Getting Readers on Wattpad

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That’s why you’re thinking about posting your story on Wattpad, right? Everyone wants to have their story read. But how do you get people to read a new story on a site that has literally millions of stories?

There are stories on Wattpad with millions of views and thousands of votes, and it can be really disheartening when your story has only a few dozen reads and four votes.

I have been posting my fantasy THE SHADOW WATCH regularly on Wattpad for about 7 weeks now. I am at 2,300 reads and about 400 votes. In the scheme of things on Wattpad, that’s nothing spectacular. But it has been steadily building, and that is the biggest thing to remember. Hitting 1K reads was a sweet spot that seemed to boost daily readership. Your story begins looking like one worth checking out.

But how to get there?

The other day, I was reading Taran Matharu’s account of posting his story, Summoner: The Novice. He posted daily during NaNoWriMo and reached a million reads in about three months. Incredible! But that is not usually the case, at all, and I just started feeling a bit discouraged, really, because that would be so cool, but that is soo not what has been happening.

But, here’s a truth, even the most successful authors on Wattpad typically go through the slog of building readership over many months.

I currently average about 50-100 reads a day on my story, and anywhere from 5 to 30 votes, typically from around 10 unique readers, and I have spent the last month on the Fantasy Hot List, typically in the top 300 or 400.  Again, nothing crazy. But when I think back to being desperate for a single vote or read when I first started posting, it is actually not too bad.

I have about a dozen or so really dedicated readers, at the moment. Ones who read chapter updates right away and enthusiastically comment (a couple have been with me since the first postings, which is pretty cool) and chat about the story. But you will find these are few and far between. When you get them, treat them well. Thank them often. Dedicate chapter to them. Maybe follow them. 

The majority of Wattpad readers are “silent readers.” Meaning they don’t vote on every chapter (or not at all), nor do they comment, but every now and then one will thank me for posting the story, etc. A little frustrating when you want votes, but you will find that the people who care about votes and comments are typically writers, and the majority of your readers won’t say much, because they just want to read. But hey, someone is still taking the time to read your stuff, and that is awesome, so don’t knock on silent readers. If they interact at all, thank them for taking the time to read your stuff.

*An aside — Don’t be that person who sends messages to followers about how they wish people would vote and comment and quit being silent. No one likes that person.*

 

So how do you build readership, then?

 

Well, I am assuming your story is already top quality, with no grammar mistakes, complex characters, and wonderful tension! No? Then, edit and make sure it’s good before posting. Obviously, if you have major structural flaws, you will have trouble getting noticed (unless you are writing One Direction fan fiction, then it seems anything goes).

There is no exact formula to building readership on Wattpad, but I truly believe these things will help everyone. They have worked for me, and are what I see successful writers doing.

 

  1. COVER! COVER! COVER! —  Don’t throw a crappy cover up and wonder why no one is clicking on your story. Find someone who can make a decent one. Deviant Art is a good place to look, as well as the Design forums on Wattpad. There are people who will make you a cover in exchange for you dedicating a chapter to them, or reading and commenting on a couple chapters of their story. Pretty good deal! Get a decent cover before you post anything.
  2. BLURB! — Maybe I will write more about the blurb sometime, but for now, look up what you should include in the blurb, and check out the blurbs of popular stories on Wattpad. What makes them stand out? Be sure to highlight your Main Character and the main conflict quickly. Unless people click on your story, they will only see the first few lines, so make them juicy. Don’t give us paragraphs of worldbuilding or description. Give us tension and make us need to find out what will happen in the story.
  3. POST REGULARLY! — This is one of the biggest things you can do to help yourself build momentum early. I would recommend 2-3 updates a week as you start out. Every time you post, your readers receive push notifications on their phones and an email, that reminds them 2-3 times a week that your story is there and is updating. Also, the more they have to read, the more votes and comments you can get. Don’t post all at once! But steadily put it out there. If possible set a definite schedule. I post every Monday and Friday. My followers and readers know when the new chapters come out and can depend on it.
  4. INTERACT WITH THE READERS YOU HAVE! — I don’t care if you have one reader or a hundred or more. Respond to every comment. Thank people when they vote for your story. Even the top writers do this. Have someone who comments on your story a lot? Why not dedicate a chapter to them. It will make them feel more invested in the story.
  5. BE PATIENT! — It will probably not happen overnight. Just keep at it! While you’ve got time, read other people’s work. See what they do. Get involved on the forums. There are lots of great people there. There are forums for Undiscovered writers. Why not see if some of them want to trade feedback? You may find a new reader who will stick with you the whole way, and you may find out you need to fix some things in those opening chapters.

