Wattpad: The Future for Writers

Ever heard of Wattpad.com? Neither did I until this past summer when a friend of mine, at the time, mentioned a website where she read books for free. Free as in ‘nobody trying to dig into your pockets’ type of free. I was truly amazed. I finally found a site where not only can I read new stories for free but a place where I could post stories of my own and get feedback before sending them off to publishers. Created and funded by Khosla Ventures, Union Squares Ventures, OMERS Ventures, W Media Ventures and Golden Media Ventures, this website has grown exponentially and has seen hundreds of successes with the authors that have first started out on this media outlet and has now spread to 23 countries[1]. Even famous authors, such as Margaret Atwood, contributed some of her works to the forever growing library along with Project Gutenberg E[2].  This site that was created in 2006 and has attracted over 10 million authors and they have published thousands of stories every day[3]. People of all ages can post fan fictions, fiction/non-fiction, and even fantasy based stories. The website is of course an outlet to allow writers to get feedback on their work and eventually become published authors, whether it may be self-published or by one of the bigwigs, Random House. It sounds amazing right? A perfect little website that is the future for writers all over the world.

 

It’s an easy process to get started with uploading your story. First you copy and paste the text for the individual parts and then you give it a rating, tags so people can stumble upon your story, and even choose the copyright whether it’s a completely original piece, a fanfiction, or belongs to the public domain. After you click publish, it’s right there in your ‘My Works’ section, waiting to be read. But there’s a catch. You will not get readers unless you make deals with these little readers. You go to the ‘Improve Your Story’ section to promote and make equal trades with people. From what I’ve experienced, you need two things: short paragraphs and a cover. If you don’t have either of these, unfortunately your reads will stay in the single digits. Constantly you will encounter people that want ‘reads for reads’ or ‘comments for comments’. Sometimes these deals don’t always work as some truly don’t bother to read your story and give you the most common saying “That was great! Keep up the good work!” And if you don’t like those people that make those type of deals you could always post in the forums that say “free reads” or “harsh critiques”. That’s when you’re getting somewhere. Even if you want help with story ideas and such, the Improve Your Writing section is great for that along with the separate genre sections.  

 

You even have chances to participate in group discussions and create collaborative pieces. Besides the clubs that people can post in for their works, covers, and just for casual conversation, you can go on over to the blogs where the creators and moderators of the website post blogs that offer sessions on writing and news surrounding storytelling and the ilk. This sounds perfect, but is it really? I fell into a trap that consumes the majority of the people. I constantly worried about uploading a new chapter every week just to make sure that I stayed relevant on the website. My grammar slipped and I fell off not noticing what the bigger picture was. Thank goodness it didn’t last forever.

 

This little tirade is not about how people will use Wattpad and other sites to receive their daily dosage of literature, no matter how poorly written it may be, but rather about what will happen to the publishing industry as a whole. Wattpad is technically a gateway to the future where self-publishing and e-books are taking over.  But it isn’t the only new media service to emerge as a challenge to the publishing industry. Other services, like Scribd and Byliner have also taken the servers by storm to create more social websites where people can post and read stories in a new way. No more middlemen for the industry and no more professional editors. Now where does that leave those people with the jobs? Reading a blog post from Smashwords, the author Mark Coker, suggests that “Our actions mirror our aspirations, which means the future of publishing will be determined by our collective and sometimes competing aspirations.”[4] We all know that everything changes with the times and that it’s our choice if we want to move forward. Authors will take it upon themselves and get self-published. But, as Mark Coker suggest, “The utopian and often self-serving aspirations of industry participants don’t always intersect.”[5]

 

I even googled what’s going on in today’s world and found Felicia Pride states that “These days, book publishing shouldn’t be looked at as the business of books, but rather, the business of content,”[6] in her article, The Book Publishing Industry of the Future: It’s All About Content. It makes sense. This is why the majority of the stories you see on Wattpad are not out there on the bookshelves. She also writes that Wattpad is, “a revolutionary way for readers to discover and participate in the creation of new stories. From the beginning, Wattpad has been an open platform allowing readers and writers to exchange stories freely online and through mobile devices.”[7] Wattpad has made its trademark as thus and has garnered people like me onto their website to partake in the creation of stories. People love free things and Wattpad understands that plus the knowledge of our love for books.

 

When I looked at the Wattpad “About Us” page, it says “Writers use Wattpad to connect and engage with our monthly audience of over 10 million readers to share their work, build a fan base, and receive instant feedback on their stories. More than 500 writers have published pieces that have been read more than a million times.”[8] So maybe it has nothing to do with the publishing company but what about piracy? Allegedly on Scribd.com, famous author Ursula Leguin, had found one of her own works posted illegally on this website. Motoko Rich reports that, “Sites like Scribd and Wattpad, which invite users to upload documents like college theses and self-published novels, have been the target of industry grumbling in recent weeks, as illegal reproductions of popular titles have turned up on them”[9]. However, like with music and films, this form of piracy has yet again caused another set of precautions. Piracy is inevitable and takes form in all shapes and sizes. However, what could this mean for websites such as Wattpad or Scribd?  

 

Of course there are forms of surveillance out there on these websites and the fact that “Thousands of stories are published each and every day” only furthers that people are taking advantage of this newfound freedom. I have had the pleasure of getting a lecture by a moderator on Wattpad for posting a link to my story in the wrong section. So imagine if they found out that your story wasn’t actually yours. Rich comments that “Publishers and authors say they can learn from their peers in music, who alienated fans by using the courts aggressively to go after college students and Napster before it converted to a legitimate online store”[10]. What can we do to deter readers from posting their beloved stories online for free? Publishers say “For now, electronic piracy of books does not seem as widespread as what hit the music world, when file-sharing services like Napster threatened to take down the whole industry”[11], according to Rich.

