Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Reaching the Next Generation of Readers, Stoking the Fires of Writers



People have many different journeys in their writing careers; some are born writers, some are literary geniuses, and some simply do it for the love of it and hope to make a few quid here and there. This however shouldn’t preclude anyone from having a go at it, trying new style, new genres or experimenting with their craft. And this is where a site like Wattpad comes into its own.

I am a Writer. There, I’ve said it. It’s still hard to believe sometimes, and the last few years have been a pretty odd experience for someone with a predominantly science background. I’m inordinately proud of the fact I’ve managed to get a few short stories published, but it’s also hard to tell people that’s what you do in your spare time. I’m not professing to be the next Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman here by any means but within a few years I’ve gone from rank amateur (very rank in some cases) to someone who’s been published, albeit in my own small way.

I work for Wattpad. But the reason I do is because I started writing on there first, and still do. Now while I appreciate that this sounds like the old Remington advert – I loved it so much, I bought the company! – the site does have a lot to offer writers of any level, but particularly those who have the skills or inclination to write a good story.

Exposure. Is that not the goal of writers, to be exposed to readers? There are now 13 million unique monthly visitors to Wattpad. Each of them have favourite authors who they follow and often give them critique or leave them nice comments.

Feedback. Even better. And that’s something that I’ve had constantly since I joined the site some two and a half years ago. That feedback has enabled me to go from someone who hadn’t written anything since a maudlin poem at sixteen to a published writer. Although I'm happy to admit that I still have plenty to learn.

As for reaching readers, Wattpad is purely screen-based. Whether that screen be a computer, phone, tablet, laptop or whatever else comes next: Wattpad are on it. So too are a huge percentage of people on the planet. Books are now evolving in the same way as other media. Books are catching up, and people are spending more and more time on sites like Wattpad (see graph).



I love curling up with a paperback and a cup of tea, and I’m certainly not suggesting we go Farenheit 451 and start burning all the books. But if you’re on the move, or sat waiting for a bus, or in the doctors, the chances are that you’ll have a mobile in your pocket, and hence a book. Wattpaders don’t just use the website, they use mobile devices too. The App is massively popular. 80% of Wattpadders use the site through their mobiles and read on the move. No books, no paper, just the small phone or similar mobile device that is glued to virtually every person in modern society. That's a lot of readers, of all ages.

And then you have the flip side… you’re a writer, you now have a place to showcase your work, to get feedback, to learn, to grow to practice, or simply to get exposure.

Some of the writers on Wattpad have logged millions of reads on their work, that’s serious exposure. It doesn’t stop there though, as some writers as young as 18 have been picked up by the likes of Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins for six figure sums.

The site has a great community element and is quite social, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that serious writers such as Margaret Atwood and Paulo Coelho (to name a few) are active members who see and understand the value of the site and the exposure it brings. 



And so to some sort of point. Hopefully.

I love writing, it’s changed my life utterly. But the idea of community feedback on my writing has given me the chance to develop and grow, fuel that change. Where before writers often toiled away in obscurity or occasionally in small peer groups, now you can open yourself to feedback from millions of learned or interested individuals. Millions of people now read and write online. In amongst those are the next ‘big thing’.

I personally think that a quiet revolution is starting and that the gentle tap of fingers on keyboard or scrolling of screens can only assist in preventing the decline in literary interest across the whole of society. Whatever form reading and writing take, the special effects in films still can’t compete with the power of the imagination, and hence a love of all things literary. If we can stoke that fire in the next generation and provide all writers of any age with a place to play, the only winner will be storytelling.

And I do love a good story…

~

Any questions, please feel free to get in touch with Gavin (gavin@wattpad.com) or have a look around www.wattpad.com

3 comments:

  1. Hi Gavin
    This is interesting. I am all for getting the Wattpad word out there. I find it encouraging for the future of the written word that youngsters writing on Wattpad, although often they can't spell for toffee, yet have the urge to express themself in the written form and tell stories to each other. An ancient human trait, I suppose.
    I can't tell you how fond I am of Wattpad. I thought in 2009, after over a decade of being published and having to give it up, that I was a washed-up writer, but in September 2012 I came across Wattpad, and low and behold, I am writing again! It feels so good!
    Wattpad, I love you! :)

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