 

A Couple Freebies

These aren’t necessarily what everyone does, but I picked up some readers through them.

  1. ENTER A CONTEST — Got an awesome story? Why not enter a contest? There are many on Wattpad. For Fantasy and Sci-Fi writers, there is an awesome group called FANTASCI that holds awesome contests regularly and are hosted by top writers on the site in the genre. I connected with a couple top-notch writers through this, and also found some dedicated readers, based on a blurb and cover contest. It is a chance to stand out, because the contests are not based on current readership, just quality writing.
  2. FORUMS — I know I’ve said it before, but seriously, connect with other writers. The community is very supportive. Make friends. Are you undiscovered? Go to the forums, and connect with others? You a romance writer? Connect with other romance writers. Don’t promote yourself! Just chat and connect. Maybe check out some of their stories. But in the long run, this will serve you well.

 

Some Don’ts

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  1. Don’t create fake accounts and get fake votes and comments on your story.
  2. Don’t mass follow people in hopes they’ll follow you back, and especially don’t mass follow writers, because it is annoying.
  3. Don’t troll around begging for reads. You just look desperate.

 

 

Okay, that is all for now. I am still new to the site. But I am pleased with my progress and am excited to see how the momentum continues to build.

 

You a Wattpadder? What works for you? What doesn’t? Was this helpful?

 

Let me know in the comments!

 

And hey, feel free to follow me on Wattpad: S.A. Klopfenstein

 

And if you care to check out my fantasy story, THE SHADOW WATCH, you can read it here: THE SHADOW WATCH

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Posting a Story on Wattpad

I am beginning a new blog series discussing my experience on Wattpad. If any of you are using the social writing and reading site, I would love to dialogue about it.

If you are new to Wattpad, it is a website where thousands upon thousands of writers post stories or novels, typically serially, for free for readers around the world to read. The majority of readers are teens and young adults, largely female, and the content includes high-quality novels that have gone on to be published as well as many lower quality fan fiction stories, etc. The most popular genres are fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fan fiction, though there are markets for most genres.

I approached the site warily at first, throwing up a few sample chapters of an old story about a year ago, to gauge reader reactions, with no fanfare. Meanwhile, other complete stories were garnering millions of reads.

The more I read up on the site, the more I realized I was approaching the site wrong. It is a social network focused on writing and reading. Some writers find great success, and go on to commercial or self publication with much success.

My experience with other writing sites hasn’t been the best. I’ve found most of the time they are designed for other writers, who are reading your work hoping for you to give them feedback. This can be helpful for critique. But if you are a YA writer like me, you wonder how real teens will like your story, versus writers trading critique-reads.

If building readership and engaging with real readers is what you want, then Wattpad may be the site for you.

As I worked on a new project, I decided to test the waters, and really give the site a go. I have begun posting chapters serially for my new fantasy THE SHADOW WATCH.

I am only a couple weeks in, and I have quickly found some amazing readers who have left lovely comments and cannot wait for the next chapter. Every day, that number increases. I have experienced nothing like it yet as an unpublished author. You get in-line feedback and reactions from real readers, reading your story because it sounded interesting to them.

