What the Wattpad? Making Money from “Free”

wattpadFor the love. First they tell me “tree hugging isn’t a paid profession,” and now writing isn’t either? I pick all the wrong careers. Nothing beats sitting in front of a liquid crystal display jamming my fingertips repetitively into alphameric and numeric buttons all day long to create a splay of digital information from here to timbuk-twitter. Working in my pajamas. Rejecting routine hygienics. Washing up only for weddings. An occasional tree hug. It’s the perfect life.

Franzia to FishEye

But the trick is to make enough scratch to not live from one box of wine to the next, and today’s market is a mixed bag. On the one hand, higher ebook royalties bring the sweet life into focus. If a writer can purge enough enjoyable content from brainpan to Amazon/Kindle in $2.99 chunks then said writer can upgrade from Franzia to FishEye, even with a relatively small following (say 15,000 fans).

On the other hand, electronic content is often expected to be free. No one claims that ebook prices have stabilized or will anytime soon. But there are plenty of readers out there already that lurk in the free bins. (O.K., I’ve done it. I’ll admit!) There are some quality books available in accessible formats for nada, or in Yiddish — Bupkis mit Kuduchas (shivering sh!% balls). One source for such fiction is Wattpad, but can this free source of fiction pay off in the end?

You Down with WP?

Now that you’ve either a.) stopped moaning and rolling your eyes or b.) stopped scratching your head, I’ll repeat and explain. If WP still stands for the Washington Post or the Workers’ Party of Singapore in your antiquated mind, then it is time for me to introduce you to Wattpad, the most popular ereader on the planet and one of the biggest apps in the Apple app store ever. It also happens to be a source of quality free fiction. Are there a lot of “I stole your werewolf boyfriend you vampire b*$ch,” sort of books? Sure. Approximately 3.5 x a lot, which equals a buttload (hey, I didn’t make the math).

There is plenty of good content too — compelling, edited content. But it must not be forgotten that Wattpad is primarily a social media site. Of the millions of people that read content on WP most of them read as members of the broader community. They “fan” and follow their favorite writers. They vote and tweet and “like.” So it is not only the quality of fiction that keeps them coming back, but the community as well.

The $1,000,000 Question

These readers still spend money on fiction. But the million dollar question is, when these readers decide to curl up with fiction cutoff from the social yammering of Wattpad, will they be more likely to turn to an author they know from Wattpad?

I’ve spoken to one author from Ireland who says yes. He reports that his novels where virtually unknown off of the island until he was featured on Wattpad. During the nine months after, his Sony sales (strongly tied to Wattpad) shot up to a million downloads. While he couldn’t point to exactly what percentage of sales with Sony where due to Wattpad, Sony remains his main distribution channel (how weird is that?). Of the two dozen published authors I’ve spoken to on WP, three quarters of them think posting their material (usually in its entirety) for free has increased their sales off site, but I’ve yet to find hard evidence.

A Free Fistful of Reefer

My first novel, Fistful of Reefer, is officially releasing July 28th (has released), and I’ve only begun uploading scenes to Wattpad, so I have no personal evidence one way or the other, yet. After participating in the Wattpad community for eight months I’ve gathered 72 fans via four short stories, all based in the same world as my novel. Will these fans and others want to pay money for more? Even if I publish the novels on Wattpad as well? Will they pay $2.99?

All said and done I’m an indie author looking for 15,000 fans that will buy every book I vomit out (delicious vomit, of course). If Wattpad can provide me with a few hundred of those, each of which reads voraciously and socializes with others that do as well… it could make sense that the largest social media site for readers and writers could serve as a successful platform for my super-niche fiction. (My Wattpad profile is @hachebrown. Find me, and we’ll chat.)

Incase WP is a flying fart, you’d better head over to Amazon/Kindle now to participate in my Amazon Blitzkrieg by buying Fistful of Reefer. (http://www.amazon.com/Fistful-of-Reefer)

4 thoughts on “What the Wattpad? Making Money from “Free””

  1. Been researching this for a couple week, did wattpad help you achieve a fan base that pays for the work? I am having trouble seeing how posting free to wattpad leads to money, I wanted to see what your experience was.

  2. Mike, good question. The answer for me has been no. Wattpad has not led directly to money in my pocket. For some people I’ve talked to, it has. These people tend to meet a couple of qualities: 1.) they developed their writing career on Wattpad, and thus are true insiders. 2.) they write content for teenage girls. There can be exceptions, but it is an uphill fight.

    I have found BETA readers, gained some reviews and made some good contacts with other writers.

    But if you are considering starting up an account on wattpad simply to grow platform and turn it into money, I would say it is a long shot at best.

  3. David,
    I found your post about WP (which I totally read as WordPress, even though I got here searching for info about writing on WattPad, haha!) and found it not only humorous, but also informative.
    It’s hard to grasp the best way to build a following as a writer. I was hoping WattPad could provide a path, but the best way forward is probably just to keep churning out quality content for now.
    Keep on keeping on and hug a tree for me.
    Thanks for the post, it was a fun read.

    • Brady, thanks for the comment. The thing I still like about WAttpad is that it doesn’t hurt you. If you are going to be churning out content anyway, I feel like nothing is lost by placing that content on WattPad as you write it. The practice of updating regularly can help people keep writing, and it is fun to know that some people are reading your stuff, even if they aren’t paying you. And I have gotten a handful of loyal fans and some friends out of the whole experience. I see Wattpad as a small part of my longterm platform building strategy. I plan on writing a post in the next month that will go more into the rest of my current strategy. But the general gist is that it includes about eight platforms that each help build your email list. Wattpad can provide a smattering of those emails as well. Which isn’t a huge payoff, but if several sites are each providing a steady trickle of new sign ups, then over a couple years, that list can get pretty big.


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