Tuesdays with Quora: Do book publishers take Wattpad writers seriously?
Note - If you have never heard of Wattpad before, which I hadn't until about two months ago, here's a quick rundown.
Instead of submitting your manuscript to literary agents, you can upload chapters on the site Wattpad which then makes it available for both readers and publishers to see. The more writers who join the site, they bring their friends and fans so the whole reader base begins to snowball pretty rapidly (last I checked, Wattpad is up to 80 million readers). If a book does well on Wattpad, chances are a publisher will pick it up. There have been some titles on Wattpad that were made into Netflix movies. (For example, "The Kissing Booth).
It's a smart concept and in some ways our new site "Long Overdue Books" will act as a competitor to Wattpad. The focus being more on improving your books vs. landing the Netflix deal (although I'd love to see that happen too!)
Alright. Let's dive into the answer to this person's question on Quora.
Any of the “publishers hate self-published authors” answers you’ll find on the internet are a little bit overblown. In my experience, I don’t see much animosity between traditional publishers and self-published authors. It’s more cut and dry. Publishers are running a business and, in order for the financials to work, their titles need to sell north of 500 copies (at least). So they simply can’t take many risks on books that might sell 10, 20, 50 copies.
In the past, the way publishers sorted through all of the manuscripts coming in was to have really talented literary agents out there on the front lines reading through query letters, first chapters, book proposals. Most publishers to this day don’t accept direct submissions. These manuscripts were/are referred to as “The Slush Pile.” Agents sorted through the slush pile, brought forward the ones that had the best chance at selling hundreds/thousands of copies.
So now you have Wattpad in the picture. Wattpad is very much a competitor to the literary agents (and a successful one at that). That’s why you’ll see a headline like the one that ran in Forbes: “$400 million Fiction Giant Wattpad Wants to Become Your Literary Agent.”
I would think publishers should love Wattpad. With literary agents, it was still one person’s guess. “I think this will sell a bunch of copies.” But there wasn’t any proof in the actual market. With Wattpad, publishers - like Emil referenced in his post - can actually see how many reads, how many comments. Publishers can use Wattpad as a testing ground with actual data. Do readers like this book? Will it sell? Will Netflix write us a big check?
On Wattpad’s website, they have a quote from the major publisher Hachette that reads: “First, Wattpad is a fantastic way for a publisher to read and recruit new voices and talents, a sort of 21st-century slush pile.” Definitely not surprised to see that review!
“Do they take them seriously” is an interesting part of this question. Let’s unpack it. Saying you published a book on Wattpad is similar to saying you self-published a book on Amazon, or post articles on Medium, or completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge. These things aren’t going to automatically open doors with publishers and won’t be received the same as, “I wrote for the Harvard Crimson” or “I spent 10 years as a columnist for the New York Times.”
But you’re not going to be laughed at, disrespected, eye-rolled either. At least not from the good publishers. The good publishers will see that as hustle, effort, drive. Shows you have more than just one idea and you are going to be out there promoting your book vs. relying only on the publisher to spread the word.
If they don’t take all of that seriously, then you probably wouldn’t want to work with them in the first place.