Here are a few tips I’ve discovered so far, in order to stand out on the site and build readership:

  1. Your cover — you need to have a good, professional looking cover. There are so many stories with bad covers that you will immediately stand out.
  2. Follow readers in your genre — Wattpad lists users who have works written or lists of books they are reading. I follow readers who have followed other fantasy writers. Many of them have added my book to their lists and enjoyed it. I try not to follow writers unless I am reading their work and want their updates.
  3. Post polished work — Wattpad is not like other writer sites, where you post for critiques. You may get some, but readers are looking for professional-looking stories.
  4. Interact with your readers — Wattpad is a social network. Consider it more like Twitter. If someone takes the time to follow you or add your work to their lists, thank them. If they comment, write back.
  5. Give your readers a schedule — I post every Monday and Friday. Readers know as soon as they finish the latest chapter when they can read the next one. It also gives you a deadline and readers who will be letdown if you don’t meet it.
  6. Read the works of other writers — Check out what some of the most successful writers are doing on the site. How long are their chapters? Do they give readers a call to action? Do they dialogue with readers? You will learn what works, and you will also read some quality stories. Like I said, many top-rated stories find great success beyond Wattpad.

All right, that is all for now. I will be sharing more tips and sharing more experiences soon.

If you are on Wattpad, what have you found works for you? How do you use the site?

 

If you are interested in reading my fantasy, THE SHADOW WATCH, check it out here:

 

“Literary” versus Fiction that Sells

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate it when “literary” folks bash popularized works of fiction and the writers of popular fiction.

What is popular fiction? I would call it fiction that sells. There are works that are deemed literary that might fall in to that category. Cormac McCarthy sells a lot of books, for instance. But mostly it is genre stuff: King and Crichton and Clancy novels, courtroom thrillers, books about boy wizards, books about psychotic married couples and so forth.

I read a post by James Scott Bell, the awesome writing coach, about this lingering snobbery toward popular writing by the literary snobs. The snobs hate how much we like King and Rowling and Koontz. They think its a sign that people are dumbing down the literary world and ruining the publishing industry. They think it is ruining the art and turning it into entrepreneurship.

But since when was writing not entrepreneurial? Writers have always had to promote themselves, whether to a publisher or a newspaper or an agent or whatever. What writer has ever not wanted readers or to be paid? The starving artist who just sits around and creates experimental work for himself is a rare thing — romanticized far more than it is realistic, or even all that artsy —  and making work for yourself doesn’t mean it is better than work created for other people.

For that matter, who says it can’t go both ways anyway? As if creating works people will like cannot also mean creating art for yourself?

When asked why he chose to write horror, Stephen King remarked, “Who said I had a choice?”

When I was studying writing and literature at college, I met a snob or two. In one critique group, while everyone else was writing essays exploring their mostly mundane personal lives, I was writing action scenes for stories about teens with supernatural powers. In a previous critique group, my stories were considered the best in the class, and suddenly students were talking my stuff down. Ultimately, it came down to the “literary” thing.

Now I still learned a lot from the class, but nevertheless, it rubbed me the wrong way then, and it still does.

I love the sort of stories I write. They are the sort of stories I love to read too. Sure, I read some literary stuff at times, but sci-fi and fantasy are what I love. And when people talk that sort of writing down, it rubs me the wrong way.

Just because something is popular does not decrease its merit. Just because a book isn’t a slow-paced character study does not mean it does not have something to say about humanity. Just because a story is entertaining does not mean it is no longer art.

In fact, I would prefer to find that place where the stories I love to write are also entertaining to an audience who loves to read them, and if I can not starve along the way, I tell you what, I am all for it.

Word Vomit and then… Publish? (Tips for Writing Higher Quality Blogs, and Fiction)

If you’re like me, you get really excited about finishing something you’ve set out to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s 500 words or 90,000, I am really bad about this: I get so excited about finishing the project that I immediately want to send it out into the world. I am riding high on writer’s adrenaline, and in that state of mind, everything I’ve written feels amazing, and ready to publish.

A couple years ago I finished a novel I’d been working on for sometime. It’d been written in a couple big chunks mostly, several months apart. There were inconsistencies and plot holes and characters that needed to be fleshed out more and so on and so on. But that didn’t matter. I was riding high and had finally finished and I was pumped about it. I had been anticipating having a completed novel I could query…

So what did I do? I sent out query letters on a novel in no shape for publication.send-button

It got rejected, of course.

A year and a half later, and I am finding I still have a lot of work I need to do on that novel. It really needs a completely re-typed fourth draft, which I will get to once I’ve finished another novel I am writing.

