How Wattpad Does Its Thing

Editor’s Note: Wattpad is a thriving online community populated with largely genre and teen-oriented fiction and a youthful and excited audience of readers and writers. We asked Nina Lassam to discuss Wattpad’s success and the role of social media in the writer’s life.

When I talk to writers about using social networking and providing free content to encourage word of mouth advertising and to drive sales, by far the biggest concern that I hear is whether they will see a measurable return on their investment of time. If you know that you can get paid to write, it can be difficult to rationalize doing any type of writing for free.

It is important to remember though that online readers are also investing their time — to read what you’ve written, comment, respond, and often to recommend your work. Interacting with this community is a way to give back while also growing your fan base and developing reader loyalty.

In many ways, using Web 2.0 media to promote your fiction makes your online presence less about what you’ve written and more about you. That is why it can be so effective. The general rule is, whether you have spend time to write a chapter, a short story, or an entire novel, you should spend comparable time writing about yourself and interacting directly with readers.

One way to successfully reach out to your audience is to give readers an annotated edition of your story peppered with footnotes of your experiences as a writer, requests for feedback, and reasons for writing the story. Humanizing your work will not only draw people to the story but also increase loyalty online and in the bookstore.

On Wattpad, the eBook community where I work, Abigail Gibbs is serializing an as yet unfinished story that has been read almost 7M times. Because she solicits feedback and inserts details about her writing process and daily life, her eBook becomes as important to readers as the relationship they’ve established with her. Because we can relate to her, we become more interested in supporting the characters and plot she has created.

Alex Greenwood, author of Pilate’s Cross, posted a free short story on Wattpad to generate interest in his novel. With Twitter, Wattpad, and other web tools, he has created an expanding group of readers that, as author Jeremy Gordan explains when discussing his own social networking experience, expands his group of guaranteed customers out of his backyard.

Without your presence, your story or profile in a reading community is about as good as setting up a Facebook account and expecting to turn to your computer the next day to hundreds of friend requests. Posting something is only part of the job; writers who have successfully grown awareness of their work using social media tools have taken considerable time to do so, and readers have rewarded them by taking time to share with others. To connect with readers and encourage book sales, a writer should use social media for what it was designed: to let an audience know that she is actually there.

-Nina Lassam works at Wattpad.

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