Can Posting Stories on Wattpad Help You Sell Books?

| Posted in Book Marketing |


As authors, we’re always looking for new ways to stand out and attract readers to our work. The online world presents numerous opportunities, some of them effective, some not so much. I’ve been aware of Wattpad for a while, but haven’t had a chance to tinker around there much yet. I learned that independent author CJ Archer has had some success there and asked her if she’d answer a few questions. If you’re looking for new ways to promote your work, you may find this short interview useful.

Using Wattpad for Book Promotion with CJ Archer

Thanks for stopping by, CJ! First off, could you give us an overview on what the Wattpad site is all about?

Wattpad is a place where writers connect with other writers as well as readers. They can get feedback on their “works”, interact, and build a community. For readers, it’s a place to read free stories and find new authors.

It sounds like you and quite a few other self-published authors have been using Wattpad as a promotional tool. What strategies are you using?

I initially put up a few chapters of one of my self-published books on Wattpad, but it gained very few readers. I decided to investigate the site further to see what works and what didn’t. I found that authors who had the most success were posting young adult books, posted the entire book, and they interacted quite a bit. So I put up the first book in my new YA trilogy, THE MEDIUM. I posted a new scene every few days until the entire story was up, which coincided with the release of the 2nd book.

Something to keep in mind is that Wattpad is geared towards teenage readers (mostly female) who want to read free books. When I started posting THE MEDIUM, I interacted in a few relevant communities to gained some initial exposure. Since THE MEDIUM is historical paranormal romance, I posted in “clubs” that focus on these three genres. I made sure to include the cover image in my posts. It’s a professionally designed cover with a striking model. I’ve since had people tell me they were attracted to the cover, then went on to read the blurb and first chapter.

If you do use Wattpad to post the first book in a series, expect some backlash from readers who want to read the subsequent books for free too. Make it obvious that the Wattpad book is part of a series, and that you will not be posting subsequent books. I think it’s important to keep the price of the remaining books low, so that readers on a tight budget won’t feel cheated. Most will be happy to pay you for your efforts if they enjoyed the first book and they don’t feel ripped off by an expensive 2nd book.

How much time do you spend over there? Do you have to comment on other people’s work to get folks to check out yours?

In the first week of posting THE MEDIUM I spent perhaps half an hour per day, mainly posting in the clubs and commenting on other people’s works as well as updating mine. After that, I tapered off my efforts and now I only reply to comments left on my story which takes only a few minutes. If another writer asks me to comment on their Wattpad story, I’ll usually take a look at the first chapter and offer some encouraging comments and some tips.

If someone started posting a novel at Wattpad today, how long do you think it might take for him/her to attract an audience and (we hope) see some sales?

This is not an easy one to answer. I think if you put in some early effort over a few weeks, you should see some reads quite quickly. BUT it all depends on whether readers like your story, connect with the characters etc, otherwise they’ll abandon the story without finishing it. A lot of Wattpadders won’t read anything until it’s complete, so it pays to post the entire book and mark it as “complete”.

Does it seem like certain genres do better than others over there?

Stories geared towards teenage female readers do better on Wattpad. Romance is very hot on the site, but also the most competitive category.

Do you have any comments or advice for authors who might be worried about putting their published work out there for free?

Personally, I’d only post entire books on Wattpad that I’m comfortable having free. For me, this means only the first book in a series, never the subsequent books. Since THE MEDIUM is also free at all the major ebookstores (currently waiting on Amazon to price match), I’m content to have it on Wattpad in its entirety. I’ve heard of other authors posting the entire book for a limited time, then scaling back to only a few chapters after they’ve gained some reads. I haven’t tried this, however, and I’m not sure if I will.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, CJ!

You can find CJ on her site, Facebook, and Twitter, and you can check out her books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Of course, you can read The Medium on Wattpad too.

What do you guys think? Have you tried Wattpad? I’ve had an account there for a while but haven’t done anything with it yet. I may try posting my free ebooks over there.

