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Wattpad is a social network for readers and writers. Wattpad has an estimated 40 million users, of which approximately 2 million are writers. The site is most popular with the 13-18 age group but has a growing proportion of 18-30 users and older. It can be a great way to build a fan base, as long as you keep active within it.

Wattpad is most often used by authors to post their work in progress, raise their profile, and to help sell existing books. There is certainly much writing on this network that needs a good edit and, needless to say, there will be authors who wouldn't dream of putting their own work up there. However, author Margaret Atwood says in a Guardian interview:

"But Margaret," you can hear them whispering. "You're a literary icon at the height of your powers; it says so on your book covers. Why are you sneaking out with an online story-sharing site heavy on romance, vampires and werewolves? You should be endorsing Literature, capital L. Get back up on that pedestal! Strike a serious pose! Turn to stone!"

Maybe my dates with Wattpad are a bit undignified. But at my age, you can afford to be undignified. You're free to explore, and to guinea-pig yourself, and to stretch the boundaries.

Many writers on Wattpad are young people getting their thoughts and feelings down, and generally working out their own problems through fiction. But there are another 38 million users – the readers. That's your potential audience. Well-known authors have not turned their noses up at Wattpad, including Scott Westerfeld, who has his series Uglies on Wattpad, Meg Cabot, R.L. Stine and Paulo Coelho.

Goodreads even has a section especially for popular Wattpad books.

How does it work?

  • Wattpad is for both writers and readers. It takes minutes to set up an account, add a bio and a pic.
  • The most popular genres are Romance, YA/teen, Fanfiction, Fantasy (including the supernatural), Science Fiction (including Dystopian), Paranormal, and Suspense (often a mixture such as paranormal with a romance element).
  • When uploading stories add keywords such as Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance and Young Adult.
  • You can give your stories a recommended age rating.
  • You can write straight into Wattpad or copy and paste. Uploading a document may well upset your formatting. Wattpad converts to ebook format that can be read on a PC, tablet or smart phone. You can organise your uploads, rearrange, add and delete.
  • You can link videos and images.
  • Make sure you have a strong cover with a good resolution for your works. You might want a photo of one of your relatives or a pet on it, but try to think about what your readers will go for rather than be self-indulgent.
  • Followers can vote for you (similar to a like on Facebook). If you get enough votes and comments on your stories, then Wattpad will pick them up and further promote them. You can end up with millions of reads.

Things to consider

  • Bear in mind that 90 per cent of users are on tablets and phones, so experiment a bit. See what brings you the most views. Keep a record.
  • Two thousand words is approximately ten minutes of reading. The average length of time spent on the Wattpad app is about thirty minutes. So bear this in mind.
  • If you have two books in a series, then consider posting the first one a little a time on Wattpad. Don't post all but the last chapter or two and then say, "To find out what happened you need to buy my book." Your reader will feel cheated.
  • If you are serialising your work, post regularly so that your readers know when to look for the next part of the story. Perhaps give them a teaser to the next one to keep them hooked. Don't neglect this as you will soon lose your readers as they will move on to something else. Hopefully, the reader won't want to wait for the rest of the chapters and will buy the book.
  • Write a short prequel or sequel.
  • Another idea is to write separate but exciting back stories or subplots for your existing characters (again posting the link to the actual book).
  • Write short stories to get followers interested in your writing.
  • Posting excerpts doesn't work as well as you need to do something that keeps readers coming back.
  • Be sure to reply to comments. If anyone asks where they can buy more of your work, you can add links to your answers.
  • You might not strike lucky with lots of views straight away. Some authors will find they hit on something within a short time. Others will struggle to get a dozen. Don't give up at this point. Keep going and try to discover what works. Add users, read their stories, comment.
  • Take on board comments when posting a work in progress. It may well help to improve your writing.
  • Remember to repay the favour and read and comment on the work of others. After all, this is a social network and just like with a Facebook author page, it will lose momentum if you get lazy or lose interest in regular posting. As with Twitter, follow others who write in a similar genre to you. Following people back who have followed you can also help with exposure.
  • As with Facebook and Twitter you might want to decide not to have email notifications as you can end up feeling spammed. Perhaps leave it switched on at first to see how quickly you get responses, but as you build your readership you don't want to spend all your time deleting emails.
  • Be friendly and grow a thick skin. Getting uppity or defensive about criticism is likely to lose you followers.

Will I sell more books?

There are good reports of authors increasing sales. This is not without hard work. You do get out what you put in and those authors that work at it, certainly have more success. It may take a little trial and error to hit on the right formula, but giving up if you don't have instant results is the fastest way to fail. As with any social network, time and patience are both required and if you found you quickly gave up on your Facebook page or Twitter through lack of your interaction, then you shouldn't expect Wattpad to work any better for you (unless, of course, the format suits you better).