Wattpad connects “a global community of over 80 million monthly readers.” This community is based around a free website where readers, devoted franchise fans, and aspiring authors alike form a community where they can read or create online material.
Wattpad targets a different audience than companies like Smashwords and Kobo. Where those are services designed to help authors publish and sell their work, Wattpad is meant as a creative outlet for users. While Wattpad does encourage authors to “establish a global fan base as [their] story gains readership and momentum” and “connect with other like-minded writers through storytelling,” they leave the marketing to the author’s discretion.
For the Writers
Wattpad allows freedom for its writers. It leaves the creative rights to the author who is in complete control of every aspect of the story. For example, Wattpad authors have no publishing time constraints. According to The Writer’s Circle, “you could post a short draft and get immediate feedback from readers.” Writers are free to post new chapters of their books whenever they are ready.
With its emphasis on freedom, Wattpad is very lax when it comes to their content guidelines. The terms of service for anyone considering the use of Wattpad as a creative platform can be found here.
Again, Wattpad is not a company that openly seeks to sell creator’s content to larger publishing platforms. However, Wattpad does offer tips to content creators for getting their stories to a broad audience.
For the Readers
Wattpad is unique in its ability to form a bridge between content creators and their readers. For example, they allow readers to create reading lists for easy access. Users may vote for the stories they like the most, thus pushing reader-preferred content closer to the front of the site.
Readers can share their favorite stories on social media increasing the potential reach for any story. Users also have unparalleled access to the authors and other Wattpad users who are reading the same things. Feedback for authors and discussion about the stories is readily available as a result.
With over 80 million users worldwide, Wattpad has decided to take digital publishing to the presses. According to Ashleigh Gardner, Deputy General Manager at Wattpad Studios Publishing:
We bring something completely unique to publishing: an engaged global community, the most diverse set of writers on the planet, and the technology to find every type of hit imaginable. Wattpad Books is more than a new division for us, it’s a validation and celebration of the creativity, interests, and world-building that happens on Wattpad every day.
Wattpad Books is the company’s first direct publishing division. It “takes the stories people have obsessed over, and gives them a platform so their creators can be heard.”
Publishing famous Wattpad stories has been a trend for a while. According to Michael Kozlowski, “To date, nearly one thousand Wattpad stories have been turned into books and adapted for TV, film, and digital projects.”
While Wattpad stories have previously been published by separate companies, “Wattpad Books will be its own direct division.” In North America, Wattpad has partnered with Macmillan Publishers, Anvil Publishing, and Raincoast Books. Recently, Wattpad Books has announced that they will be partnering with Penguin Random House UK, the UK branch of the world’s leading trade publisher, to publish Wattpad Books in the United Kingdom.
Wattpad Books uses a special sort of artificial intelligence (AI) to determine what books they will publish. This AI is known as Story DNA Machine Learning. According to Gardner, by combining “machine learning, deep learning, and recurrent neural network,” Story DNA will break down the statistics of the over 400 million stories available on Wattpad.
The AI goes beyond the statistics of shares, comments, and views that a story has and “deconstructs stories into their elemental features, such as sentence structure, word use, and grammar.” This data is then compared to other stories on Wattpad as well as books in the public domain. Resulting data comparison is done in hopes of finding quality content comparable in structure and style to what has already been published.
Once the Story DNA Machine Learning has gathered the content, the stories are sent to a team of Wattpad staff who determine what will be published. Gardner says, “Wattpad Books is equal parts art and science, and our human content and editorial experts are just as important for everything we do at Wattpad Books.”
In 2014, Wattpad author Anna Todd’s One Direction themed fanfiction was published as a multi-part series in both print and e-book form. The After series has recently developed into a film adaptation released in April of 2019. Todd, who is now a New York Times bestselling author, is one of Wattpad’s greatest success stories to date.
With the new Wattpad Books approach to publishing stories made famous through digital writing, books chosen by the Wattpad AI system and staff members will be published as paperbacks, e-books, and even hardback copies.
According to Wattpad Books’ website, they are “poised to disrupt traditional publishing by harnessing data to unleash the most groundbreaking stories from Wattpad directly onto bookshelves.” That is what they intend to do with their Fall 2019 List. The list of the six titles being published through Wattpad Books throughout Fall of 2019 can be found here.
Though Wattpad Books gives aspiring authors a chance to have their works published through paper and ink, Gardner says it “is more than a new division for us, it’s a validation and celebration of the creativity, interests, and world-building that happens on Wattpad every day.”
Wattpad and Wattpad Books are proof that success in digital publishing can be the stepping-stone many need to reach success in the wider world of publishing.