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Comments (25)

I’m not sure. There are books with 2 million views on Wattpad and lousy sales rankings on Amazon. Maybe posting a Bk 1 in a series works better than doing a stand alone novel though.

So, I look this over, consider it another great tip from Lindsay, and wander over to Wattpad to sign up. Turns out I already have an account. Already have a couple stories uploaded, too. Shows how robotic we become about signing up for the latest, greatest things, I guess. I have no recollection at all of joining this group.

Hah, sounds like me. A lot of these sites can work (Authornomy is another one I’ve heard of people using to build fan bases), but only if you have time to spend at the social networking thang.

I didn’t do any social networking on Wattpad aside from replying to comments on my books once I started getting readers.

I posted up the first book in my fantasy series early this year (the whole thing). It didn’t attract a lot of readers on its own, and I never liked the idea of having to spend hours every week on there trying to coax people to read – too time-consuming.

So instead I enquired with the staff about featuring my book in their on-site promotions. They got back to me within 2 hours with a huge YES – seems they were looking for more professional fiction (maybe trying to move on a bit from their fan-fiction origins and bring in new audiences). The book went featured at the end of March and soon started to clock up reads – it’ll hit 1 million soon.

While being featured there didn’t transform my fortunes, I did start to notice an increase in sales of the later books pretty quickly (that was across a few different stores, including Amazon and Smashwords). It was certainly worthwhile and I’d definitely do it again.

They had some criteria for feature, of course – I had to post the entire book (which I’d done anyway) and agree to leave it there for at least six months – but they weren’t onerous. That said, things change pretty quickly and I don’t know if Wattpad has the same policy about featuring books now as they had six months ago.

Thanks for commenting, Charlotte. That’s great information. I started posting Flash Gold and will probably do EE too (heck, they’re free everywhere else), so I’ll definitely look into that when I have a complete story.

Hi everyone. Thank you for featuring me, Lindsay. Wattpad has certainly been a learning curve and I’m glad I could share my experiences here.

Charlotte – the requirements for being featured haven’t changed. After I posted a few chapters of The Medium, Wattpad got in touch with me asking if they could feature it on the site, starting September 26th. The only requirements were the same ones you mentioned, so nothing has changed there. I haven’t clocked up the million plus reads of some authors yet, but there has been a steady increase in reads since Sept 26th. I know I’ve had some sales of the 2nd book because many of the comments have asked where it can be bought, and some readers have emailed to tell me. Some have signed up to my newsletter to be notified when book 3 is released. It’s definitely been a win for me.

They contacted me in August about being featured. For The Storm Dragon’s Heart, not my other books because they don’t feature R-rated material. Super nice people, and they are more than willing to work with you if you have special plans.

I post one chapter each week, which has worked great for me.

I put off being featured on the site until book two is out, which is timed up the completion via one chapter per week. So I’ll be featured on November 19th.

I’ve heard of Wattpad and a number of people said that it takes a lot of social engagement to attract readers. That being said, if I ever write a short story which is marketed as free, I may well take up the opportunity to build a Wattpad presence.

Thanks for the post, Lindsay. 🙂

Maybe I got lucky but I didn’t do any social engagement and I’m having a lot success on Wattpad.

Sounds like you’ve done very well over there, David, congratulations!

I wouldn’t say “a lot” of social engagement in my case, but I did do some initially.

Congrats to you as we’ll. I think you’ll have a lot of success being featured on Wattpad. I think it’s a good long range strategy, too, for growing a fan base.

The Storm Dragon’s Heart is currently at 483,000 reads. Not complete. Not featured. Lower-range YA fantasy adventure featuring a male viewpoint character. I didn’t do any promotion for it on or offsite other than one post in their new book board.

So, as with most things, there are different ways of getting there. You could call mine luck, or patience maybe. Took months to get going, but now I add thousands of reads per day.

While I keep hearing that many won’t read until a book is complete, that hasn’t been my experience. Some readers, 3-5 per week maybe, will go buy the book because they don’t want to wait.

