Near the end of November 2014, I joined the Wattpad site to see if it would be a useful tool for connecting with readers. I uploaded a few chapters each from my novel, my self-publishing manual, and a work in progress. I was active for about a month on the site but work took over and I admittedly dropped off the radar.
Then out of the blue I received an email at the end of March from Wattpad with an invitation to feature my novel, Baby Jane.
“Featured” is a Wattpad section curated by the site’s editorial staff; they take submissions from authors and readers and pick the best. I do not know how they found my book—whether a reader recommended it, whether Wattpad staff saw my posts in their community forums, or if staff simply peruse the works of new authors to the site until Wattpad find something they like—but find me they did. I agreed to be featured and asked for six weeks to get my ducks in a row; Wattpad has been very flexible and accommodating.
Baby Jane went live on Featured today. The deal with Featured is that for the first week you are guaranteed to appear somewhere in the first twenty spots, which are rotated randomly each day.
After seven days you go into the general Featured pool, which is also rotated randomly each day. Featured has seen works garner thousands of reads in that first crucial week—some even see reads in the five- and six-figure range—but some equally see next to nothing. It is impossible to predict what will do well.
With The Global Indie Author and other work having completely overwhelmed my time, I haven’t promoted Baby Jane in over three years except for a few Kobo sales events. Consequently, aside from a few sporadic sales on Kobo, the book has all but died. I see little to lose and possibly a lot to gain with this. More importantly, the fact that Baby Jane is all but dead gives me a unique opportunity to gauge Wattpad’s effectiveness as a marketing platform in isolation from all other marketing efforts; whatever happens to Baby Jane (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) will be entirely attributable to Wattpad alone. I will share my results here with you readers, and will post regular updates at least for the crucial first week.
What are some of my obstacles?
Wattpad’s demographic is heavily weighted toward teen and twenty-something females. Baby Jane is definitely not young adult fiction—my heroes are in their 30s—so it is anyone’s guess whether the book will have broad appeal or only find favour in a small portion of the site’s estimated 35,000,000 users.
Wattpad is most popular in countries where English is a second language.This can work both for and against an author who writes in English.
On the one hand, complex works may not be understood and therefore not appeal as broadly; on the other hand, a novel that does well may attract buyers of foreign rights willing to pay for a proper translation. (My hope is to see interest in Germany where Native American stories do well: in Baby Jane, Native American spiritual beliefs are explored while the mystery is being solved.) Wattpad has also spawned several movie and TV deals, which would be a welcome perk.
There is a catch to being featured, however: you have to put the whole work up, and they ask that you do so for a minimum of six months.
This can have both positive and negative consequences for sales: on the one hand, Wattpad is yet another site that cultivates a culture of free, and if readers can read the whole work on the site, what incentive is there to buy it? On the other hand, the site’s potential reach is phenomenal and one can look at Wattpad the same way that many view Amazon’s Select. Unfortunately for me, the idea of sacrificing one book to generate sales of one’s other titles may not work so well in my favour here: I do not yet have my next novel written, and my other published works are only my non-fiction self-publishing manuals. I have sped up the process of my next novel in anticipation of renewed interest, but it is still months away from completion.
Works on Wattpad are divided into parts, and Wattpad suggest that parts be between 1500 and 3500 words; this works best with their demographic, who are mostly mobile users.
I failed originally to consider this and had uploaded the first three chapters together into a single part; I had to delete these and reload the parts from scratch. This meant the book unfortunately lost most of its previously acquired reads, votes, and comments on the Wattpad site. I also had to divide longer chapters into parts; the proved easy for most chapters but one in particular was problematic, and it happens to be the third chapter, too early in the book to count on reader interest to overcome annoyance with a longer section. It’s not that much too long (3639 words), but its length and position do make me nervous. Will see if this matters.
The novel has been cleaned up—though it seems no matter how many times I proof it I keep finding more errors—and new files uploaded to Amazon and Kobo. I signed the book on with a new aggregator that has a larger global reach. I also updated the print version on CreateSpace and paid for the file to be revised on Lightning Source International as well. This has been a lot of work (and a little expense) that I can only hope will pan out. However, what I did not do was lower the price: USD $4.95. I did lower it in certain foreign markets like India, the Phillipines, Brazil, and Turkey, but everywhere else I kept the price as is. Will this be too high? Will it be irrelevant because Wattpad doesn’t generate sales, only interest? Who knows. I will soon find out. Will keep you posted.