I have decided to take a closer look at all of the “bookish” social media sites out there on the interwebs at present. I am often asked about them when I give marketing workshops to authors. In retrospect, the reason I am asked about them is that until asked, I tend to say very little. Perhaps that is indicative of which sites are most valuable for marketing purposes, or perhaps not. So, let’s take a peek under the hood, shall we?
Let’s start by examining Wattpad. Wattpad is a relative newcomer in this realm that many consider ruled by Goodreads (who we will look at in a future post). According to their website, they have more than 10 million readers, however in a recent discussion with their marketing team they indicate that number has risen to 16 million users.
Wattpad is the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories. It’s a new form of entertainment connecting readers and writers through storytelling, and best of all, it’s entirely free. (Wattpad website Sept. 2013)
If this is correct, this is a fundamental difference in mission from most of the other book sites. Goodreads and the like are dedicated to critiquing and reviewing books more than sharing them. And in fact, Wattpad refers to sharing stories directly rather than merely linking to them. A big difference, and an important one.
Also an important distinction from other social media spaces is that this is one of the few sites where it is totally acceptable to talk about your book and writing more than anything else. In other words, for many authors and other book pros, this may be the most comfortable place to dip your toe into social media marketing.
Now – to the nuts and bolts. What do you actually do on Wattpad, and how does it help you market and sell more books?
On Wattpad, you have two potential roles, author or reader. For best success, BE BOTH! They have an official code of conduct which I would suggest you read before diving in (although in truth the code could be summed up as “don’t be a jerk and don’t do anything shifty”).
- From a structural perspective, Wattpad is like many other social media sites today. Create a profile – customize it as you like (I found this fairly self-explanatory).
- Also similar to many social media sites, you then “follow” people.
- Things that are more uniquely “book-like” include the ability to create reading lists, and to add books to your library.
- In general, even material that is shown in its entirety on Wattpad is done in a serialized fashion. The trend appears to be to do so on a set schedule and to let your readers know when you will be uploading new material each week. It is a very simple interface that takes a text cut/paste or upload.
- You have the ability to interact with your commenters – do so!
- You have the ability to message your followers – do so – but do not spam them.
- From a functional perspective as a reader, many authors put only partial material on the site (for example, traditionally published authors may not have permission to post their entire book), or they may offer new or additional material instead. Wattpad does not discourage marketing of your paid books on their site. For the most extreme example I have found, check out some of Cory Doctorow’s work. He is very blatant about the fact that he is happy to have you read the work on Wattpad, but also hopes you will purchase the material. (Personally I think he takes it a touch too far, but given he is published by Tor, this may be the mutual agreement they came to).
- As a reader, you can comment on the material, and you can vote for the material. As a result, many readers will read your material, and comment asking you to do the same. Good etiquette dictates at the very least you add them to you “to be read” reading list or some other list of your creation.
- You can also join a variety of different “clubs”. As you might expect, these are largely separated into groups that wish to read similar types of materials – see the list here. However, there are other clubs that are a bit more targeted and/or broad, for example, this writing group dedicated to helping one another become better writers.
Once you dive in, you will quickly notice that some stories are “featured”. As you might imagine, those stories are getting better visibility than those that are not. You can submit your story to be featured, but it is only eligible based on certain criteria. Your book/story must be complete, and at least 48 pages long. Also, it must be “well written” and “free from errors” – meaning, edited and proofread! They indicate that it may take 4-6 weeks to receive a response to your request as this is a curated function with actual humans reading the materials. You can see the writers portal here for details.
The last piece of this interesting puzzle is a new feature on Wattpad called “fan funding”. Essentially it is a Kickstarter-like process that allows fans to fund their favorite authors in exchange for rewards. Whether it works, or is useful, I have to imagine varies as much as the original Kickstarter does, and similarly, requires work and tending to stand a chance of hitting the funding goal.
Of course the burning question here is whether or not any of the above activity will sell more books. As a relative newcomer to the platform, I can’t yet tell (although we are encouraging all of our authors to participate at Booktrope). We are currently working with one of our authors, February Grace, on her next release, “Of Stardust” and I will write up our story here at a later date. In the meantime, come find me on Wattpad and we can figure it out together! Here is my profile: http://www.wattpad.com/user/KatherineSears