I release one chapter per week, every Saturday, which seems the best day for me. That spikes me into the Top 5 on fantasy for a few days which nets many new readers. That’s how I do it without being featured.

The book will become featured on November 19, after all the chapters have been posted and, by design, when the sequel has debuted. Wattpad was kind enough to let me schedule that months in advance after they contacted me about becoming featured. Very easy to work with.

So I’m picking up a few sales. Definitely some fans and newsletter subscriptions. There are some tricks to getting free readers to buy the book, of course, that I’ve picked up along the way.

I do plan on posting the second book one chapter per week as well, but with 70 chapters, that’s going to take a long time.

Congratulations on your success over there, David! It’s good to hear that you don’t have to do a lot of schmoozing over there. You have an awesome cover, and I’m guessing that combined with having so many chapters (that, as you mentioned, pop into the top of the fantasy category every week) is really helping. It sounds like you’re a good fit with that YA audience too.

BTW, how do you get folks to sign up for your newsletter from there? Or do they just check out your website and find it from there?

Thank you! The cover Okita did for me helped tremendously. I really can’t emphasize that enough. It drew a lot of people in at Wattpad. (Best investment I ever made, except for the Apple stock I bought pre-iPhone.) Also, the blurb helped. Telling an indie author that is like buying them chocolate. Just makes your day.

One great thing about Wattpadders is they are quite vocal. They will often tell you what drew them to your book, or that they bought it, or who their favorite character is, etc. All that stuff that as an author you normally have to guess about. They will also point out your mistakes sometimes.

Having lots of chapters helps you work the system to get more reads, which gets you more notice, which gets you more reads, and so on. I write short chapters. 54 in and 85,000 word book. Big advantage.

It took months for my book to gain traction. I actually gave up and stopped posting. Suddenly someone with a lot of fans added my book. People started reading. I started posting again.

I was worried that it wouldn’t because the main audience is teenage girls, and they like paranormal fantasy, a lot. But I’ve got quite a few guys reading my books as well as girls, a number of adults, at least one grandmother. So there is diversity there, just not in the majority.

I had the exact same experience with Wattpad. My first stories were an unfinished, long-winded YA drama that felt a bit… unfocused, and a short story about social disorder. My stories lived in obscurity for months, getting 2 reads a month tops. But I discovered some authors on Wattpad that wrote in a niche genre that attracted me and inspired a new direction for my writing. I posted a few short stories over a few months while simultaneously starting a WIP that focused on intense romance of the forbidden kind. Suddenly my reads went up exponentially, but it was my WIP (with only 3 chapters then) that attracted the most attention. Its success, I believe, was largely due to its very specific target market, and definitely the fact that I had professional covers made for all my books (VERY important on Wattpad! It plays a crucial part in people clicking on books).
Some of my success was also due to word of mouth, in the form of people adding me to reading lists that other readers visit, or popular authors leaving glowing comments on my stories (a trick is to dedicate chapters to them). Their followers can see that activity, as well as the dedications, on their profile pages.

But my breakthrough came when my WIP was featured as one of the 3 Recommended Titles on another story. It’s a randomly generated list that’s made up of books from the same genre/story types, or that have keywords in common with the story you’re reading. I only noticed it because I was reading a story in the same niche market as mine, and noticed my book cover in the side column. The story I was reading was from an author that has over 6000 fans which means a lot of traffic, and within a day I noticed that my reads skyrocketed. I started getting 3 fans a day, and that escalated to 10 a day as I continued to post new chapters, which in turn upped the reads (i.e. story popularity), and despite the fact that the story is not even halfway, and that I don’t update regularly, I still continue to gain 6-10 fans a day after 5 months.

But, all that said, I’m not sure if Wattpad is good for sales. My readers, even though they are crazy loyal :), are all teenage girls looking for free reads, and they are not very picky about professionalism, only the “feel good factor”. I have a blog, twitter and facebook, but despite my popularity I’ve gained no fans on any of those platforms in the year I’ve been on Wattpad. I do believe it’s an excellent place to get feedback due to the active community, and to gauge a story’s viability (obviously some genres will work better than others). I also don’t think Wattpad would work if you’re not willing to put free stuff on there, or if you use it to only ‘tease’ with parts of a story that has to be bought. And the more stories you have, the more people will come.

