By Ashley Bowden
Wattpad.com is an online community for people to publish their writing, as well as read works by new and established authors. The site bills itself as “the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories” and is becoming increasingly popular with teens.
“Twenty million people all over the world spend 4.5 billion minutes a month on Wattpad discovering, reading and sharing stories,” said CEO and co-founder Allen Lau in an e-mail interview. “About half of the Wattpad community is teens like Edward Little High School students.”
Wattpad gives users a lot of freedom and outlets for their creativity. Users are able to write and publish their own work, create their own covers, write descriptions, and share their work with other readers.
The site is very open to new users, especially nervous, beginning writers. Madison Harper, a user of the site, said, “I recommend it to anyone who wishes to write but is a bit shy about allowing people to see their work.”
When she started writing, Harper had a difficult time showing people close to her what she had written, but Wattpad gave her the ability to find an audience. “It can be easier allowing strangers to read your work than family and friends, and Wattpad allows just that,” she said.
According to Lau, the site, founded 7 years ago, came out of his frustration with the inability to find good reading material for his mobile phone. “At the time, there wasn’t an easy way to do this,” Lau said. He ended up partnering with former co-worker Ivan Yuen to solve the problem. They built their own program, which became Wattpad.
Wattpad also allows users to explore and read other’s books. If it sounds interesting, readers can add it to their library to read later. Writers can also tag their works by genre or topic, such as the supernatural, fan-fiction, teen fiction, and more, so those looking for specific types of stories can find them.
Communications Manager Nazia Khan, also a user of the site, said, “As a huge bookworm, I love having access to millions of amazing stories I won’t find in a library or a bookstore. I love being able to connect with writers and share my thoughts on their story. The hard part is deciding which story to read first!”
Users can follow an author as they complete a work. They can vote for chapters, comment on them, message the author and read their status updates. It can be a very interactive social experience if users choose to utilize these features.
Edward Little sophomore and Wattpad user Pamela Monto said, “I think the community on Wattpad is always really supportive of making it easy for beginners to get involved and discover more.” Monto also noted the supportive side of Wattpad. “They’re also just this huge family of writers looking out for one another.”
Wattpad has drawn in millions of users, some of whom are professional, highly successful writers. “We’re really lucky that established authors like Margaret Atwood, Paulo Coelho and Amanda Hocking are using the platform,” said Lau, “but we’re especially proud that we’re giving millions of people a chance to express themselves through stories.”
The company also showcases the stories of everyday users on the portion of the site called Wattpad Life. One user, for example, is a former soldier who used writing on Wattpad to help battle post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wattpad has its own annual competition called the Watty Awards. It has three main categories: Original, PopFiction, and FanFiction. For the PopFiction and FanFiction categories, winners are highlighted in the winners showcase gallery. The Original category has a cash prize of $200 for all 16 winners, with one finalist receiving a chance to work with a professional editor to develop his or her work for possible publication.
Some writers host their own competitions; those prizes, if any, vary depending on the host.
One appealing feature to new writers is the Fan Fund, a crowdfunding source for Wattpad users. The winner of last year’s original Watty Awards for her story “My Wattpad Love” has started a fanfunding project so people can donate money to help her publish her book as a hard copy or an ebook.
Wattpad is also available as a downloadable app. It will let users access everything the regular site does, just set up a little differently. One nice feature is that users can read the books in their library even if they don’t have internet access, as long as they have downloaded the story beforehand.
There is currently a petition spreading quickly across the website for a new category to be added to the discover area, LGBT, to help users search for and find content with a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender content.
“Anyone who wants to read LGBT-related stories on Wattpad can type ‘LGBT’ in the search box to find a list of people and stories that might be of interest,” said Lau. “Writers can also self-tag their story with LGBT so that people searching for these types of stories can easily find and read them.”
The petition page is racking up followers who have started collecting works with the LGBT tag for readers to easily find.
Lau said that the company has expansion goals for the future. “We want to grow to a billion users,” he said. “Whenever someone wants to discover new stories to read, we want them to think of Wattpad.”