I have found that this too-eager tendency goes with my blogging as well. There have been more times than I’d like to admit that I’ve hit “Publish” and then read over what I posted on my blog and had to go back and make several changes, because I was too eager and too impatient.

Too Easy to Publish?

self-publishing-bannerWith the onset of blogging and self-publishing it has become real easy to put writing out there for the world. Perhaps too easy.

I read recently that people get themselves in a lot more trouble these days, due to Facebook and email. You can write hate-mail or angry rants or insults or whatever. You can spew all your angry thoughts and then hit send without thinking it through. People have lost jobs and probably countless relationships as a result of word vomiting, and then promptly hitting send.

How many readers might we lose by doing the same?

Don’t Settle

The truth is there are a lot of crappy blogs with spelling errors galore, and even ambiguous points to the posts themselves. You may be able to get by with it, get some hits, some likes, and some new follows based off your ideas. But I bet you will get more if it’s higher quality.

In addition, there are heaps of crappy books out there that got word vomited, slapped with a stock-photo cover and a gradient effect on the font, and then put out there on Amazon too early. They aren’t the ones selling like crazy. They might get some decent sales, if they’re lucky. But why settle for that, when you can write quality and get more sales?

People have already got a million reasons not to read your stuff. Let’s be real. There is more written content accessible than ever before in the history of the world.

reasons-stop-reading-blogYou don’t want your writing, whether it is a quick blog or an epic novel, to go unread simply because you didn’t take the time to edit it and make it the best it could be. There are a lot of factors that you don’t have control over when it comes to readership. But the one you can control is the quality of your content.

A few tips before you hit “Publish”

These are going to be specifically about blogs. Many of the same principles apply to longer works, but there is a lot more to them.

  • Save it as a draft and Set It Aside — This may just be an hour or two. Finish the first draft, and then, close your laptop. Go for a walk or do yard work or whatever. Give your mind a break from whatever it is you’ve been writing.
  • Look at it again with Fresh Eyes — Editing immediately will likely leave your writing still replete with errors. When we look at something closely for a while, we tend not to have an eye for structural errors or lack of continuity. Now that you’ve had your break, go ahead and take a look at it again. As you are going, look for continuity errors and structural flaws. Is your point clear and focused in your blog? Do you need to cut some rambling?
  • Print It Out and edit again, now for spelling and grammar — I have found that I notice even more problems when I print things out and edit with a red pen. Spelling errors seem to stand out more off-screen. Then go back into your word processor and fix them.
  • Read it over One More Time — Is it really ready now?
  • Alright, Hit “Publish” — Now that you have taken a break and taken your time editing thoroughly, you are ready to put your work out there.

If you rush less, you will produce far better work that makes a clearer point without needless spelling and grammatical errors. Your readers will more easily understand what you have to say, resulting in more likes, follows, and hits on your blog.

And, like I said, the same principles apply to your longer work. Don’t rush the process. It will be worth the wait when more people read the finished project.

Don’t cheat yourself with the things you can control.

Now quit reading blogs and get writing! Best of luck!

Raise the Stakes High (Making Readers Care and Building More Tension into Your Novel)

Have you ever quit reading a book part way through? I have a few times. It happens for varying reasons, but most likely, I think it comes down to finding yourself thinking Who Cares? My need to know what happens is so low that it is not worth the remaining 200 pages of this novel.

Bored-ReaderThe last thing I want is someone doing that with my novels!

On the other hand, what was the last book you simply could not put down? You found yourself reading at the bus stop, in between meetings under your desk, or wherever. We have all had books we could not put down. You’ve come to care so much about what happens that you have GOT-TO-FREAKING-KNOW what happens as soon as possible!

Now that is the effect I want in my writing! Don’t you?

But is it the case?

When people care, they take the time to write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. They care so much they want all their friends to read the book so they have someone to talk about what happened with their friends.

If your sales are piddling, and the reviews are meh, perhaps it is time to be a little more intentional about the stakes of your novel. We keep telling ourselves we are organic writers and this stuff comes and you can’t force the story and all of that… and that is great, I suppose, if it works. Perhaps you have tension down pat. Perhaps it’s instinct for you.