I do know of one author (RoughDraftHero) who sold one of her many stories to a publisher after finishing it on Wattpad. Hundreds of her fans are willing to buy it (they all left her messages on her author page asking where it would be sold). But it was in a very, VERY niche genre (LGBT BDSM), and those fans tend to be extremely loyal, so again not sure how that would translate to more generic romance or fantasy markets.

Maddy Linehan is also a Smashwords author who started on Wattpad (MaddyRawr10), then posted her finished works on Smashwords. She’s had moderate success as well, considering that the only people she promoted to was her Wattpad fans (she wanted her fans to have a way to download their favorite stories).

I have noticed great Wattpad authors remain relatively obscure when writing vanilla YA (any genre), and other authors having tremendous success once they start writing sex scenes, or at least sexual tension. That’s true for almost all the genres I’ve encountered, and I’ve spent a lot of time on Wattpad the past year (at least 3 hours a day). So I think Wattpad has great potential, but a very narrow focus. For general exposure, especially in more “adult” genres without the R-rating, I won’t recommend it.

Oops. Forgot to answer the question. I’ve gotten a few to sign up for the newsletter by asking them in the afterword of Wrath of the White Tigress, which I have now posted in its entirety. It’s Rated R so it’s not discoverable or featurable. Almost 7,000 reads, which given those factors, I think that’s good. I guess. I asked them at the end to buy, review, or sign up for my newsletter to support me.

I’m about to add a newsletter mention at the end of each chapter. I currently ask them to vote, let them know what day I update on, and let them know they can buy the book. This message is why I started getting sales, as opposed to messages like: “This is really good. You should get this published.” Those are great compliments but not so great for sales. The built in Amazon link is tiny and I don’t think anyone sees it.

The key is to let them know that it’s available and what they can do. Still working on engaging them and motivating action. Still tweaking the message.

You can also broadcast a message to all your fans. I try not to overuse that, but it’s there when you need it.

That’s awesome, David. Way to work it! 😉 I’ll have to have you on for a second Wattpad interview. Since Amazon seems to be playing hide-the-sausage with the free ebooks now, I want to see if I can find some new places to be seen.

I found the spot where I can enter a Smashwords link, but still looking for that Amazon one (though I agree that it’s not very prominent on the book pages).

KDP Select Sausage now on Aisle 27, behind the Tab 12-packs 🙂

Perhaps in late November. One of the things they ask of featured authors is to do a few blog posts and basic promotions. Which is an easy yes for me. I’ll have one book out around November 10 and one out around December 1.

The ultra-tiny Amazon link is accessed via magic. I’ve already had three people ask me how I got it to work. I didn’t know how I had done it. Here’s my guess: On the Advanced Options where it gives you a choice of an External Link, enter your Amazon link. I think that sets it up automagically.

As another author on Wattpad, I’ll add my experience to the mix. I found out about the featured author spots in May, started uploading my YA Urban Fantasy (had a very pleasant email exchange with David while getting my bearings) and in July became a featured author.

I’ve gotten lots of great comments and definitely built my fan base. Some days, the feedback from Wattpad fans keeps me writing when things are rough.

I’m about to hit 350,000 reads (woohoo!) but have not seen that many sales. Maybe a little bump in my second book in the series. David, I am SO stealing your bottom-of-the-chapter idea. Can’t believe I didn’t think of it. 😉

For me, it’s about getting visibility, a bunch of new readers, and reaffirming why I write in the first place. When my 3rd book in the trilogy releases late November, I hope some of my Wattpad fans will scoop it up.

I’ve also made contact with a fabulous beta-reader through Wattpad, so that’s a nice perk, too.
Here’s the link, if you’re interested. See you guys over there! 🙂

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