from Wattpad at anytime that you wish. Best of luck in your publishing and marketing journey!

  4. Andy July 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Thanks for this article. Finally, someone didn’t assume I already knew what ‘YA’ was. I guess I could have googled it, but I often get distracted and forget. Even though I’ve been at writing a few years and publishing independently for a shorter period of time, I am still very much a newbie.

    Warm regards,
    Andy

    • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Andy, I know that feeling. I’m always on a steep learning curve!

  5. Melinda Field July 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Hmmmm….can one do this if their novel( mine is TRUE) is in KDPSELECT program? Is the six month period an exclusive? Thanks for this info, Melinda Field

    • Dianne Greenlay July 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      the six month period is non-exclusive, and that particular length of time is only a requirement for Wattpad if you are asked to be a featured author. Otherwise there are no time constraints at all. I had checked with David Gaughran about his experience and Amazon’s exclusivity clause and he said that Amazon had told him that they didn’t have an issue with Wattpad .

  6. Giacomo Giammatteo July 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Way to go, Dianne! That’s fantastic. A heck of a lot of reads in such a short time.

    • Dianne Greenlay July 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

      Thanks, Jim! I found it to be a great way to get feedback from a YA audience on my story content as well. I have had hundreds of comments left by readers and all are enthusiastic and complimentary, so as a writer, i think my storyline is on the right track.

  7. Graeme Aitken July 26, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    Congratulations Dianne and thanks for taking the time to share your experience with everyone. I’ve had Wattpad recommended to me before but no one has explained it as comprehensively as you did in your post.

  8. Dianne Greenlay July 26, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Thanks Graeme, I am still learning about all of its features but I find it a lot less cumbersome to find my way around than Goodreads, which still confounds me… :-D

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  10. Fawzia Begum April 26, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Hi Dianne,

    I am truly happy for you and others for whom Wattpad worked. I posted my book about 24 hours ago for the first time on Wattpad under Romance and General Fiction and not a single read. How is it possible? Lovely cover, title and the first chapter. I thought out of curiosity, at least some people would click? Then I went and tried to find my title under ‘New’, and Romance but nothing showed up. So basically if no one could see it, how could they read it? I contacted Wattpad and got an automated reply and that’s it. I wonder if they filter titles and not allow everyone to be visible? Mine is a sweet, romantic story that anyone can read. If you have any thoughts, please share it.
    Many thanks,
    Fawzia

    • Debbie Young April 27, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      Fawzia, I wonder whether you need to allow more than 24 hours for it to show up? Try again in a day or two and you may find it has appeared – there are probably approval processes it has to go through, and if you posted in on Friday, maybe it won’t be checked till early next week (not sure whether Wattpad is staffed over the weekend but maybe not). Hard to be patient at such an exciting time, I know!

  11. Elisabeth Potts May 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Thanks, Dianne, for this detailed explanation of what Wattpad offers. I’ve written a novel about the late 60′s in Berkeley, when students were being tear-gassed on campus by their own government. Since you mentioned that Wattpaad is heavily geared to the YA market, do you think my book would fly there?

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