Probably, if you’re like me, your writing could be stronger, more demanding to be read.

SO WHAT?

Seriously ask yourself this. So-freaking-what? If your protagonist does not get what he wants, so what? What is at stake here, and why should your readers care? Why does it matter if you even finish writing the novel?

Perhaps the world really will end, but probably it will be something a little smaller. Will the human race lose their free will? Or will the killer continue wreaking havoc on Maple Street? Or will Margo not get to go to prom? Or… what is it?

You’ve got to figure this out.

If you’re going to make the world end, it better be believable, and we better care about the people in the world first off. Otherwise it is just another asteroid collision or nuclear holocaust or super-villain goes all super-villainy on everybody.

UP THE ANTE

Let’s say Margo won’t get to go to prom. That’s okay tension, I suppose. Most of us have been there. It’s relatable. But it’s nothing special. Prom is overrated, anyway, right?

But what if what Margo really wants is something more specific? What if she is secretly in love with a boy in Lit class who has profound thoughts about literature and life? Only problem is dream boy is in love with someone else.

Better. Still cliche, but it’s more specific.

What if the other girl is Margo’s sister?

Better still. Family dysfunction is always ripe with tension.

Now should the sister be a bitch? Maybe. There’s tension there, an age-old feud between step-sisters. Sure…Ciderella-step-sisters-ugly-featured

But what if the sister is really sweet instead? That’d make Margo the bitch to break them up. What if sister and dream boy are really great together? But then, what if Margo and dream boy hit it off working on a project, and Margo is torn about her feelings and the fact that dream boy and her sister just got into a huge fight, and now he is asking her to go to prom with him since sister doesn’t want to go at all anymore and he doesn’t want to be alone…

That makes for a lot more tension, right? A lot more at stake.

DOES THIS SCENE HAVE THE ABSOLUTE MOST TENSION IT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE?

Ask yourself this about your project, whether you have written the scene or are planning it out. Whether you are happy with it or know it needs work. Whether you are approaching it organically or making an outline.

In what ways could this matter more?

BUT… DON’T GO OVERBOARD

That said, this probably isn’t the story to give Margo’s sister cancer on the night of prom and then have her walk in on Margo and dream boy kissing, on top of it all… Maybe it is, I don’t know. But the point is, you have also got to find the balance of believability. And you have got to give your characters a break some time.

I will never forget the feeling I had in the theatre at the end of GRAVITY. The movie was a non-stop roller-coaster ride of “everything that could possibly go wrong, absolutely will.” If there’s a door, it is locked. If something can, it will explode. If there is oxygen, it is almost run out.

I could barely breathe, the tension was so high the entire movie.

Finally, Sandra Bullock’s character is setting down on Earth, after every astronaut’s ultimate nightmare has occurred.

But then… she lands in water.

And then… the pod sinks and the hatch won’t open, but the pod is filling up.

200_sAnd all I could think was: Come on, just freaking let her have one thing go right. She’s got to almost drown at the end too?!

Maybe I was the only one. But this drove me crazy! I felt like it was just too much, the writers had taken the tension just too far for me to be invested anymore. It had passed believability as a disaster scenario.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

I like to write organically, but lately, I have been trying to be more intentional with what I am writing. I usually set out with an idea of what is going to happen in a scene. Sometimes, I am surprised. But there are certain elements to stories that make them better. Stakes is one of them.

You may not find the big stakes in the first draft.

But ask yourself honestly as you are looking at your story in whatever stage it is at. I have a novel in its fourth draft, that’s been set aside for a while, but I know it can be better.

Why should my readers care? What is at stake? Is it enough? How could the stakes be better?

Do I even care?

If you don’t care or are bored with your novel, then you are probably lacking in tension.

Make your story NEED to be told, and NEED to be read! This is hard-wired into everything: characterization and relationships, setting, and so forth. I will expand on those later.

Ultimately, make us care so much, that we have got to know what is going to happen next. Don’t settle for Margo can’t go to prom stakes.

Make us stay up all night reading.

*I love hearing from you! Let me know ways you have found to Up the Ante. What are stakes that make you stay up all night reading?*