 

I believe that publishing companies need to get on board and get creative with this newfound movement that is transforming the landscape for the Print Industry. In what ways can they outdo these websites and its ilk? For one they can definitely do as Felicia Pride mentions and convert their books to “take advantage of the fact that some readers want to read on big screens, some on little ones, some like to be read to, some like to hold a book in their hands, and even more advantageous, some of us engage in all of the above”[12]. All anybody wants is to be entertained. Books do just that and with the way that the Print Industry is going, we will likely be seeing a lot more of our beloved stories on our e-readers. In the text, Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transitions, says “The ways in which texts are “distributed” on the Web…is often through the random, impersonal agency of the search function”[13]. The author goes on further throughout the text to emphasize the benefits of having texts available online and how we can basically treat them as regular books as well. Getting rid of the middle man, in this case the distributor, access to numerous writers would be opened.  This is the future.

 

But what is the cost that we pay as we become more of a social society by sharing practically everything online? There are those such as authors like Jeri Smith Ready, whom I’ve had the pleasure to talk to at Arcadia University last semester, who likes to keep her works to herself until they are complete. She works better that way and has made a name for herself in the YA genre.  It’s understandable. There is always that one person who likes your idea so much that they are willing to steal it right under your nose. It’s chance when it comes to situations like this that gives this new way to collaborate and share a risky twist to it. What about others like her? Would we destroy some of the greatest ideas if this process became a social habit? It’s only a matter of time until everyone hops onto the bandwagon but there is definitely value to both options.

 

Keeping your ideas to yourself offer you the chance to quietly solve and figure out what you want your story to be. You wouldn’t have to listen to all of these critics that force you to change it this way and that. However, outside sources can be beneficial where you are given more ideas to work with than you had to begin with. But maybe there is something more about keeping some things to yourself because once they are revealed, replicas of all sorts will sprout and begin to make your whole genre outdated.

 

It’s no lie that the more social we become, the less private all of our lives will be. Constantly, people monitor or are monitored by others. So will our culture change as a whole where we no longer prefer to keep things to ourselves but rather become open to each other and embrace the fact that privacy is diminishing? An article by Michael Stelzner on socialmediaexaminer.com, shares the information he has found about famed author, Guy Kawasaki. Surprisingly, Kawasaki finds “Social networks allow him to express himself spontaneously and the deeper ideas go into book format”[14]. However, there are many stories out there that we just have to take a different angle on and weave into something different.

 

In the end, the way we write or even learn how to write is changing as we become more social and adhere to what everyone else is saying. If the writers we care about adapt to this new way of creating and sharing stories, will their work become better? Worse? It’s only a matter of time until words will only appear on our screens and we all have a say in what happens next in the story. Will you join the movement or stand against it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

  • Coker, Mark. “Smashwords.” : Mark Coker’s 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions. Smashwords, 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
  • Pride, Felicia. “MediaShift Survey.” PBS. PBS, 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
  • Rich, Motoko. “Print Books Are Target Of Pirates On the Web.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 May 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
  • Stelzner, Michael. ““Blogs, Books, and Social: How the World Has Changed” Socialmediaexaminer.com, 26, Oct. 2012.
  • Thorburn, D. Jenkins, H. Seawell, I. “Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transitions” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2003) 28, Apr. 2013.
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[1] “About Wattpad.” About Us. Wattpad.com/aboutus (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013).

[2] Wikipedia, “Wattpad”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattpad (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013)

[3] “About Wattpad.” About Us. Wattpad.com/aboutus (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013).

[4] Mark Coker, “Smashwords.”: Mark Coker’s 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions. Smashwords Blog 21 Dec. 2012. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/mark-cokers-2013-book-publishing.html.

[5] Mark Coker, “Smashwords.”: Mark Coker’s 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions. Smashwords Blog 21 Dec. 2012. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/12/mark-cokers-2013-book-publishing.html.

[6] Felicia Pride, “The Book Publishing Industry of the Future: It’s All About ContentPBS. PBS, 24 Oct. 2011. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/10/the-book-publishing-industry-of-the-future-its-all-about-content297.  

[7] Felicia Pride, “The Book Publishing Industry of the Future: It’s All About ContentPBS. PBS, 24 Oct. 2011. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013).  http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/10/the-book-publishing-industry-of-the-future-its-all-about-content297.  

[8] “About Wattpad.” About Us. Wattpad.com/aboutus (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013).

[9] Motoko Rich, “Print Books Are Target Of Pirates On the Web.” The New York Times. The New York Times. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html?_r=0.

[10] Motoko Rich, “Print Books Are Target Of Pirates On the Web.” The New York Times. The New York Times. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html?_r=0.

[11] Motoko Rich, “Print Books Are Target Of Pirates On the Web.” The New York Times. The New York Times. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html?_r=0.

[12] Felicia Pride, “The Book Publishing Industry of the Future: It’s All About ContentPBS. PBS, 24 Oct. 2011. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/10/the-book-publishing-industry-of-the-future-its-all-about-content297.  

[13] David Thorburn, Henry Jenkins, Irad Seawell, “Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transitions” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2003) (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). http://books.google.com/books?id=0x6tNUfIq4EC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Rethinking+Media+Change:+The+Aesthetics+of+Transitions&hl=en&sa=X&ei=caiCUbW9GMe40gHPsoGABA&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA.

[14] Michael Stelzner, “Blogs, Books, and Social: How the World Has Changed” Socialmediaexaminer.com, 26, Oct. (Accessed 28, Apr. 2013). 2012. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/blogs-books-and-social-how-the-world-has-changed/#more-27286.

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